Image: Patrick Fore
The Writer's Corner is an exciting new writing space I created to share chapters of my books in progress. I decided to post these on my website because of my need to continue my journey with these projects and edit, work, and re-work them for publication.
Including them in my scheduled work reality assures that they will start getting the much-needed attention they deserve and will satisfy my need to move forward with them.
So, why post them here if the reason and goal are personal?
Well, the thing about my writing and what I choose to write about is that it will always be about Love––which is the purpose of my work and how I connect with the world. I write to learn, first and foremost, and to teach. In doing so, I uncover more profound discoveries into what I know to upgrade my growth. Also, I want to explore and share the new things that only come to light once I write about them.
For example, in the book I'm starting with, entitled 'The Breach,' I write about my need to take a close look at––in an attempt to understand––the history of my romantic and love relationships. My experience of that aspect of my life has always been tumultuous, confusing, and deeply unsatisfying. I could barely grasp the meaning or purpose intimate relationships should play in my life.
Yes, I know what they appeared to be and do for other people, but that outcome never happened to me. Nothing sustainable, nothing lasting, just a series of dramatic occurrences that left my heart bruised, battered, and confused. And trust me, in all cases, I gave as little (or bad) as I got.
This book is not me looking at myself through the powerless lens of victimhood; on the contrary, my sole intention for undertaking this walk down the memory lane of my love life is to search and take responsibility for how I showed up and what I did in reaction to my injury to steer, even guide, the relationship to its inevitable demise.
On The Path, in recent months, we have done extensive and intensive work on the relationship reality and how to grow new roots and build healthy, balanced relationships in Love. This written clean-up expedition ensured that I cleared away all the leftover and hidden debris from my past to free myself from anything that would hold me back or keep me tethered to my old relationship injury.
Needless to say, as it is with any creative endeavor that requires self-exploration, I learned a great deal more than I knew about myself, my partners, and the nature of the internal wiring and familial and generational injury that guaranteed and delivered my failure to succeed in my relationships, as if on cue. It was a battle I would never win and a war waged by circumstances over which I had little to no control.
I hope that sharing my experience will lighten up some of the dark corners of your own. I find it always helpful when we can see that we are not alone. There is always someone who can commiserate with empathetic assurance, "Damn, I've been there.I know what you mean!"
What you'll be reading is my first edit of the book. However, I am the only one who has to work here; nothing is expected of you except to read, reflect, and comment if you choose.
Thank you for inspiring me to dive in and get on with my book-writing journey!
When Love, Relationship & Childhood Sexual Abuse Collide
© 2023 Melana Plains
All Rights Reserved
First: Know Thyself
“What The Hell Happened To Me?”
'There's something wrong with her.”
I overheard my Boyfriend’s attempt to whisper to his Brother.
Grant it, my Boyfriend, had just received the news that I had slept with said Brother a few nights before. The day after that happened, my Boyfriend surprisingly declared his love for me (of course, without knowing about his Brother and me). His love was all I had hoped for. He even asked if I would marry him––he would do anything I wanted if I promised to let him come back. He had broken up with me recently and was now pleading to return to my heart and my life.
You must understand. I was head over heels in love with this man. He was my prince. When he said we should see other people, I was heartbroken. I would have done anything to hear him say, "I love you!" Now, when he finally said it, I had already slept with his Brother.
Though shocked to have overheard his thoughts about me, I could not argue with his assessment of my behavior.
I mean, I loved this man––but I slept with his Brother!
Who does that?
Who are you? Do you know?
For me, that is not a trick question––but a real one.
I know that it's real because it's one that I've asked myself and grappled with repeatedly in my life. First, in my early years of confusion about my place in my family and, thus, the world, I was too young to understand that's what I needed to know. Then, later, when I attempted to be the acceptable and normal me in the world, I kept tripping over that unanswered question as I grew into adulthood.
It was when I got older that I realized that although I knew I was a human being, I knew little else about who I was as a person. Before I could even find the most basic and foundational answer to that question, another more pressing, distressful, and urgent matter drove the narrative of my life:
How did I get like this?
What made me into who I am? Why am I not okay? It was then that I realized that deep down inside, I knew something wasn't quite right with me. Something felt broken inside. I didn't know what that meant or anything about it; I only knew I could feel it.
On a functional level, I was okay; nothing much out of the ordinary. Making my way in life as best I could, out of high school into jobs and attending college part-time. You see, my real story––who I was and what happened to me––had nothing to do with what I was doing. It was about who I was, the person who showed up in all the moments of my life.
If I had known how to stop and take the time to assess my inner situation––because that's where this dark disturbance I felt lived and grew––I may have discovered why I was so wrong inside. A darkness that raged with flames of hurt and pain no one else could feel or see. I smiled a lot in those days. Warm, courteous, and caring of others, how could anyone even have suspected that beneath all the coping charm I exuded, inside, I was screaming, burning up to death, and slowly dying?
Here's the thing. My life continued like that throughout my twenties and into my thirties without relief, cessation, or solutions. It still confounds me how I could live and carry on a life in that state. We human beings are amazing creatures. Even with our insides torn up, our wiring all mismatched, and our hearts consumed by unbearable pain and grief from the loss of a self we never got to know, we still carry on.
Even though I didn't know myself, I still didn't like who I was. But I wanted to; I just didn't know how or why I didn't. I was a good girl, I was. What had I done so wrongly to justify my inability to forgive myself? What was there to forgive? I knew I had done something wrong but didn't know what. It was an untenable and impossible situation to navigate. Inevitably, one day, I decided to stop trying and put an end to the madness and my life.
Many years later, I am still alive and strong, so obviously––and gratefully, things didn't end there. I could say that with age came wisdom, but that's not necessarily true. The truth is that were I built differently, less sensitive, and, thus, less aware or concerned with what was happening in my inner world, I may have remained unaware of what was brewing inside.
We don't automatically know more about everything because we spend more years on this journey. Whether driven almost to madness by the need for answers or blithely living with a benign unawareness of unanswered questions, we all need to know who we are inside. Who is in the driver's seat of our life, and why are we even here? Why do we behave the way we do, and what impact do we have on ourselves, our lives, and other human beings? Are we friendly navigators in this life, staying in our lane and driving safely? What did I discover about myself that kept me from dying and made me want to live?
Well, first, I found out that I wasn't alone and the only one who felt that way that I did. In fact, on one level or another, we all experience things in the early years of our lives that we don't understand and cannot account for. Things happen when we are young that we cannot control, but they can significantly impact us. Because we are so malleable and formative at that time, these events, situations, or encounters blend in with all the other elements of our upbringing and shape our personalities, behaviors, and sense of who we are.
If these things are positive and life-affirming, they will positively influence our perception of ourselves and life. However, if they are harmful and destructive, they will steer us into a darker experience of ourselves and our lives. No one ever gets just one or the other. We will all encounter both, no matter how much dark or light dominates our experiences. There is light and dark in every moment. The balance of the two makes it possible to survive and thrive as a human being.
Physical and emotional abuse dominated the reality of my childhood. There were certain behaviors and responses to my life issues that I could track back to what I endured at the hands of my father when I was growing up. Those encounters with his bullied whippings and emotional lashings always left me feeling unnerved, rattled, and ashamed.
I didn't blame myself for his anger and rage, but I suffered because of it. Without knowing or understanding––as I did in later years––why he behaved that way, I decided he was a mean and miserable person. I never understood then why my mom would always take him back after their numerous separations. He never changed, not even a little bit.
He was a big problem for me growing up, and our relationship misshaped and distorted my future interactions with the boys and men in my life. Though my father's violent abuse contributed to the broken damage festering inside of me, it was only part of the reason why I was so desperately uncomfortable in my skin.
Dealing with these issues in my healing process still didn't erase the icky-sticky feeling of disease and unwellness that stuck inside of me like glue. It was that lingering malaise that would constantly upend all my attempts at finding a solid place within myself to be okay with me.
Years and years of spiritual work could not erase or heal what I later termed 'The Breach' that existed in my being. It felt like something foreign had wormed inside me, but I didn't know how it got there or what it was. That is, until, one day, I remembered.
Oddly enough, I had known all along what happened to me. I didn't think that it was the devastating, deep-rooted cause of all my misery and despair. What I remembered is that I never knew that childhood sexual abuse had almost destroyed both me and my life.
The impact of sexual abuse and sexualization on a child can––if left to its long-term effects––be irreparable and life-destroying when that child becomes an adult. This uninvited invasion of a child's trust and innocence becomes the silent annihilator that destroys the spirit, dismantles the power, and obliterates the sense of self-value and worth of this precious human being. Some families openly acknowledge it as a terrible act and seek legal remedies to punish the offender. That was the response in my situation.
My step-grandfather was removed from his home and sent to prison for a time. And no adult in my immediate or extended family said or did anything more about it. For them, the incident was over. For us children who endured my step-grandfather's egregious acts, our nightmare was only beginning.
Perhaps because no one ever asked me how I felt in its aftermath, I innocently and readily assumed that there weren't any feelings to explore. At the age of 4 years, what else could you think when you were too young even to register what had occurred? When I was a little older, although I had tell-tale signs of something being amiss, my parents never made the connection that the current behavior was a result of the sexual abuse.
Instead of asking me how I felt (which would never happen), my father launched an over-zealous campaign of sexual gatekeeping and hyper-vigilant watchfulness over every aspect of my life. Somehow, in his mind, I was no longer the victim but had now become the perpetrator of engaging in future sexual misdeeds. Now, in his eyes, every boy or man became my step-grandfather, and instead of being the prey, I was now a co-conspirator.
From the age of 5 years until my 18th birthday, my father never took his eyes off of me. For me, it was like being reminded every day of my life of my abuse. My father raged at me for it happening, at every boy who came anywhere near me, and at himself for failing to protect me.
But, because neither he nor my mother could anticipate or foresee the future impact all of this would have on me, I, along with them, ignored then buried any inkling or understanding of what was in store for me and my sexuality. And, if I knew, what was I supposed to do with it after that?