For Thirty Years

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Colossians 3:13 NIV

To my abuser,

For thirty years I held onto your secret. For thirty years I suffered. For thirty years I was scared, afraid, depressed, angry, hurt, had low self-esteem. What you did to me was beyond comprehension. In order for me to begin to heal, I chose to forgive you before I even shared my story. Without forgiving you for what you did, I wouldn’t be where I am in my healing journey today.

I now spend so much time in prayer, time talking to friends and family, time journaling and blogging. I know that if I ever struggle again, I have my outlets. But you know what you stole from me? Thirty years of having the chance to be honest and open with my mom, with family, with friends, with myself.

I don’t understand how you lived with what you did for so long. For thirty years (or longer), you were so many people inside of one body. Everyone you dealt with saw a different side to you. There was the sailor, the husband, the dad, the family man, the friend, the abuser…that list could go on. How did you do it? How did you put on a different persona with each person you dealt with? I know, I’ll never get the answers to these questions, and the many others I have for you.

When we found out you decided to take the easy way out three years ago, we decided that you didn’t need to be celebrated with a funeral. There was no obituary to make the announcement of your death. There was no need. While I live in the very town you were raised in, I have never spoken your name when sharing my story. But Charles (a.k.a Charlie, or Chuck) William Vandiver, I’ve realized today that I was doing that to protect you and I can no longer do that. For thirty years I protected you, I kept your secret, a secret that was never mine to keep.

While the horrible memories of what you did slowly fade away, today I can say “I AM FREE!” I am free of you and all of the trauma that you caused me. I am free of your name, because I have my dad back in my life. He re-adopted me so your name does not appear on my birth certificate anymore. I am free to live my life without fear, without depression, without anger. I am free to be open and honest with my mom and everyone else. I’m free to believe in myself. I’m free to be honest with myself. I am free to love myself.

A friend recently said to me “He may have stolen thirty years of your life, but you have so many more years than that yet to live.” I fully intend on doing so.

To my next thirty plus years….

Anita Marie Harmon

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