Picture your 'Emotional Tank' as a soda bottle. We are all born into this world with an empty 'Emotional Tank', and it should remain this way right up until we reach our adult life. However many of us are unfortunate enough to have incidents in our childhood influence the rate at which this soda bottle fills up. This could be emotional abuse as a child, physical abuse or sexual abuse as in my case. There are many overlapping feelings and emotions across all these types of abuse, however I can only reflect on mine coming from sexual abuse.
A critical development phase of a child's brain emotionally, occurs between the ages of 6 and 12 years old. So any form of sexual abuse during these ages will have long lasting effects. A child of this age is certainly not used to holding emotions such as guilt, jealousy and hatred along with anger and confusion. The soda bottle is filling up at an alarming rate and it should still be relatively empty.
In my case the sexual abuse was between these ages and then stopped. I felt I was in the wrong as that is what my abuser had told me. So I carried the guilt from this point onwards. Guilt is an extremely damaging emotion. I also felt jealousy as I was treated special by my eldest sibling and would feel jealous whenever someone got closer to him than I was. An emotion as a child I had to internalize as no one could know the truth. As I started growing older, I started to feel mixed emotions, which included hatred and anger towards my abuser.
So as I entered my early adult life, I was dis-advantaged to have an almost full emotional tank. I did not tell anyone of this sexual abuse that I endured as a child. I realized that what my eldest brother had done to me was wrong when I reached the age of 22 years old which would have been how old he was when he last abused me and I would have been 12 years old. I dealt with it by shutting him out my life and making out he did not exist. A big mistake to make, as at this point I should have sought professional psychological help.
The danger I now faced was that I had this almost full soda bottle, and I had no idea of what challenges lay ahead of me in my adult life for me to face. There were to be many and had I sought professional help at a younger age, I would have emptied this soda bottle, to make space for all the other challenges that I would face emotionally.
I entered my adult life thinking that I had everything under control. I was successful, I had accumulated wealth which I had worked hard for, I had a healthy family life and I had friends, what I did not realize was I had chosen an extremely emotionally abusive partner to live with for 9 years, adding to my already almost overflowing soda bottle.
I was neither a drinker nor a smoker and was totally against any drug including cannabis. As a result of career pressures, an end to a 9 year abusive relationship and my past childhood sexual abuse, at the late age of 40, I experimented with my very first recreational drug, ecstasy.
Within 2 years I had gravitated to one of the hardest drugs known, crack cocaine, and nearly lost everything I had worked so very hard for including my family and long lasting friendships. In this time I also contracted HIV.
It was only after drug rehabilitation and following that, a further 5 years of clinical psychology, that I was able to work on my 'Emotional Tank' and slowly empty my soda bottle and understand the damage I had done to myself by not dealing with my childhood sexual abuse at a much younger age. I can directly link my drug addiction to being abused sexually as a child and as a result of being sexually negligent while using drugs I contracted HIV. So I firmly believe that Secrets Make You Sick.
The long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse in your adult life are greatly under-estimated by society at large. In many cases I found that people think that because the incidents happened so long ago that I should get over it. Education to families of victims needs to take place so that the families understand the effects on the victim, which is the filling of their 'Emotional Tank'.