Let’s think together of some situations where something seems amazing on the outside, but underneath, it’s a whole different story. What we see isn’t always reality, both in ourselves and in others.
Imagine that one of your colleagues or work buddies has asked you and your family over for a cookout. You’ve never been to this person’s house before but based on the address you know it’s in an upscale neighborhood. You immediately anticipate what their home will be like.
Pool in the back yard, 3 car garage, chandelier, hard wood floors, expensive paintings on the walls, high end kitchen appliances, the works. So you pull into the neighborhood, find their house and it looks just as you imagined, on the outside. A well-manicured lawn, perfect landscaping, a fenced in pool, etc.
Your expectations are validated until you walk in the front door and find the house to be a disaster. Clothes everywhere, old stained carpet, very little furniture, a smell of God knows what that hits you the second you walk in the door. Suddenly you’re like, “uummm, Toto we aren’t in Kansas anymore!”
Or how about this…Think of time when you were out driving and you begin to come up on this amazingly sleek, sexy, sports car. It’s pristine on the outside, not a scratch. The tires shine, the rims sparkle, the sunlight bounces off the paint in blinding fashion.
The car pulls into a local convenience store, as do you (hey I’ve done it, I admit). As you walk past this beautiful masterpiece on wheels and peek inside the windows, you are met with fast food bags on the floor, ripped upholstery, coffee stains on the gear shift, and so many crumbs that you can barely tell what color the interior is.
Not everything on the outside is what it seems on the inside. Such is the life of a survivor.
Often times we grew up in a household that seemed great to everyone else, but we knew the real truth.
What happened behind closed doors was a far cry from what our parents and siblings would lead others to believe in public circles.
The nice house, the loving mother and father who are devoted to each other, siblings who don’t fight and cause a ruckus in public or at home. To everyone on the outside looking in, your family was the perfect example of, Leave it to Beaver.
Allow me to paint this picture for you…
When you come from work or school, you see your parents fighting. You see the physical, emotional, and verbal abuse exchanged between your caregivers. Your awareness is always heightened because you know that at any time, even in what should be a safe environment, you could be traumatized by what you see, feel, and hear.
We would then try and put on a happy face, cover up the emotional and/or physical bruises, and hide the insecurities from our school mates or co-workers. We smile and go about our day, trying to forget what awaits us when we get home.
Our life is a far cry from the sitcom atmosphere it’s portrayed to be like. We feel like we are living a lie, but it seems to be a justifiable lie.
At least if we can portray ourselves as “normal” to our friends and coworkers, we have some sense of a life that everyone thinks we have. Even if it isn’t true, living almost a double life helps us cope and forget our troubles for a short period of time.
We’d rather hide behind a facade than reveal how much hurt and pain we experience daily.
My reason for sharing this with you is because this is how I felt growing up. Maybe it’s how you felt then too, or even now as an adult?
The lack of validation and lack of emotional support took its toll on me and left me feeling like I was living a lie.
I put on a happy face at school, so I could try and enjoy my time away with my friends. Anything I could do to escape into another world of “normals” was worth it to me.
Even amidst the bullying, which was terrible in itself, I still found comfort in the few friends I had to help keep my mind off of the childhood sexual abuse and the lack of support at home. I was basically sacrificing one trauma for another and finding some type of calmness in the middle of the two.
How I pulled that off, to this day I still am not totally sure; suffice it to say the will to survive as a survivor is strong. Very strong.
I want to validate you today, that if you have experienced anything similar to what I described, you are so not alone. I’ve talked with many who are in this situation, or have been.
I’m here to encourage you, to tell you that there is hope. Don’t wait like I did to find help and support from others. Seek out a professional that you can talk too. Read books, listen to podcasts, watch videos, *join online secret/safe communities, and find validation among others.
You don’t have to go through this alone.
We don’t have to hide behind the mask of a double life. We can Survive, Thrive, and Conquer our past, and be proud of where we’re going and what we’ve overcome.
*If you would like information on how you can join a secret, safe, group and heal in safe community, please contact me.
image provided by http://www.likehdwallpaper.com/
I know what it’s like living a double life all too well. I’m living it to this day. It’s not exactly the kind of life I wish upon anyone. If it wasn’t for my therapist, I dont think I could make it through. Especially when you have mental health issues such as severe depression and anxiety. i am doing everything I can to try to heal myself from my past and recover.
You are doing an amazing job Charlie. I’m proud to be your friend and fellow survivor. I know how strong and amazing you are. Never give up, and I’m always in your corner!
Thanks for keeping the word going- unfortunately- I’m still not going back to Facebook. Waiting for enough opportunity to come that Bobbi can have a safer place, or at least when there’s a group for just men.
So many people say my family is an example of a perfect family. My family is great but far from perfect. My father had anger issues and lashed out on me physically and verbally. Very, very few people know that.
I think most of us had to live a double life to be able to survive. You can’t very well bring up being sexually abused by a family member without people freaking out and walking out of your life. Even now when people are more comfortable talking about sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity and even some mental heath issues without judgment incest is still taboo. When I attended my first and only rape victims support group I found out that even rape victims are not comfortable discussing the subject. My double life and convincing myself it wasn’t real are the only reason I could get as far as I did in life.
A double life in respect that I have to have the perfect facade as I feel like that house you described on the inside. So I try to stay perfect on the outside so that people don’t see the mess inside!