When I was two or three I told my mom that my babysitter tickled me. She asked me where and didn't like the areas I pointed out.
Years later my mother told me how she had tried to press charges against the teen, who happened to be an Army officer's son. But either that family or ours was moved from Ft. Knox to another Army base to avoid further trouble.
I don't have any recollection of those events, but I do remember living on base in Würzburg, Germany when I was 7. Another babysitter, another officer's son, touched me and talked to me in ways I recognized from movies.
My mom didn't know about this one, and I still haven't told her. I have often put the feelings of other people before my own, and I just have not been able to break the news to her. How do you tell a parent that the care they gave you was not good enough?
That babysitter (and a few other people and incidences since then) held a lot of power over me. It wasn't until I started therapy a little over a year ago that I began learning to trust my friends and family, my husband, and myself.
I've sought therapy throughout my twenties but wasn't really ready to face my fears, and I always quit after a few sessions. Therapists also have power and I hadn't been ready to trust them either (some with good reason; some were nuttier than I was).
When I found myself flailing throughout my first year of marriage, my first long-term relationship, I knew it was time to woman up. I called the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, and they referred me to Apple Trauma Services, one of the nonprofits under their organizational umbrella.
Because of my low income status and lack of insurance, they offered me a sliding scale weekly fee that I could afford. I wouldn't have been able to get the help I desperately needed without that.
The counselor I began seeing was still earning her MA, in fact I think she may have been doing her internship at the Crisis Center. But I was comfortable with her right away, and beyond ready to be fixed. I was ready to let go of my anger and fear and Boehner-like crying every time I observed some terrible injustice in the world. Crying, after all, saves no one.
Once a week we visualized and role played and exercised my self esteem. But mostly she just listened to a sad girl who had often felt overlooked as a child and had trouble reconciling the fact that she was now a grown woman who had complete control of her life and self.
After 13 months of therapy, today I go in for my last session. (Though I'm a Woody Allen fan, I have no interest in making therapy a part of my life for decades on end.) I am celebrating the obstacles I've overcome.
I feel extremely lucky that my therapist decided to follow her heart and pursue her MA and found me in her office one day. She's helped me unlock the scared child I'd been holding onto so that I could become the person I wanted to be.
And I'll close by adding that to be an effective do-gooder, it's imperative that you help yourself first. It took me a long time to learn this lesson. I'm happy to have had access to the mental health tools needed to help me help myself.