Exploration, Expression, Containment

My therapist says that recovery happens in a repetitive cycle of exploration, expression, and containment. I can attest personally to the truth of this.

It’s been almost 30 days since I last wrote. This is my second cycle through containment since I first started this journey.

As I shake the fog of my latest battle with lethargy I have been really thinking about how I move through these stages of recovery.

Exploration

Through this stage I have learned quite a bit about CPTSD, PTSD, anxiety, insomnia, and flashbacks. I have been learning the reality of all the lifelong effects of childhood abuse, of continued and multiple forms of trauma, and of family betrayal. I have learned the horrifying statistics of this form of abuse and how commonplace it actually is. We survivors are many.

I have explored the depths of my own mind and memories, sometimes by choice, sometimes not. I have explored the vast expanse of the emotions I have locked away for decades. I have searched out and tried to connect to the lost little girl within.

Expression

As I move into this stage, I share my story with friends and family. I have created a space here for myself to share and I have connected with many survivors and advocates. I have kept a personal journal, written poetry, and clocked many hours with my counselor.

I have been a contributor to other websites, and I have created spaces on other social media platforms, and I have pushed myself to be creative in how I express and share my healing journey.

Containment

Finally, after expending all of that energy exploring myself, literature and academics, and then expressing myself so completely I find myself in need of some space to ground myself again.

Through containment, I find that I withdraw from the limelight, I don’t actively try to process, I don’t explore emotions, I stay away from pop culture or anything that may knowingly trigger me. I just need time to recharge, to regain my footing.

I contain the trauma side of of things and I refocus myself on things that bring me joy, excitement, and happiness. It is in this stage that I must become mindful of myself and my own needs.

Getting My Footing

The weight of childhood sexual abuse and the betrayal by those who were supposed to protect me can be crushing.

In this last instance, I stopped writing. I stopped actively pursuing the emotions I was feeling and where they were taking me because it got to be too much. Other than therapy, I didn’t talk about it or think about it.

Even now, a month later, I can still easily sit out a few more weeks or months of not feeling. I still feel the pull toward silent withdrawal. It’s safe in containment.

Still, it is so nice to write again; it is a sign that even though it doesn’t always feel like it, I am progressing. It also confirms that being patient with myself is well placed compassion.

Each time I make it through this cycle of exploration, expression, and containment, I feel more confident in my ability to cope with the traumas of my past. Recognizing the stage of the cycle makes it easier to progress through them.

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