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The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

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My copy of “The Courage to Heal” came in the mail today. My journey to find peace and to heal from the horrors of my childhood sexual abuse is still ongoing. I’m hoping to use this book and its guidance to further myself in the process of feeling better. There are tools I don’t have yet to deal with what I’ve been through.

I had a glimpse of what it would be like to be OK about a week ago. There was a span of time when there were no nightmares, no flashbacks, and when a painful memory came up, I was dealing with it without breaking down or hiding from everyone. I felt strong and happy. I was laughing, dancing around my house, and sleeping great. I don’t know why but it was like someone flipped a switch and I was teased with 2 weeks of peace and joy. Now I’m not having such an easy time and its painful. I yearn for that peace again. Honestly, I’m pissed that I’m having a few down days again. I’m pissed at who hurt me and I’m pissed at myself.

Instead of beating myself up and mourning what seems to be a loss of peace, I’m going to take it as a sign that I need to work on myself some more. There’s always more work to be done but I am so tired. This is when my brain tries to disassociate, get cynical, and basically be an asshole to myself. Its hard not to when I’m so frustrated with it all. Depression keeps trying to weasel its way back and despite my best efforts, it still wins some days. The hardest part is being nice to myself and having patience.

That seems to be what many people don’t understand about survivors. We are SOOOOO hard on ourselves. There is a troll that lives in many of us that barks about fear and doubt. We have less patience for ourselves then society has for us and let me tell you, THAT is one of the saddest parts of this whole thing. As much as I try and am patient with others, I’m not very patient or nice to myself when I start to feel sad again because I don’t want to feel it again. I don’t want to hurt more. Of course, this doesn’t help anything and is very counterproductive. As much as I tell myself these things, old habits are hard to break.

So, from the reviews I’ve read about this book, many survivors really benefited from reading it and doing the exercises. Many of the comments about it mentioned that some survivors felt like the book was written especially for them. I hope I find help within its pages. I’ll write more about this book after I have gone through some of the chapters and exercises. I’ll share some of what I’ve written in the exercises. Wish me luck!

 

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Art Therapy

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I saw this photo on Tumblr the other day and I had to save it. It spoke to me. I loved it. I am a little bit of a art horror(but horrible with names) fan but that’s not what stopped me in my tracks when I saw this piece. It made me feel and cry and it inspires me to create artistic expressions of my pain. Words really don’t do any justice to feelings I had before there were words to articulate them. I need to make this more of a priority in my life. It would be good for me and something just for me so obviously I’m resistant.

It reminds me of a lot of things all at once and its not a bad thing but a rush that takes my breath away. I see different things in my minds and feel different things each time I see it. I don’t know who the artist is but I wish I knew. Maybe I could get a print.

When I first saw it I empathized with the creature. I saw myself, how I feel on the inside some days. Broken and hurting and yearning for some beauty in my life that’s out of reach. I saw feelings of powerlessness and of deep sorrow. Then it reminded me that most people will see the butterfly but not the scars that we suffer on the inside. Our culture says to only share the butterfly or something is wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with any of us for feeling something other than being happy. If you could see my scars, I might look somewhat like this figure.

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Overcoming Sexual Abuse

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Overcoming sexual abuse and the effects of childhood sexual abuse is not a destination but something I do daily. There are still a lot of issues I deal with but everyday I choose to live with this pain. I choose to be here on Earth another day, to stay. Some days are rough, the dark thoughts creep in, and I don’t know why I’ve stuck around this long. Having goals has greatly helped me in sticking around. I’m still very angry about what happened to me and to others so my goal right now is to outlive the people that have hurt me in my life. I’m looking forward to reading that they are dead. This is how I have to deal with some darker thoughts. I have to convert that energy into a positive goal that can steel myself in the determination to live better. I must treat myself well and care for my physical and mental well being in order to reach this goal.

Every day sometimes a couple times a day I mentally commit to not letting anyone,including me, stop me from reaching and exceeding my goals. This is tied in heavily with self worth and self esteem. Logically, I know I’m a capable human being able to achieve pretty much anything I have set my mind to do. This doesn’t mean that I ignore the thoughts, push them aside, or not deal with them. I use them. I’ve created projects for this year that will help me to release these darker feelings. They will also increase my self esteem because the projects are all things I’m good at or I can be good at them with practice. I just have to let myself reach more of my potential. I have to overcome these left over shitty feeling about myself due to thing that have happened in my past. It wasn’t my fault and I shouldn’t continue to pay for them but I do.I had to come to terms with the fact that “it” never really goes away, its something I must learn to live with

This past week or week and a half really, I started to sleep better. All of the sudden it was like a light switch was flipped and I was out of my slump. I had a blissful 10 days of feeling great, energized, no insomnia, no nightmares. I was happy, dancing around the house, going to the gym, and I was getting a ton of work done. Last night was my first dream in awhile about my ex. It wasn’t a scary dream or a a revisiting of the rape but it was of manipulation and pain.The  It hurts even now as I type this…and that pisses me the fuck off. It was a great time until that dream. I hate how he can still ruin my day…but its not ruined! Because I say its not!

Since I know dreaming about him makes for a cranky day I just have to really be there for myself. I’ll workout, eat healthy foods. Try to eat on a schedule so I don’t forget. Days like this my hunger gets turned off. Today, I have to pay more attention to what my body and my mind needs to not dwell and get sucked down the vortex of feelings. I don’t need to push the feelings away, try to ignore them, or disassociate. I need to let the feelings wash over me and if I need to cry, laugh, dance, or tear something up, I do it. I’m going to write, throw clay at the wall, and listen to pissy alternative teen angst songs of my youth.

I’m going to remember that I am a such a strong person for having not checked out. I’m going to remember that I’m not alone but its ok to want to be alone. Its ok to plot the deaths of those that hurt me to release it in creativity and disperse the pain, if only for moments at a time. How I deal and find a way to go on is ok. This too, will help me to overcome sexual abuse because I will not be sweeping anything under the rug. This is how I will process the feelings.

Effects of Child Abuse Effects of Emotional Abuse My Story Overcoming Sexual Abuse Sexual Abuse in Marriage Uncategorized

Had to Take a Break

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I had to take a break from this blog for a little while. I needed time to not share. I wasn’t expecting such an outpouring of love and respect after I shared how I was struggling with PTSD, depression, and insomnia and had been for a long time due to being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and partner rape. I was completely overwhelmed. After being silent for so long and trying for so many years to hide what was going on in my brain…EVERYONE KNEW. I had tried to sych myself up for that realization for about a month before I ever released anything. Nothing prepared me for how terrifying it was. Thinking about it now has me tightening up muscles as I type this. It was scary because my 3 year old child self that vehemently loved her family held secrets to protect that family. The connection in my brain was to tell was death. It is unreasonable now as an adult but it was programmed into me at such a young age and reinforced with violence. I know some people may think it sounds silly but it felt like that jump off a very tall cliff without knowing what was at the bottom. Would I land safely into water or would I break into pieces after hitting the hard ground? Then I realized that I was also on the ground but maybe in not so many pieces. I came out of the seemingly death-defying event in my life more whole then before I shared my truth.

People started to write blog posts about me, fans came out in droves to send me virtual hugs, there were videos made, and I was just completely overwhelmed, honored…and sometimes suspicious. Yes, I know, people show me kindness and love and I look at them with a side eye. You see, I’ve known that people can be evil and manipulative for a long time and generally the sharks come out when they smell any perceived weakness. It wasn’t like that though. I only had to block a few people. Mostly, people were just kind to me. I felt stronger as I shared more and I began to feel like less of a burden. I felt loved and that I was ok. I mean really OK now. I was safe now. This realization that I an safe now has been pretty shocking. So shocking in fact that I really had to just sit in that feeling and quietly enjoy it.

I decided I needed to continue to work on my relationship with myself. When you go through an abusive time in you life especially if its more than once there can be some really wicked negative thoughts about self worth going on. It can be almost if that abusive person is still there, talking to you, telling you awful things. Like some dame annoying little mini troll bastard just hanging out in one’s mind, just a bitching. So, I’ve been working on that and through treating myself better I’m feeling better. I’m learning to accept myself better and just go with some of the effects of child abuse in my adult life…like sleep. Whoa, that is fucked, let me tell you. I have never been a day person. I was up at night as a baby and have never taken naps unless I’m sick. I’m still not napping but get this, I’m waking up at like 5-6am. I’m up for the day sometimes before the sun and not pissed(seriously). I get to see the sunrise a couple days a week. I’m just feeling BETTER.

I am so grateful to each and every person that send me a message, an email, a tweet, a fave, like, RT, and every other way that they reached out and put a supportive hand on my shoulder. They literally helped to lift me up out of a really dark place. If you are one of those people, then thank you. You are an amazing human being. It does matter that you care, are supportive, and wish people well. It matters that you share that. It mattered so much to me and still does. Thank you!

 

Abuse Survivors Overcoming Sexual Abuse

A Message to Survivor of Abuse

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I filmed a video a couple weeks ago that I was going to post next week. The more I thought about it, the more I moved it up.  I posted it today because survivors like myself don’t need to hear these words tomorrow or next week. Some of us need these words right now. It is so powerful to hear that someone believes you, believes in you, and that the abuse was not in any way their fault. I was inspired to post the video now instead of later by this video of a beautiful and inspiring acceptance speech by Maria Cahill. I watched her bravery with tears in my eyes as she spoke about needing to hear those words, “I believe you”,  and her resolve to not be silent about what had happened to her.

When I started therapy, I was looking to fix myself. I was looking for all the things that I was doing wrong in order to try to get my life back together after falling into a deep depression with thoughts of suicide.  It turns out that I wasn’t “doing it wrong” and after some time I really started to believe the truth. It wasn’t my fault.  I didn’t need to be so hard one myself because I was not the one at fault, I was just trying to cope and survive.

A big part of the reason that I am still here and I didn’t succumb to my depression and PTSD is that people believed me and believed in me.  The words I say in the video are words that I needed to hear. Hearing the, writing them, and saying them have helped me to heal. I want you to hear them. I want you to know that I believe them and I believe in you. I think society doesn’t want to admit that things have gone so wrong so it looks to lay blame not on the abuser but on the victim. When those of us need support and compassion the most, many are treated with disrespect and scrutinized when it is not the victim that needs examined. Its alarming to me and ridiculous. Victim blaming is a huge part of why people do not come forward or seek help after abuse.

I recently released a few very difficult videos and in true form of our society, I was told that I was asking for it. I was 3. At that age we ask for love, food, water, maybe our favorite toy but not to be hurt. I mean, REALLY? Do they really believe a child is asking to be injured/raped/molested? This makes me very angry. Seeing the horrible comments like this does not make me want to be quiet. It does not have the desired effect of shutting me up(hardly anything does anymore, HA!). It only made me want to talk more, share more, to put more of my truth out there so that others may find the strength that I have and the courage to begin to heal.

I tell ya, it does not feel strong to share those private moments and my past abuse. Its scary. It feels like I might die, that someone will want to silence me but I do it anyway. I was told that if I tell my family would be killed and I would be killed. I do it for myself and I do it for others that are also suffering in silence.

Here is my message to my fellow survivors:

I believe you.  It was not your fault.

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Conversations with the Sun

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I remember talking to the sun as a child. Every morning I was thankful for it coming up again. During some of the abuse I would dissociate and talk to it or I would talk to it afterwards. I would have pretend conversations with it. I would ask that it would just stay bright and there would be no night. At night is when the bad things would happen. When the sun came up in the morning I knew it was safe to sleep again. I would beg for it to rise again and make the world safe for me. I don’t remember being afraid of the dark, just afraid of night time and of going to bed.

During this time when I was about 5 years old a movie came out that had a huge impact on me and I found comfort in the fantasy world that was the movie: Legend. There was a song that resonated with me so much and I cry when I listen to it now. Everyday the sun would give me hope. “Loved by the Sun” by Tangerine Dream and those lyrics in the chorus, loved by the sun, reminds me of when I would go outside and the sun rays would touch my face as if to comfort me. I was too afraid to tell anyone and get comfort from another human being so the sun was my friend. When the sun was around, no one hurt me.

As an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I know there are many ways that I coped but this particular memory brings me so much joy and hope. I’m remembering things again that are not horrible but hopeful instead. I imagine hugging my child-self and telling her how proud I am. For years I have been so mean to myself and talked to myself like the people that abused me. Remembering my strong child-self is so heartwarming.

I was never angry with the sun for leaving for the night. I missed the sun like a friend and unconditionally love it. I remember in a pretend conversation I asked why it couldn’t just stay with me. It said it needed to rest so it could come back to protect me the next day. I accepted that in my child’s mind that didn’t know the sun doesn’t actually sleep, talk, rest, or that the earth was revolving, giving us the night. The reasoning of an abused child can be wondrous, beautiful, and sad all at the same time. I feel sad but thankful at the same time that I was able to cope in that way.

I remember finding out at school that the sun doesn’t sleep and that it always shines. That also gave me a comfort that is hard to explain. The sun was everything. Without it, everything would die. Without the sun, I felt I would die until it rose again to brighten the darkness and protect me again. I felt loved by the sun. I’m finding this once lost memory of how I was able to get through those times to be such a source of strength and an example of resilience. I’m listening to the song on repeat and letting myself exist in that memory, crying happily and smiling at my child self,dancing with our arms up, being loved by the sun as it touches our face.

Adult Survivors of Child Abuse Books My Story Uncategorized

Living in The Present Moment

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I recently read a book called “How To Live in the Present Moment” by Matt Morris with Kindle Unlimited that really helped me. It gave me some pointers on living in the present moment and for me that is not always an easy task. One of my symptoms of PTSD is that I have flashbacks to past events and there were some helpful tips to bring myself more to the present. Its kind of like ground yourself. I remind myself to feel the earth beneath your feet, think about where I am now, and get myself back into NOW because NOW is awesome. It really helped to curb the feelings of fear that come along with my flashbacks or at least take the edge off so I can process them in a healthier way.

Why is NOW so awesome? Because now I am not being abused. I still live with the repercussions of those life events of my childhood and 1st marriage but I’m handling things better than I ever have. In making progress with healing and loving myself again I’ve gotten closer to my true self. I’ve been second guessing myself and trusting myself more. I haven’t been asking permission or felt as lost. This is also due to lots of therapy in the past few months that have really helped me to find peace. And there is a lot more dorky dancing around the house as I go about my day.

This book has also helped in being more patient with myself. It seems the author has written this book in the spirit of compassion and I’m thankful for that. I have a habit of being REALLY hard on myself about everything and it helped to put things more in perspective. I don’t need to be perfect to be happy with myself anymore. Not only is it not possible to hold myself to those high expectations but its a bit silly. I will also never be that great in the court of public opinion and that makes me happy now. The last thing I want to to be “perfect” or “accepted” in the court of public opinion, no fun in that! HAHA! Trying to please others is a trap. Besides, if I actually give any time to seeing whose those people are like spouting out criticisms, I’d see that they don’t really have their shit together either behind the facade. Do I take the time to do so? No, I have better things to do that are much more fun…like dancing in my office chair to one of my favorite Pandora channels and writing.

Life is random and beautiful and chaotic. There are dark times, time of love/light, and everything in between. I’m learning to go with it and make the best of myself instead of dwelling on things I really have no control over. I realize that I don’t want that kind of control anyway. Its not my problem. I like me and that’s all that really matters today. Today is a great day as is every day that I continue to care about myself. It can be difficult as an abuse survivor to feel good about myself but I do. Typing that out or writing that still brings tears to my eyes because its a truth I wouldn’t believe before.

Reading books like these along with therapy helps to reinforce to myself that being gentle with myself holds more peace of mind and results than being a hard-ass with unrealistic expectations.  The more I get to know myself the more I like myself.  Its helping me to reprogram my inner self talk with MY words instead of things my abusers had told me. I learned through therapy that the things they said to put me down were likely projections of what they actually think of themselves. That’s not really what I think of myself or how I describe myself anymore. I’m also thankful to not have those negative people in my life anymore. I deserve better and I’m not going to settle for less. I’m not afraid of losing people in my life like I used to. Sometimes people come in and out of my life and that’s ok. I don’t always feel the same as others to me but that doesn’t mean I owe them something for having feelings for me or showing me kindness. Kindness doesn’t keep a tally sheet and I don’t either. I don’t have to do things that make me uncomfortable to keep people in my life. I will be myself and if they expect more, want more, or want me to change, they can exit stage left.

Being myself means caring for myself and family, lifting others up when I can, being creative, silly, trusting myself, stop thinking in a binary way, and doings things that bring me joy and can get me out of my comfort zone to learn and grow into a better person than I am right now. I’m passionate about everything I just listed. It really means a lot to me and really, it always has in one way or another even in the darkest of times. I was still in there, deep in the recesses of my mind, waiting, lying dormant, and now I feel more free.

I’m going to be reading more of these books about less stress, mindfulness, and living in the present moment. I’ll share what was helpful and I’ll list the links to get them yourself if you are interested in reading them, too. I already have my eye on the next book to read which is “Mindfulness: Mindfullness for Beginners” by Yesenia Chavan

Here are links to the books mentioned above:

 


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I am NOT Ashamed

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Shame seems to be one of the most effective tools that abusers and society have to make survivors of abuse feel horrible about themselves and keep them suffering in silence. I buck against this way of thinking because it directly contradicts my truth. I know what is true in my heart about myself. I have clear examples in my memory that proves to myself that I am not a bad person and I have no reason to think otherwise no matter how many people want to point fingers or criticize. Their comments and attempts to shame me talks of a deeper truth about them. The silence they seem to want only furthers the agenda of the abusers.

Many survivors are shamed into silence. I was shamed into silence for a long time. I thought I was protecting my family at first, then others from me. That’s right from ME, as if I was going to negatively affect them with my painful experience or scare them away. I’ve learned that what someone does with information about me is not my responsibility and not in my control. I didn’t want to be seen as broken or that there was something wrong with me and the truth is that there really isn’t anything wrong with me. I’m healing from abuse. There is nothing wrong with that. I’m not going to feel shame for something that someone else did to me. I didn’t choose to be abused and I choose to no longer be ashamed of it. I am not ashamed.

So who should we shame? No one. No one should be shamed but instead we should support them to heal. People who are abusive often have been abused or experienced a trauma in their life. They are already ashamed of themselves whether they show you that side of themselves or not. The anger in me does want to shame the abusers, string them up by their toenails and a myriad of other punishments! My heart tells me that this is not the way. Abuse does not stop abuse, it only continues to spread it. Ok, them now what? We acknowledge what has happened and we move to heal those contributing factors that may lead to abuse in both the survivor and the abuser. Offer love, empathy, and the support we ourselves would like to have when in pain.

Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

Be Yourself

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“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo

What if I told you that you are not broken…that you don’t have something wrong with you, you don’t need to be fixed. You were hurt. Someone hurt you. They need to be fixed. You are injured and will heal if you let yourself. Like a tree that’s faced the harsh winds, you will grow stronger and more resilient. You do not have to be happy all the time. It is ok that you feel the way you do. It is ok if you are not happy in this moment. You aren’t doing life wrong because you don’t have a smile on your face 24-7 and dancing with bliss the whole time. You are a human being with such a beautiful wide range of emotions and feelings. Life is not good and bad, black and white, on or off, for then we would never see the sunsets.

My sadness is now beautiful in a way. It is so powerful of an emotion and one that I have avoided for years. I didn’t want to change or grow because I thought I was coping just fine the way I was going. I didn’t want to feel those other feelings. It was when I started to allow myself to really fully feel these emotions like sadness that I started to grow as a person. By feeling as though I would be punished for not having the proper emotion I was told to have, it made happiness all the more challenging. Happiness culture is bullshit. Happiness is great but so are the other emotions. Life would be boring without them.

I feel sad today. My heart hurts today. I feel it in the core of myself as my chest tightens. I was angry earlier, angry at people, angry at the world and what we’ve let things become. I’m angry for every abused person that is not getting the love and support they need to heal. I’m angry that people aren’t taught how to treat those who are abused but instead call them liars and are taught to not trust them. I’m angry because our society is abusive and abuses those who go through horrific experiences as children and as adults. I’m angry because its not about teaching someone to be empathetic, I’m angry because this is not cultivated as children and on into adulthood. We all know what is right. We all know how to love, nurture and be there for others. Bullshit that people get to play dumb or say its not their problem or get over it. We would if you would let us and many abuse people, if left untreated, not cared about, or loved, can become more injured and commit violence themselves.

Instead of trying to fix people or give advice, let them be themselves. It can be the greatest thing in the world to just be your self with another person and they not act like the world is over.

Abuse Survivors Adult Survivors of Child Abuse My Story Uncategorized

Feelings of Hopelessness

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One of the most difficult feeling for me to have are feelings of hopelessness. I really dislike feeling this way and have found its definitely something I give myself a hard time about when I’m feeling it. This compounds the problem and then I feel even more hopelessness, BLARGH! So one of the big things I have been making a conscious effort to change to to be more accepting of myself. I’ve talked about this before and I really wish the changes could be overnight but they aren’t. It takes a lot of work for me to treat myself well.

Luckily, feeling hopelessness is not perpetual and it does pass. I have to stop interrogating myself with “WHY?” and start being kind to myself like I am someone else. How would I treat someone who was having these feelings? If one of my family members or a friend said they felt this way would I ask them 20 questions and beat them down? NO. I don’t need to do this to myself then. This reaction of self-hate is obviously a learned reaction and a repeat of how I was treated in my past when I wasn’t happy.I don’t always realize that I’m being so hard on myself until I start to feel even worse, and sometimes I catch it right away.

After that feeling lifted I can really see a difference. It surprised me when I was putting the footage together for the video diary the other day. I can only describe this feeling lifting as similar to when a headache lets up and you aren’t in pain. It is exhausting in the same way for me too. Coping with feeling hopelessness is more like a battle. One thing that has helped me is to just be kind to myself during that time period. I read, sculpt, write in my journal. I tell myself positive things, like a real inventory of that things that I am proud of, the positive people in my life. I call a friend or family member and the support can be just what I needed. What helps seems to change just as the emotions do which is frustrating. Nothing linear, point a to point b. The control freak in me likes to stomp its feet about this as with most emotional things I have to accept that I can not change them but only change how I react to them. I am trying to live more in the moment and enjoy my surroundings and the environment that I can control, right now.

The feeling of hopelessness is common in adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I mentioned earlier that I am trying to live more in the moment. There are tons of articles, and blog posts about this but I recently started reading a book that has some great straight talk about living in the present moment and I found it to be comforting. Its called: How To Live In The Present Moment, written by Matt Morris.