Today’s post is the 3rd story of healing for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Remember, everyone’s journey is different. This is meant to let people know that healing does happen and to identify all the different ways and all the different areas that your life can grow and change.
***Please be aware, the following is a story of someone’s journey through sexual abuse and healing. You may find aspects triggering. If you need help, please contact RAINN @ 800.656.HOPE(4673).
My Healing Journey – A beginning that has no end
My healing began in June of 2007, although I had tried with several other therapist to begin some sort of healing, I finally felt safe at Courageous Journeys. I don’t remember a lot about the first month or so, and maybe that is because I was still getting comfortable being in a safe place and I still had a lot of activity in my head that blurred my focus.
I am a survivor of multiple sexual assault perpetrators and for so many, way too many, years I blamed myself. I had no idea that I deserved to be happy, to be loved, or to be in a loving relationship. I had managed from a very young age to numb myself to all the trauma. I told myself that if anyone found out I would never be able to show my face, they would blame me, and after I married and had kids, I feared that someone would take my children away from me if they knew what I had allowed to happen to me. It wasn’t until my youngest was sexually assaulted by a neighbor that I finally fell apart and now I was also responsible for not protecting my own son from this horrific trauma. I was confused and scared, so many memories that I had been able to keep stuffed down inside me had surfaced and would not leave my mind. Everywhere I turned, something triggered another bad memory. In December of 2006, I was admitted to a behavioral health hospital and spent 10 days inpatient and 6 weeks outpatient. During my stay in the hospital, I began a regimen of medications and spent a lot of time in group and doing activities. They taught us basic coping skills to get through our days, nights and the most critical time, the weekends. I was prescribed very high doses of medications and they seem to help me not have so much activity of bad experiences in my brain. I feared if I didn’t take those medications, then I would go right back to where I was. Although I felt safe in the hospital, I missed my kids so much. Home was not such a nice place, but I wasn’t about to compromise that because I was scared I would lose my kids. My husband at the time was a very controlling, physically and emotionally abusive person to me and my kids. I spent my kids entire life protecting them from his abuse and I was good at it. I was also good at making sure no one ever found out about how abusive he was. I was doing pretty well, but I knew I needed to get a therapist to continue working on my healing. I got a list of therapists that took our insurance and I began calling them. I began seeing this one therapist and although I didn’t feel comfortable with her, I continued to see her. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. I even took my kids in for a family session. My kids hated it and called the therapist weird names and said she just didn’t seem like she was doing anything. It was about this time that I began to have more energy than I knew what to do with and spent several day without sleep painting walls in the house. I didn’t ever sleep much anyway, I usually spent most of the night watching TV and would fall asleep when my husband would wake and begin his morning routine. I guess I felt like it was the safe time to sleep. I would then sleep for about an hour and then get up and get the kids to school. Once they were all at school, I would begin doing more stuff around the house. There were days that I would sleep for about 2 hours during the day, but for the most part, sleep was not happening. It was the beginning of May in 2007 and I had been awake for several days, had just finished painting the basement and this is when I had my first suicide attempt. I remember my sister calling and blaming me for stuff that was really not my fault, but I accepted the blame and decided it would be best for everyone if I was gone. I wrote an email to my friend who was suppose to be at a conference all day so I knew she wouldn’t see it till I was gone. I told her to tell my boys it wasn’t there fault and that I loved them with all my heart but that I couldn’t go on hurting everyone. I was very fortunate. My friend didn’t go to the conference that day and received my email and came to my home with emergency personnel. I don’t remember any of what had transpired after I sent the email to her. I just remember waking in the hospital. I would spend another 3 days in the hospital only to be released to my husband. He was instructed to keep the medications under lock and key and he was responsible for giving my daily medications. The day after I was released from the hospital, I woke to find that my husband had gone to work, the boys were at school and I was again alone. Lined up on the counter were all my medications, even the ones that I no longer took. It told me that my husband was leaving me a message…..he wanted me dead. I am not sure what clicked in my brain but with my medication changes, I was thinking a bit clearer and I knew I had to do something to keep myself alive. I realized that I was my own worst enemy. I didn’t like my psychiatrist and I didn’t like my therapist. I made a phone call to change my psychiatrist. Although I had to wait 2 months to get my first appointment with her, I made that change and am still seeing the same psychiatrist. I also began searching for a new therapist. I didn’t go back to the list of therapists that I had used before, this time I searched online. I came across a list of therapists in the area and sent out about five emails. My hope was that I would feel some connection when I spoke to them on the phone, so I waited. Two replied to my email stating that they were no longer accepting new clients. One I never heard back from and the other two I made appointments with. Peggy called me within several hours of sending the email. I wasn’t sure how I would handle this and I was very nervous when I arrived for my first appointment. I knew this was just an appointment to see if I truly felt comfortable but I was still stressed. I kept thinking, what if I can’t speak, what if my brain is too crazy and I can’t focus. I also had the added problem that she was not on our preferred provider list. It would cost more, but I kept telling myself that it would be worth it if I can someday be normal. In my eyes at this time, I was so far from normal, I wasn’t sure there was a way to get there.
My journey with Peggy began. It didn’t take me long to feel very safe and able to talk openly with her. There were times that I just couldn’t talk at all. I began doing homework that she gave me and with each session I began to feel more and more comfortable. Shortly after beginning my journey, something happened at home. I had not been completely honest with Peggy about my husband. I tried to avoid talking about him because I didn’t want to accidently tell her how things really were at home. I wasn’t safe at home, but I was so scared I would lose my boys that I just had to protect them and take the brunt of the abuse. Well this particular session I just could not hold it in, my husband had punched one of my sons in the face and I was so upset about it and I didn’t know what to do about it. I was relieved that she said she would report it, unfortunately nothing came of it and he got away with abusing the boys again. I eventually asked my husband to leave, for the first time in my life, I found the courage to stand up to him. After many sessions of talking about protecting myself and the boys, it finally hit me that I needed to get my kids away from him.
My life has changed so much since my journey began. I filed for a divorce and won sole custody of my children. Although it has not been easy and the courts have not been completely fair, I am still moving forward. In the fall of 2009, after talking endlessly about going back to school, I began 2 classes at the community college. It wasn’t long before I was taking 3 classes and then 4. I completed my Associates in Sciences Degree at the community college in December 2012 with a 3.8 GPA and I gave the speech at the Commencement. I now attend a University and am currently studying Psychology. I still have my ups and downs. I know when I am heading into an episode and I know now how to get myself out of it before it gets too bad. I am now on minimal medications and with the help of my psychiatrist I was able to reduce my medications to the minimum dose for all. I have even quit taking two of my medications. I still get triggered by certain things, but I have the skills now to work through them. Unfortunately, at this time I do not have a therapist although I am still looking for one. I spent 2 ½ years with Peggy at Courageous Journeys, before she had to move out of state, and it was life changing. Can you imagine the feeling when someone says to you “I believe YOU”. I had never heard that before, I don’t think I had truly felt safe anywhere until I began my journey. I almost feel like my life began again when I stepped into Courageous Journeys.