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  • Writer's pictureGabriella Hillis


Updated: Jul 26, 2023

/fəˈsäd/ noun. an outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or credible reality.

I've eluded to this before. If you're like me, when you're involved something dark, scary, or unpleasant, you don't exactly want to share it with the world. Coming from a history of abuse, trauma, and neglect, I learned the idea of hiding dark truths early on, and really well. Trauma and abuse came with a lot of these feelings and moods: guilt, shame, fear, resentment, sadness, anger, loneliness, mania, depression... the list goes on. The behaviours and character traits that accompanied them included: people-pleasing, isolating, perfectionism, selfishness, restlessness, self-medicating, denial, and acting. That was the case for me for many years.

Once in awhile, someone comes along, sees your reality, and holds space for you to tell your truth. I call them angels. They're usually considered Good Samaritans who were in the right place at the right time, and were "doing what anyone would do" or "just doing their job." My little brother and I were stuck in a living hell in our first foster home, but an angel came along who could see our reality, and helped us out of it. Sometimes it seems that no one comes along to help us out of our hell or dark reality. Instead, we persevere and continue our lives in survival mode, trying to have our basic needs met - all the while, our spirits are breaking, and we learn ways to cope.

Some cope by giving up efforts to change the situation and try other means, like pleasing others - particularly an abuser - because of learned helplessness. "Children who had a history of abuse and neglect during their childhood and adolescence can develop a state of Learned Helplessness (LH). Consequences of emotional abuse may be repeated abnormal or disrupted attachment development and the sufferer blames him/herself for the abuse, leading to LH, emotional distress, and excessively inactive behavior."[] When you discover that efforts to stand up for yourself, to reach out to others (who didn't help), or to leave the situation by any means you know how, don't work, you may become helpless. Giving in, pleasing and meeting the needs of your abuser seems like the easiest option.

Learned helplessness helps the abuser, in that, the facade is kept up so they can continue to do their harm. With no one pointing out the physical, sexual, and/or psychological harm an abuser is doing, they are able to keep it up as long as they can get away with it. Sometimes children, adolescents, and even adults, get brave and point out the harms, but in order to maintain the facade, they're forced to bury the truth by any means necessary by those who fear the consequences. Think about the times when celebrities have come forward about assault or abuse that was done to them by someone people adored. Often the first responses are something along the lines of: "that can't be true; that guy was such a great actor who helped a lot of women catch their big break. They just want their 15 minutes of fame. She must be going after his money. If it's true, why didn't she come forward years ago? Why wait until now?" As though there are some ulterior motives. When all is said and done, the so-called whistle blower becomes the villain or a scapegoat. Notice how the person who was abused gets attacked, the abuser is idolized, and the cycle continues. It takes courage to be vulnerable and share your truth.

About 10 years ago, I was curious about what had ever happened to the "D word"and her daughter (see my "I used to hate the word resilient" post), when I discovered that she had passed away in 2006, and after a deeper search, I found a scholarship or memorial fund that was created in her name. My blood boiled as they described what a wonderful foster parent she was, and how she loved and cared for hundreds of children for over three decades. I knew different. I wanted the world to know what a facade she was and how she and her daughter made our lives a living hell for 5 years. So I wrote a letter, but I couldn't find the courage to send it. I didn't tell anyone at the time because I don't think I had been 100% honest with anyone yet about the harms she had caused, so I kept it inside for awhile. I tore up the letter and never spoke about it again. I buried the truth deep down again. In March 2019, I spilled the details and truth about what happened to someone I trust and who held space for me to feel all the feelings that went with sharing, and that began my spiritual awakening.

I can only speculate that the facade perpetuated by the "D word" and her daughter were maintained until the bitter end, but I am grateful for the fact that my brother and I survived and escaped the living hell she put us through. I can only hope that after we were removed, she didn't take in more children to harm.

I came forward about some other harms done to us, but was attacked, blamed, and shamed. I was told to keep my mouth shut or else there would be consequences. And the consequences wouldn't have even impacted me. In fact, it would have freed me from another living hell. But yet again, I was forced to maintain a facade for their sake, and keep the feelings of shame, fear, and resentment inside for many years. Another time, I came forward to a friend about further harms that someone was causing me, but the response was, "Are you sure you want to go down that road? Because that is quite an accusation to make. That would ruin ________'s reputation." Again, the harm was minimized, and the integrity of my abuser was deemed more important than mine. Today, I am at peace with never facing those dark realities, because at the end of the day, I am here, and I survived.

The ability to survive, cope, and thrive through repeated abuse, trauma, violence, and neglect is called resilience. Until I came out the other end and accepted my resilience, I was ashamed, fearful, and resentful. I hated everything that was done to me. I coped for many years by being a perfectionist, maintaining the perfect appearance, and appearing to have my life together with a good career, a nice car, nice clothes, and a presentable appearance. In reality, I was spiritually broken inside, and felt like an actor in my own life. No one knew the harmful thoughts, negative perspective, or resentments I held inside. Those thoughts and feelings kept me from feeling deserving of nice things and the gifts of life. They leaked through in my relations with family and friends, and kept me from living in peace and serenity. It wasn't until a few months of sobriety and following a program of recovery that I had an opportunity to look into myself/my character defects and find a way to let them go. Opening up has been freeing and today I can honestly say that I no longer feel like an actor, and am at peace.

I hope this gives you a bit of insight into some of the impacts of trauma and abuse, and starts a conversation. If you have been hiding some dark secrets of your own, I hope you find the courage to share them with someone you trust so that you can also heal and lead a peaceful life with integrity. If after reading this, someone comes to you about something deep, dark, and ugly, believe them and listen to your heart.

Thanks again for reading xo

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1 comentário

20 de ago. de 2019

well done Gabby, May your future hold honest, loving witness whenever you honour another with your truth. You speak eloquently and with heart to the complicated webs of abuse, all the obstacles victims face on their healing journey. Thank you.

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