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This post is part of a series in which I am providing an overview of my healing process from child abuse. The story begins here.

When I decided to enter into therapy, I did not have a clue about how to find a therapist. I was also trying to think of a way to enter into therapy without my husband finding out. I did not want him to know that I was not the virgin I had always represented myself as being.

I met with my Stephen minister again, and she handed me a phone number for a therapist (T) that our pastor had recommended. I found out later that the pastor had no clue who it was for or what the situation was about. This lady simply asked if he knew a good therapist, and he passed along this name.

I was extremely nervous, but I called the number and left a message. The T called me back within a few hours, and I screened him on the phone. I asked if he had ever counseled anyone who had been sexually abused by her mother, and he surprised me by saying yes! We set up an initial meeting.

The first meeting was pretty much him telling me his credentials (degree in psychology from a prestigious university and over 20 years of experience working as a psychologist). I did not have much to tell him yet because I really did not remember much yet myself. However, I did share that I was leaving the next day to see my mother-abuser for Christmas.

He told me that I needed to cut off all personal contact with her for a few months during the early months of therapy. I looked at him like he had two heads. I had no awareness that not having my mother in my life was an option. He was very clear that, if I wanted to heal, I had to set boundaries so that I would feel safe. If she was still calling and visiting, then that was not going to happen. I was scared but agreed.

I did have that conversation with my mother. I said that I was going into therapy to deal with childhood issues and that my T recommended cutting off personal contact with all family members (which was a lie) but that we could still email each other. She was surprisingly supportive.

This still left telling hub about the therapy. Hub came with me a few days later to visit with my grandparents for Christmas. Before we left, my grandparents gave me a check for $1,000. They had never done anything like this before, so it had never crossed my mind that they would give me such a generous check. When we left, hub starting talking about what we could do with that money. This was my segue into wanting to go into therapy and why.

I cried after all of this was over. I knew that somebody was looking out for me. Entering into therapy seemed like such a huge hurdle, and yet every piece of it, including the funding, fell into my lap. As frightened as I was, I knew that somebody somewhere was looking out for me and was guiding me toward finally healing from my pain.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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This post is part of a series in which I am providing an overview of my healing process from child abuse. The story begins here.

After I had my first flashback, I decided not to seek out therapy for three reasons:

  1. I was in the process of adopting a second child and feared that being in therapy would prevent me from adopting again.
  2. I did not want hub to know that I had been sexually abused, and he was the only breadwinner in our family to pay for therapy.
  3. I did not think a therapist would believe me about a mother sexually abusing a child, so I feared I would be labeled as “crazy.”

I decided that I would just heal myself instead.

I went online and found a wonderful resource called the Survivor to Thriver manual. The manual provides 21 steps to heal from any form of child abuse. I got annoyed because alcoholics only have 12 steps to cover, so why did I have to do so many??

I was okay with the first two steps, but step three was to find a good therapist. No way. Not happening. I figured I would just skip that step.

I started going looking for my repressed memories. I wanted to remember so I could get this over with and move on with my life. So, I would do visualizations and go looking for them. I would “see” a long, dark hallway with a bunch of locked wooden doors. I would look for the one with a gold key in it and then open it. That would release a flashback.

I started having flashbacks just about every night. I questioned whether they were real because most were from the view of the ceiling. How could I possibly see the back of my own head? And yet, the details in the memories matched what I remembered about that time period in my life and were verified by pictures in photo albums, such as my mother’s hairstyle and the decorations in my bedroom.

What I did not see coming was the flood of emotion. While I was horrified by the memories, I did not expect to feel intense levels of shame and despair. Suddenly, I could not look people in the eye. I believed that I was a worthless piece of scum who was not worthy of being around another person.

I spent an afternoon with an acquaintance from church who is a really good, loving, and compassionate person. I could not handle the contrast between her goodness and “purity” with my disgusting and loathsome history. The self-loathing got so intense that I found myself on the floor of my bedroom, having a full-fledged panic attack, banging my head against the floor and thinking about the best way to end my life. The only thing holding me back was my love for my son – I could not leave him that way.

Finally, it hit me that anything was better than being in this place. Even if it meant that I could not adopt again, and even if it meant that I was diagnosed as “crazy,” anything was better than being in this retched place. So, I decided to listen to the Survivor to Thriver manual and find a therapist.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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