Just a few weeks ago I was feeling on top of the world, like nothing could bring me down. Now….well, not so much. I promised you at the beginning of this blog that I would be honest about the healing journey. That it would be up and down. I promised to be authentic and genuine, not pretend like all is well when it is not. It is so easy these days to feel inferior, to feel like there is something inherently wrong with you because all you see is people on social media with their lives in tact. You see smiles and beautiful families and vacations and romance and obedient children and all the highlights of peoples lives. You see people who have overcome great pain but you don’t see the process of overcoming that pain. So you think, why is it taking me so long to heal? Why am I such a mess? What is wrong with me? Well, I am no expert, and I don’t know you….but I’ll wager that there is nothing wrong with you. Pain and trauma take a long long long time to heal and they do not generally go away on their own. There is pretending to be ok and then there is actually doing the work to become ok. It is messy. It is up and down, it is exhausting. And trauma is not generally understood by the people in your life, unless they have gone through it themselves. This can cause misunderstandings, hurt feelings and frustrations on both ends as you navigate the healing process. But it can also draw you closer to someone, teach you patience, build trust and help you build a new foundation for your life.
About 3 weeks ago I had a rough day. I was turned down for a loan (thanks ex who won’t pay child support), lost the chance at getting our own place (thanks Colorado for overpriced cost of living), was turned down for a date, and was told my kids couldn’t go back to school for the foreseeable future (thanks Covid). That was one day. I felt crushed, angry, fearful, rejected and so so alone. But more than that one day was what was coming, what I felt brewing in my chest. God was not done with me yet. There is more for me to overcome, more healing to take place. And I knew I wouldn’t like it.
While I have worked through so much of the narcissistic abuse and forgiven my ex for so many hurts, there has always been this lingering trauma, deep down in the recesses of my mind that I did not want to address, did not feel brave enough, or strong enough to tackle. I prayed it would just go away. I prayed that it would heal on it’s own over time. But that is not how trauma works. Especially sexual trauma. Can I just say that even writing those two words took me forever.
I have mentioned the sexual abuse before to my counselor, to close friends, even written tiny bits about it, but always in a very detached kind of way. It was just a fact, it was not a feeling. I was almost laughing about it. But now my cptsd has flared up big time and I find myself having panic attacks. jumping between hypervigilance and numbness. Staring at yogurt in the grocery store, completely frozen and not able to process what I am looking at. Or being too afraid to go to sleep because I don’t want the nightmares to return.
Sexual trauma is considered by the experts to be right in line with war time combat trauma. It imprints the brain in a significant way. Often it gets buried so deeply in the recess of you mind that you don’t even remember it. But your body keeps the score. Read “your body keeps the score” by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. Well, I remember. I have 15 years of sexual abuse to remember. Now I have to work through all the confusion and the questions. Fighting him did not work, I tried. I tried reasoning with him, I tried pleading, I prayed. Eventually I gave up fighting. Because dealing with the consequences of “disrespect” was worse. Nothing has ever made me feel less human, less valued, less respected or less hopeless than those moments. The physical pain was nothing compared to the heart pain.
Images, memories flood my brain. Fear grips my heart, as if the events were happening right now, not a couple of years ago or in some cases 15 years ago. In the last few weeks I have learned that my body is suffering in significant ways because of the sexual trauma that has not been properly processed or released. I am in physical pain every day, my weight has jumped up 50lbs in two years despite my exercise and eating habits barley changing. The cortisol from stress and living in hypervigilance is producing side effects I had no idea would be so damaging. Basically my body is on constant alert for danger and feels like I have no control over my own body or my world. I have had times of feeling more safe, times of relaxing and self care. But as soon as something triggers or alerts that part of my brain that is storing the sexual trauma, all hell brakes loose. Adding the pandemic and all the challenges and stress of that to the healing process has been almost more than I can handle.
Thankfully I am not completely unaware of what is happening. I have tackled ptsd before, I have processed a lot of pain before, so I will put on my big girl panties (literally, haha) and face this.
My heart is determined to make 2021 my year for health. And I’m not just talking about the weight, because that is not the most important thing, but my mental, spiritual, emotional and physical health. I am investing in therapy and EMDR and chiropractic care. I am taking all the vitamins and supplements. am exercising in a way that won’t hurt my body, I am staying hydrated and taking mental breaks to do things that bring me joy, like playing the piano or painting. I am going to stay connected with friends and loved ones. Books on mental health will be read, my quiet time with Jesus will continue to start my days, and my kids will be homeschooled to give them some sense of stability in this crazy time. I have never been one to make big new years resolutions, and when I have they are usually given up by February, so I am not calling this a new years resolution. This is just my time. Time to become a whole person again. Time to restore what has been stolen from me. I am scared of failing but I am more scared of not trying.
Most of all, I will try and give myself some grace. I will try and be kind to myself, to speak gently to my heart and remember how far I’ve come. I will try and be patient and stop hating my body and my shame and my weakness. I will be thankful for how hard my body has had to work to survive. I will cry all the tears that I had held in for so many years and I will work hard at not being embarrassed about what has happened, recognizing that I had no real control over it.
And I will cling to His promise “being confident of this very thing, that He who begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. ” Philippian1:6