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Untreated childhood abuse leads to years of toxic behaviour for Truro woman

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TRURO, N.S. —

A sexual assault experienced at the age of nine set Carol on a path of self-destruction.
That path included addictions, promiscuity, bulimia and mental health issues.
“I remember playing in the basement with my sister and her friends,” she said. “We were playing truth or dare, and they dared me and a boy, who was about 13, to go into the furnace room.
“I remember the cold floor and him on top of me, trying to penetrate me. I said it hurt and he stopped.”
But the effects the encounter had on her were relentless. 
Carol felt ashamed and didn’t want to cause trouble, so she kept quiet about what had taken place.
“I internalized it and became very anxious,” she said. “I believe that led to behaviour issues during my adolescent and teen years.”
She had another experience that made her anxious.
One day a man driving a large white car with tinted windows stopped while she was walking home, and told her to get in. She ran to a relative’s house where she was safe, but she was afraid to walk by herself after that.
She was labeled a worrywart.
By the time she was 12, she was bulimic, eating food and then vomiting.
“I felt I could control what I put in and out of my body,” said Carol. “That lasted until I was about 16 and left me with damage to my teeth. I was also using diet pills and laxatives to keep my weight down.
“I was drinking alcohol, had low self-esteem and entered into unhealthy relationships. I felt my value came from sleeping with men.”
When she was 18 she was involved with a man who was mentally, physically and emotionally abusive. She didn’t leave him until he beat her so badly she realized she might not survive a next time.
She didn’t understand the impact of untreated trauma until she talked to a family member about what had happened. That helped her on the path to positive change. She took courses and made healthy lifestyle decisions. Today, she’s in a healthy long-term relationship and has a job she enjoys.
“What happened as a child certainly impacted how I saw myself,” she said. “I wish someone trauma-informed had noticed and talked to me when I was young. Untreated trauma is so damaging and there’s so much more education needed.”

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