A question that I frequently receive from readers is how long it takes to heal from child abuse. I, too, asked the same question when I was new to healing. I was having flashbacks every night, nightmares, insomnia, and feeling like I was losing my mind. I sought therapy, and one of the first questions I asked was how long it would take for me to “get over this.” My therapist told me repeatedly that he did not have a crystal ball and could not answer that question. (I did not take that response well!)
I have interacted with numerous child abuse survivors since I started healing in 2003. I have seen some people fly through the healing process and others stay stuck for many years in the same place. The pace of healing really is up to you.
I was on the “fast track.” I decided that I was either going to (quite literally) kill myself and not deal with at all, or I was going to “get it over with” as fast as humanly possible. According to my therapist, I did about two years worth of therapy in six months. I lived and breathed healing. I read numerous books on healing. I invited and worked through flashbacks every night. I was on Isurvive every single day, multiple times a day, talking about my memories and seeking advice on healing. My healing process felt like a runaway freight train. My therapist kept telling me to slow down, but I couldn’t even if I wanted to … and I didn’t want to. I wanted to get this h@#$ “over with” so I could move on with my life.
I know others who have been in therapy for decades but never seem to get anywhere. They meet with a therapist weekly but don’t really do any work between their sessions. They are frustrated because they feel like they are making no progress, but they are also unwilling/unable to work through any of their issues without a therapist in the room with them.
My recommendation is taking a middle ground. The more work you do between therapy sessions, the sooner you are going to feel better. Healing from child abuse is very hard work, so pacing yourself is key. (Admittedly, I am not very good at pacing myself, so I cannot really offer much advice on how to do that.)
Back to the original question – How long does it take to heal from child abuse? The answer is completely up to you. You need to talk about what happened until you no longer feel the need to talk about it any longer. For some, the bulk of the work might be accomplished in a year or two; for others, the road will be much longer.
A wise friend told me to look at healing as an investment in the rest of your life. She said that, even if it takes five years or ten, I will have the rest of my life to reap the benefits of the hard work that I am doing now. She also pointed out that healing is not like an on/off switch. You do not go from being completely miserable to completely happy. Healing is a gradual process in which you are always “getting better.”
Photo credit: Rosanne Mooney