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What Gives a Person the Will to Live? ©

A Personal Response

I believe that the will to live is a conscious decision to deal with past pain through any cathartics necessary, to feel the pain and do it anyway. I believe the beacon of my existence has been the unconditional love that others have extended to me as I struggled.

There came a time when I was two and one-half years clean and sober when I could no longer hold back the tears and the rage. I believed I had no place to go with the rage but turn it back on myself. I finally reached out, letting others know what was going on inside me.

With the help of an understanding support system, a therapist, other survivors of sexual abuse, a women's treatment center in Vancouver, a series of strong women and a few gentle men I have been able to process my issues. Part of my process was to go deep inside to the place that frightened child had cowered, full of fear, agony, horror, pain. I finally felt the spectrum of emotions.

I went to the police with the information, accusations, memories, emotions, and waited while the police investigated. I waited for two years while the Crown Counsel (D/A) made a decision on whether there were grounds for laying charges and enough of a case to proceed to trail. During October 1995, my father was brought to the preliminary hearing on two counts of having sex with a female under the age of 14 who was not his wife.

These proceedings had caused much pain in my family of origin. One sister believed herself incapable of testifying. Brenda, my sister, left me a letter of apology and love. I read the letter and processed the feelings: abandonment, hurt, sad, empathy and acceptance. I called her and thanked her for her honesty, reassuring her that I understood her decision and accepted. My youngest sister, Dianne, struggled with the ethics of testifying against our father. Her desire for justice won along with a wish to support me in my healing journey.

There was a period of approximately three weeks where I was busy with my life. I realized that I had not heard from my sister, Brenda, so I called her. My sister was operating under the false assumption that I was angry at her and wanted nothing to do with her. I reassured her. My sister came over within one-half hour and we spent the evening speaking of our love for one another.

This mission was mine and from the beginning I had been prepared to face it with only the help of the God of my understanding. I came to a clear understanding that this process of speaking my truth was a concept that frightened me. To speak my truth aloud to a judge, jury and possibly a courtroom of strangers, terrified me. The thought of speaking the details of all the agonizing, painful abuse, horrified me.

On October 27, 1995 I took the stand and testified for two hours. I spoke aloud of the attacks on my body which began when I was eight years old. I spoke of the pain, the blood, the semen, the lubricants, the darkness, the words he spoke to me, the positions he forced my body into, the physical reactions to the traumas, the emotional impact, my need for safety, the reasons I had remained silent for so long. I spoke of the various ways I had attempted to deal with this issue during the years since the abuse had ended. I spoke of my self-abuse through the use of alcohol, drugs, sex, abusive men, food, exercise, sleeping, not sleeping, bulimia. I spoke of suicide attempts with pills, an attempt with a 3006 at the age of twenty-one and ongoing thoughts of suicide. I spoke of my self-hatred to the point of self-mutilation with a razor to my face while under the influence of non-prescription street drugs and three stays in psychiatric wards. I spoke, was heard and believed. The judge found that there was enough evidence to take these charges before a supreme court judge and jury April 15, 1996.

I recall many feelings. Elation, as I spontaneously did one of those "Rocky" victory dances in the hall of the courthouse. I cried, laughed, kissed my sisters and felt compassion for my youngest sister. I was full of gratitude for the love and support of all those I had encountered during my walk.

The extremely slender child; frail, frightened, horrified, disgusted, angry, terrified of the retribution that would surely come for telling anyone of her abuse was in control. For three days I took refuge in a friends apartment. I hid, slept uneasily, was coached to eat, held as I cowered under a blanket. I was reminded to bathe, to quench a thirst I was unaware of. I cried, rocked my body to comfort myself and finally moved on with my life. I had spoken and there had been no retribution.

I was truly amazed at others admiration for my focus, my ability to remember, to articulate all the memories, feelings, surroundings and details of my abuse. Others saw only the mask I had presented in that courtroom. Others cannot see what I feel.

Along my journey I learned to ask for what I needed, learned to accept, was mature enough to accept that sometimes I would not get what I asked for. I was finally able to appreciate, understand, accept that there was a strong-willed survivor who was learning to thrive. I began to comprehend many facets that make me, a strong, courageous, beautiful, proud, humble, loving, understanding, accepting, warrior, empathetic, brave, woman/child as I let go of all the secrets, anger, rage, hurt, pain and need to control. ...continued

"All strong souls first go to hell before they do the healing of the world they came here for. If we are lucky, we return to help those still trapped below."
- Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes