Tonya M. Nanthavong, BSN, R.N., B.S., Certified Life and Health Coach
What you want to discuss that is Taboo/topic?
Family Secrets (Molestation and PTSD)
I was molested from the time I was 7 years old until I was 15 by my step-father. It didn’t stop because someone stepped in and made it stop. It didn’t stop because my mom found out and made him leave. It didn’t even stop because he made it stop. It stopped because I came home from school one day early in my junior year in high school to find out that they (my step-father and mom) changed the locks on me so I could not get in. So that I could stop “disrupting our family unit.” At that moment, I became homeless. A 15 year-old track star, cheerleader, and star student, now homeless! I held this all in, all through the rest of high school and even onto college and even into my adulthood. This became another dark, family secret. Because of this, in my early 30’s as I was going through a divorce and my world was crumbling down on me, I realized that this family secret would have to come out and be dealt with or I personally would not be able to continue on with my life.
How did it affect your child or how has it affected you even as an adult?
As a child, I think I didn’t really understand the magnitude of what was happening. At some point I realized this isn’t right. It doesn’t feel right and I began hurting internally. I always wanted to be the “good kid”, so I just focused on everything and everyone else. I was a good sister, a was a good student, a good friend, a good athlete, etc. But, in reality I had really low self-esteem and was sad and never felt good enough for anyone or anything, not even for myself. I didn’t want anyone to see the pain and hurt that I was hiding inside, so I just let everyone see the “THINGS” I could do that made me “good” on the outside. I became an over-achiever in every aspect of my life, everything had to be a certain way and I never ever expressed my feelings and when I did it usually wasn’t in a positive way. At 17, I purchased my first home and started my first business. I actually had to wait to turn 18 before I could sign any documentation for either. So as an adult, I thought “I AM WINNING”. I am not a statistic and I didn’t let anything that happened to me hold me down. I kept having continued success after continued success in my teens and 20’s. Until my marriage with my high school sweetheart devastatingly fell apart at the seams. I didn’t realize it until several years later, but I was suffering from anxiety, depression, and PTSD. I tried to commit suicide a number of times and I knew I needed help. I sent a goodbye letter to my family and everything talking about our family secrets and that I could no longer continue in this way with them. That is when the real
work started towards my healing.
What steps have been needed in order for you to heal, forgive, grow, let go?
I stopped and listened! I took time to be calm and really genuinely listen to myself and what I needed. I started to say no…ALOT! I found out about EMDR and that changed my life 100 fold. I started going to counseling and sharing my story with others. All of those things allowed me to begin the healing process. It made me understand myself better in order to try to understand others and life in general. The first step for me, however, was just listening to that inner voice that kept telling me, “Tonya, something is not right with you, this isn’t you!”. That is HARD to do. You have to be extremely honest with yourself and then you can go anywhere. Now, I just take everything as part of my journey, good and bad. I’m definitely not perfect at it and I have not-so-good days too, but I get up and make action towards being the best person I can be
every single day.
Why do you think people don’t talk about things that are Family secrets?
People don’t talk about this because 1. It’s uncomfortable (for the person who feels like maybe it’s their fault and for others around them that may have to look at someone close to their family differently now) 2. It can and usually tears families apart, so it is just “easier” to be quiet 3. They think it will get better if they are silent.
What words of encouragement do you have for someone who has endured the same
thing you went through or experienced as a child?
If I could offer any words of wisdom or encouragement, it would be to forgive and to move forward! I truly now believe that I had to endure the things I endured in order to help others. I was once told when I was about 19 or 20 that the strongest people are given the most difficulties/hardships because they CAN handle it and they DO move forward from it. I used to get mad when people who say that, like really really mad. But, one day it hit me, every time something is thrown me off course and is meant to defeat me, I come back stronger and better than before. No matter how bad it is. So, I thought, maybe I am “one of the strong ones”. My story is not only MY story, so instead of saying “why me” in the negative. Now, I say why me and WHO am I supposed to help now with what I have experienced. I forgive, I let go, I do not let the traumas define me as a person. I do not allow them to make me a statistic. They are unfortunate things that happened to me, but now I can relate to others because of it. Your perspective is what will define how you end up. Always, ALWAYS take the positive route.
I forgive in these ways and hopefully whoever is reading this can relate to one of them:
1. Inspire, Create, and Engage
2. Forgive for YOU, not for them
3. No More Rearview
4. Your Past DOES NOT Define you
5. You are NOT your Statistic
6. Speak your truth and heal from within