Story 6/25 Survivor: Lillian Howard
My name is Lillian Howard and I am a fourth generation Indian Residential School survivor. At 6 years old I was sexually abused by an Oblate brother at a residential school. This had a negative impact on me for a good part of my life. The essence of my was being was shattered and scarred for life. I was faced with challenges throughout my life; aside from the racism and negative attitudes towards Indigenous people the challenges seemed insurmountable.
On and off for as long as I can remember I experienced low self-esteem and lacked confidence. I battled with not relying on alcohol to numb my pain. I became a workaholic. When I was triggered into I went into a rage I took and it out on my family by screaming or shouting at my siblings or my daughter, slamming dishes and pans around sobbing and wishing I could stop or I would go into silence shutting everyone out.
I was a drop out, I quit high school, tried college and university and did not complete the required years for graduation, however I managed to keep a job. Eventually, with the encouragement and support from my family I eventually returned to academic studies and got a Master of Arts in Environmental Education and Communication.
For the past 27 have been working on the issues of sexual abuse and rapes that affected my life. I have been through three major bouts of deep depression and felt suicidal at the darkest moment of my depression. A few years ago as I was preparing for telling my story to the Indian Residential School Assessment hearing I was having panic attacks and learned that I had post traumatic stress disorder. My life became very unsettling, my self esteem was low and lacked confidence and did not have the energy to work and ended up on assistance. Eventually I snapped out of it and started doing volunteer work and eventually got back on my feet and back to work.
It took several years of counselling, therapy, personal growth seminars, a treatment centre, button blanket making and weaving and tribal canoe journeys to overcome my fears and depression. Today, I am no longer a ‘survivor’ and a strong, resilient woman and thriving in a life a longed for when I was a survivor. I am grateful for returning to and embracing my identity as Mowachaht woman, my Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwa’kewak and Tlingit roots, and my culture. I am blessed with a wonderful and beautiful family and am grateful to them for being an integral part of my life. I can now appreciate fully appreciate my family, friends and work without shame and a feeling of guilt like what happened to me was my fault; I am no longer in that dark place. I have my moments of insecurity but with all the tools that I have acquired over the years, the feelings do not last. I can now share my story which has became a part of my healing journey. I am now grateful for and deeply appreciate where I am today. I am a strong, healthy, confident woman with courage and inner strength to keep moving forward.
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