“Until you are broken, you don’t know what you’re made of. Being broken gives you the ability to build yourself all over again, but this time around build yourself stronger than ever. Therefore you will be unbreakable.” – Melissa MolomoWarning: This is going to be a long one…
Me. Oh boy – this is not my favorite topic. Not because I do not have love for myself, but I am a counselor for reason – I love talking about other people and their story. And to be frank, it is sometimes still painful to talk about my life and experiences. It reminds me of what I had to go through to become the strong, liberated, and empowered person that I am today. This post is one that I have thought A LOT about and been very hesitant to share it. I tend to be an over-thinker and as soon as I have decided something, I again doubt my decision and send myself back into the vicious over-thinking cycle. My story is not one that I share with everyone, it is raw and vulnerable. However, I share it because it has greatly inspired my desire to be a counselor and to support others in the muck and grime of life.
I LOVE people. I LOVE taking care of people. I LOVE supporting people. I grew up going on missions trips to serve others. This brings me joy that I cannot describe. AND what I love most is that I get to do this as my job.
My care taking began from a very young age. My serving of others started from a very young age. I have an older brother, 4 years older, who at a young age was diagnosed with a disease that runs in my family called MPSII (Hunter’s Syndrome). Growing up, this meant nothing to me, he was my brother. He was not the disease. I grew up defending him – people asked RUDE questions, out of their own naivety. People stared at him as if he was an alien. I did not understand why so many people did this, to me he didn’t look “different”. But something, that I realized from an early age, was that we as a society have categories for “normal/abnormal” looking people. If others stray from this “normal”, they are treated as if they are creatures from another planet. Okay, off my rant. This disease affected my brother’s physical development, so he was often shorter than people his age. Because of his height limitations, I often helped him with a lot of activities. I took pride in doing things for him, that he could not do – NOT BY HIS CHOICE. He often said to me, “one day I will be as tall as you”. He was my older brother, by 4 years. I cannot imagine the feelings that he had of not being able to develop in ways that I was. He was affected by this horrible disease and I was completely “normal”, unaffected. It was not fair to him. I was able to drive, get a job, and do everything that most kids were able to do at the appropriate age. He NEVER complained though, he was the most grateful and happy human being. He became my sidekick, which I hated at the time, but would give anything to have that back today. Writing this brings me to tears, as I have had to live the past 8 years without him by my side. My parents decided to home school us until I reached the high school age. So, I grew up spending every. single. day with him for 17 years, until the day that he was STRIPPED AWAY. To go from all to nothing was tough.
Like I said, I was 17 when he died. He was healthy, had been on a new drug (from a study that he was in), that was supplying him the enzymes that his body would not create on its own, which sent his body into normal development. He loved it, he was getting taller, his joints were becoming less stiff (a side effect from the disease), and he did not have as much pain. There was no indication that we would lose him on that day. On December 13, 2007, my parents, Boyfriend (of 6 months at the time – he is my hero!), and I returned from my school choir concert to find him unconscious. My mom had talked to him just 10 minutes earlier and he was completely fine. It took 9 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. It was the worst and longest 9 minutes of my life. It was 9 minutes of trying to save him, bring him back to consciousness. We proceeded to the hospital, where we were quickly shuffled into a small room in the ER to wait. I have no idea how long we waited in that room praying…crying …having faith that he would make it. I was not in the room when the Dr. came in, I had to step out for a moment, but I knew the news that she revealed the moment I heard my moms wail. I will never forget that sound. The Dr. revealed to my parents that he didn’t make it. HOW DID HE NOT MAKE IT?! WHAT HAPPENED?! DID THEY TRY EVERYTHING TO SAVE HIM?! For the remaining week of planning his memorial service and living in the house that I had so many memories with him in – I about lost my mind. At one point I had a breakdown and could no longer be in that house. I took a walk and bawled my eyes out, crying out to God – “WHY!?”. There was nothing more that I could do. It was the closest to losing my mind that I have ever felt – I wanted to pull my hair out. The emotions were SO much to bear that I felt completely out of control. I then became an expert at not wanting to talk about him and not wanting to think about what had happened – it was TOO painful. But, my body had a different plan. I shipped off to college 6 months later and couldn’t sleep. Sleep brought nightmares, horrible nightmares. In every nightmare I was losing him all over again, just in different ways. I could never save him. So, I didn’t sleep. I did anything I could to distract myself so that I didn’t go to sleep. I stayed up all night to avoid the horrible reality. Lets just say, my first semester of college was not my strongest. I couldn’t go to class because I was so exhausted the next morning after being up all night. At some point though, the nightmares began to subside and I eventually just suppressed everything so much that I could move on. Or so I thought.
By the time I was 17, I had attended too many funerals already. My brother’s was not my first, unfortunately. We had previously lost others that went too soon. And it didn’t end after my brother’s passing. In the next few years, I would also have to say goodbye to my Grandma and my Papaw. I felt like I could not get away from death.
About 3 1/2 years ago, I was a ANGRY. All of those emotions that I had suppressed were coming out. I was taking everything out on my husband, and was not happy. I was not aware of my anger, it was very unconscious. My husband brought it to my attention and asked if I would try and figure out what was going on within me. I agreed and proceeded to go to counseling. Throughout my process, I had to face the feelings that I had pushed down in regards to my brother’s passing, but that wasn’t it. I had to come to terms with something else that had occurred as well that I had never talked about and never emotionally acknowledged. Abuse. Yes, I did just say those words. I know, they are uncomfortable. Hence the reason that I had never spoken about it. I felt an extreme amount of shame (a very typical and normal response to abuse). I had no idea how to talk about, who to talk about it with… It was overwhelming (putting it lightly). I could no longer avoid it though, these horrific events that had occurred over a 3 year period were GREATLY affecting my every day life. They had a huge impact on my ability to live. Someone that I had trusted at one point, completely took advantage of their role and the trust that I had put into them. I did not feel safe. I always made sure my doors were locked. 2 and 3 times worth of checking. I didn’t trust others, and especially men. I had horrific nightmares. My self-worth was shot. I was angry, how could some one act against a child in such a way?! These were just a few things that I had to overcome. It was a PAINFUL process.I would have to say one of the most emotionally draining and physically exhausting on both me and my husband. This pain though was worth it, because I overcame it. The pain brought empowerment and I am proud to say that because of the work that I did, I am no longer a victim, I AM A SURVIVOR.
This is not something that many people know about me and something that I have kept contained to those closest to me, because it is SO personal. I have also experienced people who have decided that they have the right to pass judgment onto me, when they have absolutely no information. However, I no longer choose to let this hold me down. Silence takes away your power. Talking about and processing things in your life empowers you in ways that are indescribable. I have chosen to no longer care what others think of me. I no longer care what people’s opinions are of MY experiences. Another reason I chose to share this is because it is one of the most taboo subjects in our society and desperately needs awareness around it. No one talks about abuse, it is too uncomfortable. But often, because of this, the survivor deals with the abuse alone and in isolation. Isolation can be the worst thing for one that has experienced such a horrific event such as sexual abuse. We as people NEED other people, and everyone needs support. Unless others know what you are experiencing, it is hard to be supported.
All in all, I know that I am who I am today, because of what I have had to go through. I have come to realize that I have experienced everything in my life for one purpose – to support others. I can be more of a support to someone else because of the things that I have experienced myself. I am not afraid to face a taboo subject, because of what I have been forced to experience – thank you life. What I have decided is that LIFE IS NOT FAIR, but that does not mean that you have to let it hold you down. You can choose to work through it, empower yourself, and be happy in life. My happiness level is higher than it has ever been. I choose not to let life be a weight on my shoulders, but rather, use it as a platform to step on and enjoy!
I hope that you have enjoyed reading this. I appreciate the opportunity to be raw and I thank you for your support, as writing this blog was FRIGHTENING! But pressing the “Publish” button easily took the cake.
So, we have reached the end. This is my story. And I tell you my story because it has had such a major impact on me becoming a counselor. Counseling saved me in my own journey and I want to provide the same support that I received to someone else that has experienced the trials of life. Life is hard. Life is not fair. But you have a choice. You can let life pull you down and rip you apart, or you can take it by the horns and enjoy it!
I want to leave you with one final encouragement. Whatever you have experienced in your life, it is important! Validate yourself in those things and know that you are strong! Be gentle with yourself.
What is your story? I would love to hear it and support you!
Share your story in the comments below or email me!
Brittany Wingfield, MS