*This series for #SAAM is stories of tremendous courage as Survivors have written them. There may be graphic and/or triggering information. Please make sure to take care of yourself as you read through and practice grounding exercises as needed.
I dedicate this article to all the therapists who have and continue to support me on my healing journey. To those who believed in me on the days I did not believe in me. I will always be grateful for the support, the guidance, the compassion and empathy you have shown me as I travel this journey to healing.
When I got the opportunity to write this piece for SAAM, I felt excited as I wanted to share with other survivors how perseverance, patience, resilience and determination has helped me to stay the course of my healing journey.
I am fifty-five years of age and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and adult rape. I began my healing journey over twenty years ago. Then I attended therapy as I was struggling with a dark depression that consumed every sinew of my being.
My first therapist supported me through many dark days, days when my depression and feelings of suicidal ideation were a constant struggle for me.
Thankfully, that was a long time ago and through many years of hard work in therapy and away from therapy I overcame my depression. I began to feel better, to feel more hopeful. I began to realise that life could get better that I could be free from the demons that filled my internal world and that few were aware of.
Then three years ago after many years of feeling better I decided that I wanted to confront the issue of abuse in my past. I realised that I felt lonely and I had allowed myself to miss out on love and intimacy in my life. I wanted to come to terms with the hurt and pain of my past and move from survival to living a full and a meaningful life, free from the shackles of abuse.
I am still on that road to healing. It’s a road that has had many struggles and many challenges and one that can still have struggle and challenge. Those moments of feeling scared, of not knowing how to feel safe, of not trusting and of not knowing how to feel or what to feel. The days of disconnection from myself as it felt too difficult to emotionally stay connected to the hurt and pain of fifty plus years of hiding from myself and from others. Years of hiding the truth of my abuse at the hands of my abusers who left me feeling lost, alone and responsible for their actions.
I have worked through and continue to work through some deep hurt and pain. At the moment I am working on the issue of shame. Shame is the most difficult of emotions to see and to work through. I have often said that I did not have any shame. I said this because it lives in every cell of my being and it is difficult to see, to confront and to heal.
The hopeful piece and the part that I feel excited to share with you is that although my journey has been long, it has been so worthwhile. I have and continue to make amazing progress in my healing. I understand more fully the impact of abuse on my sense of self. I understand how I learned to cope as a child. I understand that my limiting beliefs show up when I am feeling vulnerable, especially on my days of struggle.
Twenty years ago, I lived each day in a state of constant struggle. Today, I have the occasional day that I struggle, that I am reactive, that I am triggered back into memories of abuse. As each year passes, I feel stronger and I have so much hope for my healing and for the healing of other survivors. There are days now that I walk around feeling on top of that summit and life feels truly amazing.
I have learned many things on this healing journey the first is to work with a therapist who specialises in childhood abuse and assault. It was important for me that the person who guides and supports me in my healing understands the complexities and nuances of having an abuse history. For me having someone understand how I feel and show deep empathy, compassion and kindness towards me has on my days of struggle helped me to stay the course of this difficult journey.
What I want each of you to know is that a therapist guides, encourages, validates and supports me on this journey, the deep work of healing lies with me and with you, the survivor. The day I decided to lean into my process and confront my abuse in session and in all work I undertake outside of my session was a day that helped me to change my life.
I learned that to heal I had to work at a very deep level, that there are layers to my hurt and my pain, that at times are confusing and difficult to understand. I have learned that it takes resilience, bravery and courage to walk this road and to stay on this road. I have learned that I am so grateful that I have stayed the course of this journey. I have learned and continue to learn that art of self-care and self-compassion both necessary components for my healing. I know that what has kept me on this road are all the signs of healing that I have seen and I continue to see as I walk this road to the summit of my healing.
To end, I want you to know that I have absolutely no regret for a decision I took twenty-two years ago to stay in this world. A decision to battle my demons and embrace life knowing that I could heal, that I would heal and that life could and would move from survival into the freedom of living.
Healing is a process and it takes patience and practice and then more practice to heal from something that tried to destroy your spirit and your soul but could never destroy you. You like me are a survivor and the world needs you and it needs me to live our best life to ensure that those who abused us no longer have any power over us.
Go gently, my fellow warrior; remember you are a survivor and you like me can continue to heal and have the best life possible!
With much love,