What I was left with is a shopping list of issues. I had low self-esteem, self-hatred, depression, guilt, shame and an inability to trust people and a constant reminder of my abuse. I would block out my shame by imagining all kinds of things, acting out, making up stories and getting into fist fights. I think the worst of it for me was that I thought my abuser would kill me and my family. He had me convinced. Strangely enough, one time, in a brief instance I thought about telling my parents but I had a secondary fear quickly emerge. I feared my Dad would kill this man and then go to jail, and I would never see him again. So as a child you can see how trapped I really felt. The worst was yet to come and it would come in the form of sleep disturbances. These were daily and varied in intensity but every day of the week I would go through these. It was horrible and no one could understand. These two excerpts from my book show how bad it really got.
As a young child I was very afraid of the dark. Because my brothers were older, they often times were not home at bedtime. I would try to sneak into my sisters’ room to sleep because you could be guaranteed there would always be someone there. Sometimes I would get in, and sometimes I would not be so successful. With the bad dreams I used to have I had a hard time falling asleep; my dreams were frightening.
As a kid I suffered with bad headaches and horrible nightmares. I remember one time while sleeping I had a horrible dream that the devil was grabbing me and I was floating around the room. I would fight and fight to wake up but it would seem like an eternity before I would wake up. I often would awaken and be sweating and crying. One time my Mam came into the room because I had been yelling in my sleep. I broke down and told her what I had been experiencing. I
told my Mam that this was happening most nights of the week. My Mam held me that night until I fell asleep and the next day my Mam and Dad took me to see the doctor. I remember his name, it was Dr. Canty. The doctor examined me. He asked me a few questions then had my Mam enter the examining room. He told my Mam that I was okay and that most kids go through this and I was a little hyperactive. He gave her some medicine to give me before bedtime. It tasted horrible rather like liquid shit. She gave it to me but it never worked. I told my Mam the nightmares had stopped but I was lying, I just wanted her not to worry. My headaches and nightmares continued into adulthood and the intensity increased dramatically. It would all make sense later but for now I would have to just live with it.
Religion was important to my family. Every day at 6 o’clock we would have to be in the house to say the Angelus. If we were out playing or whatever we were doing, we would get the call. My Mam would gather us all in the kitchen in a circle. The radio would be on, and it would ring out a bell tone. My Mam would then start us off with the sign of the cross and then start the prayer. It was a short prayer, so no one ever minded our routine.
Later, after supper, was another story. At night we would all have to gather in a circle again, this time with Rosary beads in hand, and in order to do the Rosary. There would be a lot of mumbling going on; I’m not sure that everyone was even saying the same prayer on the beads as we went, but it still sounded okay so we just kept going. My brother Eamon was the biggest “mumbler” of them all. When he would start I would giggle and then my Mam would hit me a crack on the back of the head. After my head would stop spinning we would carry on for you see my Mam and Dad were very religious people and serious about their prayers. Confession every Saturday and Mass every Sunday was second nature to us. To this day I will always remember the strength in our family’s faith which has remained strong in my heart as well.
I also experienced sleep paralysis which still occurs to this day when stresses in my life become a bit more than I can handle. But you also must remember I had an undetected brain aneurysm rupture causing me to battle brain injury as well, so I, at times, have issues sorting out daily stresses. Enough about that, let’s talk about sleep paralysis for a moment. Sleep paralysis happens for me when I am having a terrifying vision in my dreams and I cannot wake myself up nor move. I will call out and moan but I can feel my body lock up. If you should be going through this it would be wise for you to speak to your doctor and counselor. You want to rule out any other medical factors which may be causing this. There are ways to deal with sleep paralysis. What is good to know is that if it is only sleep paralysis brought on by stress that it is not dangerous. However, it does not make it any easier to deal with.
As an adult I adopted unhealthy coping mechanisms. I was constantly sad but faked it with laughter in front of others. I would hide my pain by abusing alcohol and some drugs but mostly I punished myself. I tried to hurt myself a few times, wanting to make the pain stop permanently and I struggle with bouts of depression to this day. I even still experience the nightmares though now I can understand why.
Admitting my abuse has started me on a path of recovery. I will not lie to you, it is not an easy path but it is one you can travel. The first and foremost thing you must do for yourself is admit that you are worthy of happiness, health and deserve good in your life. Then you need to remind yourself that you don’t have to be a victim to your abuser anymore. You can put him where he belongs and that is give him his appropriate title: Criminal. What he or she has done is a criminal act. You would not punish yourself if you were robbed so you should not punish yourself for this crime either.
The battle of healing from abuse, which I learned over time, many people struggle with, made me long to do something for others. I started writing books about my experience, showing the funny, the sad, the strong emotion, the pain but the reality is that you can grow strong within yourself. My final book in the series "Mad Man From Athgarvan Don’t Blink" is the one that brings all the stories together. We have self-published the book and are using the proceeds to work on the next project which will be used to raise funds to help victims from Child Abuse and Brain Aneurysm Trauma. From the books, a movie project has been born and that is yet another story which we will talk about next time!
After all of his twists and turns he has dedicated himself to helping others survive abuse and has formed the group The Voice Against Child Abuse. He helps direct others to the resources they need to survive their own battles. He is also working on an independent movie project to raise awareness about abuse, survival and deliver the message that there is hope and even a little laughter in life. The movie is call "If You Told" based on his third and final book in the Mad Man From Athgarvan series "Don't Blink".
To order Mad Man From Athgarvan Don't Blink, click here.
To support Larry's independent movie project, go here. P.S. I'll be making a cameo appearance in the film!!