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Can you ever be healed from the impacts of childhood sexual abuse (csa)? or does csa become part or your DNA?
It might seem strange to anyone who has not suffered abuse to even ask the question, can you heal from abuse. This is because we live in a society where conditions or ailments can be treated or cured by taking a course of medication. For those of us who have experienced sexual abuse or childhood trauma, it can often feel like it can never be overcome.
Even when you think that you are doing ‘okay’ and getting on with things, a major event can throw you to such an extent that you feel like your life is falling apart. That is what happened to me when my mother died. My reaction to her death made me look for answers to the questions I have always held about areas of my life that I felt were unfix-able.
Looking for Answers
I wanted to know why even after all the work I had done on myself and all the knowledge I had around the various impacts of child sexual abuse, I still felt there was something missing that stopped me feeling human. I had always struggled with making lasting connections with people, always found it strange that I was still incapable of feeling empathy and compassion for people on the news in horrendous situations. I could not cry or really feel for others at emotional events like funerals, unless I was completely pissed.
Attachment Disorder and Childhood Sexual Abuse
It was only through a chance conversation with my partner in which she suggested that I should look into attachment disorders that I eventually uncovered the missing answers to my questions.
I had only ever heard of attachment disorders in relation to children and separation from a mother, so I had never made a connection to the possibility of this being related to me as a victim of abuse. This search sent me down the road to uncover information about how the levels of trauma experienced as a child can impact brain development and prevent connections between different parts of the brain happening. This new information helped me to understand the many conditions and disorders that can develop as a direct result of childhood sexual abuse and even showed me how childhood trauma can and does, alter our very DNA.
Childhood Sexual Abuse Changes The Body and Brain
I found information about the changes that occur in brain chemistry and development as a result of overexposure to trauma in early childhood. How these changes were then linked to long-lasting physical, emotional and mental effects to victims of childhood sexual abuse. I made so many connections to my own life and how I had long suffered from many physical ailments and in particular pain. I had accepted this as just part of me. This information allowed me to seek out other forms of treatments to help overcome these physical problems.
I discovered that due to the result of these changes in brain chemistry in the brains of victims of childhood sexual abuse our thinking, feelings and behaviours can be forever altered.
This information was so important to me. I always knew I was different than other children growing up. Even then, I saw things differently than my peers. I never related to how they felt or even what they were interested in. I always felt different and weird. Armed with this new information I could see and make a connection to how this lack of development in certain parts of my brain impacted how I was in the world and let myself off the hook for something I had no control over.
Overexposure to trauma in childhood is found to impact the development of the particular part of the brain that controls the intensity of our emotions and helps moderate feelings of fear which are necessary for impulse control. It helps us to not overreact to certain situations with anger driven by fear and be able to be rational and think things through which is a critical area for learning.
Living With The Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse
This under-development for me showed up as excessive reactions to even the most mundane task. We each wrote about this in ‘Click, Click’ how in school, the levels of anxiety were overwhelming for us. For me it resulting in me soiling myself if any attention was directed at me. Because I was unable to concentrate, learning for me was a nightmare and resulted in me growing up with the belief that I was stupid and incapable of doing anything.
It is also documented that overexposure to trauma can affect your ability to regulate emotions and moods, to form attachments, and how you respond to drugs.
For me, this lack of development manifested in all sorts of conditions/disorders, anything from social anxiety to attachment disorders, to suffering from depression and an over dependency on alcohol just so I could engage with others.
Knowledge is Power
So what difference does having this information make to a survivor of childhood sexual abuse? I can honestly say that this information has changed my life. Understanding how my brains development has been impacted allowed me to see the damage that was caused by my abuse. It provides me with answers as to why I think, feel, believe or behave in a particular way. It stops me judging myself so harshly and from hating myself for something that I had no control over.
When we were writing ‘Why Go Back? 7 Steps to Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse’ we wanted to put all the information that helped us in one place. We all feel that if we had access to this information it would have made such a difference to our healing and the length of time it has taken. Our intention is always to help others by sharing our own experiences, what worked for us and how it impacted our lives.
If you accept that your very DNA has been altered due to your experience of abuse you can also accept that knowledge and understanding of just how that occurred will absolutely allow you to find a new way of being in the world. Taking the challenge to journey into your past is not easy, but in my opinion, it is the only way to rid yourself of the damage caused by your abuse.
If you want a really easy talk on how your DNA is impacted by childhood trauma check out Pediatrician Dr. Nadine Burke Harris who talks about how ‘trauma affects health across a lifetime’ at a TEDMED – 2014
Or read the study carried out by Dr. Vince Felitti at Kaiser and Dr. Bob Anda called the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study
Paula – 29th December 2017