Before I went to bed last night, I changed my Facebook status to: “Have you ever felt that if today were your last day on earth, you would die knowing that your life has made a positive difference? That's exactly how I feel right now.” When I was deciding what to write about in today’s post, I kept coming back to ideas of shame and inadequacy that permeated most of my adolescence and adulthood.
I’ve never written about this publicly before, but I was sexually assaulted at the age of 9 by a hockey coach, and less than two years later, I was the victim of a vicious sexual assault by two young men in a ravine in North Toronto. I grew up in a very broken and physically abusive home, so I internalized at a young age that I was never good enough. I battled these feelings throughout the next 35 years and attempted to numb them with drugs, alcohol, and later, endurance sports. I realized this past summer that the only hope I had for moving forward was to break free of the people who had always held me back and made me feel inadequate. There’s a lyric in a song entitled “The Conversion of Pear Hart”, by my favourite Canadian recording artist, Jory Nash. His refrain has been buzzing in my head nonstop for weeks, and I think it eloquently expresses my toxic relationship with my birth family. “I’ve left my family a thousand times. Once for certain and the rest in my mind.”
I think I’m in such a better headspace today because I’ve learned to recognize that there are certain things you need to carry forward with you in your life, and equally, there are others that are better left behind because they will only weigh you down. The day after the Boston Marathon last year I was an absolute total wreck—I was incapacitated by what I had experienced the day before on the streets of Boston after I had finished the race, and I was emotionally raw having only disclosed the childhood sexual abuse a few weeks before the marathon. Fast forward to today, and the man you see before you has worked hard to free himself from the shame of the abuse, and the family who had always been an anchor dragging him down—has been left behind where they can no longer hold him back. Just as the song says, I had left my family a thousand times “in my mind”, but now it is for “certain”.
Part of my healing process to come to terms with the abuse in my childhood has involved “going back” to that young boy who was “left behind” and to bring him forward into a place of safety where he has a “voice” and can thrive. As I said before, there are some things that you just need to “carry forward with you in your life”—This is why I’ve decided to return to the Boston Marathon this April and to use it as an opportunity to race funds for The Gatehouse , a treatment centre that offers support to survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
I’ve been granted special permission from the race director to run a Double Boston Marathon this year. I will arrive at the Finish Line at 4am on race day and then run the 42.2 km to the official start of the race in Hopkinton, where I will turn around and complete the 42.2 km Boston Marathon with the rest of the runners. I consider one direction to symbolize going back to that place in my childhood, and to that place in last year’s race where the trauma lies, and the second direction is to carry those events forward with me in my life, so that I can thrive, not merely survive.
I promise I’ll never do this again in my blog, but I would really appreciate it if you could head over to my charity page [BY CLICKING HERE] and make a donation. Anything you can do to help raise awareness of this childhood tragedy that reverberates throughout a young person’s life would be appreciated. The statistics are not pretty folks--1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the time they reach age 18. Your financial support is not the only way—you can also help by sharing the link to my Canada Helps Page.