I am an Abuse Survivor by Amanda (Chanukah Semifinalist #3)

I am an Abuse Survivor by Amanda (Chanukah Semifinalist #3)

So, as a mom of 4 I don’t always feel like a super hero. In fact, I most often feel a bit like the cartoon of the Coyote chasing the Road Runner and never quite succeeding. But, in my deepest heart, I know that I am a hero.

You see, I am a survivor of abuse. The summer that I turned 10, my cousin came to live with us.

She was being hurt by her stepfather, and my mother’s sister asked us to take her in until she could leave the marriage with her other 4 children. Up to that point, my family was my place of sanctuary, my safe place. My parents were loving and never argued in front of us. My extended family was involved in our lives. I know of very few others who can say they were similarly blessed with families like mine.

However, when we took in this troubled cousin of mine, things changed drastically. For a while, she played nice, but once she realized that her mother was not going to be able to take her back as quickly as promised, things became very, very ugly in my life. She took her anger at her mother and stepfather out on me. She would whisper lies about how my parents didn’t really love me, and twist their words and actions to prove the point. She introduced me to concepts about relations that I hadn’t even dreamed of, knowledge that no child should have. I told no one, because she had convinced me that nobody would listen. For the next 6 years (until she left our home a few weeks short of her 18th birthday) she toyed with my life, isolated me socially at our school, and hurt me physically on a weekly basis.

I was never in my life so glad to see the back of someone. But what had once been a loving, cohesive family was a shell of its former self. Like survivors of a war, we were shell-shocked by the turmoil she had brought into all of our lives, although by far, I was the most impacted. Unwilling to make my parents feel guilt for their decision to take her in, I never spoke a word of what had happened between her and me, and tried to move forward with my life.

I went to college. I worked at summer camps. I made friends who had never known my cousin and I never mentioned her to them. I got a degree in Early Childhood Education, and landed a great position as a school administrator directly after college. But the pressure inside me was building and I began having panic attacks. I had the first one while shopping in a local mall, and afterwards spent 2 hours crying in the parking lot in my little red VW beetle. A few weeks later it happened again, this time during a special event at work. I cowered behind a chest freezer in a storage room until I could control my shaking enough to finish the event.

I lived alone in a new city, so I was isolated from my college friends who were now far flung after graduation. The attacks became a weekly event. Then more frequent. By the end of the school year I was having daily attacks. I quit my lucrative job and took a job at the camp where I had loved working, thinking the job had been too much pressure. But even after I left that job, the attacks continued, but I was able to hide it from all but my closest two friends. I know they were concerned. In the meantime, I had stopped paying my bills and my parents were getting default notices on my student loans. I stopped taking their calls most of the time, unable to think beyond the cocoon of daily survival. I wanted to die. I felt totally crazy.

Then one moonlit night, as I lay on the lakeside dock at camp, I shared my story of abuse with one person. I felt freer than I had in years. I went 3 days without a panic attack. I shared with another friend and had the same sense of release. I knew it wasn’t sustainable to emotionally throw up on everyone in my general vicinity, and I was still having pretty serious thoughts about ending my life.

When the summer ended I had narrowed down my options to either coming clean with my parents or checking myself into a mental hospital. In the end, I told my parents what I had been going through, but not why, and they begged me to come home so I could get help. It took quite some time to find medicines that would stabilize my condition and a therapist I felt like I could trust with my story. A few sessions in, she encouraged me to tell my parents, although I feared their reaction (my father: anger, my mother: guilt). I told my therapist exactly what would happen, and I was correct, but it was good for them to realize I wasn’t acting irresponsibly, but rather just reacting to a long-ago trauma. Nevertheless, I pressed forward with my recovery, learning valuable tools to help control my anxiety, and eventually was able to once again hold down a job, and work in my chosen field.

Amanda today with her husband and children.

Amanda today with her husband and children.


A few years later, I met the man who would become my husband and told him (despite my fears) about my past. His compassionate response sealed the shidduch in my mind. And although the pressures of life have occasionally allowed the demons of depression and anxiety to sneak back into my sphere, I have been able to defeat them, be proactive, and even help women who face similar struggles.

I lost 6 years of my life for a while, but now I master that time (instead of allowing it to control me) by using those experiences to help others. And every time I do, I feel a little bit heroic.

Related posts:

This Week's Mommy Peptalk: The World's Best Job
What we Did After the Funeral by Yoni Miller
Join the Shabbos Project: October 24-25 (4-Minute Inspirational Video)

4 comments

  1. beautiful..thank you for inspiring me

  2. you are a true heroine, sara.

  3. definitely earns the hero badge. Continued victories over your inner turmoil.

  4. Dear Amanda,

    Oh how you story has blessed me. Thank you for your courage.

    Rachel

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