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How I recovered from abuse

Clare reveals how being sexually abused left her self-harming and facing serious depression. She tells TheSite.org how she's managed to come off antidepressants and look forward to the future.

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"I don't cry myself to sleep anymore."

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My life was relatively ordinary before the abuse started. I was 14 years-old and lived at home with my parents and sister. I wasn’t entirely happy with life because I was bullied quite badly at school about my sexuality – I’m bisexual and I came out when I was quite young. Unfortunately I didn’t feel I could talk to my parents about what was happening, so this made me very vulnerable.

My abuser was my music teacher from church. He told me he was the only one who cared about me and that I would get into trouble if I told anyone what was happening. He also told me that God allowed this sort of thing to go on. He lured me in with kindness and brainwashed me into believing that it was a type of relationship. I was made to look at all sorts of pornography, perform sexual acts on him in his car, and have sex at his home.

Starting to self-harm

The abuse went on for almost a year and keeping it a secret tore me apart. I started to cut my body with a compass or nail scissors up to three times a day as a way of coping. I was always tired because he would keep me up for hours wanting to have phone sex. My close friends knew what was happening and did their best to help, but they didn’t have a clue what to do. In the end I was strong enough to say “No” and withdraw completely from him. I knew I couldn’t continue to live my life in that way.

Moving away from home to go to university was far more traumatic than I thought it would be as being alone gave me time to dwell on the past. Four years after the abuse first began I became more despondent than ever before. I had counselling, but instead of it helping, I became more depressed. I started compulsively cutting myself again and couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed, wash, or even eat. My only interest was getting completely drunk.

I didn’t tell my parents about the abuse until last year and when I did, they cried. At the time it was happening some of my friends confided in our church leaders, but I was forced by my abuser to deny what had happened.

Treatment for depression

My doctor prescribed Citalopram, which is an SSRI antidepressant, but instead of making me feel better I felt much worse. One side effect of this drug in young people is an increase in suicidal thoughts; I tried to kill myself twice last year. I became very angry and detached and my behaviour was often dangerous to myself and to others. I threw knives around my bedroom, bit and kicked myself, banged my head on the wall, attempted to throw myself out of windows and screamed and swore at the top of my voice. Incidents of self-harm became much more frequent and violent. I felt I was close to going mad as I was entirely incapable of rational thought. My best friend, who’s now my boyfriend, looked after me and rescued me from dangerous situations. Friends took away anything that I could injure myself with and even sat with me while I had a bath so I wouldn’t cut myself.

The doctor who prescribed my medication insisted I stay on it while I was still a danger to myself. This was until it became obvious I would keep trying to kill myself unless I came off it. Once the drug was out of my system I felt much better, but I wasn’t offered any further help.

Moving on with my life

There’s still an enormous stigma attached to depression and sexual abuse. People often think that young adults will grow out of depression and that it isn’t as serious as ‘grown-up depression’.

I’ll never be the same person as I was before the abuse. I lost my virginity and my innocence to a much older man who, with hindsight, had been preying on me for a while. As much as I wish it hadn’t happened, the experience has given me the strength to cope with life and it takes a lot to break me now. I had to grow up fast and although I’ll always regret losing that last bit of my childhood, I don’t cry myself to sleep about it anymore. These experiences only destroy you if you let them take over your life and I believe you shouldn’t be defined by your experiences, but by who you are.

I have a lot of people who care about me and will do anything they can not to see me go down that road again. I feel stronger within myself to cope with the past and I refuse to let what happened dictate my future. For the first time in years I feel free to be myself and not have to live under a cloud of unhappiness and shame.

Photo of young girl by Shutterstock and posed by model

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Updated on 28-Aug-2014

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