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PYWV We Lead

Mercy Atieno; In My Shoes

By:Anne Mugo Nov. 28, 2022

They say time heals all wounds but what they don’t tell us is that it also creates room for triggers that take us back to the past, forcing us to revisit the hurts of yesterday. Our thirties are a phase for us to reflect, to look back and deal with things we suppressed. I however didn’t know it would take me back to the moments that continually took away my innocence and left me bare.

My childhood was so empty. Play didn’t define it. I was shy and compared myself unfavourably with other children. I didn’t feel good enough. Were I not good with books, I would have been invisible. There was so much silence in my voice. A lot was going on within me that I didn’t even understand. I don’t remember ever crying in front of people but I would on most nights, cover myself up and cry under the sheets.

My parents’ separation left me under the care of my sickly grandmother who also left me with her youngest son. I say youngest son because uncles should protect and not take advantage of their nieces. My brain blocked all that happened during this phase of my life. The three years of verbal and sexual abuse that silenced me deserted me, at least until I was seventeen. It was at this age that I came face to face with him again and a simple look from him reduced me to tears. I was haunted by flashbacks of all those nights he sneaked into my grandmother’s room, taking advantage of the fact that she was bedridden in the hospital. I couldn’t sleep for several nights. I wanted him to die.

Pain teaches you self-doubt. I learned not to trust myself nor listen to my own thoughts. I sought for validation in everything I did. Perhaps it’s was the only way to find out if I could be seen. I lived afraid of the world and everything in it. I lived in fear of it happening again and in the same breadth beat myself up for over thinking. I couldn’t help it. There was always a feeling of pessimism hovering around me.

Childhood made me believe that bad things happen all the time and it took me so many years to start believing that just like darkness gives way to light, my story could change too. There were days when I wished there was a ritual that could help cleanse me from all the pain. There was none so I huddled in a corner and cried, hoping it would all go away.

Therapy helped me break through all my scars and the walls of limitations I had created. It made me believe not only in myself but also in the power of the universe and the people in it that could walk with me. I remember having the worst suicidal ideation in my twenties and for the very first time I was able to reach out to someone for help. This was the beginning of a new path for me.

Each day comes with new triggers but I am at a better place now. A place where I understand that it was not my fault and I’m not putting myself in harmful spaces and feeling like it’s happening to me all over again. The past has a way of overshadowing the present and the future if we let it. Going for therapy and talking about it has allowed me to accept what happened and take control of my life.

Healing is a process. I can’t tell whether it’s time that makes it happen but in the midst of all the pain and confusion, I evolved and erased the wrong definitions I had held on to about myself.

It’s redefining self and understanding experiences from my past that allowed me to see life in all its beauty. My wish is that people get to understand survivors of all forms of gender-based violence beyond the words they speak or their actions. There’s more that happens within them. It is the unspoken that keeps wounding them.