Trying to Figure Out My Worth After Sexual Abuse

What am I worth? Am I worth a $90k a year job when I’ve been working very underpaid jobs for the last six years? Before that, I couldn’t even hold a job. I was so broken. Broken down from a relationship that exploited me. Some say I was sexually abused. I say I was sex trafficked. I was only worth what someone would pay to have sex with me in a hotel room or at home in our living room with my malnourished, anorexic body.

My tears are still dripping as I type this. I’m too dumbfounded by the realization that I’ve undervalued myself for so many years to wipe the tears away. Wet, shining, they caress my cheek as they find their ultimate resting place. What am I good at? In my opinion, not very much. I don’t have much to speak for myself. Yes, I can write a mean poem and then recite it wholeheartedly. It takes everything out of me to perform my poetry. I need an entire day of rest before and after if I’m the headliner for the open mic show.

I’m on my sixth interview with a company. It’s scheduled for Monday, in just a few days, with the founder of the company. I guess they want to make sure that I am the right person for the job. If I get the offer, the numbers in the approximation of $90,000 will be stamped in black and white. Of course, in that area of the country, the living costs are very high. Rent would be around $40,000 a year, so that brings the number down a bit, and with taxes taken out, well, I would still be able to save a bit of money. I want to go visit my aunt in Australia one day. That will cost a bit of money.

When I think about my malnourished self of around the age of 24, that was in 2008. It’s when I started seeing my therapist, who hasn’t left my side in over a decade. I call myself malnourished because my abuser, who was also my husband and pimp and sex trafficker (the pimping out started only when we had gotten engaged)… let me side track for a minute. I remember an attorney over the phone exclaiming stupidly to me: “You married your pimp?” I’ll never forget those words. To an outsider who doesn’t know my story, it may seem like that. But no, I married my high school sweetheart. Only, he wasn’t so sweet. I didn’t know what narcissistic personality disorder was back then. I didn’t know that people who are sexually abused as children either become abusers themselves, or they heal from it. He was the first of those two options. We dated and the screwed up sex stuff didn’t start until he “owned” me by putting a ring on my finger.

In 2012 when I was 28 I left that relationship. I had been seeing my therapist for four years. I couldn’t take it any longer, the abuse, that is. Don’t get me wrong. There was a part of me that didn’t want to leave him. I was trauma bonded to this abuser and thought that I loved him. I grieved that loss of relationship for many years. It was a long time before the anger came. I still feel angry now and then. The anger rears its ugly head in the form of suicidal ideation. When I’m furious, I think about ending my life. At times, this is really intense.

Back to the beginning of where I started out. I’m about to get or not get a really good job offer that no one in their right mind would refuse. But it would mean leaving a city that has been my home for so long, and leaving my friends behind, even though I don’t see them often anyway. Taking this job would mean delaying my dream of going back to school to become a psychotherapist. But am I ready to help others when I am still healing myself? A therapist who helps suicidal people not kill themselves and yet experiences suicidal ideation on her own terms?

I really don’t know what to do. What am I worth? Does my $22/hour job define my worth? I’ve wanted to take a $15/hour job as a mental health worker, but that would mean I would be using a minimum of $10,000 a year of the nest egg I got from my divorce, because yes, everyone, the narcissistic man who sex trafficked me was a promising young CEO of a technology company. That’s the only reason I can afford to work such low paid jobs in the first place is the “savings” that I have which aren’t savings but divorce severance from the profit of a company sale, a company which I, in a way, helped to build, because I was married to the man who was a founder. Enough technicalities. I’m being completely open and honest here, and I have no idea who is going to read this, or what you, reader, are going to think. Of me. Of my story. Of my latest conundrum.

Really my focus should be on healing. I should keep my underpaid job that has good health insurance, whilst using some of that nest egg every month to make ends meet, and heal, heal, heal. I need to heal and figure out what defines my value. God defines my worth. Not a job. Not the status of my mental health. Not my depressed thoughts and feelings which tell me lies. Not my trauma. Not my history. God defines my worth and I define my worth. That last one is tricky, because whilst God may value my existence and my soul, I do not. Whilst at the moment of creation, God knew that he was creating the makings of a masterpiece, here I am years later still wishing I were dead because the trauma in my mind won’t leave me alone.

Images and memories pop up constantly, uninvited and intrusively pushing their way in to my present moment, making the nine years in which I have been safe from my abuser seem like the blink of an eye, and I am being raped, in my mind, in the present, by men whose faces all blur into one unpleasant, gruff essence of “man” and “abuser” and “rapist.” What I need to find out, before I start graduate school, again, is what I am worth. The truth is that I am worth my weight in gold. Gold is the word that God gave to me when Ruth and I were praying together.

Self Worth

I am worthy. I am so worthy of life. I am worth something. I am worth so much. I feel it, right now, in this moment. I am practising self-kindness. I am being gentle with myself. I am not downgrading my self esteem with negative thoughts against myself. I embrace my body, almost every inch of it. I am allowed to cry when I want to. I don’t always have to smile if I don’t want to. I am fundamentally a good person. I forgive myself for those times that I was less than perfect. I seek good in other people. I am allowed to have a future. The future is mine and no one else’s. I can create happiness from within. I have the capacity to be at peace with myself. I am okay. I am okay. I am okay.

I don’t want to generalize and then jump into specifics, and therefore interrupt the idyllic nature of the above paragraph, yet I must. It is Thursday night. On Tuesday I am going to the district attorney’s office downtown. I will be there before 9:00. That’s when my interview starts. It’s not really an interview. I believe, officially, I will be giving my statement. I’ve been calling it a dissertation in my mind. Calm before the storm, only I hope there will be no storm. Biting my nails. How do I go on? It’s a statement. I will be telling them everything. I don’t know if I will be able to tell everything. They will be directing the conversation. It may be recorded. “They” refer to the district attorney and the sheriff. The two of them and the victim advocate will be there in the room. The victim advocate will be there for support. They are all female. I am so grateful for this. There will be no men in the room. I imagine the room is going to feel cold and stark with bare white walls and a table in a middle with chairs around it. This is where I am going to be spending up to three hours. I am going to tell them everything.

The district attorney’s job is to seek truth and justice. The justice part I may as well lay to the side because it is probably unlikely that this case will ever see the inside of a courtroom. The attorney has to be able to prove to the 12-person jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” that these things that I am saying are the truth. The fact is that I have very little proof. I have some photos, some old emails, an old Craigslist account that I was able to log in to. But the valuable part of the case is me. This is all about me, not about a justice I cannot hope for. Without my testimony this trial wouldn’t stand a chance. There wouldn’t even be a trial.

I didn’t think that the DA would be willing to reopen the case. But she did! It was a surprise to me. I am therefore grateful that I get to tell my story to someone official in the justice system. Because that’s all I can do. I cannot do more than that. I am not the law. I can’t make someone go to jail. But I can bring light to what happened to me rather than keeping it in the dark. My therapist knows every intricate detail. He probably knows more than I know even though I lived it. That’s because I forget things because I compartmentalize my memories in order to live with the knowledge that these things actually happened to me. There are shitty people in the world but I am not one of them.

It’s next week. I have been fretting about this case since I first contacted the DA’s office two weeks ago. It has been torturing my mind. Often this week I have found myself at work staring at the screen, and in my mind I am somewhere completely different: I am in the room where I was gang raped, I am dressed up in nothing dancing on a pole at the Porn Convention, I am trying to fight him off and saying no and him climbing on top of me anyway to do his business (because I was an object to him and not a person), I am in a bar being fed more alcohol than I can handle. I am not at work concentrating at my tasks at hand and making the outbound phone calls I need to be making. I am pretty far behind at work, at least a week behind. On good days I am only two days behind, but not these last two weeks. My mind has been occupied with something else and it has been very distracting.

I keep wanting to tell people, and then reminding myself that they don’t need to know, and that it’s better to not know. Plenty, or enough people know already. The DA, the victims advocate, the sheriff, my aunt abroad, my new coffee shop girl friend, my therapist, my theater friend, my mom. They all are aware of what I’m going to be doing on Tuesday. It is a big day. It will be a marking day, a significant day in my life. It has been just over four years since I left. I walked out and drove away and never saw him again. The divorce was finalized a year later. Now I am going back to then, reaching back into my memory, and telling my story so I can find closure to this chapter of my life. I am not actively suicidal any more although the thought still crosses my mind briefly at times. I didn’t want to kill myself. I didn’t want to end my life at all. I wanted to end the pain and mental torture, and escape the mental prison that I was being held in. I didn’t want to leave him and I couldn’t bear what he was doing to me so the only logical conclusion was to kill myself. I fought that for five years, from 2010 to 2015. Now it’s 2016 and things are different. I know I can choose to live. I know I don’t have to kill myself. I choose life.

Learning how to live again

I tend to hate myself. Really. I don’t like myself. I see of myself as a bad person. It’s not helpful with my outlook on life. I seem to think I have this really hard life, when in actuality, I don’t have a hard life right now. It used to be difficult, but now it’s perhaps just the memory of the difficulties that I am living with. But I see myself as a bad person because I was told I am bad. Of the six years that I was married, all throughout those years, I was told I am a “bad girl” by my ex-husband. He beat me down. He wore me down on the self worth. And now it’s my job to build that back up again. I’m not a bank robber and I’m not a murderer. I stole a few things when I was a kid. My brother and I stole toys from each other. But that’s about the worst I’ve done. I was always a good student, and a good citizen. I’m actually a good person, noble, humble (maybe too much), kind, respectful, caring, generous, concerned for others’ well-being sort of person. I do well with taking care of others. I’m a nice person. I just don’t believe it.

I was told I was a bad person. That is in the past. I need to start thinking of myself as good, and as deserving. I deserve good things in life. I treated myself to sushi and sake tonight. It was really delicious. I had seaweed salad as well. I’m really glad I can afford to go out to dinner, because some people cannot afford that. Food is a big expense in my life. I just need to live on my own again one day, and that means rent will be a big expense one day too. I am a good person. Keep telling myself that and maybe one day I will believe it.