The Struggle of Healing After Childhood Abuse
Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced sexual, physical or emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
I wake up and for a few blissful moments, I’ve forgotten about the night of broken dreams and memories that leave me feeling frantic. I see my sweet baby girl’s grin, hear my son’s TV blaring the ever-present ESPN, smell my husband’s aftershave wafting in from the bathroom, and everything feels right in the world. I check my phone, and there are texts confirming plans for the day. Everything is good. I am loved. I am safe. I stumble to the shower, still a little groggy from not getting much sleep the night before. For those first 15 minutes of the day, I function as a “normal” human. I am OK.
Sometimes, soon after getting in the shower, something starts to change. I feel the sadness start to creep back into my soul. Suddenly, the hot water running down my body doesn’t feel comforting. Suddenly it’s the unwanted, confusing caresses from a much older male, and I’m a frozen, frightened little girl. I feel myself crashing. All the pleasant things that happened this morning fade away. Now it’s his sinister grin in my head, it’s his heavy breathing I hear, the smell of his breath, hot on my face. My plans for the day are replaced by him — the plans he had for me all those years ago, playing out over and over in my mind.
I try to lose myself in cleaning. As I’m scrubbing furiously, something occurs in direct correlation to the intensity of the memory. When there are moments of reprieve, I collapse on the couch exhausted both mentally and physically. I want it to stop now just as desperately as I wanted it to stop then.
I can’t reach out to anyone. I can’t ask for help. I’m afraid to ask for help because it seems like the same thing happens to me, over and over and over. I know what coping skills I’m supposed to use. I also know sometimes they are totally useless. Right now is one of those times. It’s something I have to ride out, learn how to live through again, this time trying to applying some of the truths I’ve learned as an adult, truths I didn’t understand as a child. Sometimes, it takes weeks or months to work through. Sometimes, I think I’ve worked through it and put it to rest, and months down the road, it rears its ugly head.
I get lost in how hard it is to work through these things. I’m stunned each time at how much it hurts. But once I’m on the other side, it’s beyond rewarding to see how far I’ve come — to see all the progress I’m making. It’s the ultimate form of self-love and healing to be able to stare that memory down, knowing it doesn’t have power over me anymore. I am my own person. I am healing. I am living a good life, full of love, full of purpose. No one is hurting me now. No one will ever hurt me like that again.
If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
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Thinkstock photo via Archv.