Telling my story is one of the hardest things I have ever done: it has also been rewarding and even necessary for my mental health and well-being. The little girl that I locked away so many years ago, along with all the pain and fear that she lived with, has started screaming loudly in my head. She is demanding my attention, begging for my comfort, compassion, and understanding. She will not be ignored any longer.
As a victim my voice was silenced: my innocence was stolen by someone who was supposed to love and protect me, my confidence destroyed- and the world became a dangerous and scary place. Even now, as a survivor, I still often feel like the victim when I dig in and attempt to process my past. It is so raw and intense. When I write and prepare to share I go through a gamut of emotions; I am scared, I am anxious and embarrassed. I wonder if anyone will believe me? I wonder, am I talking about my past too much and being selfish? Am I making people uncomfortable with the weight of my truth? Does anyone even care anyway?
I feel all these things; that is how I have been hardwired. I was threatened often about speaking out: I was reminded, repeatedly, that no one would believe me. This was reiterated to me when I did eventually tell my dad, at a young age, and he told my abuser I was talking. The fallout from that at the hands of my abuser is still something I don’t fully remember – though the essence is there. My basic needs as a child were met: food, clothing, and housing; however, my feelings as a child were never a priority – I had no real friends, no hobbies, and no one to love me, and tuck me in at night.
Now, 20 years later, I am committed to owning my story; I am speaking up. I want to heal; functioning is not living – and I want to live!
Here is why I have decided to share:
It is Empowering
Sharing is empowering. Sharing is liberating: I believe it is necessary. There is absolutely no way to describe the weight of childhood trauma or the anxiety and fear that come with the journey to recovery. My innocence was stolen from me. I lost all control over the sovereignty of my body and I lost my sense of Self. When I share my story and untell the lies of my past, I take back control over my life. I take back control over my body. I take back control over my feelings. Now, I can focus on healing from the abuse.
It’s Okay to Feel It
I need to teach myself that feeling it is ok: especially when it is on my terms. As a sexual abuse survivor, I learned early on the importance of a protective shield from all feelings – physical and emotional: it is a hard defense mechanism to rewire. I am learning how to feel – all of it, which is not easy. My therapist asks me often to identify feelings: I have realized emotionally I am detached, and physically I am cut off from the neck down. As I reconnect to myself and my emotions, it has been uncomfortable and intensely painful at times, but I keep hearing that amazing growth comes from the deepest of pain.
I need Support, Help, and Compassion
I need the support, plain and simple. I can’t do this on my own. Support is crucial to the recovery process and it can be found in many different places. My support system consists of my two therapists, one for EMDR, one for CBT, my husband, my children, a few close friends who are also survivors, and now hopefully the community I create here. I cannot stress enough the benefits of understanding from loved ones or their help with coping. The support makes me feel less isolated, as I try to keep from drowning in all the chaos. The support helps me accept that my feelings are important and that others do care.
Connecting with other Survivors
Courage is contagious. I want other survivors who are not yet sharing to know they are not alone. There are others of us struggling, daily, to carry the weight of our sadness and pain without it spilling all over the place, too. Together we can all hold each other up.
Real Talk about Complex PTSD and the Healing Process
I hope I am shedding light on the real recovery process for trauma survivors. Trauma recovery and healing are messy, chaotic, and not for the faint of heart. My trauma is not a flash point in my life, it is a part of who I am. It has influenced how I perceive things and how I respond. Through therapy I can learn to respond more appropriately to high-stress situations; and I can also develop coping skills for anxiety, nightmares, and flashbacks; however, it will always take a little extra effort on my part. As survivors we view obstacles in life as challenges, to overcome, and get past. We do not get past our trauma – we learn to integrate it into our lives and live with it. Healing is cyclical, not linear.
A Reference Point for Loved Ones of Survivors
I hope my sharing helps loved ones and friends of trauma survivors better understand the complexity of recovery. Trauma never goes away, and triggers are everywhere. People who have never experienced a traumatic event have no point of reference for understanding. That is ok. In fact, I often tell my husband I do not need him to understand. I just need him to be with me in the space, so I know I am not alone when things get heavy. Through recovery, survivors learn how to better cope and navigate the chaos when the past comes knocking but it is a slow and messy process.
It’s my right!
This is my life, my experiences, my pain, and I can talk about it all I want. I am done protecting the people who did not protect me. It is time to care for myself and the scared, and lonely little girl within. It is time to love and nurture her, as well as my adult self. For me, that means sharing, even when my voice shakes.
It is your right too!
I hope this helps at least one reader. If you have other reasons you think sharing our stories is important – please drop them in the comments.
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