“Your story does not have to define you, you can come out on the other side.” ~Debby Madera
“I was about 6 years old, with three younger brothers, when my world turned upside down. My mom divorced my dad, we moved to El Paso and she remarried. My mom’s new husband was a high school teacher and a Vietnam Vet. There were many afternoons and evenings when my mom worked late as a dental assistant so my brothers and I were in my step dad’s care.
He was physically abusive to all of us. He would play inappropriate military games with us. Anytime he thought we were not paying attention, for whatever reason, he would smack us. Manipulation, threats and emotional abuse were every day occurrences for us. I can still recall him beating my youngest brother, who was barely walking, with a hanger.
He was so volatile, I lived in a hyper vigilance state. At just 6 years old, I would run around and make sure everything was perfect. I knew I would be blamed and get in trouble if anything wasn’t the way he said it should be. I would be punished “because I had done something wrong” even if I hadn’t.
I felt alone. My step dad began sexually abusing me shortly after marrying my mom. It was a recurring experience. At some point something happened in a warehouse, although I don’t remember what. I still have some post trauma reactions around warehouses. As is common with abusers, I was told not to tell anyone. If I did, he would hurt me and my mom.
At one point I did confide in my grandmother but she didn’t believe me. She was a Kindergarten teacher and she prided herself as a child specialist. I still struggle to forgive her…
Bits and pieces of my memory would emerge with time. I was in my late 30s before I started to address it. As a massage therapist, I understood the value of body work and myofacial release. Compassionate, appropriate, caring touch was the beginning of my healing. As I allowed tears and emotions to release, healing began to occur.
One of my massage clients was a counselor. I began seeing her and she encouraged me to open up. Her professional counseling helped me sort through my thoughts and dreams to uncover what was real, the truth. We visited weekly and then less frequently for about 18 months. I began and continue to incorporate art therapy as part of my healing journey.
One thing my counselor friend encouraged me to do was make an image of my abuser. Then I shot him, the image, to pieces. As a 6 year old child I wanted to kill him. I needed someone to believe me and save me because I was too young. I felt unheard and couldn’t speak for myself. Although I was an adult when I did this, in my mind, I was the unheard, abused 6 year old. I was protecting myself. I found power over this abuse and the abuser, instead of him having power over me. It was very cathartic.
He lived in our home less than a year. Although he was quite the chameleon, the night came when my mother confronted him about some stuff with my brother. He raped and abused my mom, threatening to kill her and himself. I still remember the police coming that night and taking him away.
In less than a year, I went from being a care free child enjoying hopscotch and popsicles to a child with post traumatic stress. Although his actions hindered me at one time, I have since crumbled that skeleton. I have been equipped and now have beautiful and empowering Stepping Stones to move forward, living my legacy.” ~Debby Madera