i’ve written about it before (read here), but i have a service animal. i’ve had sherlock for about 3 .5 years. initially i wasn’t too sure what to expect from him, but i knew what i wanted and i knew how i’d like to feel and be with him. over the years however, he’s morphed into something i’d never expected. he is one the biggest blessings in my life. and it is because of this, that the enemy focuses so much of his energy trying to destroy it.

some of the main struggles that most child sexual abuse and rape victims have, including myself, is the feeling of being accepted, seen and validated. i crave being believed, and i struggle to feel and believe that my experience is being seen, heard and validated or worse, even worthy of those things.  if the abuse wasn’t dealt with, like mine wasn’t because of various reasons, including the secrecy of those who knew of the abuse, the need festers. and like an untreated infection spreads itself out, it demands to be seen, heard and validated in every possible way.

i’ve struggled to even believe myself sometimes. i can’t tell you the amount of times i’ve said to my therapist, “maybe nothing did happen… and i’m just messed up for no reason…” even though someone from my past has stepped up and admitted to knowing about the abuse, I still struggle – because struggling to be believed and being denied for 10 plus years convinced me to second guess myself.

but i was told to “keep things a secret”, told to “respect my elders”, told to “trust adults”. i was put in hands of people my parents trusted to keep me safe, and they violated me, and my parent’s trust. and sure, they are suffering with whatever caused them to abuse me, but as my dear friend and fellow csa (child sexual abuse) survivor said the other night,

I mean, I know it is the life of a victim but it seems like we make alot of pleasure sacrifices to be responsible and get the help we need to heal wounds we never asked for.”

 as i calculate the amount of money i’ve spent on therapies and medications over the years, i swear i’d have a down payment for a house. if you think i’m joking, just consider the cost of an inpatient stay in a psychiatric hospital because of both side effects from drugs and an intense desire to die, for 3 days.

and the healing doesn’t end – ever. but i know the cost will eventually go down. but it’s going to take work.

recently i’ve been challenged with sherlock. within this week alone, i’ve been proverbially punched in the gut twice regarding the “weakness” presented in me because i have a service animal as well as the complete dismissal of me “needing” a service animal. both these actions are directly linked back to the very thing that caused my need for him, and my struggle to honor him and what he does in my life.

telling me that having sherlock makes me “weak” is telling me that the abuse i endured wasn’t that bad. telling me i don’t need sherlock tells me, “i don’t believe the you were abused. and if you were, it wasn’t bad enough to require a service animal.”

 i’ve been told,

“toughen up”, “get over it”, “deal with it”, “life isn’t fair, accept it”, “you’re lying”, “you’re really fine, you just want to be a victim”, “you’re being dramatic” , “ you’re obsessing” , “you’ve become neurotic”

a few days ago i was kicked out of a restaurant i’ve eaten at many times with my service animal with no issues. The general manager continued to ask me illegal questions and when I refused to answer him, he kicked me out.

after years battling with suicidal thoughts, self mutilation, eating disorders, and serious anxiety keeping me in my house; afraid to leave, i’ve fought to find the right path for me. i’ve earned the right to feel comfortable in my own skin and not worry about making others more comfortable in theirs. i’ve wrestled with death, and to be honest, still wrestle with it frequently.  but people don’t know these things about me.

they’ve never had to pick me up off of the floor in the midst of a panic attack, or found me in the closest afraid to move begging God to “just take me” like my family has. they’ve never seen the scars on my body from my attempts to soothe a pain hidden deep inside me. they’ve never seen my service animal cue me and redirect my behavior from harming myself to calming me and helping me to stay within my body.

they’ve never seen the side effects of the abuse. I have. I have fought to be who I am. I have fought to get to a place where I’m happy in my healing. I have fought to get to the end of the tunnel. I am proud of this fight I’ve done. i am not weak. i am not pathetic. i am  not dramatic. i am not a victim.

i am courageously fighting a fight that far too many people lose. and if i ever stopped fighting, then you’d see my gravestone instead.

so please, honor each other. don’t assume to know things, ask questions instead. but most importantly, knowing God is by your side, honor the healing journey that you are on.