Many child abuse survivors feel like they are going in circles as they heal from their pasts. They work hard to deal with an area of abuse and believe that they have healed from it. Then, several months later, they get bowled over by seemingly the same feelings and question what their hard work was all about if they are now in the same place again. I felt the same way as Mother’s Day approached this year.
The book The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis provides a wonderful explanation for this phenomenon. They call the healing process a spiral. While it appears that you are going around in circles, you are always moving upward. So, when you circle back around to an area of pain that you thought you healed, you are simply healing it at a deeper level.
Think about how a wound heals. Often it looks terrible from the top. However, lots of healing work is going on beneath the surface of the wound, which is making the wound less shallow. Sometimes the healing can sneak up on you because you could not see all of the healing that was going on in the deeper layers of tissue.
Healing from child abuse is the same way. Even though it might feel that way, you are not going around in circles. You are healing your wounds in a deeper way each time you cycle back around. You are always moving forward and upward as you heal.
Another metaphor I like is of raising a child. Once you are a parent, you are never finished with parenting. However, the diaper days do have an end and your baby will eventually sleep through the night. You think that parenting will be easy once these milestones are reached, but then you have a toddler who is walking around and getting into everything. You think that parenting will be easy once the child is old enough to reason with, but then you have a child who finds creative ways to get into trouble in ways far too advanced for a toddler to think through … and so it goes.
You are never finished with healing, but you do finish with different areas of healing along the way. For example, I have not had a flashback in a very long time, and I used to have them nightly. (I equate flashbacks with the diaper days.) However, as you have seen from reading my blog over the past week, I am still healing. Perhaps I have reached the teen years now.
Even though it is hard, I am always growing and changing, and I am always becoming more emotionally healthy. Even when I am in deep pain again, I am moving toward deeper health.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt