When I started writing this blog about my trauma, I envisioned it as a landing pad for all the crazy emotions, thoughts, memories, nightmares, and anxiety I am dealing with. That was it; short-sighted, huh?
It is hard work trying to process and simultaneously integrate the reality of my childhood into my everyday life; a childhood of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.
However, as I began to write, amazing things started happening. I started meeting other survivors, they were reading my stories, I was reading theirs, and we all began sharing both our pain and our compassion with each other.
Connecting with other Trauma Survivors has been one of the most powerful coping tools I have found and I want to share why.
Childhood sexual abuse is isolating and lonely
My whole childhood was spent in silence. During the majority of my most formative years as a child, I was taught to shut up and never speak about what I was experiencing. Isolated and alone, I felt dirty, unwanted, unloved. I still remember my imaginary friend who got me through a lot as a child; she never judged me, and always wanted to play with me.
No big birthday parties with friends or sleepovers at my house. I was picked on in school when I was not trying to be a bully myself. Childhood was lonely and scary.
I brought that lack of trust, the programmed loneliness, the hypervigilance, and all the negative side effects with me into adulthood. Then I executed all of it perfectly by keeping my circle small and walking away from negative situations and people rather than feeling it and dealing with it.
Connecting with other survivors has helped me find both clarity and courage when my brain tells me to stay silent. There are many of us, and we all carry this pain. It is nice to have some help with the weight.
We offer a level of understanding only other survivors can give
Sadly, the only people, who truly understand what living with a childhood of sexual abuse is like, are those who have experienced it. As comforting as it is when our loved ones hold us as we cry, no matter how often they tell us they love us and are here for us, they just do not understand. Regardless of how intently they listen to our stories and help us work through our memories, this pain is inexplicable.
Other survivors understand. We understand all too well how this type of trauma leaves a mark on the soul – forever. We have seen the disgusting underbelly of the human condition; we have seen monsters in real life.
Being surrounded by others who are also learning to live with the same pain and grief is comforting. Being able to share the heaviness of my story with someone who truly understands has been rejuvenating – like a great conversation with a best friend over coffee (or wine). It helps lessen the weight I feel on my very being.
I find hope among Survivors who are further ahead in their recovery
I am only a few years into my healing journey after over 20 years of complete disassociation. For decades I never connected to my abuse emotionally, I never realized its effects. Then, just like that – it knocked me over. They call it delayed onset PTSD.
Connecting with other survivors gives me hope as I work on recovery. It gives me a front-row view of what to expect and how others have managed. Through my connections, I have found it easier to accept the lifelong effects.
We are a badass group of people, us survivors. We have seen the darkest of evils, often within our own families, and we have persevered. Meeting other survivors has helped me see this.
Other survivors provide a wealth of advice, tips, and resources
From other survivors, I have learned coping techniques, found books to read, and connected with leaders in the field of child protection advocacy on social media and through websites. I have also networked into Awareness Campaigns and found local events to attend. I even reached out to my state government regarding legislative review and proposals.
I have also received personal and heart touching advice on how to deal with anxiety, flashbacks, and the overwhelming sadness that follows me daily, through one-on-one conversations with other survivors. The only people I have found who truly know how to cope with this type of trauma, are those who have to live with it too.
Reading through other survivor blogs and connecting with survivors on social media has made me realize a few eye-opening things. We all think many of the same things, we question the same things about ourselves, we battle the same negative cognitions from childhood. We all feel equally broken and defeated at times, and we are all learning to live with it, forever.
We can offer each other a lot by way of understanding, solace, and information.
We can also celebrate each other as we heal.
If you or someone you know has been or is being, abused, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline and ask for resources in your area – RAINN (800) 656-HOPE (4673), or you can live chat with an advocate online at https://www.rainn.org
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thank you for this, just what i needed right now. i only disclosed in April this yr. never seeked professional help but am talking to other survivors. I totally agree i talk to my wife but can see the void in her eyes, she just doesn’t get it which is ok
This is such a beautifully well-written article. I’m so glad that reconnecting with other survivors is helping you. I’ve personally found it difficult to talk to other survivors face to face about my abuse, but I’m hoping that connecting with people online will be easier
What you’ve written specifically about being an incest survivor here really resonates with me. There is truly an “underbelly” to human experience. I gotten tired of reminding people I meet that it exists, that there is something beyond “everyone’s flawed in their own way” that goes on in the world. It is really hard for me at least to sit with a visceral knowledge of the depravity of which people who are supposed to be caregivers are capable, and I agree with you that meeting others online who have similar experiences reduces the burden.
This was the first time I have put that word (incest) into my writing. I can’t even say it out loud right now. Even though my logical mind knows I am not to blame, there is a level of shame, dirtiness, and embarrassment that comes from incest that can’t be articulated. It’s just this horrible weight on the soul.
Other survivors, their resilience – is often my lifeline while I get my feet under me.
I love your writing. I am seven years in to deep therapy and my flashbacks started 24 years ago. When I still get new memories it is just as difficult as the first one. But it is better for me to know. I do emdr in therapy which helps my body to release and respond. This is the hardest work and I am proud of all who even attempt memory retrieval. Keep writing. Peace.
I also see an EMDR therapist but we have had to slow down on the eye movement, shifting to talk therapy, because it kept surfacing things that caused me extreme anxiety, leading to panic attacks. Before I unpack all this crap, I need to know I have coping skills in my tool chest. This weekend a new memory decided to hijack me while driving, probably one of my earliest memories to date – which has really shaken me. It’s one thing to realize my abuse started really young, it’s another to actually remember the age and be able to put it into (sick) perspective.
Thank you for your comments, for sharing, and for hearing me. It means a lot. 🙂
Hi Shanon. I have developed a system with my therapist and with my closest loved ones. In this way they know It was “One of those days” without me having to always verbalize. With my therapist I use “UGH” and then a multiplier, as in “x 100” or “x 1 million” so that she knows how bad I feel after a flash. I send her post emdr emails to track all that I experience sensorily. I get a very specific headache after emdr. Driving is very difficult when in treatment. I take side streets after emdr and pull over when I need to. I do not do the eye movement emdr. It was too intense. I use the vibrating one inch ovals that you hold in each hand. Maybe your therapist can use those with you.
Yes. it is healing to share and connect. One no longer feels alone
Thank you for your bravery in sharing…been reading through your posts today and I’m finding so much resonance in your stories.
I’m so glad to hear that! Thank you 🙏🏻😊