Recently my friend Tara posted a blog article about coming out as a mother of an autistic child. That idea inspired me to come out as well. See, I was raised in California for the first quarter of my life until my mom wisely moved me to Florida at the age of 8. My first 8 years in California were very traumatizing to say the least. Most people know that I had an absent father who openly rejected me and that alone can be devastating to a little girl’s self-esteem, but not everyone knows that I was sexually abused by a “trusted” male babysitter from the age of 7 to 8 before I got up the courage to speak out so he would stop. Phew, I said it. It’s really hard to say and my heart is racing as I type this because I have never said this in such a public forum. In fact, when I tell people today I usually just say “abused” and leave off the word “sexually” because of the negativity that surrounds it. I know this isn’t really along the lines of the topics I post on here related to my son but of course I can relate everything back to being a mom so here it goes.
The effects of what happened to me didn’t really show up until way later in life. I mean, they were there all through middle school and high school but never did I realize what this experience did to me until I started having real relationships with men and seeing a counselor in my mid-twenties. It wasn’t until my brilliant counselor in Atlanta told me that I was lucky to be such a success that I realized how these two events (my father and the abuse) have shaped my life. In a nutshell I experienced, and still struggle with to an extent, depression, anxiety, body image issues, troubled relationships with the opposite sex that were mostly defined by sex, and extreme insecurity beyond what the typical young girl experiences. My counselor told me I was a rarity because most girls who are abandoned and abused like this end up as prostitutes or end up letting men treat them badly for their entire lives. I did get lucky. I haven’t always had the best relationships but in the end I did find my prince charming and realized that relationships are not defined by sex so for that I am grateful.
Why am I coming out about this? I decided to write about this while I was out jogging today interestingly enough. I love exercise and the way it makes me look and feel but mostly I love the mental health benefits it provides. I often reflect on my life and challenging situations while exercising. Also, when you come out about such issues, it inevitably helps others see they are not alone and encourages them to get help. So, while I was jogging today I began to wonder, when and how did fitness and sports become such a huge part of my life? I was wondering because I just started volunteering for an amazing organization called Girls on the Run because I can truly relate to this cause and wish something like that existed for me as I struggled with these issues as a young girl. This organization speaks to everything I believe in. It helps young girls with self-esteem and confidence through the use of fitness and competition. I love it so I had to get involved of course!
Back to my jog today, I was jogging and wondering when sports and fitness became a huge part of my life. Well, my mother was not only brilliant to move me away from California where I like to say all the “bad things” happened to us, but my first Summer here she started me in softball. I grew to adore the sport and gained amazing amounts of confidence as I became one of the league’s best pitchers. It made me feel a way that I had never felt before: confident. As an athlete, I never questioned myself or my abilities as I had done in every other facet of my life, and became somewhat proud of myself for the first time ever. As an athlete I truly believed that I could do anything!
This is not to say that my mother didn’t tell me every second how awesome I was my entire life (she still does) but getting involved in sports taught me so much. It taught me I could be good at something and that competing with myself and others felt great. My love for softball only got bigger and I played in high school and would have competed in college had they not converted to a fast-pitch format. Alternatively, I started my own intramural teams throughout college and graduate school.
Over the years I have tried several different fitness activities and continue to explore new and fun activities, but it all comes down to one thing. I think that fitness and sports has helped to shape me and as I jogged today I realized that it may have saved my life. My counselor was right, the statistics were stacked against me, and I think much of my success comes from a solid mother in my life, but there has to be more that contributes to a kid’s success right? In my case, I think that softball is what helped me believe in myself after some extremely traumatizing events as a young girl.
I can relate this to being a mother, the overall purpose of this blog, for many reasons. One, I will continue to encourage my son to compete athletically and help him to realize his full potential in whatever he is interested in. Two, it doesn’t have to be sports for kids. Many parents force sports on them and forget that kids may have other talents that help them to become who they are meant to be. For instance, my son is very musically inclined and has told me he wants to sing so he can be a “rock star” with a band one day so of course I’m going to encourage this. Lastly, don’t throw in the towel parents. If bad things happen to your children work through them and be as involved as you possibly can, but also remember that it isn’t the end of the world. As parents we can create experiences for our children and help them reach their full potential. One day I will “come out” about this to Griffin when it is appropriate because, while this experience doesn’t define me, it has helped me become the person and mother that I am today and maybe it can help him help someone else to “come out”.