A blog article by Rethink Mental Health Advocate, Natasha Lettner, from her blog, Natashawrites
[TW: SA, r*pe]
I began writing poetry in my teens. Writing is most comfortable for me when it comes to expressing my emotions. Up until very recently, this was how I show my love in relationships. Even still, here I am using my writing as a way to share this story with you!
I remember finding an old box of notebooks back before I moved out for college. The pages filled with emotions and feelings that were so dark that I scared myself. I couldn’t believe that I could write the words that I was reading. There was mention of wanting to disappear forever. I didn’t care about harm coming my way and in so many pretty words I welcomed it.
This was a sign of depression and didn’t even know it.
I lost my voice when…
My truth was silenced by those whose job it was to protect me.
There is nothing more damaging to a child's mental health than to not be believed. when something as detrimental as sexual trauma takes place. This was me. I was this pre-teen girl who was very active in school to the point where I belonged to three after-school clubs. I was captain of the debate team, host of a book club and I ran track. These were some of my happiest moments and then I had to grow up early. My parent’s struggle with drug and alcohol addictions led to perpetual absences. This led to our grandmother became our legal guardian.
At first, this didn’t seem like such a bad thing as we would always go to grandma’s on the weekend and have fun. I would soon learn that weekend grandma was way different than every day, all day grandma.
Besides the constant verbal and emotional abuse, she attracted men who are pedophiles. In particular, she met and began dating a guy whom she met through a close family friend. Not long after meeting this guy, she moved him in. In the beginning, he came across as very nice and caring. I would grow to learn that this is what pedophiles do to get in and close to their victims. At the time we welcomed the father-like affection.
Over time he began to discuss sexual topics right in front of our grandmother. At the time I was too young to realize that this was very inappropriate. He was also abusive towards my grandmother and preyed on her, but she dealt with it because she liked him so much. The behavior was never checked.
One night while my grandmother was out with friends, he invited himself into my room. I awoke out of my sleep by his fondling of me. As soon as I woke up he stopped and walked out of my room. I froze in time for what felt like a few minutes. I then made my way to my brother’s room to wake him. I wanted to tell him what had happened but he was angry that I woke him up and told me to get out of his room. I still replay this memory to this day.
After going back to my room I dialed my mom’s last known location and was happy to know that she was still there. She was under the influence and I could hear it in her tone. Being scared I didn't care. I needed my mom so I whispered to her about what happened.
Within thirty minutes she was pulling up in a cab. I recall her flipping out on him on my behalf.
During this time, my mom made a few calls to my grandmother, my stepdad, who was also out with them, and a family friend. They all made their way to our home and I began to feel somewhat safe. Of course, he denied that he did anything and I got so upset that he stormed out of the house. I’ll never forget the look on my grandmother’s face. She looked sad and confused.
I came home from school…
To find that my grandmother had left on a road trip with a family friend. This trip took her from Wisconsin all the way down south. All to retrieve her boyfriend and she didn't say a word. I couldn’t believe this! She went on a mission to discredit me by telling those who dared to question that I had a bad dream and it never happened. She brought this man back to the home and I had to live with him there.
I felt trapped, powerless and unsafe.
My mom and stepdad went back to their daily lives like nothing had taken place. I even began to question myself! Was it only a dream? But then, I remember the feel of his fingers between my legs and I knew that this was not a dream. It had also come to light that he had done this to other young girls before. Yet still, my grandmother had to have this man in her life.
It was now that sleeping with my bedroom door closed and locked became the norm for me. I no longer trusted in others being there for me. This way of thinking and being has destroyed quite a few relationships for me over the years.
I began rebelling against everything expected of me. I started skipping school. This once honor student every grading period dropped down to below average and I didn’t care. I drowned my dark thoughts with sex and more sex. I told myself that this is what guys only want anyway so why not?
Before I hit puberty I knew what it felt like to be touched by a man. I learned about sex through child molestation.
Sex became not about pleasure for me, but a way to release. A method to release stress and escape whatever the hell was taking me out of my zone that day. There was even a time where I would think about what happened and become so repulsed by a man’s touch. I had no idea I was suffering from PTSD this whole time.
Throughout the years…
So many so-called elders were so quick to call out my behavior. They would offer their two cents, but no one gave a damn to ask why I was behaving the way that I was.
In secret, those who knew what happened shared their sentiments, but no one ever stood up for me. I would grow to learn that there are so many women in my family who also experienced sexual trauma as a youth. It is normal to sweep this under the rug. Some of these women today are drug addicts and prostitutes. Others are so emotionally damaged that they keep this vicious cycle going.
I have mentioned in previous blog posts how therapy changed my life for the better. How it helped me realize that there were some very toxic relationships that I needed to end. In order for my healing process to begin, I had to cut some toxic ties. It was time to cleanse my heart, mind, and soul before I could take back my body. Get it?
I shared this difficult story with you to bring to light that hypersexual activity is a symptom of PTSD. There are also some who turn away from sex altogether because of sexual trauma. As a mom, our son’s safety is the priority and I focus every day to protect him in ways that I was not. Everyone deals with sexual trauma in various ways and it has lifelong effects. I wish that I had found my voice again sooner but I also believe in divine timing.
Sexual trauma and mental health tie together. For me, what destroyed my mental health more than the act, was not feeling protected. I forgot how special I was. I stopped caring about living and I began using sex to deal with the pressures of life.
There are so many uneducated people who don’t recognize the many faces mental illness has.
Many victims are silenced and this how so many become lost souls. This is why I am proud to be an advocate for mental health. Thank you to organizations like ReThink Mental Health Inc that fight the stigmas of mental illness.
I encourage you to learn more about sexual trauma and how it ties to mental illness. It’s time to stop judging and to start asking why.