The Life-Changing Therapy That Healed 20 Years of Trauma

the road to recovery is hopeful

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Author. Photo by TNP Photography.

After a traumatizing experience happens, trauma survivors cope in different ways.

Some of us will experience what psychologists would call post-traumatic growth where we see positive growth afterward such as appreciation for life, purpose and relationships.

And some of us will struggle quietly or in very volatile ways coping through drug abuse and other forms of addiction.

Ten years ago I lived a very different life from the one I live today.

Secrets hold power over us.

I walked with the secret of being sexually abused by my father for a long time.

I would suffer from nightmares for years.

I would wake up screaming in my sleep and crying in fear.

I thought in time it would go away or that I was doomed to simply be haunted by it forever.

It was only recently in the last year or so that I started gathering up the courage to talk more about it in therapy.

I felt stuck.

I carried shame around the sexual abuse and would question if it was my fault.

Many of us sexual abuse survivors feel this way.

We were told it was our fault and that we asked for it.

Secrets hold power over us.

I didn’t realize how much power this one held over me until I started talking about the abuse.

There is freedom on the other side of fear.

After feeling stuck and spinning my wheels in therapy, my therapist suggested we try a new form of therapy called prolonged exposure therapy.

According to the APA, Prolonged exposure is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that teaches individuals to gradually approach trauma-related memories, feelings, and situations.

The aim of it is for individuals to learn that trauma-related memories and cues are not dangerous and do not need to be avoided.

The therapy lasts about 3 months with weekly therapy sessions.

I was skeptical but hopeful that it might help me find some freedom.

I would repeat it out loud in detail for the duration of our session while we recorded it.

After I would listen to the recording every day until the following therapy session.

At times I found myself wanting to avoid the therapy.

It was painful to revisit such a dark, painful and traumatizing time in my life.

Over the course of the three months, my brain grew tired of listening to the recordings.

I started to realize some profound truths about my past and the sexual abuse.

The road to recovery is hopeful.

Each session I sobbed a little less and discovered more.

I realized how powerful my brain was at protecting me from that time in my life.

It wasn’t my fault.

I realized that I couldn’t continue to carry on a relationship with my mother who to this day chooses him over her daughter.

I realized how sick my father is. My heart prays he gets help one day.

I realized that I am a lovable, courageous, resilient woman.

I came here to do big things in the world and I am by sharing my story.

I have a different relationship now to my past where I don’t avoid talking about it because of shame.

My past is a part of me now in a way that I can admire who I am and what great feats I have overcome.

Just as a lotus flower has its roots planted in mud what blooms from it is purity and beauty.

The human spirit is designed to thrive.

We aren’t alone on the journey of recovery.

Written by

Self-help & mental health writer. Can't do small talk. Mama. Yogi. Coffee lover. Nature explorer. Get my free meditation mini-course here: www.emilystroia.com

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