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by Lori Osterman
PUBLISHED BY: TreasureLine Publishing on Smashwords Finding Your Own Inner Strength Copyright © 2010 by Lori Osterman
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FINDING YOUR OWN INNER STRENGTH
Life is not easy. There are so many things during your lifetime that will challenge who you are. They will make you second guess yourself and why you are here. You have to hold on to what you know about yourself to be true. You are here for a reason. You are here to change the world, change someone’s life, or save someone’s soul. There are so many reasons why you are here and no one can know for sure but, if you give up, no one will ever know who you were meant to be. I want to tell you about a girl who couldn’t see past the pain she was feeling. She believed she was bad and no one could love her for who she was. She wanted to die and end her pain. She wanted to disappear and end the shame inside. She couldn’t bear the thought of anyone finding out what was happening to her. Death seemed so much easier and she truly believed no one would miss her. She didn’t think about what her contribution to the world would be. She could only see the pain she was in and that no one was there to help her. This is her story:
I wanted this. I had searched the house for the pills and waited for everyone to leave before I hid myself away in my room. Fully dressed, I crawled under my covers and began to force myself to drink down the pills that I believed would take away my pain and, with it, my life. I had a secret and it was destroying who I was. It was embarrassing and every time I walked the halls of my school I felt everyone knew what was wrong with me. My own mind was telling me I was a terrible person. My mind was telling me my family, my friends and the world would be better off without me in it. I needed to go and take my secret with me. No one would love me if they knew what was going on. So, I put a handful of pills in my mouth and I drank them down as best I could. I had swallowed too much water, I almost gagged. I put another handful of pills in my mouth and I drank them down as well. I put the glass on the side table and laid my head down on my pillow. Believing this would be the last time I would feel their softness beneath me. I waited to feel at peace. I waited to feel as if I was floating in the air like the movies show when your soul leaves your body. It was taking too long. My mind filled with images; flashes of past memories coming and going. I saw myself standing in the middle of the kitchen trying to swallow a pill that was supposed to make me feel better. My mom and her second husband were there watching me. I was soaking wet and couldn’t get the pill to go down my throat. It kept coming back up with all the water drenching my clothes even more. I remember looking down and seeing the drenched towels I was standing on. I began to gag again at the memory. I lay in bed waiting to sleep and another memory sprang to life. My mother’s third wedding. He was a Christian. He proclaimed himself to be “a man of God.” He was all those things they write about men in fairy tales: tall, dark, and handsome. The thought made me want to throw up but I fought against it. I couldn’t let the pills that would bring me peace come back up. I rolled over and tried to force myself to sleep. More memories were bursting to the surface. The day I got my hair cut before my sister and the rage my mother vented out on me for “going first.” I remember my mother pinning me on the kitchen floor with a pair of scissors screaming at me “Your sister’s
hair is harder to cut. I can cut your straight hair. How dare you go before your sister!” All the times I was second to my sister filled my mind. I yelled “Stop, no more. I just want it all to end.” I began to cry. I curled my legs to my chest and I waited for sleep to comfort me. I waited for the warmth of the unknown to pull me away. But I was cold and my stomach began to hurt and then I saw things I didn’t recognize. I must have been dreaming or hallucinating because I saw strength. I saw a little girl who looked like me, but wasn’t. I saw her smiling at me and taking my hand as we walked. I heard her laugh and tell me, “I love you.” I believed at this point I was asleep but instead of the darkness that I believed would be there to take someone like me...there was light. I was filled with light and strength and before the light faded into the distance I caught a glimpse of the little girl and heard her say “stay.” I awoke in my bed twelve hours later. My head hurt, every nerve in my body was on fire. I couldn’t focus my eyes on anything and the way they were jumping around trying to focus was making me sick. I stood up too fast and fell back onto the bed. I eased my way to the floor and began a slow crawl to the stairs. I made it to my mother’s room and told her I was too sick to go to school. She drove me to the doctor. They said I was dehydrated and gave me a seven up to drink on the way home. I didn’t tell them what I had done. I had another secret. Within five months my secret was out. My mother had confronted my stepfather. She told us something he had done just didn’t make sense to her, so she confronted him. Not only did I have to live with the humiliation of what happened to me. I also had to live with the humiliation of how my friends found out. My mother! Her way of healing had been to seek revenge. No one was safe. Her need to lash out blinded her to those around her who were hurting as well. My mother spoke to the mothers of my friends, they in turn discussed it in front of their children; my friends. I believed they saw me as the way I felt. Dirty, unloved, responsible for the pain that was now a part of my mother’s life and I believed they were afraid to be around me,
as if what had been done to me might be contagious. My mother kicked my stepfather out of our home. They had been married for eight years. He was her third marriage; she was hurt, angry and wanted to hurt him just as much as he had hurt her. I felt alone. There were no hugs for me. There was no “How can I help?” I heard, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” I fell into depression and wished the time I had taken the pills would have worked. I wanted to go now more than ever but I couldn’t. I remembered the light that was there for me. I remembered the little girl’s voice telling me, “stay.” So, I stayed and I listened to all they said about me. I had to clarify to my friends the degree in which I was molested. I didn’t want them to think I’d had sex with my step-father, but they continued to believe the stories they had heard from their parents, who had received the information from my mother. I wanted someone to love me. I wanted someone to see who I was and love me. I wanted someone to take care of me, hold me with no strings attached, someone who just wanted to have me in their arms. I started college and believed I was guilty of ruining my mother’s marriage. Before I left for school I woke up hearing her on the phone with a local newspaper telling them the story that had happened to me; to her. I was horrified and grateful to be leaving. I was at the mall filling out job applications when I looked up and saw him. He was walking with a woman and a little girl through the mall. They were holding hands and smiling. He walked right by me, smiled directly at me with no recognition on his face of who I was. This man had been my stepfather for eight years, molesting me and telling me he loved me and today...he didn’t even know me. I was angry. I was hurt. I told my mother about seeing him at the mall with this lady and her little girl. My mother was angry. She made phone calls to people and she yelled and screamed and cried. She wanted to protect this little girl from this man; her ex-husband. I cried. Where was my protection? I wondered as I walked away.
My mother followed me. “You have to do something to help this little girl.” “What can I do?” I asked her with fear in my voice I just wanted her to hold me and tell me she was going to take care of me. “Sue him! Put him in jail!” She screamed. I was only seventeen. I wanted to fit in and have friends. I wanted a boyfriend who could see me as I am not as what was done to me. If I sued this man everyone would know what he did to me. Not just the kids from my high school but any new friends I might have at college and then their families. I shuddered. “No, I’m not going to sue him.” I left her standing there looking at me with disgust. As if I had just ended her ability to seek revenge on the man she spent eight years of her life with. She left me with a thought as I walked away from her. “He will keep molesting other little girls if you don’t stop him,” she sneered at me. How can I stop him? For eight years I tried to avoid him. I would go out of my way to be where he wasn’t. I refused to ride in the car with him. I refused to stay home alone with him. I believed I gave clues for her to see. I was angry at her for asking me to help someone else when I couldn’t even help myself. No matter how badly I worked to avoid him, he was always there. I was helpless. I went to school and I didn’t talk to my mother. I took writing classes. I wrote in a journal. I wrote down every time I hurt or wanted to die. I wanted to die a lot. I met with one of the counselors at college to go over my schedule and forecast my future. All of the pain and fear that I had been bottling up, I released on her. She took it rather well and asked. “Have you thought about talking to a therapist?” I had no insurance and the little I was making now was going to rent and food. So, she told me I could come back and talk to her weekly if I wanted. She told me it would be just between the two of us and she would listen and help in any way she could. I met with an attorney and told him my story. I told him I wanted my ex step-father to not be able to hurt anyone else ever again. My statute of limitations was almost over and if I was going to move forward with exposing him, it would have to be now. I had to give a deposition not only to the man who was my attorney but to the man
who would represent my ex step-father. Then an insurance company got involved and I had to re-tell my story to them as well. They wanted specific details of what he did to me. They wanted dates and times, they wanted to know how it made me feel. I was in a small room sitting at a small table with three men and a woman. The woman never said a word; she was only there to push the buttons on her machine that would record everything that was said. I’m not sure I would want to ever re-read what I said in the little room. Just the memories and the days and the times they were asking me to relive filled me with enough pain and sorrow and disgust to last a life time. They said if it went to court my testimony would have to match exactly as I said it happened. If I’m off by even a little bit, I could lose. I felt like I had already lost. I was only seventeen and I had wished I was dead.
My mother called the newspapers. I saw a little blurb they printed about the case. I wasn’t the only one to see the little blurb in the papers and an old acquaintance from high school called. He said to me, “I’m sorry about what happened between you and your step-dad.” The nightmare was beginning all over again. I cried. I wanted to hide; disappear. I looked around the house for the pills I felt I needed to make me feel better. I wanted the pills that would help me sleep and take this tightness out of my chest, help me forget the memories. I just wanted to sleep. I found what I was looking for and closed myself in my room and began to swallow as many pills as I could. I didn’t bother to count how many I was going to swallow; I just poured them in my hand and swallowed them until my stomach felt bloated from all the water. I laid back on the pillows and closed my eyes. The darkness that surrounded me at first was peaceful, calming, I felt relaxed, but
then the memories came. I saw the first time I was alone with him and he touched me. I was only eight and he had only been my stepdad for a little while. He told my mom he loved us and would take care of us, but I didn’t like what he was doing. He whispered, “It’s Ok” in my ear. I know I didn’t feel OK. I began to gag. The pills were coming back up. I threw up. I sat up and rolled the blanket up into a ball to hide the water and pills. I hated what people thought of me. I hated me. I slept and begged the memories to stay away.
I had to go back to my attorney’s office and tell my story again. The attorneys for the insurance company were telling me how difficult this would be. I would have to go up in front of a judge and re-tell my story. The attorneys told me everyone in the court room would be there to hear my story. “Who else will be in the court room?” I asked “Anyone, everyone who might be walking by and interested to hear what is going on. It’s an open court.” I panicked. “What?” “Didn’t your attorney tell you?” They asked with smiles on their faces. “Tell me what?” I asked as I looked at the man who was my attorney. “You will have to go in front of everyone, and tell them what happened to you, with a microphone in front of you so they can all hear.” “Can I have a break?” I asked as I felt my chest tightening up again and the room was beginning to feel warm and small. “Of course.” They left the room smiling. “This isn’t going to be easy.” He began to say. “No one wants you to go on the stand and say these things, especially his insurance company.” I heard what he was saying and I wanted to run. I didn’t want to say these things. I
didn’t want to feel the things I was feeling. I hurt. The pain in my chest was giving me a headache. I just wanted to sleep. No dreams, no memories, no feelings, no more pain. I wanted someone else to sit in this little room and tell my story. I wanted this to be someone else’s story. I drove home and crawled in bed. I just want this all to disappear. I looked at the bottle of pills and wondered if taking only a few would allow me to sleep with no thoughts, no dreams. I swallowed four and waited for sleep.
I went to school, work, and then home to sleep. I found that four pills would put me to sleep and I wouldn’t remember if I dreamt or not. I bought more pills to keep the memories and dreams away. I was asked to return to the attorney’s off ice to go over my testimony. We were going to court in a month and they wanted me prepared. How does anyone prepare for something like that? My mom called “How is everything going?” “I don’t know. I go to court in thirty days. Are you coming?” “I’m going to try,” she said. “Does it look like you are going to win?” “I don’t know the attorneys on his side don’t really want to go to court.” “That’s a good sign.” She sounded delighted. I spent the next month avoiding everyone. I didn’t want to answer questions about what I was doing or how I was doing. Everything was about court.
My mother wasn’t there. I thought for sure she would want to be there but she didn’t show. I walked into the attorney’s office and waited. I sat alone in a big soft chair. I looked at the pictures on the wall and I wanted to run. I thought about getting home and crawling into bed. I thought about how I was there fighting for a little girl I had never met and there was no one fighting with or for me. I felt angry, I felt hurt that my own mom had not bothered to show. I wanted to scream out loud how unfair this was. I wanted to hit the faces in each of the pictures that were spaced evenly on the walls. The chair I sat in was so big I felt like a little girl. I was a little girl.
I remembered when this man came into our lives almost ten years ago now. He made us go to church, he made us get up at five in the morning before school to listen to him read from the Bible, and he made us get involved in choir and church groups. He preached doing the right thing. He preached and we were made to listen. Tears began to fall down my face; I only wanted to be loved. I only wanted to be someone’s little girl. I began to blame God. If I could’ve I would have screamed “It’s not fair.” But the lady at the desk in front of me wouldn’t understand. I wanted to die. I wanted to pray for something to happen to me so I wouldn’t be sitting there waiting to tell my story of molestation. My attorney came to get me and together we walked to the court house. I sat on a bench in the hallway as he went to look at the schedule. I saw fear in so many faces. I felt the fear on my own face. I couldn’t breathe and once again the pain in my chest was getting tighter. My attorney was standing in front of me smiling. “We’ve been postponed. The opposing side wants to talk.” I didn’t know what that meant but I stood up and followed him back across the
street to his office. He left me sitting in the same chair I had sat in already that morning and told me, “I’ll be right back.” I was shaking, my heart was pounding, and I was still sitting there alone. The lady behind the desk had smiled a few times at me but now worked as if no one was sitting in front of her. I was finally escorted to a small conference room on the third floor. As I entered the room I saw it was already filled with four men and a lady taking notes. I sat in the only empty chair. “We would like to offer you a settlement.” “I’m sorry, what?” I believe I said that out loud. “We feel you would benefit more if we were to offer a settlement and avoid the cost of a long trial.” “OK.”
I stood outside and waited for something to come over me. Excitement, joy, happiness but there was nothing. According to my attorney, no one wanted to take my case to court. I had won. They felt my testimony would make them look bad in the eyes of a judge and they would be forced to pay more than what they were willing to pay. Settlement was a good thing the attorneys had said. So, I settled. I was handed a check and as I reached out to take it the attorney said to me, “We hope this will help you begin a new life.” I looked down at the check, folded it, and put it in my pocket. I waited to see if I felt better, if I felt different. Something inside of me did feel different, a little stronger. I stood up for myself and what was right, a piece of me was proud for what I had accomplished but how could I erase what everyone already thought about me? How could I get eight years of my life back? I deposited the check and went home to sleep.
I slept and I waited for someone to notice I was missing. My mom called me to ask. “What happened? You didn’t call me.” “I won.” “You did? That’s great!” I could tell she was excited. “Is he in jail?” “No.” “How much did he have to pay you?” “He didn’t, his insurance did.” “So, what happened to him?” Now she seemed upset. “Apparently, he is uninsurable.” I really wasn’t sure what happened to him, but I know what happened to me and how I was feeling and I waited for her to ask. “Do you feel better now?” I’m not sure that was the question I was expecting or waiting for. I didn’t feel anything. “No” “You will. This was a good thing you did.” We said good-bye and again, I cried. I was alone.
A sudden wave of elation washed over me. I had won. I had done something I was afraid to do and I had done it alone. I wasn’t really sure how I felt about that. If I had been successful in killing myself I never would have known I could fight back. I never would have experienced what it would feel like to tell someone. “You were wrong to hurt me.” I never saw my ex stepfather’s face or heard how he felt about losing, but it didn’t matter. It was the feeling growing within me that mattered. I was sitting on my bed pondering my mother’s question of whether I felt better. I’d said no but, as I looked at the bottle of pills. I asked myself “Do I want to die now?” I felt empty and I felt unloved but I didn’t feel dead inside. Something was making a difference inside of me...me. I had won. I had that to hold onto for a little while, even if I didn’t share this moment with anyone. I knew what I had to say to strangers. I saw
the look on their faces when they heard me speak of what my stepfather had done to me and they agreed he was the bad one, not me. I couldn’t change the way people thought about what happened to me, but I could change the way I felt about myself. I was not healed, nor was I healthy, but I had made my voice heard. Someone listened to me and told me, “You are right.” I decided to stay awake and feel how it felt to watch the world happen around me. I was scared. I still felt alone but not completely lonely. I had fought a battle and I had won.
I truly believe...pain is meant to be felt. Lives are meant to be lived. Stay, and find out who you are meant to be! The girl in this story is me. I still had a lot of healing to go through but if I had ended my life that day, I would not have met my wonderful daughters, who have shown me what true strength can look like. I went on to marry, divorce, and I am currently raising two of the most amazing young ladies I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. They would not be here if I had succeeded in killing myself. I believe I have a purpose and though I am still learning what my purpose is, I need to be here for my daughters. I am raising strong independent women and I am watching them closely. I am now standing up for what I believe and I am hoping to share my earned strength with others. You can never be sure what your path is but even during the most painful times during your life, always remember, there is a reason you are here. You need to be strong for yourself and for your future, but also for the people you will one day meet, who will need your strength to help them get through the toughest moments in their life. Life is full of adventures. You must decide how you will travel through yours.
Remember, it’s the journey that gives you the greatest rewards. My name is Lori Osterman and I am a survivor!
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