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What working on our healing can bring us

Sexual violence survivors share what has changed in their lives since they’ve been working on healing from their trauma
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Content Warning

This story may contain descriptions of PTSD symptoms, discussion of child sexual abuse, and the effects of trauma.

It started with a simple, beautiful request from Ingrid, a member of our Healing Honestly community. In an email, she asked if I would write a story about the positive changes that come from working on our healing. She said, “Sometimes this journey feels truly impossible and I feel like things will never be better, but I know I’m making progress in important ways, and I would love to know more about what positive changes others have experienced as they heal to help ground myself in some hope and also maybe get a sense of what I might have to look forward to.”

I am so grateful to Ingrid for her message and this story is 100% a result of her lovely request. For a few weeks, I asked anyone who identified as a sexual violence survivor to share with me the good stuff in their life that has resulted from all their healing work. It’s been wonderful to see how different everyone’s healing experiences are, and the threads that connect them, namely a strengthening of a connection to something deep within themselves.

Healing is exhausting and hard and, especially lately, not a particularly fun and sexy time. My hope is when you are feeling depleted and perhaps discouraged, especially since we know things are never linear, you can visit this story and read through other people’s experiences and be reminded of all the possibilities you are opening up for yourself by working on your healing.

While some of the responses have been edited for brevity and grammar, I tried to keep them as intact as possible with all their beautiful specificity. I love how you can hear each person’s individual voice and it serves as a powerful reminder to me of how dynamic and intensely personal healing is for each of us.

Friendly reminder: Healing looks different for every person.  That said, healing necessarily must include resting and breaks. I don’t want an unintended consequence of this story to be that someone feels they must rush or power through their healing work to get to some mythical end point. Rest, take your time, listen to your intuition about what you need, and always lead with self-compassion.

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What working on my healing from childhood sexual abuse has brought me:

Despite collecting these responses for the past few weeks, I haven’t yet answered the question for myself, and it’s only fair that I share what I ask you to share. It’s been challenging for me because nearly every aspect of my life has changed!

My healing work has brought me a deep sense of myself. When I feel shame, I am now able to identify the feeling and remember quickly that the shame is not mine, it is just visiting and will pass. It’s made me see that things I thought were weaknesses: my sensitivity, my hell-raising tendencies, my uncompromising need to always be honest, as parts of myself that I now love and embrace. I now only have relationships with people I want to have relationships with (sounds simple, but we all know it’s not!).

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Working on my healing has also led me to be able to hold space to support others, although I also know that doing this work of writing and coaching has actually been a part of my healing as well. I think about how, for most of my life, I was unable to be alone with my thoughts and would work myself crazy to avoid my own company. I now know how to rest and I rest truly all the time. I’ve also learned how to ask for help and invite people into the healing with me by telling them exactly what I need, which, in turn, has really deepened my relationships.

Strengthening our relationships with ourselves through healing:

“So many good things have happened in my life since I have started to actively work on healing! I have so much less self-doubt, not just about trauma but about everything, and I believe myself and trust my feelings more than I ever have. There’s a confidence building in myself that I have never had, not since before my assault, and even though it goes up and down like anything else in life, the trend is constantly moving upward and I am so exceedingly happy that it’s going that way. It has such a positive impact on my relationships at work, with my partner, and with my friends and family.” -June

“My biggest healing success so far was when I did exposure therapy for staying home alone. My biggest fear ever was staying home alone or sleeping home alone and it took a lot of time and hard work but in less than a year of doing this I live alone now!! Some things that have really helped me are “saving” my thoughts and problems for tomorrow before I go to bed because I know I have the whole next day to worry about them and also scheduling time throughout the day to do things for me like taking baths or going for a walk.”-Erin

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“For me, being pregnant has actually been healing and challenging in ways I didn’t expect. Needing to spend more time reconnecting with my body as it changes, and adjusting to new coping mechanisms has been surprisingly healing.”- Johanna

“A lot of my healing didn’t start happening until I went to my doctor and was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 along with my C-PTSD. From there my moods and emotions were much more manageable to go back to counseling and handle EMDR. I guess with that I’ve been more in tune with myself, emotions, and physical being and knowing when to slow down and am more open with what I need to others. I feel much more “neutral” (if that’s the right word for it) and I am not always feeling like I’m in a crisis or survival mode. My life is just drastically different from knowing I needed to take care of myself and be back on medications to help myself in order to start the heavy work of healing after distracting myself & keeping busy for years to avoid opening the box to my lifelong traumas.”- Brooke

“Healing has taught me that I am stronger than I ever thought I was and that I can forgive myself for all of the self-blaming I did in the years after the assault.”- Melissa

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“I’m a survivor of early childhood sexual abuse and longer term mental/emotional abuse. My first really good therapist pointed me in the direction of meditation, almost 20 years ago now. I don’t know where I would be without the internal space and clarity I can tap into because of that practice. I’ve learned Internal Family Systems therapy from another wonderful therapist 3 years ago, and am able to basically do my own therapy for myself through journaling. In IFS all parts of yourself are honored and heard, and it has allowed me to lessen my defenses so good things can come to me. It’s helped me to like myself rather than judge myself. By honoring my own grieving parts, I know how to support and be with other people who are suffering. I’m learning to prioritize joy and know what’s important in life.”-Rebecca

“The most important thing I’ve learned through specialist service counselling: self-compassion! I’ve learned to be kind to myself on this journey and it’s felt transformative! I feel more comfortable with the responses I’ve had to situations related to or that have reminded me of my assault and I’m allowing a safe space in my mind for the times I feel low or can’t sleep. I know that there is still work to be done but I’m not afraid of being nasty to myself anymore because I know it’s okay if I go back to a bad place or if I respond in a way I would rather not to triggers and that gives me such peace of mind when I think of the future.”-Martha

“The best thing that I’ve discovered through my healing has been connection.  I connected the pieces of the puzzle of the scattered and hazy memories.  The puzzle may never be complete but I’m finding acceptance and peace in the memories I remember. I found connection to my emotions and to my body through yoga, music, and meditation, even though it has not been an easy journey. I still have days where it can feel too scary to be physically present enough to feel joy or pain or pleasure, but I know healing is not linear and it’s okay to struggle. I’ve connected with my traumatized inner child, and my other past selves that have been broken and lost in self-loathing.  I’m on a journey of self-love and have made a promise to my inner child that I would keep her safe no matter what. This connection to love – feeling love, expressing love, and knowing that I am loved- has been the greatest gift of my healing.” -Katrina

“Working towards healing has brought me a sense of inner strength. It’s also taught me a lot about patience and making sure I take intentional rest. Yoga has been so helpful in finding literal strength and balance in my body.” -Hayley

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Growing our art through our healing:

“It [working on healing] brought me my writings. It helped me find the voice he stole.” -Francesca

“I’m about to publish my first book about my journey of healing from recovering repressed memories of abuse. I have released my need to have my mother believe me. I know it happened and I don’t need her approval that it happened to validate me.I have put clear boundaries in place with my mother and as long as she chooses to believe the False Memory Syndrome’s merry band of fuckwits, I no longer wish to have her in my life. I have come too far to allow my self worth to be eroded by listening to their fact-less lies.My chronic migraines have eased following Body Stress Release Therapy. I am still learning that I do not have to be in control all of the time to be safe (still some work to do here). I am finally learning to love me, all of me, the good, the sacred and the anxious.” -Katie

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“Working on my healing brought me:

My authentic voice

A rediscovery and reclamation of my poetry

A deep understanding of boundaries

Clarity around repetitive patterns

My sovereignty

My playfulness

Able to look myself in the eye

Removal of toxic relationships

A break in the chain of passing the dysfunction down to my kids

Deep deep friendships with both men and women

Self respect

Something very soulful that I don’t understand yet” – Jacky

Strengthening boundaries and relationships through healing:

“Some things that I have cultivated through my healing are trust and the ability to set boundaries with people.”- Moe

“Doing my healing work has brought me so many good friends and a support system I’m grateful for. By reconnecting to my intuition, it has gave me a deeper sense of self and confidence”- Sydney

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“I shed unhealthy relationships, including friendships which didn’t accept or affirm my authentic self. Friendships that depended on me staying small and obedient, friendships which treated me like an inexhaustible tap of emotional support, where I gave far more than I received. I finally fled my abusive household aged 30 in early 2020 during lockdown. I am 446 days free of self harm. I learned to cook despite terror I’d burn down the flat. Cooking is something my abusive parents said I’d be completely hopeless and useless at. I came out to myself as transgender, a huge step because my sexual abuse was perpetrated by a transgender (blood) older sibling. I found and lost chosen family and learned who genuinely loves and accepts me, who will stand up and defend me. I grew mutually supportive friendships with caring and loving people.” -Jus

“Healing allowed me to learn boundaries, to say no, and to communicate. I also found the strength to cut off those who are toxic and unhealthy. Including my mother. I’ve never felt more free.” -Nancy.

“I’ve learned that emotions are tunnels, not prison cells. To allow feelings without judging or repressing them lets us move through them into the light. This is a recent discovery for me but a game changer for someone who was taught from a very early age how wrong her emotions were. I’m still dealing with extreme social anxiety and trusting people, this has been a big challenge, and I have dealt with it by isolating myself from people. But I know now that facing a problem is the only way to a solution, so I have hope that intimacy and closer friendships lay on the other side of this mountain I’m about to climb.” -Rebecca

Thank you so much to everyone who shared with me and trusted me with your words and truth. It is an honor for me to share your wisdom and experience with the whole HealingHonestly.com community and I am in deep gratitude to you! To anyone reading this: my wish is for you to lead with gentleness, patience and a deep well of self-compassion as you navigate your own experiences in healing. I look forward to hearing what it brings you!