My story began when I was seven - with my school piano teacher covering my mouth with one hand and slowly sneaking the other up my skirt. “Hush…” he said. “Don’t tell anyone,” he said. “It’s perfectly natural,” he said. “I am going to make you feel like magic,” he said. “You’re a lovely girl,” he said.
What followed was years of silence which I still am unable to justify to myself or to my family. A little girl might not know what sex is or what *those* parts of her body are for - but invariably, she ends up feeling that it’s her fault. What exactly did he do? Why did my voice leave me at that very moment? Why couldn’t I scream? Why did he do it to ME? Did I do something to deserve it? Why couldn’t I tell my parents? Those are answers I will never get. These are the questions I am still learning to live with.
I kept what happened a secret for many years. I was already a quiet child, and with time I became aloof and detached. I could go days without uttering a word and I had absolutely no interest in engaging with the world. My folks were worried about how anti-social I was and they really tried to get through to me. I found the courage to tell them the truth some seven years later, when I was in my late teens. My horrified parents sat me down and, drowning in my own tears, I started to talk. My twisted web of secrets and lies by omission started to unravel. We sought counselling, separately and as a family. And by the time I was in my second year of college, I was finally finding my feet. We were coming to terms with things as a family.
I was acing my academics and had an amazing bunch of girlfriends who loved me for the person I was. After a lot of prayer, counselling and communication, I felt like I was finally coming out of my shell. I learned that I wasn’t always a quiet person. I was tough, I was confident, I was bold, and my friends always referred to me as “the witty one”.
My relationship with guys was still contentious, but being in an all girls’ college, I never had to worry about that part of things. And by the time I did start dating (pretty late in the day, by today’s standards), I could fake my way through anything - love, friendship, intimacy. Years of practice had made me adept at keeping secrets. The relationships never lasted, but I wasn’t complaining. I didn’t really trust men. I dated women too, very casually, and I could manage those relationships with a lot more honesty. They knew when I was faking it and often called me out on it! They helped me grow, they helped me kind of come to terms with my body again.
I met my husband quite out of the blue. After my parents and a few close friends, he was the first person I shared my story with. He supported me, and still supports me every step of the way. He has this amazing knack of reassuring me that who I am is a lot bigger and a lot more important than what happened to me. With a lot of help and support from him, my friends and my family, I started to call myself a survivor.
Here’s the thing no one tells you about survival. You have days when you feel strong enough to take the world by its horns; on other days, you fall suddenly and silently into the trap of “victim” - your whole life is just about trying to strike a balance between the good days and the bad days, and you’ve just got to get used to walking this tightrope. One step at a time. I fell off and into the deep end once again when I had an unexpected miscarriage. We weren’t trying for a family and the sight of all that blood took me quite by surprise. The emotional trauma was devastating and, in one-split second, years of my emotional progress were completely undone. All the fear, the harsh words and the feelings of self-loathing were back in full force and I went through what was a very unfortunate and very public nervous breakdown.
But this time around, I didn’t bottle up my feelings. It was clear that the negative emotions I held towards my body still hadn’t entirely dissipated, and if metaphysics is to be believed, maybe all the anger and resentment I was holding on to caused the miscarriage. I knew it was time to clean shit up!
Like everyone else in the world, I now understand myself as a work in progress. I have my good days and my bad days but I have learned not to take life so seriously. I’m sharing this experience here today for all the girls who may be struggling with similar feelings of guilt, anger and - worst of all - self pity. It might be painful and embarrassing to discuss these things with others, but the momentary shame eventually paves the way to recovery. So please, don’t keep it a secret. Let people in. Share your story. It’ll help you more than you can imagine.