Month: May 2017

I Know Because It Happened To Me

“So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted.  Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality.  You can say: This did happen to me.  It was that bad.  It was the fault and responsibility of the adult.  I was — and am — innocent.”

(TCTH, p.27)

I know people who don’t have any comprehension of what it means to have been sexually abused as a child/youth, and in their ignorance they somehow (almost always) leap to “why didn’t you tell anyone?”  There are many answers to that question, but one of the things that is so offensive about it is that it possibly implies the continued abuse is the fault of the child/youth because, in not being able to tell someone or to get an adult to believe/understand them, then maybe some of the fault is with the child/youth.  Why isn’t the first question adults ask in the face of abuse stories, “who was the jerk?” or “where were the adults who should have stopped the pervert?” or “why is society so blind (and to some degree complicit)?”.  Or better yet, rather than ask a question that would put the victim on the defense or responsible for explaining perverted-adult-behavior, simply say  “I am SO sorry you experienced this terrible offense against you!”

I will be writing much more in future posts about my experience of having my experience trivialized/ distorted, but for now I simply want to say to my peers, my fellow-survivors: now as an adult, I am so sorry you experienced this heinous offense against your sacred, innocent person.  And I am so grateful you survived.  I pray you will find the strength within to advance your healing; I pray you will find wholeness.

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You are amazing!

“I was deeply moved by the anguish they [women survivors of child sexual abuse] had endured.  And I was equally impressed by their integrity , their ability to love and create through such devastation.  I wanted people to know about this, about their strength and their beauty.” (TCTH, p.13)

 

Break the Silence


“No matter how committed you are, it is extremely difficult to heal from child sexual abuse in isolation.  Much of the damage experienced is the result of the secrecy and silence that surrounded the abuse.  Trying to heal while perpetuating that lonely silence is nearly impossible.”  (TCTH, p.22)

*TCTH = The Courage To Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

Self-Care is Essential and Surprisingly Encouraging

Since I’ve made the decision to renew a more conscious, deliberate, focused endeavor to address and prioritize my own healing process, particularly healing from sexual abuse, I have found that I also have more hope, interest, and motivation to take steps towards tending my physical health as well.  I had neglected regular female-health exams for several years, until I thought I discovered a large lump where no lump was expected.  I made an appointment with my gynecologist and, while I found that I am in  generally good health (praise be Jesus!), there are some things I can do to improve my post-menopausal condition/health.  Plus, I then made appointments for my regular mammogram and complete gynecological exams.  The more I do for my healing, the more hope I feel, and the more energy I have for doing each next step.

I know it makes sense that this would be the case: taking one step facilitates taking another, but when you are the person in the skin of grief and depression, it doesn’t feel like any particular action could bring relief or energizing-hope.  That’s part of why I am sharing this tiny tid-bit in my process.  Hopefully hearing of my experience might help someone else take even the tiniest step toward self-care.

Prime Priority

Give as much commitment to healing as you did to surviving for the last ten or fifteen years.

~ Survivor Quote from The Courage To Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis, page 7

I am a Survivor

I was a victim of abuse, but I have survived.  I am now a survivor, and I am working to thrive.  In The Courage To Heal Workbook Introduction (page 3), Laura Davis writes about the importance of language and what we call ourselves.  In my experience, a victim of child abuse often continues to feel like a victim long into adulthood, and to some extent or in various situations for the rest of their life.  And it’s true that once you’ve been abused, you are more likely to be abused again in some way or another.  Even so, it’s important, in fact essential, to recognize that that first abuse is no longer happening.  As Laura writes, if you were abused as a child and are now an adult, you have survived, you are a survivor.  To say you are a survivor doesn’t say much about where you are today in your healing process, but it says a great deal about you, a great deal about your spirit.

In my own case, I have come to realize that I have too often thought of myself as weak or powerless because as a victim that was a significant experience of my victimization, but the equally significant truth is that I am also extraordinarily strong and capable.  My strength or power of the highest order is that I want to live, that I value my life, that I recognize my being as unique or distinct from others and it is right and good that I should favor my existence.

When a child or youth is abused in any way there is often a false-shame that comes with the abuse.  This is because the child/youth isn’t able to recognize that the adult is responsible for their bad behavior and it is not the child/youth’s fault they have been abused.  The shame is false because the child/youth is not responsible for their abuse, yet it is a powerfully debilitating component of the experience and it is a huge challenge to over-come it.  Yet, hidden within that ugly lie of shame is a kernel of truth: the child/youth is experiencing somewhere within themselves how wrong it is that they should be experiencing the abuse — even though they think about in a wrong way.

Today I recognize that the shame I have felt from being abused is now an energy/perspective I can embrace and convert into tenderness for my younger self — I imagine my adult, motherly, self wrapping my arms around my child-self and saying “Yes, my dear, you are so right: that ugliness you experienced is ugly, but you didn’t create it; it didn’t come from you.  Your innocence was taken advantage of, and you suffered abuse, and I am so sorry.  But your beautiful spirit is still alive and vibrant.  You, my dear, are beautiful.  You are truly amazing.  You are courageous.  You survived with so much original-goodness still intact.  And you can heal.  You will become whole.”

Because I am a Christian, because I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, my healing process naturally involves the companionship and healing power of my Lord’s Presence.  So I will often end these reflections with a verse from Scripture or a prayer that expresses my experience of the Lord’s healing work in my life.  But if you are someone who is not a Christian, I invite you to seek and find deep within yourself the God-space we each have in our Being.  I’m not trying to be “new-agey” or “tolerant” or “politically correct” or what have you.  I simply recognize that every human-being has within them a Sacred Self.  I believe our Sacred Self is the Image of God, our Loving Creator.  If you currently have a different belief system about this reality, fine, I respect it.  The reason I can is because my faith in Christ reveals to me that everyone, Everyone, has access to the path to God.

So, for today’s conclusion, I simply invite you to find that space within yourself where you cherish your being.  Let your adult self sit with your child self and love her/him, thank your child self for surviving, and embrace her with the grace of recognizing her goodness.

Gentle Grace: Finding Focus

I’m doing two things to directly help myself progress in healing:

  1. I’ve found a pal to companion each other while we work through The Courage to Heal (and Workbook); we will meet once a month, sharing our writing exercises.
  2. I am attending an ASCA group once a month.

There are other things I do of course to help myself become whole, but these are the things I’m doing specific to healing from abuse.

Rather than keeping a comprehensive healing-lifestyle in my frame of focus, and constantly feeling like I’m failing (because I’m not consistent in everything; too often pointing out my imperfections to myself), instead I am focusing on these two things.  This is good because they are two very good things to do, but also, it is very healthy and helpful for me to focus on what I CAN do.

This seems to be a huge theme for me recently, and it has taken me by surprise.  I have spent my entire adult life thus far doing nearly exclusively things in which I am an “expert” or extremely competent.  Doing so I have built up great confidence in doing those skills, fulfilling those roles.  But when it comes to anything else, I find I have very little confidence.  I am surprised by how much courage I require to try new things.  So rather than berate myself for not attaining immediate success or consistency with ALL the things I believe I should do for myself, I have chosen to give myself life-blooming grace: focus on a few things I can commit to and then gently and gratefully do them.

May you find and embrace the grace you need today.

 

Hebrews 4:15-16Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

15 For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)The Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1965, 1966 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Hebrews 4:16New International Version (NIV)