I had a secret. A secret that almost undid me. This secret drove me out of my mind – more than once. It fueled a Jekyll and Hyde dichotomy as I donned my Tough Girl persona at the expense of the little girl I left behind. I decided not to be her anymore. She kept getting me into trouble. It must have been a subconscious decision as I lived a split persona I never knew existed until it was almost too late.
My secret was too true to tell. So, I swallowed the pain, fooled myself into thinking I was over it. When I was relegated to the nearest mental health facility and the therapist insisted on assigning me to the “trauma group,” I was offended. I was over it. Just somebody tell me how to cope with this mess of a marriage so I can get back to work and on with my life. I would later learn that a secret half-told is a secret untold.
I am a survivor of rape, domestic violence, homelessness, and a 17-year marriage to a man later convicted as a rapist. Few knew my story and if I ever spoke about the secret, I always cleaned it up, half told it, no details. In fact, one day my husband asked about the secret and caught a venomous backlash that, if looks were bullets, would have landed him a member of the stiff-toe club, taking a dirt nap in a grass blanket. He never broached the subject again.
Years after that marriage ended, I was in the middle of what turned out to be a seven year, six day journey of fulfilling a spiritual mandate. My mother, years earlier, and my sister, more recently, said I would write a book. Mom said it was because my suffering was not about me; but about all the people who would be freed as a result what I had been through. According to my sister, though, there was a hitch. The manuscript would progress only to the degree that I healed of multiple decades of one destiny-diverting heartbreak after another. This, unbeknownst to me, meant the secret had to be told. Every time I would experience a writing block, without fail there was a level of healing or a layer of trauma to shed before I could write again.
The Secret Unfolds
During this time, I had a boyfriend who was always amazed or shocked whenever I shared about my history. It became a game. I would tell him something I went through, he would be shocked, we’d discuss it, and eventually have a good laugh about it. To this day I have no idea why I added the secret to this Shock and Awe game. I told the entire secret, no edits. Here it is.
After I left my first husband who was abusive, I was homeless and waiting for the local social services agency to find me permanent housing. In the interim, I lived in everything from an old gas station to multiple motel rooms. I was destitute. But, when I had the money, I would treat myself to breakfast at the restaurant across from one of the motels. I met a man there and invited him back to my room. He left that room, without a word, as I lay bleeding and sodomized. I remember little more than going numb.
It stopped me in my tracks when my boyfriend asked, “Did you go to the doctor?” You should have seen my face.
“Go to the doctor?” In 30 years it never crossed my mind to go to the doctor. I blurted back, “Why would I go to the doctor and tell him I did something stupid like that?”
That day there was no discussion. No laughter. The conversation ended. It would be weeks before he said this to me.
“Linda. That was messed up. I didn’t say anything to you then, but that was messed up. When is that man going to own what he did to you? You didn’t know he was a rapist when you invited him in. That man has to own what he did to you.” He went on to explain his observation that I was not raised as most little girls who are allowed to run to mom or dad and cry when they get hurt. I was reared more like a boy who was told to man-up an stop crying. He had something there.
I came up with a you-made-your-bed-so-lie-in-it mindset. If you decided to do something, you saw it through no matter how you might later change your mind. I also got the message to just suck it up and suffer in silence. So, when at age 19, I was suffering through an abusive marriage. I suffered alone. When I was molested by a drunk as a child, I was told not to tell. I sucked it up. When, as a young woman, I suffered a chain reaction of additional rapes and abusive relationships, I sucked it up. It never crossed my mind to ask for help . . . it just didn’t. The epiphany I experienced as a result of what my boyfriend told me, would not only move me past the writing block, it would alter my life direction.
Linda F. Williams, MSW is a nationally recognized lifestyle expert, behaviorist, personal and professional Life Coach, and motivational speaker. She founded Whose Apple Dynamic Coaching & Consulting and created the GPS Road Map to Destiny™. Linda is author of Whose Apple is it, Anyway and Too True to Tell.
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