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I am very passionate about passing on any form of learning I believe could help people but sometimes I feel words are inadequate and can leave you wanting when you try to explain or describe an experience. One example of when I found this to be true is when I was asked, what are the impacts of sexual abuse? Because I fear words will fail me, when preparing to answer that question, it requires a conscious effort to remain focused in order to do justice to the reply.
Searching for the Right Answers
The first thing I would say is that you cannot answer that question easily. In my mind the answer is enormous, as I believe to survive my own experience of childhood sexual abuse I had to become/create an entire new me. There isn’t a part of me that escaped being altered as a direct response to my abuse. I realise that is far too simplistic a response and doesn’t help someone who hasn’t experienced Childhood Sexual Abuse gain any understanding, so I will do my best to tease that out somewhat.
In an attempt to recover from my own experience of childhood sexual abuse I have spent many years unravelling and identifying the multitude of ways I was impacted. One thing I know for sure is that I couldn’t have moved forward with my life if I hadn’t gone back to revisit the source of all my pain and find some way to understand and forgive all involved. Again, I am aware that sounds like a simple enough statement but believe me it was a long and painful journey that at times felt, was too high a price to pay, but it absolutely wasn’t.
I can look back now on my life and say that before I started therapy I was an absolute mess, physically, mentally and emotionally and I cannot imagine where or how I would be today if I had not chosen the ‘red pill’ so to speak. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t suffering inside, regardless of what I portrayed to the rest of the world. My negative self talk ultimately became the bedrock from which I created the lie I lived and believed to be me. Thoughts like, I deserved the abuse, God hates me, everyone hates me, I’m stupid, I have no value, I have the blackest soul, I’m the most disgusting and horrible creature on the planet, no one cares about me, why will no one save me? Consumed my every waking moments. I can now see that my experiences were generating and supporting these thoughts and that I had no choice but to come to these conclusions.
As I describe these feelings I can see that they are insufficient at portraying the depth of self hatred I felt whenever I dared to stop and think about it, which was too often.
I felt that inside of me was a blackness that I understood to be bad or evil. This blackness took up a position in my body just below my heart and was oval in shape and ended around my navel. I could literally feel this blackness when I inhaled. There was pain attached to it when I focussed on it and so I did my best not to think about it. I knew it was still there after attending years of therapy and I believed that no one was able to reach it or help me rid myself of it. I didn’t know how it got there and so I didn’t know how to get rid of it, all I knew was that whenever I focussed and took a deep breath I could feel it and so I still believed I was bad or evil and no one could help me.
Awareness and Understanding
My understanding of it now is that my early experience of sexual abuse hurt me so deeply and there was no nurturing to interrupt all of the negative feelings accompanying the abuse. I developed a powerfully negative self image. Although I was exposed to a plethora of emotions I had no understanding of them which caused confusion.
The premature introduction of unwanted painful intercourse left me with huge feelings of shame and guilt in relation to my physical body and its natural functions. When the abuse began I didn’t understand what was happening. I hadn’t yet the language or maturity to articulate what and how I was feeling, so I held all my pain in my body. I don’t know how or why but I could feel it around my diaphragm which I managed with my breath.
Over time the negative self talk and self hatred grew until I actually believed I could feel the exact shape and location of my badness. What started as poor self image and negative self talk over time grew into this blackness I believed represented my badness.
I now understand these thoughts began with being sexually abused. Over time the pain and suffering was added to on a daily basis through an accumulation of millions of tiny perceived hurts, an angry word with someone, a slagging from a family member, feeling embarrassed, to name but a few…….. Years of daily additions to my blackness resulted in a deeply held belief in my lack of worth.
Finding My Truth
Now I know that my true self never went anywhere, I just buried it under so much negativity. I think I always knew deep down I was good and after many years in therapy, reading books, watching programmes and writing our books I cannot even remember the day, but I do remember talking about my badness to my sister and taking a deep breath to check in with the familiar black feeling I usually located when I focused but this day I could no longer feel it.
It would seem that unknowingly, I was in fact for years, chipping away at my negativity. Slowly re-learning that I am a good person and I do have worth. I now realise that every effort to improve yourself pays off eventually even if you don’t feel it.
Knowledge is Power
The good news is there is endless research on the impacts of abuse which we have written extensively about in our book ‘Why Go Back? 7 Steps to Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse’ and the natural response to trauma. This information will go a long way to reassuring you that you are not alone. The research shows that no matter how you responded to the abuse, it was and is, a perfectly normal human response to being subjected to abuse.
It would seem that as humans we are hardwired to make life difficult for ourselves. Your abuser starts by damaging you, but your own human nature can mean that you do far more damage to yourself long after the abuse is over than your abuser could ever do. This by no means makes abusers any less guilty for the pain and suffering they have caused, but it is interesting to note that one of our biggest obstacle to healing can be our lack of ability to forgive ourselves.
The information we came across when writing Why Go back? would certainly have saved us years of needless suffering and our hope is that this book does the same for other victims.
June- 22nd January 2018