Each survivor is unique, and healing does not look the same for everyone. Be free to explore a healing journey that's right for you. It is your journey, and you have the power and the right to own how it looks. For me, it has taken years of counseling, psychotherapy, inpatient care, and at some stages in my healing, psychotropic medication was necessary. The sustaining factor of my healing journey has been my relationship with God. From my experience, the most transforming aspect of my process has been my ongoing communication and the comfort I feel in quiet times with Him.
Do what it takes for you because you are the one that experienced this trauma; you must be the one to define what healing looks like for you. Many survivors don't even remember details of their abuse due to disassociation and what I consider the mind’s grace to preserve one's sanity. At some point, the memories you've tucked away in pockets of your emotions, and in the "do not enter" closets of the brain will begin to emerge.
Life events such as a new relationship, the birth of a child, certain age milestones, and more can be triggers for awakening such memories. I believe it happens when the survivor is ready to deal with the trauma and not until then. Even if the sudden awareness is overwhelming, as it was for me; there is something in destiny that determines it is time to "deal and heal." Deal with the memories and heal from the trauma.
The season in my life when the sexual abuse memories emerged was such an inconvenient time for me. I’m not sure if there is ever a convenient time, but for sure this was not it. Shame was a crushing barrier when I realized that I could not process on my own and I needed to seek help. When my counselor recommended, I try medication to help with the depression, I had a hard time accepting that it was the route I needed to go. While it wasn't my forever journey; it was necessary for that time. I was clinically depressed and struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder as an impact of the abuse. Through counseling and medication, I was able to stabilize enough to begin to talk about what happened to me and process how I felt at the time, how I feel now as a survivor, and how my life was changed because of the abuse.
Survivor, talking about the abuse is essential to your healing. Finding your voice again and realizing that the power is yours is a healing realization. I have also seen deep healing in the community. Over the last decade, I've helped lead small groups for women with various areas of brokenness that often- included childhood sexual abuse. Sitting with them as a compassionate listener is not only healing for them; it is healing for me, in the safety of community and commonality. A false belief often held is that you are alone and that you are the only one, you are not. The likelihood is that there is someone on your job, in your neighborhood or within your social circle that also knows the pain of childhood sexual abuse. Your voice may be the call to their healing journey.
Healing inside is critical; it includes repairing your emotions, your mind, your internal processes, and your soul. When trauma of this nature happens, as children we immediately internalize that something is wrong with me. We do not understand that what happened was wrong; we instead assume that we are wrong. Talking about your experiences and learning the truth about what happened to you will help the inside healing to manifest. Many times our emotions are in a hypersensitive state because there is the background noise of unprocessed wounds. This can be seen as acting out in angry or overly emotional reactions to simple situations.
Until you experience deep healing inside, the punishment will hardly ever fit the crime for situations in your life. We are not just responding to the current circumstances in our life, but that girl or boy is reacting to the profound injustice experienced through sexual abuse. Those around the survivor that may not know or understand this struggle can misinterpret the responses as a person's character. It is not. It is the residual effects of an offense against us that was not our fault.
As you heal inside, it shows outside. You will notice as the darkness from the abuse fades, and the light in you begins to shine again; your perspective changes as it heals. This does not mean that people around you change or that the perpetrator comes and apologizes or that there is any explanation at all. It says that you make peace with what you could not control and use the control you have now to embrace peace during your process.
Having healthy relationships with others can be a barrier for those that have experienced childhood sexual abuse, especially significant ones. While relationships that may not mean that much to us are more comfortable to engage in; when we decide to make a relational commitment to someone else, it can be a trigger point for memories to surface. Even if you feel you matured after your abuse to enjoy relatively normal sexual behaviors. When you are healing, it is normal to see changes in this area.
These changes can include irrational fear, withdrawal, lack of presence, and low libido. It is necessary that your partner understands the changes that are happening in you as you process through this trauma and that they are willing to respect any new boundaries you need to set to fill safe. If they cannot, you may need to separate yourself for a time so that you can heal.
Healing is a journey. It does not happen overnight. Even if the damage occurred overnight, the healing process does not. It is okay to take the time you need to heal, and if the process requires; heal again. Healing is not a one-shot deal, and you can speak truth to yourself, seek counseling, and redefine your journey as often as you need to. One of the most challenging areas to heal is memories. Memories are not just in our head; they are in our body, familiar environments, our families, our senses and more.
Survivor, there are some realities about the abuse you've experienced that cannot be changed. Some memories will always be seared in your brain, but they do not have to contain the same power over your life that they once did. Will a magic wand come and make what has happened to disappear? Unfortunately not. There is work to be done, and you are brave enough and strong enough to do what it takes to transition from victim to survivor.
You deserve to heal, and you can recover from childhood sexual abuse; inside and out.