There are many stages of healing that a survivor of sexual abuse goes through. Not only do we go through these stages but we go through them over and over again, each time getting more integration. There is no real order to them and many times I have felt stuck in one stage or another. I desperately wanted to feel better and “get over it” as they told me I should have already have done. I now know that a complete resolution may not be possible for me but that doesn’t make healing any less valid for me. I can feel better and I have proven that. I will continue to improve even when it feels like I’m taking a couple steps backward. It’s all part of the journey. According to the book: The Courage to heal, there are 13 stages. I have experienced them all and still go through them over and over again.
The 13 stages are:
Deciding to Heal
The emergency stage
Believing it happened
Breaking the silence
Understanding it wasn’t your fault
The child within
Disclosures and truth telling
Forgiveness for yourself
Resolution and moving on
Here’s where I started:
The Decision to Heal- In 2014 my symptoms from complex ptsd became overwhelming. I ran for a long time and batched, cope with alcohol, and was generally unwell and unable to work. I still struggle to work consistently. I was suicidal and as much as I didn’t feel like I had a choice at all, I chose not to die. I got myself into therapy and seriously committed to healing. This became my full time unpaid occupation. I had been in therapy a few times through my life since I was 10 years old but I didn’t find it very helpful with the exception of some EMDR work I did in 2011. I had to stop going because I couldn’t afford it.
I made a ton of changes and I felt stuck in the emergency stage for a long time. I moved my residence 3 times. Now I’m changing jobs. I’ve gone through the stages and now I FINALLY feel like I’m not in the emergency stage any longer. This is 4 years later. This beginning stages are very disruptive and I found many of the things I used to cope were either unhealthy or just not working. I was remembering more and more instances of sexual abuse. I started calling rape what it was, rape. No pet names or minimizing language. It’s the truth. I couldn’t even say the word for decades but I say it now. I am a rape survivor, a child sexual abuse survivor, domestic violence survivor, partner rape survivor, narcissistic abuse survivor, bullying survivor. I remember my own death and floating above myself. I get a lot of bits and pieces of memories still. Much of it doesn’t make sense. I still disassociate a lot but I’m learning to stay more present throughout the day.
When I remember more I go through a sort of emergency stage again but in a shorter duration. There is just so much to deal with it is very overwhelming for me. It is disrupting and as much as I don’t want to remember anymore, I can’t go back. I can’t undo what was done but I can move toward a better healthier future for myself. That is my goal now, to improve, progress, come at this with compassion and love. It took me a long time to even like myself but I also found this little part of me that I love. That is growing and it makes this journey easier.
Every survivor is different. Their stories and how they go about healing is unique to each and every one of them. There are no boxes that we all fit in, no list that makes sense for everyone. Over the next few posts or so I want to share my experience with the stages of healing as described in the book I mentioned earlier. I hope to share so that it is out of my head and processed more. I want to share to show you can go through all of this and still be able to have a good life. I couldn’t find someone like me so I’m going to be my own role model and model good behavior for myself. Healing is the most difficult work that I have ever done. It is so worth it. I will continue and CPTSD will not kill me because I am tougher than trauma. I’m tougher than what happened to me. I’m tougher than the abusers. I will survive. Whatever it takes, I got this.