My parents trusted Robbie since he played Mr. Fix-it, but Uncle Robbie played other games—secret games that only he and I knew about. Whenever he fixed something in my house, and no one was around, he asked me to play. At first, I agreed, but soon I discovered that these were not fun games, they were painful. These were games I never won.
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I could feel the sadness creeping up again, like an unwelcome relative looking over my shoulder and breathing down my neck. I didn’t want it to come, but it did, and I knew that I was helpless to stop it. And then it washed over me; it poured down like a river of madness, and bathed me in uncertainty. As the tears poured down my face and I crawled into bed, I wanted nothing other than to end my own life. Again. But I couldn’t move. I was drowning and stuck staring into nothingness, and the nothingness was ripping my heart apart. As much as I wanted to end my life, I had no energy to get up and do it.
Some time went by, and the energy slowly came back into my body. I muddled around and managed to answer work emails, walk my dog, feed myself and finish some schoolwork. As I drifted around the house and tried to connect with life again, my phone rang. It was a friend, calling to check up on me. My brain told me not to answer it, and I listened. Tomorrow, or maybe the next day, I told myself. Right now, right now I need rest.
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Nearly seven years ago, I was living in New York City, modeling, and battling several mental illnesses. My mother and I were trying to work through our complicated relationship, one that stemmed from years’ worth of domestic violence, abuse, and alcoholism. In my heart, I wanted so badly to try and understand my mother and have a genuine connection with her, but it was like trying to climb a giant hill wearing cement shoes. Not only did my mental health conditions keep me from moving forward and connecting with her, but so did hers. Bipolar, dissociative identity disorder, and her battle with the bottle were demons that kept her permanently trapped until her death in 2012.
Today would be Mom’s fiftieth birthday, and here I am, in New York City on a business trip, thinking about her.
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It’s been one of my life’s missions to fight for the rights of children who have been sexually abused, because, after all, I was abused, too. But I remember recently telling a friend and fellow survivor of child sexual abuse, while getting ready to speak at a rally at the New York State Capitol on The Omnibus Child Victims Act, that sometimes, advocating for our rights in modern times feels like fighting for freedom from slavery. And not that I would ever understand what being an African-American slave feels like, but I do understand what it’s like to be physically tormented, beaten, and sexually abused. Not to mention the fact that fellow advocates, Senators and Assemblymembers have been fighting to eliminate the statue of limitations for child sexual abuse in New York for eleven years now. Repeating the same legislative process, year after year, is exhausting to those of us who grew up knowing nothing but humiliation and shame. Many times we feel as though we have to beg, cry, scream, and plead for our basic human rights – rights that were stolen from us as children. Thankfully, with the help of Governor Cuomo this year, I believe that things will be different. I want so badly to believe, and I will continue to fight for change.
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