the road to recovery is hopeful
After a traumatizing experience happens, trauma survivors cope in different ways.
Some of us will tap into our resiliency and bounce back from the experience.
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.
I was struggling with depression and haunted by the nightmares of my past.
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 would tip-toe around the darkness of the abuse in my therapy sessions.
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 realized that I was suffering because the past was unclear to me.
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.
Each therapy session I would share with her one of the most traumatizing sexual abuse memories with my father.
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.
It was emotional, intense, exhausting and enlightening.
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.
I realized that it never had to do anything with me.
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 realized that my voice is powerful and when I speak, write, create, people listen to me.
I came here to do big things in the world and I am by sharing my story.
The therapy taught me that when we are ready to face our darkness there are people who will love us through it and guide us gently back to safe waters.
I have a different relationship now to my past where I don’t avoid talking about it because of shame.
I actually get excited to share who I am and what I came from.
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.
We can’t undo what has been done to us but we can grow from it in astonishing ways.
The human spirit is designed to thrive.
We aren’t alone on the journey of recovery.