To move forward, you have to accept the past.
Trigger Warning: Adult Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Sometimes it sneaks up on you. Just when you think you are past it, there it is to remind you. What is it?
Emotional trauma can be brought on several ways. It might be a catastrophic event you experience. It could be the sudden loss of a loved one. For some, it’s a health diagnosis For me, one of my biggest traumas was being sexually abused as a child.
It is something that I thought I had completely come to terms with many years ago. My healing was done. The scars were repaired as best they could be.
But the truth is, I’ve done this to myself, and just like in the past, I will survive it again.
You see, one of the most crucial steps in my trauma recovery was learning to achieve acceptance about what had been done to me.
Unpacking Old Boxes
Let me start by saying I don’t regret bringing the abuse front and center again. I’ve been a little surprised by the force it has hit me with, but my intentions were good, and I stand by them. Speaking up is important, as I’ve learned in my own life.
In a way, the Speaking Bipolar blog is to blame for my recent struggles.
As you may know, I’ve been sharing my personal story of living with Bipolar Disorder through a series called Surviving Bipolar. One of the things that came up during the course of treatment was a past I had for a time forgotten. I wrote about it in the post Are Repressed Memories Real?
Telling my story is a lot like pulling out old boxes that have been in storage for years. There have been some happy memories and some painful ones. Regarding the abuse, there has also been some unexpected anxiety, pain, and anger.
Bipolar Disorder Symptom Checklist
What Helped Me
For six years, I went to see a wonderful woman for talk therapy. She helped me come to terms with so many things and to achieve acceptance in my life. Through our sessions, she also helped me develop a core value system that became the bedrock of my life since.
It was a long time before I opened up in therapy. I knew some of the things I wanted to talk about, but for months, all I did was hold an accent pillow in my arms (a wall, she called it) and stare out the window. It’s amazing my therapist didn’t fire me as a client.
There’s a lot of truth to the quote above. The best way out of pain, sometimes the only way out, is to go through it.
That meant, through months of therapy and hours upon hours of journaling, I finally had to find my way to face, endure, and accept the abuse.
It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I survived, and you can too.
When You’re Going Through Hell…
One of my all-time favorite quotes is from Winston Churchill. In many ways, it became my mantra during that time. He said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
The words didn’t have as much meaning then as they do now, but something in me recognized their value, so they became the words I chose to live by.
My personal hell meant finally talking about my past so I could achieve acceptance after the abuse. It also meant coming to terms with the people in my life that I thought should have protected me or that I felt should have behaved differently when I finally shared my story with them.
It was a challenging time, but I fought on and came out the better for it. Whatever you are going through, you can conquer it as well.
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill.
Achieve Acceptance – One of the Biggest Keys
For many years, I did not consciously remember the abuse. Then, when the memories started to surface, I quite literally ran away – 900 miles to be exact.
When I finally brought the abuse into my therapy sessions, it was likely experiencing it all for the first time. I physically became sick to my stomach more than once and had many sleepless nights.
In addition to my therapist, I also happened upon the book, Victims No Longer: Men Recovering From Incest and Other Sexual Child Abuse by Mike Lew. That book gave me one thing I desperately needed – validation – which eventually led me to acceptance and healing.
The best thing about Victims No More is that it helped me know that other men had been through it.
I knew of a couple of people who were also sexually abused as children, but none of them were men. I’m sure there are men in my life with this awful piece in their past, but men just don’t talk about it. To endure it, I needed to talk about it.
Victims No More gave me other real-life stories from men that helped me to gain acceptance and recovery.
A poem video about the questions anxiety asks you.
Learning to Accept the Bad
For you, hopefully, it’s not some form of abuse that you are struggling with right now. The principal is the same for many other things as well. It might be coming to terms with a chronic illness diagnosis. You might be finding it hard to admit you need assistance with your mental health. There are millions of things you could be dealing with, but acceptance is an essential part of getting where you need to go.
If your hurdle is abuse, know that you are not alone. Things may get harder before they get better, but if you’re willing to put in the work, they do get better. So. Much. Better.
The first step is admitting that whatever you are facing is a reality. Once you can clearly see your enemy, then you will be better able to fight it.
I know this is a weighty post to start your week with, but if you take only one thing away today, make it this:
You must achieve acceptance to reach recovery.
Yes, it might be terrible and painful and full of tears and/or vomiting along the way, but the only way out of this hell is to point your nose forward and go through it.
This week, take the step to let someone know what you are fighting. Tell a family member, close friend, religious leader, therapist, crisis help-line, or person on the street. Cracking the shell by telling someone will allow you to start dealing with all that is locked inside.
Always remember, as painful or challenging as the next days and weeks might be, it does get better. Yes, if the issue is abuse, it might swing back around from time to time to cause havoc in your life, but those times are nothing like what you are feeling now.
You are not alone in this. Find a support group and look for a book on the topic. You can and will beat this monster.
Until next time, keep fighting.