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Archive for May 28th, 2008

Cave (c) Lynda BernhardtI believe it is the book The Courage to Heal that labels the initial stage of healing the “breakthrough crisis.” When I was in the early stages of healing, it helped so much to have a label for what I was going through. Learning that what I was experiencing was a normal part of healing from child abuse helped reassure me that I was not going crazy.

The breakthrough crisis is the most intense phase of healing from child abuse. While other stages of healing can be intense, none was as overwhelming to me as the initial breakthrough crisis. I compare it to the first few months of parenting a newborn baby. While other stages of parenting are equally as challenging, none are quite as exhausting as being up with a baby every few hours, night after night, with no break.

The breakthrough crisis is what you go through when you first begin to heal from child abuse. For me, it kicked off with my first flashback. Up until that point, I had spent several months actively trying to understand what was wrong with me. From the time I had the first flashback, I knew what was wrong, but I also questioned whether I could survive it.

For six straight weeks, I honestly did not know if I had it in me to survive the healing process. Every single second of the day was filled with pain. It felt like my emotions had been bottled up in a pressure cooker and that the lid had been blown off the pressure cooker, exploding powerful emotions all over my life. I was so grateful to find isurvive, my favorite message board for adult survivors of childhood abuse.

And then, after about six weeks of questioning whether I could survive this, the clouds parted, and I suddenly felt good. It was like seeing sunshine after six straight weeks of rain. I felt amazing, and I knew that all of my hard work was worth the effort.

This reprieve only lasted for a few hours, but it was enough to give me the hope of there being an end to the pain. Even though I returned to just as much pain as before, I could hold onto the hope of getting another reprieve.

Just as my therapist said, the reprieves gradually got longer, and the periods of feeling miserable gradually got shorter. Today (five years later), I can generally recover from a trigger within hours, whereas a trigger used to go on for weeks.

If you are in the initial stages of healing and can relate to what I have written about here, what is happening to you is normal. Think of this as being in the early stages of chemotherapy. It is intense and does not feel survivable, but this is how you are pouring the poison out of your spirit. You really are going to be okay.

Related topic:

Falling apart is beginning to heal

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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