If anybody would have told me that twenty some odd years after my first experience with sexual abuse would still involve me actively seeking healing, I would have given up then and there. The journey is definitely different for everyone, the healing timeline is probably always infinite to some degree, yet the wholeness one can experience doesn't always have to be decades in duration. For me though, it has.
These few decades weren't necessarily filled with complete emotional misery. Our bodies have an amazing defense mechanism that allows us to almost totally disengage from our trauma. My trauma was still there, it was just beneath the surface, creating fault lines for me to step on later. Later came several years ago.
For me, the trauma was always so far removed that it was fairly easy to talk about. I have brown hair, green eyes, I love to hike and read, and I was sexually abused. That's about how non-emotive and irrationally calm I was. I mistook all of this for healing. While my mind had fragmented into a million displaced pieces so that I could function in life, I was living in an emotionally detached state. I logistically knew what happened, but I could not emotionally connect with it. I went through an intensive program for the sexually wounded, I had been to numerous counselors, yet it wasn’t until several years ago that this fragmentation began to make me feel like I was actually missing something. This "something" stirred all kinds of horrible emotions that made me spiral. Suddenly, I wasn't rational, I wasn't level-headed, I couldn't look at my abuser's face on the offender's registry and feel impartial. It amazed me what my body had kept secret from me all of these years, and how my unconscious memories came spilling out in the form of triggers to scents and sounds and seasons and those horrible nightmares that used to keep me in fear of sleep.
As my triggers were increasing, so were my anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, ignoring an outpouring of pent-up trauma is not the solution, it's not even a mediocre band-aid, it's a guaranteed way to send yourself into a tailspin. On a map, I could put a pin right in the middle of this tailspin with a sign that says YOU ARE HERE. I can’t sleep enough, I can’t feel content with my life in spite of the multitudinous reasons why I should. I find myself disengaging from my family because the pressure of being needed is, at times, insurmountable. I have isolated myself and kept my loved ones in the dark because being vulnerable on any level has felt violating. It has been difficult to find a therapist that is both covered by my health insurance and good at what they do. I was seeing a very gifted therapist only to have to give up on my sessions because of finances. I left therapy in the middle of digging into my greatest fears and terrors, the deepest depression of my life, and didn’t continue going anywhere at all. Then I went to a sexual healing conference that I thought would be beneficial, but only further triggered and damaged me.
Months after leaving therapy, months after ill-tending to my triggers, months of stuffing the bad stuff and hoping that it will just magically disappear, I found myself almost incapable of normalcy. It's discouraging. No, if I'm being totally honest, it is utterly despairing to feel as if I have regressed, even slightly. Sometimes I wonder if I will always have to fight this hard to experience semi-happiness. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever breech the boundaries of my diagnosis. Then I remind myself that "recovering" is a verb. Recovery takes intention and forethought, and very hard work. It is an active timeline that consists of looking from one moment to the next, healing a little more one day at a time. It's a process that I have put too high an expectation into, and have crashed and burned because of it. It requires great attention and nurturing and untangling. Becoming lax about my recovery process is not something that works, even when I hit burnout mode, even when my capacity is diminished, I still have to do the work.
With this great mess of triggers and tormented thinking, I have come to see that while this feels like a regression, or even a curse, it is really my body ready for the great purge. A purge that I have never really experienced in a way that brings deep healing, because until now, I had never emotionally connected to it. Recovery is about regaining possession of myself, or the parts of me that were fragmented in trauma. I was so young when the shards of myself began to disappear, that I grew as an incomplete person. This purge will bring me closer to myself, more wholly to myself.
So, I have reached out again to a mental health professional, one that I can both afford and have already had some success with. I will practice the methods that I know work for my anxiety and diligently tend to my emotional needs. These practices will make my life far more manageable. While "manageable" is never the goal, I have to be okay with it until it deepens into something more. I have forgotten to be thankful for all of the beautiful things in my life, all of the progress that has been made, and I have felt sorry for myself for not being more than I can be on this dot on the timeline. The shame of my past has been peeled back over the years for sure, but I am learning that I have a really hard time being tender and patient with the parts of me that are still broken. So I will start there.
Healing is not an easy process, but it is one I have to be committed to. Whether I chose to acknowledge my pain or not, I will live from it, oh, how I have lived from it. So I have to have the determination to keep going. I am excited for different therapies that have been recommended, I am confident in my therapist, I am hopeful that if I continue practicing being present with these aching memories and emotions, if I dedicate myself to the work, that the pieces have to find their way back.