Elizabeth Shane writes about her journey, as a survivor of abuse, to being able to express herself through creative outlets, through to getting a book of poetry published so she can hopefully help others to feel less alone with their struggles and their pain.
CW: discussions/mentions of childhood sexual abuse
For so long I wondered what is like not to wear the heavy anchor of shame around my neck.
I remember the first time being told I had experienced childhood trauma. I completed an in-depth assessment of my early life experiences as part of an adoption application and our social worker at the time interpreted my life based on my paperwork and interviews. I recall reading the words, “Elizabeth has suffered from trauma”. Have I? Why wasn’t I aware of this? I felt I could recite my life in a monotone voice and not feel anything. Did I sleepwalk through my abuse?
At the time, I couldn’t connect the dots to my emotional and mental state growing up into adulthood. I never realised how the impact of being sexually abused and emotionally abandoned could affect my mental health. I took all the anger I was too scared to show as a child, from all the controlling, bullying behaviour against me and acted the same way, but to the extreme. I had no idea I was suffering with Complex PTSD. I obsessed about everything and became convinced my life was a catastrophe, as I was being punished for being a ‘bad person’. From the age of eight, I had a constant desire to overdose and self-harm, I assumed my anger and rage was part of my personality. I didn’t believe I was lovable and would push away anyone that dared to get close to me, whilst at the same time, crying out for someone to accept me for who I was. For so long I wondered what is like not to wear the heavy anchor of shame around my neck as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). I spent much of my adulthood trying to reconcile what happened to me with various professional counsellors and psychiatrists telling me it wasn’t my fault.
I wanted to believe them; I really did. I read the self-help books, I also kept telling myself it wasn’t my fault. But did this ring true? No. Instead I carried around a secret burden that I couldn’t eradicate no matter how hard I tried. It followed me wherever I went. As a parent, as a wife and a person living in a world where I felt silenced and misunderstood without ever knowing why.
Today, I am no longer the silhouette, but the songbird.
I was given salvation through the power of creative outlets. After some convincing from my counsellor to find a healthy outlet rather than smashing plates, I joined a choir, started singing lessons and began finding ways to express myself through singing, drama, and writing. With the support of my drama teacher and counsellor, I was encouraged to discover my life through the power of writing, which gave me a safe space to explore my emotions.
I reached a point where I could no longer be silent about my abuse. It was affecting my mental and physical health, eating into every corner of my life. I knew I needed to acknowledge what happened to me. I had never considered sharing my story; the very thought of speaking out was terrifying. I began using writing as a tool to process some of my painful thoughts and feelings through poems. Poetry has been one of my mechanisms of helping me cope with some of my emotional scars left from childhood sexual abuse and to find my voice again. It was quite terrifying and scary to open my heart so publicly with my poems as I’d never imagined sharing these, but it felt the right time to do this and so I wrote my first poetry book, Silhouette of a Songbird. What a release to express the anger, the shame, the fear, the silence, the rage, and the emotional pain of abandonment, my confusion whether my abusers loved me and the continual searching for someone to just take me in their arms and love me the way I deserved.
I grew up thinking I was a sinner for loving my abuser, for loving them both. That I deserved what happened to me for not fighting back or saying no. It has taken me over forty years to finally acknowledge what happened to me as a child was never my fault, that I no longer need to keep quiet. Singing, drama and writing my poetry book about my journey have all given me a voice from a position of silence. I will never allow anyone to push me back into a corner, forgotten. My story is mine to share with others to give them strength to know there is light on the other side. Everyone deserves a voice and a right to be heard. I am not only meant to survive but to thrive and speak my truth so others can take hope and comfort they are not walking through the storm alone. Today, I am no longer the silhouette, but the songbird.
Silhouette of a Songbird is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Silhouette-Songbird-Elizabeth-Shane/dp/191638742X