By Debbie Hatch: The Woman Behind Family & F.I.T.
From the very moment I decided to begin writing this, I have been struggling with it. My mind has been flooded with thoughts of what I wanted to (what I should, what I could) say. How much is too much? This morning I know the answer is to just say something. Just start…… I sat down and initially wrote 8 pages, clearing my head!!! What follows is my best attempt to unravel those thoughts although I sit here shaking almost uncontrollably.
The fact is, my strongest skill in emotional intelligence is empathy. I don’t typically talk about me. I don’t put myself “out there”. I reach to help other people. I want to hear their stories. For a very long time, I didn’t feel that I had anything worthwhile to share anyway. I am comfortable in the shadows. I am honest. I am not typically transparent. It scares me. A lot! But I honestly believe it’s time to take a deep breathe, to say what needs to be said, to differentiate between fact and fiction. My truth today is this: I have a family that loves me very much. I have supportive friends and many people that care about me. No matter what: those truths are absolute. I can count on my fingers the number of people that “actually” know me. That is, until today.
Although these things do not define me, they have served to mold me and I have made a promise to myself to be brutally, (uncomfortably) honest. Part of me feels like I should apologize. Part of me says I have apologized too many times. The fact remains. I have to be me. It’s all I have. If I’m going to help the people I so desperately want to help, they need to know who I really am. From the time I was 6 months old until I was 26, I was physically, sexually, and emotional beaten. I was told routinely that I brought such things upon myself; that they were my fault. Nothing I did was ever good enough. When the rage would start, I would do something to ensure I took the brunt of any beating so that others wouldn’t have to. My sister calls me her warrior. I endured home until I was 17 when I found out that I hadn’t been the only one molested. I wouldn’t save myself but to have put so much into saving others and then find that I had failed, was a crushing blow. Even in this, I hadn’t been good enough.
So, on that day, yes, it was on the day that I was slapped in the face with the truth…that I spoke my silence. No one knew. I had been a straight A student. My teachers and guidance counselors had aspirations for this studious, intelligent, hard-working young woman. One thing I had done well enough, was ensure I had kept the secret. I’ve heard people who have never experienced such things say, “I don’t understand how anyone would just put up with that…..”
They could just stop at, “I don’t understand.”
Unless you’ve been in that situation, you don’t understand. And that’s okay. There’s no reason to apologize.
That was my normal. That was just life. I didn’t know anything different. You should know this. Things were not horrible every day. That’s another thing people don’t understand. There are happy times. There are days, or weeks, or perhaps even months when things are more like a “regular” normal. I can tell you that one thing I didn’t understand on that day, was the ramifications of my voice. I did not understand what was going to happen when I spoke. Oh, and there were ramifications. Unending phone calls begging me to stop, to “not air dirty laundry”, although the reins were no longer within my grasp. The thing had taken on a life of its own. At that moment, on that day, I would have made it go away if I had the ability. I was completely alone and I was lost. Police questioning and grand jury. Foster homes and death threats. My sisters were taken away from me by rules that didn’t seem to take into account how very much we needed each other, especially during those moments. On that day, speaking up did not seem like a positive thing and I would have taken it back if I could.
My counselor told me I had little chance for a successful life. I would likely follow in the footsteps of those before and although I might not abuse, I would likely lose any and all control once I was free. I might not graduate from high school. I might not develop goals. She warned that I might have a predisposition to getting myself into abusive relationships. Know what? I set out to prove her right. I partied until I passed out. More than once. I would disappear for days at a time. I did dangerous things and took ridiculous chances. I didn’t care about anybody or anything. Least of all myself. I was alone. Physically and emotionally.
I did graduate from high school and went on to college for one semester. That wasn’t about studying for me. It was about partying, as much as I could whenever I could. It was about trying to ease the pain. Trying to figure out who I was outside of that place. A year of my life disappeared in a heartbeat. So at 18 I married a man I had “dated” exactly two months. Judge if you will. I have. None-the-less. That was my normal. In reality, my abuser was about to be released and I was terrified. I didn’t want to be alone. It was “typical”. My counselor had told me this might happen. Turns out he was an alcoholic and physically abusive. Who could have seen that coming? He told me it was my fault. He told me I wasn’t good enough. I kinda believed him. I put up with his bullshit until one night he threatened to hit my sister. I wouldn’t save myself but I was going to save her. I left with a police escort, my two babies and only the clothes on our backs. I moved into low income housing. I collected welfare and food stamps. I didn’t sleep at night because I was so scared. I truly didn’t feel like I was good enough – for anything. I even contemplated suicide several times. It was my children’s faces that stopped me from doing that. It was those faces that kept me somewhat sane. I wouldn’t save myself but I was damn sure going to save them.
…and save them, I did.
On the outside, I went back to college and completed my Master’s program. I created and manage an international human resources consulting company that has been in business for a decade, and is successful enough to have acquired a subsidiary. I have been married for over 20 years to an amazing man. To say that I came with some baggage is a slight understatement. He loves me in spite of it. We’ve been around the world together! On the inside, I am happy and healthy. Two biological children, the daughter my son gifted me, and four grandchildren who love without condition. I’ve worked very hard to get to a place where I feel that I AM good enough.
Most days I believe it.
This isn’t where my story ends nor is it my whole story but it’s enough of that piece to share for one day. I’m exhausted. I want nothing from you. Merely that you know how I came to be and why I care so passionately about helping others. I vividly remember laying on a grassy hill when I was 12 or 13, dreaming with my eyes open, that everything would be okay. I could not, in my wildest dreams, have ever imagined it would be this amazing.
Today I speak that silence again. Today I am fully aware that, while they will certainly not be as substantial, there will again be ramifications. And…I think I’m okay with that. I don’t know why I’m compelled to talk at this moment, but I do know why I have to talk. If I can provide strength to even one person; if I can provide one drop of courage; if I can be the warrior at the front of someone else’s charge, I have to.
Please know that no matter what your struggle may be today – and we all have one – if you focus on accepting what you cannot change but change what you cannot accept (if not now, when you’re stronger; if not for yourself, for those who love you) you will be okay. I want you to imagine the possibilities. You need to dream with your eyes open!