How To Recover from Childhood Sexual Abuse as an Adult
Today's Mental Monday is a guest post from a very dear friend of mine, Lisa (of Adorn Infusions). This is a woman that both inspires and supports me, & although we have only known each other a few months it feels as though it's been lifetimes. She has a deep, quiet strength & just radiates kindness & love. Her story is one surrounding a topic that I have always been very passionate about - sexual abuse. The whole reason I have my degree is because my goal was always to work with women & children who have been sexually abused. As Lisa says in her piece, healing & understanding come from having conversations around this topic - "we must start with words".
Flash back to April of 2014. Almost 2 years ago today. The day would be forever sketched in my mind. Sometimes I don’t know where to begin but today I want to start with words, they are a curious thing; they have the ability to unite, bring joy but also to shatter and bring immense pain. I had never thought of words in this way until that day.
“I think you were sexually molested” said my counselor. The room got cold and I felt myself falling into something dark. I was sweating and finding it hard to concentrate. I just sat there as a memories started to flood in. In that instant I knew I had been.
A calm numbness set in. I was used to this feeling this way. I was comfortable with numbing; I just never knew the reason why it was so easy for me to just blank out. As a teen I would use drugs, sex, food and alcohol with the occasional black out to push this unknown thing away. This was deep, so deep that I repressed it for over 30 years.
I never understood why I felt so alone, so worthless, and so goddamn unlovable. I figured this was normal as I can only see things from the lenses of my own perception.
After the initial shock and some random recollections I thought, I will be ok. I will just do some yoga, breath work, talk to a few people and I will be ok. As with so many others who have been abused, I tried to minimize what had happened. I tried to forget about it again, only this time it did not want to be forgotten. I couldn’t have expected what came next. The emotions; suddenly 33 years of stagnant, pent up, shameless emotion came pouring out of me. I was completely paralyzed. My life stopped. I no longer cared about anything. I felt lost, confused, overwhelmed and incompetent.
I stayed in bed for days on end, filled to the brim with tears or just staring blankly at the wall. I felt as though the rug of my life had been swiftly pulled from under me. I no longer knew how to do life. I didn’t know who “Lisa” was. I felt like a complete stranger in my own body. How did I not know? How had this affected my entire life? I had so many questions.
There were moments I felt empowered, like I finally knew why I always felt like a bad person. Enormous amounts of guilt and shame followed my every move. These emotions used to only come up on occasion, subtlety playing in the background. Now they invaded all of my thoughts.
Then came the unveiling. I spoke too soon to people who also minimized my experience, which further deepened my depression. My story deserved love and compassion by the people who deserved to hear it. I was reaching out for love from a place of hopelessness.
I was emotionally bankrupt. No one can prepare you to meet a part of yourself you had no idea existed. Especially one that was wounded, vulnerable and shattered. I had forgotten about the abuse then because as a child it was necessary for my survival, but now as an adult, to remember was necessary for my survival.
I was being taught a lesson in wholeness. If I had access to that much hurt, shame and guilt, then I must also have the same access to love, joy and courage. I had to write a new story for myself. First by honoring that little wounded girl in me, and feeling the entire trauma, then by choosing a new way to interact with myself.
The journey back to Lisa started there. It was the most terrifying and uncomfortable process. I didn’t know how to be around people nor did I want to. I had social anxiety and didn’t really leave the house for quite some time. I needed time, a few square meals a day, a few trusted friends and more time.
Now a few years later, I am starting to feel and see the results of giving myself time and unconditional love. Surrounding myself with supportive people and environments. I still have my down days but that’s ok. I’ve discovered that I’m strong beyond all measure, I am enough, I am worthy, I am lovable and you are too. We all are.
Mental health, PTSD, and trauma remain to be widely misunderstood. They are words too, freely thrown around at the surface, not understood at the foundation. Abuse affects all aspects of life, especially our foundations. When one piece is separated, repressed, or minimized, the foundation is cracked. We must start with the foundation. We must start with words.
I know that today's topic may be especially triggering for some. If you are struggling with coming to terms with sexual abuse, the Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse is a great resource. They have counselling & a distress line specifically dedicated to those dealing with sexual or domestic abuse. The phone number is 403-237-6905, and you can find their website here.