Archive for December 1st, 2009

A common aftereffect of child abuse is wrapping up your identity with a symptom of the child abuse. When you do this, it can make it that much harder to heal because, as you unravel your childhood trauma and memories, you fear that you will lose your identity.

I did this with my self-lie of being a virgin. The most traumatizing event I experienced was when my virginity was taken the first time. This was the memory I most deeply repressed. Then, I built a “fake” identity on top of that memory. Throughout my teen years up until I married, my identity was built upon “being a virgin.” I thought about being a virgin all the time and prided myself in my “purity.” I bought the whitest wedding gown I could find, and all of my wedding flowers were pure white. I was very active in my church and saw my strong self-identification with my “virginity” as being more active in my faith.

So, you can imagine the explosion in my life when the first flashbacks came of my being vaginally raped. My subconscious actually eased me into this knowledge through terrible nightmares of being promiscuous and/or raped. I would awaken in a cold sweat and tell myself that I know that never happened because I was a virgin. So, when the first sickening awareness settled upon me that even my virginity was taken, it wasn’t quite as big of a shock as it would have been without the nightmares, but I was still shaken to the core. If I wasn’t a virgin, then who was I? I feared that my life was built on nothing but lies and that, as those lies came tumbling down, my entire identity would come down with it.

You might have done something similar. You might have built your identity around being an alcoholic or drug addict, an anorexic or bulimic, a virgin or a sadomasochist, etc. Be very careful about basing your identity upon anything that you do (or, in my case, don’t do). Who you are runs so much deeper and is so much richer than what you do.

If you have built up a false identity, this is just another way that you have tried to protect yourself from your childhood trauma. It is okay to let go of this false identity and find the real you. Who you are is much fuller than being a member of a particular group. You are an amazing and unique individual whose identity cannot be contained within one label.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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