My Story: "I Desperately Searched For Acceptance After Sexual Abuse & Other Traumatic Events"
“I’m Clara Asirvatham, a 26-year-old woman from Bengaluru. I have been happily married for almost a year and a half now but my tryst with happiness hasn’t been a long one. For the most part of my childhood, I felt vulnerable, lonely, and very sad, as a result of the void left by my absent father. He took his own life when I was barely two years old. In some ways, he almost set a precedent.
As you can probably imagine, the childhood that followed wasn’t a happy one. My single mother tried her best to raise me and provide for me but she obviously had her limitations, given that she had to work and also look after my two sisters.
There was always a void – a void I felt that only my late father could have filled, and that void defined my life. The fact that I didn’t remember anything about him because he died when I was hardly two years old didn’t help me cope better. Many say that it is easy to cope with the death of a father when kids are very young, but I felt quite the opposite. When your dad leaves at 2-years of age and takes his own life, it leaves you with many unanswered questions.
My father drank poison and died. The memories still haunt me. Why did he choose death when he had three beautiful daughters? We were so young and innocent. Didn’t our smiles melt his heart? Didn’t he feel like living even after I hugged him with those tiny hands?
My dad had an affair. Why did he think I would love or respect him any less if he had an affair? Didn’t I deserve the right to decide if I can forgive or not? Was he such a good man that the guilt of his mistake made him end his life? Did he have a mental illness like me? Did he love me? Did he love my mom? Did he feel bad when he took that decision? Was it because we were all girls? Was it because I was dark and ugly as a child? Was it because he loved the other woman more than anything and anyone? I don’t know. I still don’t.
Voids and unanswered questions apart, I felt underappreciated, neglected, and unloved – feelings that I could not even define back then. All those traumatic feelings soon became a desperate search for acceptance. I wanted everyone to accept me. I don’t know when it all started but I wanted people to love me, accept me, and be there for me. When one craves so achingly for acceptance, it usually results in the disappearance of normal, healthy boundaries that kids learn to inculcate.
I became a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a neighbour’s son when I was 10. I did not know how to react. I didn’t know if I should tell my mother. Even though I felt something was terribly wrong, I thought that’s how a brother expresses love.
The abuse ended after we shifted our residence. But soon a teacher started abusing me.
I felt that men were taking advantage of me because I didn’t have a father. I was so angry with my dad for not being there. I was sad that the world did not protect me either.
I Felt That I Was Not Worth Fighting For
Those distressful events defined my growing up years and turned me into a depressed child. I expected people to understand me even when I didn’t communicate with them. I wanted someone to look at me and understand what I was going through, though I didn’t speak out. I developed this trait during childhood and still carry it. I still expect people to understand me even when I don’t use words.
When I hit puberty, many guys from whom I expected love, took advantage of me, continuing the circle of abuse. Going back to school and seeing these guys was not easy. I couldn’t walk in front of them because they would tell others that I was characterless. It is very easy for a guy to shift the blame on a girl when his needs aren’t met. The worst thing is that the world believes these guys.
My first true love broke up with me when I was 16 years old. He broke up with me because of our religious differences. He slapped me in front of his college gate as I pleaded with him in my desperation. I used to stand in front of his house every day. After my first breakup, I wanted attention. I always saw a father figure in the guys I dated. So, when a guy broke up with me, I lost a bit of my dad too. I would feel fatherless all over again.
I wanted the world to stop and look at me and feel my pain. I wanted attention and so I tried taking my own life. I felt that the guy I was dating will come running to me and I may be dead by then. But deep down, I didn’t want to die. I wanted to be there for my family. But I did it anyway.
This traumatic experience had a great impact on my life. I was convinced that every guy I date will take me for granted, break my heart, and leave me. I felt that I was not worth fighting for. I felt like I did not deserve love. Because of broken relationships, I had low self-esteem and body issues. I felt I wasn’t beautiful. I felt that no guy will like me for my soul. Because of this, I started settling for guys who did not meet my expectations. I thought I could change these guys with my love and they will forever be grateful to me and never leave me. But no matter what I did, I could not change anyone.
Issues with them shattered me even more and brought my self-respect and self-esteem to its lowest. I didn’t deal with these issues. I just let them be, because a lot of times, people do not talk about or accept mental illnesses.
There Were A Few Bright Spots
But amidst all the pain, there were a few bright spots that helped me come through. Little things like my mom buying me a pastry the day she got her salary, My two best friends from my childhood – Susan and Ruth – who always stood by and loved me. We cycled together, stole tamarind from the jar at midnight, had sleepovers, and spoke a lot. Their houses were my safest places. No one could abuse me there.
Things began to change for me when I was about 19 years old. After my second break up, I sensed that I could get through it and developed a certain amount of self-belief. I had dealt with pain before and I knew for sure that I would cope and feel better in some time. I knew time heals everything.
It was, however, a daily battle. I was dealing with extreme anxiety and depression. It took me a long time to find a psychologist I was comfortable with. But when I found one, I went for counselling sessions regularly, took my pills on time, read many inspiring self-help books, and joined many groups where I met similar people, shared my story with others, wrote poetry, took frequent trips, and danced it out.
What kept me going was love. I’m a strong believer of true love and I knew this world was a loving place. I knew I will find love. The hope kept me going.
My church helped me divert my mind, find peace, and learn new things. It was a very happy place.
I got a dog and named her Puppy. Raising her was my true motivation. She is my bundle of joy and my comfort. My mother supported me throughout.
I wanted to be a writer and I’m one right now. A peaceful home, a day without depression, small trips, many cups of coffee, and loads of books.
My husband is my partner-in-crime. I have many other loving people who push me to do things that I need to do.
Do I still think of suicide? I don’t. If I do, I just tell myself, “this too shall pass” and go cuddle up to someone I love, sometimes even my dog. I’m a part of Living Stories – a group that is always there for me. I met beautiful souls here. I’m part of other groups too. My family is a great support system, and so is my doctor.
To those people out there who have lost hope or think that taking their own lives is the only option they have, I have this to say to them: hold on. Just be patient and wait for this to pass. Take your phone and call someone who you think can understand you. I once called a customer care number and told them I just want to talk. Guess what? They actually spoke to me. You are stronger than you think you are and many people will miss you if you take your life.
Find your tribe. A tribe that loves you back. Zoom out and see the bigger picture even on days you can’t see anything. Create a strong support system. Ask people to help you. Trust me, there are people who will.
I choose life because there are a million beautiful things that I can do if I’m alive. I can lend a listening ear, give my shoulders to someone who is going through what I’m going through, make someone’s life a little less difficult, and spread some love.
Trust me, this too shall pass.”