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Archive for February 17th, 2009

When I decided to heal from my history of child abuse, I was determined for the outcome to be complete, 100% healing. At my first therapy session, my therapist asked me what my goals were, and I said that I wanted to be a “normal” person like everyone else. He replied that everyone else was not “normal” and that it was unrealistic for me to expect to be like everyone else. I did not want to hear that.

For years, I have been determined to heal completely. I concluded that other people simply did not try hard enough … that I was different … that I was going to be the exception to the rule and live a completely normal life as a completely healed person.

I am starting to (very reluctantly) accept that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is always going to be a part of my life. This is a very hard thing for me to admit to myself, much less to anyone else. A part of me feels like this admission means that I am “giving up” – that I have failed on my quest to be a completely healed person.

It is not like my therapist did not tell me this from the beginning. He said that healing means that triggers last for hours instead of weeks or months. Healing is all about degrees and about how I feel about myself. For him, the goal was never for me to be 100% free of nightmares, flashbacks, and the other aftermath. (That was certainly my goal!) Instead, his goal was for me to love and accept myself as I am, riding out the aftermath and returning sooner and sooner to a place of being okay.

If I use my therapist’s definition of healing, then I am already “healed.” However, I don’t feel “healed,” and I think this is because my definition of healing has been so different.

I am beginning to accept that I will always have aftermath of my childhood to ride out and deal with. The aftereffects will gradually improve as I learn how to manage them, but they are never going to disappear magically as I want them to.

How does this realization make me feel? In some ways, it makes me angry because this means that my abusers succeeded in affecting my life until the day I die. That really p@$$es me off. In other ways, it makes me feel relieved.

I am so hard on myself. I always have been. I throw all of my energy into the direction that I want to go in my life, and I have done this in spades when it comes to healing. All of this deep effort has failed to make the aftermath “go away.”

When I reframe my situation and see this as “normal,” I can stop beating myself up for not being able to do the impossible and, instead, have compassion on myself. I will get into that in my next post.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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