As we walk out of Sexual Abuse Awareness Month (April) and into Mental Health Awareness Month (May) I thought it would be fitting to share a little more in-depth ways I am walking through my healing process. If you watched my stories on Instagram or follow my blog, then you know last year in April of 2020 I took a leap of bravery and decided to share my story of sexual abuse. While it was freeing and very liberating it also opened old wounds and lots of conversations were had. I had to revisit my thoughts and feelings around the abuse. I contemplated whether I was healing or just saying that because it made me sound like a survivor and not a victim. I ultimately realized that yes, I am healing, and I have a long journey ahead that I am ready for.
It was hard to open up about what happened. I did not believe that someone would believe me. But I did realize how not saying anything would keep me from getting the help I needed, and I would continue to operate as a victim. I ended up sharing my story with someone I felt safe with (my peds doctor) which in turn opened the door for me to share with my close family.
Feelings of shame and guilt are real. My feelings about the sexual abuse were not immediate and they surfaced many years later. When I was younger, I could bury my feelings but as I entered different stages of my life I had to acknowledge and accept that someone abused me and I did not abuse myself, this made room for me to accept that it was not my fault. I did not bring on the abuse and I had nothing to be ashamed about. No matter what the circumstances were, the only one who is responsible for the assault is the perpetrator.
As a child, teen, and well into my adult life I realized that flashbacks and upsetting memories are a thing. My traumatic experience keeps me on high alert. I shared a lot about this in my blog series and how it directly affected my motherhood and marriage. I am overly sensitive to certain smells and touch. I will share more about this soon…. but in the meantime, I try to anticipate and prepare for triggers, pay attention to my body's danger signals and take immediate steps to soothe. I am going, to be honest, and upfront; I was not prepared for how the triggers would show up in the beginning but as I begin to see a therapist it really helped me pinpoint the different triggers and ways to properly cope.
Reconnecting with my body and feelings has probably been the hardest thing for me as I walk through recovery. It was so easy for me to shut down which stopped me from experiencing happiness. I would disconnect emotionally and physically (sometimes I still do) this keeps me from living out my best life. Less now, but I would walk through seasons of feeling disconnected, not being able to concentrate, and physically being closed off to sexual pleasure. I found that movement, prayer, and telling myself and my husband exactly what it is that I needed helps me in my healing process.
It is important to me that I stay connected with others. I always try to schedule a coffee with a friend, hop on a phone call or engage with people on social media to keep me connected to life. “Support from others is vital to your recovery” while remembering that “support does not always mean that I must talk about what happened or dwell on it”. Having fun and laughing with people who care can is healing. One thing that I am always opened to is making new friends.
Lastly, healing from sexual trauma takes time. It is not something that will happen right away, and the memories do not disappear forever. This can sometimes make you feel down but there are so many ways to reduce your feelings around the trauma. I found that when I rest my body and mind it creates a sense of balance for me. Another way I keep myself afloat is by making sure I am working out and eating well. All of these things contribute to the healing process.
I know a lot of the above was about the survivor, but I wanted to also share ways you can support someone who has been abused. Always make sure that they know that you love them. Try to reassure them that the abuse was not their fault. Always be patient to the process. Some people take longer than others and it is important that your loved one knows that you are there no matter how long it takes. Encourage therapy or seeking help but do it in a loving way.
Recovering from sexual abuse can be hard and it takes a while for someone to heal from it. This is your process, and you take as much time as you need. Please remember you are not a victim; you are a survivor. I am praying for you and I see you. Here is a short video of some survivors. Thank you in advance for watching:
Resources & References:
Photos By: Paola Matos
Helpful Extensive Guide information for victims and families of victims: hermanlaw.com/child-sex-abuse/
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