Pamela Mestinsek

I was told by my therapist that I should write my story, that writing might help me heal. And so this is my story. 

2023 was not a great year. I wouldn’t say it was the worst year in my life, but it was in the top 3. With the revelations of Dean Bruer being made known, I started getting flashbacks, which I tried to ignore. The flashbacks didn’t make sense and I didn’t know what they were, so I didn’t know what to do with them. In the summertime I started self harming again, to the point that I would be just sitting at the kitchen table, not even realizing that I was self harming.

I became extremely suicidal and it felt like every waking moment was torture. I would find the tiniest space I could find to crawl into and just rock back and forth, trying to escape the emotional pain that was flooding every system I had. I felt I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, and all I could think about was ending the pain. I have three children and a husband and  knew that wasn’t an option. So slowly with medication and counselling, I started to come out of the dark place again. 

That dark place was a place I knew well, for 10 years between the ages of 14 and 24, I would often live in that place. During the day I could appear normal. Or at least I thought I appeared normal, but at night, alone, the monsters would come. And so I will now start at the beginning. 

At the age of 14, I went to another province to go to a convention with my friend. The only thing that I remembered for a long time is that at the end of the convention I refused to leave the sleeping barn, and that I couldn’t stop crying. I was told that I must be home sick, and though I didn’t believe that story, it was the best explanation for why I was crying.

I know that when I came home is when I started self harming. I was blessed with strong long fingernails, and would dig them into the sides of my hands until the skin would break and it would start bleeding. I started making art with the scars that were starting to form on my wrists and hands and arms. Most evenings the emotional pain was so strong that I would crawl into my closet and rock back and forth and cry to God. Nothing made sense anymore, but I knew that I loved God, and that He could help.

Looking back, I realize I pulled away from everyone I loved. I didn’t trust anyone, so I didn’t tell anyone of my pain. Not my mother, not my best friend. No one knew, I even tried to hide it from myself.  I didn’t know why I had such pain, and so if I couldn’t ignore the pain, I believed that the pain was because there was something wrong with me, somehow I was the cause for the pain.

So I hated myself.  I couldn’t love myself and so why would anyone love me? But I also couldn’t show people how awful I was, and so I learned how to live a double life. A daytime life in which I had friends and was helpful and friendly, above all trying to be nice to everyone so they wouldn’t find out the truth. And a nighttime one, when the monsters roamed my mind, and I would try to escape the emotional pain with physical pain or thoughts of ending my life. 

I became good at masking (or at least I think I became good at masking) and I ended up dating a few professing guys. As a result, I think I probably had a bad reputation. Really, I believed, and felt that all those around me also believed, that once you have dated more than two boys without getting married to them, there must be something wrong with you. So my failed relationships added to my knowledge of myself that I was not ever good enough. But I could escape the monster and the pain with each new relationship.

Young love is a powerful salve, but it quickly fades and with each break up, the monster of not being good enough or worthy of love, grows stronger and stronger. By my 20’s I had stopped self harming with my fingernails and had learned a better technique of self harming. Not eating. Not eating gave me the satisfaction of a pain that I could control. I could control the pain of hunger. I think the longest I went without eating anything was 30 days. I did allow myself the luxury of one cup of coffee with cream and sugar in it, and at my lowest I weighed 80 lbs. I don’t believe I was anorexic, I never thought I was fat or ugly and needed to lose weight. It was all about causing myself to have physical pain which I could control. 

It was during this point in my life where God started teaching me about Exclusivity. And after a year or two of studying the Bible and many many prayers, I realised that the faith I grew up in, was not the ONE TRUE WAY. A way, perhaps, but not the only way. Soon after that I felt the calling from God to leave, that my place was not in this way. I refused to leave. I knew that leaving would mean that I was then an outcast from my community. I knew I would lose my friends and family, all my support systems would be gone.

It was soon after I said that I wouldn’t leave when I was raped by a friend of a friend (not professing). The strangest part about this assault was I was able to endure as I told myself “It’s ok, you have survived this before. You know what to do.” And I did. I completely dissociated. All I remember is the ticking clock on the wall, and that I was raped.

My memory has blanked everything else out. As soon as I try to relive it, my brain will skip right over it. I can watch my brain as it seems to jump so I do not have to remember.  However, the next morning I was able to tell my cousin that I had been raped, and she took me to the hospital where I received excellent care. I did not want to go through with charges as I felt it would be my word against his, even with physical evidence. And I did not want to go through the court system. It would be too much for me, and I knew it. I felt everyone could then see my sin, and I should have been able to stop it, and, and, and….

There are multiple reasons for not charging someone, but I do think it takes someone with immense courage to take someone to court, or someone with a lot of support. I already thought of myself as worthless, and I did not feel like I had a support system at that time. I was alone and I believed that somehow, I was the reason why he raped me. He told me as such. Said that he couldn’t stop himself because I was so “hot”. And that made me a bad girl. I was 22. 

It was then that I became very suicidal. As a teenager, I would try cutting my wrists just to see if I could handle it, but I wasn’t serious with my suicidal thoughts, more just dabbling with them. After being raped, I became extremely suicidal, and even though I was seeing a therapist (the hospital set me up with one), I couldn’t tell them the truth, and soon stopped going. I was afraid they would see me, and I was afraid that they too would see that I was so bad, that I could never be loved. 

My only option out of the pain was to end it. This time I had a clear plan. I knew exactly how I was going to end it. The only thing I was waiting for was the day. I would lie awake at night fantasizing on how wonderful it would feel to die. I didn’t fear death.  Strangely enough, I knew that God loved me, and so I was not afraid to die.  One night, the pain had come to be so unbearable that I knew it was The Night.

On my way to my room, I overheard my little two year old nephew pray. His prayer was simple. “Dear God, please look after my Aunty. I love her so much.” And so instead of preparing to end my life, I went down on my knees, and I prayed. The response came back, and it felt like it was audible. “You know what I have asked of you.” To which I replied. “But I do not have the strength.” To which the response was “I will give you strength.” And so, I weakly answered “Yes God. I will leave.”

At that moment I felt like my room was filled with Angels. It felt like I was walking in a crowded room, and I felt a peace and a strength come, and fill me. Unlike I had ever felt before. And I composed an email to my parents to say that I would not be returning to meetings. The suicide monster battle was won, but not the war. I had hoped the war was won, and for a long time the monsters stayed away. 

I met my husband less than a month after leaving meetings, and we were soon married and started our family. Life was busy with young children, as I had three in as many years. The next few years were a blur. I was busy with my young children and so had not much time to think, and the monsters seemed gone. But time passed quickly, and soon the children were off to school, and a new monster came into my life.

This monster was named anxiety. And it was/is a pain, literally. I would have an anxiety attack daily. The thought of leaving to get groceries or dropping my kids off at school would cause an anxiety attack. It seemed like everything caused me to have an anxiety attack.  But I knew how to deal with monsters, I just would ignore them. I wasn’t self harming, I wasn’t suicidal. So my chest felt tight, and sometimes I couldn’t breathe. I felt that if I could just ignore it, then the monster would leave me alone. Spoiler alert – it didn’t.

By the time I was 30, I was in chronic pain. I had been suffering from bursitis in my hips starting at the age of 21. The pain was so bad at times it hurt to walk.  And then at 32, I was diagnosed with calcified tendonitis in my shoulder. When my MRI came back a few years later saying that there were no tears, my doctor mentioned that sometimes if our muscles are really tight it can cause injuries. So I confessed that I was having these anxiety attacks. I started anxiety medication when I was 35, and I was so ashamed that I had to go on them. But it helped relieve some of the physical symptoms, and I could leave my house without having to deep breathe my way out. But I was too ashamed to tell anyone, as I thought that if anyone knew, they would think that God wasn’t with me. Even though I knew God was. 

Covid hit and the suicide monster came back. He wasn’t as bad as he once was. It was more of a “it would be so nice if I could just disappear one day.” No real plan, but he was back, and I didn’t know why. Oh, I had many ideas of why, but nothing seemed to fit. I told my doctor about him, and I was put on anti-depression medication, and he recommended seeing a therapist. Which I did. I have very few childhood memories and other typical symptoms of PTSD and so the counsellor felt that there was a high chance I had cPTSD, or childhood PTSD, and recommended a type of therapy called EMDR. It was amazing, I could finally release emotions even though I didn’t know the memories that were causing these emotions. But as is common, as soon as I started feeling a bit better, I stopped going. Because at the end of the day, I didn’t believe I truly deserved to feel happy. 

I limped along, not feeling much of anything. I had learned to dissociate, and as a result, I also learned how not to feel. Feelings were something that I shut down as soon as I felt them, and I learned how to emote cheerfulness no matter what the situation.

And then came March of 2023, and stories started to pour in almost daily of CSA survivors. Oftentimes they would trigger me, but I would say to myself, that it was because I was a SA survivor. In the summertime, all three monsters were in full force again, the suicide monster, self harm monster and anxiety monster.

I had better managing skills, but also a loving husband who would just sit there and hold me while I wept uncontrollably. Children who picked up the slack around the house. Friends and family who still invited me to do things, but wouldn’t push me if I said no. And I went back to counselling. Flashbacks started happening. Vivid images of a convention ground, and all I felt was dread.

In talking with my counsellor, he said that when flashbacks start to happen, that sometimes it is because they feel safe enough to come forward, and that I probably couldn’t stop them from coming. As well, if I was in an unsafe place to deal with them, to let them know that I saw them and would look at them when I was in a safe place.

Next, I saw a face, at this point I don’t know who the face belongs too. And then the assault came back. In stunning clarity, with all five senses. And I knew, I wasn’t just an SA survivor. I, too, was a CSA survivor. However, since the summer, I had slowly built a community around me, full of family and friends who would support me. For the first time, I felt safe and loved. I was able to slowly tell more and more of my truths, and they responded with love. I was able to tell my mom what I remembered, and she said everything finally made sense. I had come back a completely different child from convention that year.

Are the monsters gone? No, I believe CSA has caused these monsters to be a permanent fixture in my life.  It is a struggle, as I have to tell myself daily that I am worthy to be loved, that I didn’t do anything wrong. 

But thankfully, I have learned to speak my truth, and that shrinks the monsters just a little bit. And with every person that believes my story, and believes other survivors’ stories, they shrink a little bit more. 

I believe everyone can play a part in a survivor’s healing, just by listening and by believing in their story. On the opposite end, every time I hear someone say that a survivor is a “liar” or a “troubled youth” and so one shouldn’t believe them, or one of my favourites, “bitter”, the monsters in me grow. They tell me “See? You are the bad one.” 

Every time a survivor tells their story, there are those who will believe them, but there are also those who will say that they are just bitter liars wanting to bring down the truth. We need the ones who believe them to outnumber the ones who don’t believe them. So that the monsters can become something we can live with, and not grow too large. Or at least that is what I need to happen. 

Am I bitter? No, I don’t want to bring down anything.  I only have two goals. 1) I want to quiet my monsters down so that I can feel happiness again and feel alive. 2) Make sure that no one ever has to know the pain that monsters bring. I hope that by sharing my story I can help one survivor feel heard, and so I hope that their monsters just lessen a little bit more. 

Pamela (Service) Mestinsek
Alberta, Canada
March 23, 2024