37 Little Signs You're Recovering From an Abusive Childhood


Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

They say recovery isn’t linear — and when you’re recovering from childhood abuse, that statement often holds true. You may feel defined by the actions or words your abuser inflicted on you. You may struggle with things like mental illness that makes sorting out childhood trauma even more complicated. Or maybe looking back on the past has just been too painful to make peace with.

Childhood abuse recovery often comes in waves, but in that process, we often notice little things that remind us we’re moving forward. That’s why we asked our Mighty mental health community to share with us little signs that let them know they were beginning to heal from an abusive childhood.

Wherever you are on your journey to recovery, please remember your experience is valid, you deserve support and you are never alone.

Here is what our community shared with us:

1. “When I finally believed my own story and wasn’t willing to let anyone gaslight me, manipulate me, or brush it off as something other than what it was. When it became more important to own my truth and my story than it was to keep people happy, comfortable and a part of my life.” — Lulu B.

2. “When I spilled something and laughed it off for the first time (as a child I was berated until it triggered a panic attack whenever I dropped or spilled something). It was a turning point. I’m still recovering, but I’m getting better.” — Rebekah B.

3. “I’m no longer having nightmares of him abusing me. I no longer wake up in a panicked, sweaty state fearing he will harm me.” — Celena R.

4. “I realize it wasn’t my fault, that the person who did it has issues and just used me to ‘deal; instead of actually dealing with their own issues.” — Hannah H.

5. “I was able to talk about my sexual abuse without blaming myself. I was only a child and had to understand that it wasn’t my fault.” — Mary Kay L.

6. “When I realized I was broken because I was raised by someone who was broken. She hurt me because of her pain. I can’t have her in my life because she is still very toxic, but I can forgive her. She didn’t know any better. I no longer wish for pain for her so she understands what it felt like for me. Deep inside I know she already understands, even if she’ll never admit it. I only wish for peace for her. The moment I had that realization, while doing some self-reflection, my whole outlook changed.” — Anastasia A.

7. “When I could say ‘no’ to anything without my voice shaking or feeling like I needed to constantly apologizing just for breathing.” — Danielle D.

8. “Once I moved out of my moms house. Did not realize how much it helped me moving away. It hurts because I love my mom but my step-dad did so much to hurt me and sometimes it’s best to stay away.” — Rubi G.

9. “I could let people hug me without tensing up and feeling uncomfortable. A pat on the back or a squeeze on the arm stopped making me wince.” — Ruby F.

10. “Finally letting go of the anger.” — Kelli W.

11. “When I no longer flinched whenever others would yell and scream, even if it wasn’t directed to me. I no longer feel like I’m chained to my past. I feel as if I’m free and can live happily, something I never thought I could go through.” — Celena R.

12. “My panic attacks came with a lot of yelling in my head. No particularly familiar voice, just loud. Like if you were in an empty room with a megaphone, the voices filled the room. My anxiety hasn’t gone away but the yelling has after I made peace with my past by not letting it dictate who or what I should be.” — Maggie H.

13. “Learning to trust a father figure and not fearing every time we would meet that he was going to hurt me. A huge step was feeling comfortable with being embraced by him with an innocent hug.” — Nicki J.

14. “Being able to talk about it without crying.” — Bonnie E.

15. “I no longer slip into that deep depression or strong anxiety anymore. because of that I began to finally learn how to live and relate to people. Still working on it, and am now weaning off medication after 20-some years on it, but without it I would have ended my life.” — Bonnie C.

16.I was sexually abused as a child. A family member performed a certain sexual act on me as a child and it scarred me. As an adult I had someone I loved who wanted to express their love and affection to me through this act and I wouldn’t allow it. I finally met someone I felt comfortable with doing it and now I see that it’s not a bad thing but something that adults do normally. But for someone who experienced it so young it was just a weird and traumatizing act.” — Lindy B.

17. “When I finally stopped telling myself it could’ve been worse.” — Stacey R.

18. “I was so use to letting people use me and put me down, the day I finally stood up for myself and started practicing assertiveness is the day I realized everything would be OK.” — Veronica C.

19. “Being able to express my emotions.” — Raj J.

20. “I’m 22 and still going through my fathers alcoholism. Every day I live in constant fear and worry. I think he’s the reason I started having panic attacks in the first place. But I guess finally acknowledging the fact that he’s an alcoholic was my turning point. I used to deny it when people would blatantly say it to my face. People I haven’t talked to in ages even caught on. I grew up with it, so it was all I ever knew. I don’t know my father sober. I guess I was blinded. I didn’t want to accept it. For so many years I tried to push it aside, and now it’s gotten to the point where my mental health is crap that I finally realized it needs to stop. I’m not sure if it ever will stop, though. It’s beyond my control at this point. But at least now I know.” — Brittany J.

21. “Setting boundaries and communicating when I need my space. It’s very hard to do at times especially when conversations are heated, but ultimately it’s healthier and more effective. Because of my borderline personality disorder (BPD) I’m constantly trying to incorporate dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills into my conversations but it is hard work and takes repeated efforts.” — Kelsey E.

22. “I realized I had to to take responsibility for my own actions and quit blaming my parents. They did what was did to them and I refused to repeat the pattern. It took time to let go of all the anger but recognizing I couldn’t keep blaming them was a huge turning point for me.” — Kelli E.

23. “When I realized her opinion of me wasn’t law, it’s just her opinion. I’ve always been insecure about my voice because she always told me to shut up. I sing competitively now.” — Rachael R.

24. “My ability to recognize abusive personalities and behaviors.” — Cherry R.

25. “I was finally able to tell my fiancé I loved him without having a panic attack. I was emotionally and mentally abused by my dad and my grandmother on my dad’s side. They would do/say things that made me feel worthless and then tell me I’m imagining things. They would make it out to be my fault when in reality it had nothing to do with me. They made it seem as though love was controlling and manipulative. I was terrified and still a bit scared to say I love you or hear the words I love you because of them.” — Barbara L.

26. “I’m going through a DBT program, and as soon as I started embracing radical acceptance and acknowledging the constant self-judgement, my immediate mental health goals were more clear. I feel good enough to finally seek the help I need. It’s taken decades.” — Amber M.

27. “Being able to openly talk about the abuse. Also being able to finally see my father as the hurt man he was and forgiving him for what he did.” — Sarah R.

28. “I felt happy when I did something nice for someone. I used to always insult myself when I tried to help someone or give a gift or do anything for someone else. The first time I did something nice and didn’t feel horrible about it and didn’t insult myself for it, I knew I was recovering from the abuse.” — Julia W.

29. “When it got easier to let others in and actually talk about my emotions. I started to feel comfortable telling people, ‘I’ll be fine in a second. I just need some time to get over it,’ when I begin to get upset because of anxiety.” — Kimberly K.

30. “Being able to listen to criticism without automatically breaking down into sobs and apologies.” — Lauren S.

31. “I don’t have a panic attack at loud noises as bad as I use to.” — Carolyn R.

32. “I began a halting journey toward health when I could remain present in the same reality as everyone else for any length of time.” — Sherry L.

33. “Seeing [my] emotional abuser for the first time in a while and not wanting to yell or rip their heads off. When I saw them I felt at peace and felt no anger or anything.” — Monica S.

34. “I can look people in the eyes now. Before it was made sure that I knew I was a piece of garbage and not worthy to look people in the eyes.” — Brandy A.

35. “I’m not responsible for other people’s happiness. Others people’s negative opinions and views on me is OK, and not a trauma reality coming back.” — Monica L.

36. “I was emotionally abused by my parents who are very strict, appearance-focused Christians. Though I am still Christian, I’ve left their legalism behind. I knew I was healing when I started being comfortable swearing, since I was both expressing my emotions and defying their hyper-Christian standards.” — Rebecca J.

37. “I was able to look at myself in the mirror and not flinch at what I thought was there — but see clearly what really was.” — LaNea W.

What would you add?

Unsplash image via Andre Hunter


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