I’ve been looking at my healing journey lately and discovered a place that needed to be revisited. Healing is like that. Whether a physical or a psychological wound, healing is a process that is not entirely linear. Yes, there are stages and for the most part a sort of ‘gate’ that you pass through from one stage to the other, but there can be setbacks. I think it’s important that I share this publicly so others going through this do not feel alone. There is no need to hide or feel like a ‘failure’ if you take what seems like a step back. We’re so damned good at beating ourselves up – it’s time to stop!
Grief and anger are the places I’ve been revisiting. It’s not a conscious choice but rather emotions that surprise me at their intensity. Sadness just seems to swoop in and leaves me exhausted. I sob deeply as if I am going through the first stage of healing again. Thankfully I have the tools and wisdom of experience now to know that this will pass, that it is ok, that life IS worth living. I grieve all the many losses. I will never know what it is like to have the gift of virginity to give to a man from a loving place. I will never know what a carefree childhood feels like. I have much to grieve. It is then that the anger comes. So much f**king anger that I even have to feel this anymore.
Does this revisiting mean I am slipping backwards? Does what I am feeling make me weak somehow? I say no. I say that it is what I need to do or feel at the time. No one can or should tell me – or you – what is right in your journey. There IS no right or wrong. Whatever you feel or experience is valid. Just don’t go it alone. If you have only just made the choice to heal, you need support. If you are in the ’emergency’ stage, it is CRITICAL to have support and resources. A couple of great online resources are: ASCA and 1in6.
I’ve been an addict. I’ve been abused. I’ve faced death and I’ve almost taken my own life. Know that you CAN and WILL move through and that you can create a life worth living. To do otherwise is to let the bad guys win.
Copied below is a synopsis of the stages of healing taken from ‘The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse’ by Laura Davis and Ellen Bass *
The decision to heal
Once you recognize the effects of sexual abuse in your life, you need to make an active commitment to heal. Deep healing only happens when you choose it and are willing to change yourself.
The emergency stage
Beginning to deal with memories and suppressed feelings can throw your life into utter turmoil. Remember, this is only a stage. It won’t last forever.
Many survivors suppress all memories of what happened to them as children. Those who do not forget the actual incidents often forget how it felt at the time. Remembering is the process of getting back both memory and feeling.
Believing it happened
Survivors often doubt their own perceptions. Coming to believe that the abuse really happened, and that it really hurt you, is a vital part of the healing process.
Breaking the silence
Most adult survivors kept the abuse a secret in childhood. Telling another person about what happened to you is a powerful healing force that can help you get rid of the shame of being a victim.
Understanding that it wasn’t your fault
Children usually believe that abuse is their fualt. Adult survivors must place the blame where it belongs – directly on the shoulders of the abusers.
Making contact with the child within
Many survivors have lost touch with their own vulnerablity. Getting in touch with the child within can help you feel compassion for yourself, more anger at your abuser, and a greater intimacy with others.
The best guide for healing is your own inner voice. Learning to trust your own perceptions, feelings and intuitions becomes a basis for action in the world outside.
Grieving and mourning
As children being abused and later, as adult struggling to survive, most survivors haven’t felt their losses. Grieving lets you honour your pain, let go, and more into the present.
Anger: The backbone of healing
Anger is a powerful and liberating force. Whether you need to get in touch with it or have always had plenty to spare, directing your rage squarely at your abuser, and at those who did not protect you even if they could have done so, is essential to healing.
Disclosures and confrontations
Directly confronting your abuser is not for every survivor, but it can be a dramatic, cleansing tool.
Forgiveness of the abuser is not absolutely required as part of the healing process, although it is often the most recommended. The only essential forgiveness is to forgive yourself.
Having a sense of a power greater than yourself helps you in your healing process. Your spirituality is unique to you. You might find it through traditional cultural practices, through organized religion, meditation, nature, or a support network.
Resolution and moving on
As you move through these stages again and again, you will reach a point of integration. Your feelings and perspectives will stabilize. You will come to terms with your abuser and other family members. While you won’t erase your history, you will make deep and lasting changes in your life. Having gained awareness, compassion, and poer thorugh healing, you will have the opportunity to work toward a better world.
The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
by Laura Davis and Ellen Bass
Harper & Row, New York, 1988