Posts Tagged ‘letting yourself feel’

On my blog entry entitled How Do You Let Yourself Feel the Depths of Your Pain?, a reader posted the following comment:

I am not only unable to express emotions, but I can’t even find the words to express what happened to me. I constant struggle with flashbacks, relive horrible memories but unable to share them or give my memories a voice. Because of that inability I so often feel like I am a lair, that things i see in my mind have never happened. All I do in therapy is sit there unable to talk, and since I am a horrible artist I cannot even draw pictures of what I see in my mind. I feel so alone in this and completely hopelessly stuck. Am I alone? I know my abusers trained me not to talk, etc. I don’t know how to get unstuck. Have you experienced this or do you know of others who went through this and have been able to come out the other side. If I don’t talk I can’t heal. If I don’t heal my rage and anger will eat me alive and I will lose my loved ones I don’t ever want to affect those I love with my anger. I wish I can talk about my abuse so I can heal. ~ Matreshka

My abusers also frightened me into silence. I was so frightened to talk about the abuse that I actually lost my voice (quite literally) with five days of laryngitis after my first therapy appointment. My therapist said it was a wonderful metaphor for my childhood – that I had “lost my voice.” However, I would “find my voice” again through therapy and talking about what happened until I no longer felt the need to talk about it anymore.

I am an extrovert by nature and have a loud, strong voice. However, in the early years of therapy, my voice would feel so “thin” whenever I talked about the abuse. I have performed in plays on a stage in front of hundreds of people with no need for a microphone, but my therapist had to strain to hear my soft-spoken voice in those early months of therapy.

My process was to write about the memories first on Isurvive. I always received an enormous amount of support there, which gave me the courage to speak the words either in therapy or with my one trusted friend back then. I would eventually talk with both of them about the latest memory, but I sometimes felt more comfortable talking with one of them first versus the other.

I was in therapy for roughly a year before the first glimpses of the ritual abuse started to emerge. They were so scary that I would just see flashes of a bonfire way down below from the perspective of the treetops. While I got through talking about my mother’s abuse, beginning to face the ritual abuse memories triggered multiple bouts of suicidal urges and the emergence of self-injury in the form of head-banging. In 35 years, I had never self-injured, but I started doing it when I started talking about the ritual abuse memories.

Once again, I had to find the courage to talk about it. I found the courage by building upon what had already worked (talking about the other forms of abuse), taking a leap of faith that I would be okay, and pure stubbornness to allow anyone else to tell me what I could and could not talk about. It p@$$ed me off that my abusers had “programmed” me to self-destruct rather than tell, and I was not going to let them win. I pushed myself past the strong desire to kill myself several times by the sheer force of will, telling myself that I will be d@#$ed before I let my abusers force me to end my life.

Healing from child abuse is not for the faint of heart. It is one of the most difficult choices you will ever make, and you will question yourself many times about whether you can do this. You have to make a resolve that you are going to heal no matter the cost.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled How Do You Let Yourself Feel the Depths of Your Pain?, a reader posted the following comment:

I do understand WHAT you saying, I’m just not sure how you actually GET to the point of ‘wanting’ to feel the pain that devastated me and my childhood, in the first place. I have always told my therapist that I have never felt angry at them–only at myself! I am the only person that I have ever taken my anger out on! My therapist told me that it isn’t necessary to SAY everything that happened, in order to heal–but, for me, it feels like it is, because otherwise it will always be my dirty little secret! The problem is that I can’t seem to go there!!! I can’t bring it up–no matter what I do, it just doesn’t come out of my mouth! Even if I make a list with things that I need/want to talk about, I somehow manage to find other things to fill the time. How do you go from fighting with everything that you have to keep it all locked away–which is necessary as a kid–to now, convincing yourself that it is no longer helping you?!? It still feels like I have to keep it hidden in order to survive! ~Theresa

Before reading my response, be sure to read my blog entry from Wednesday. I will build upon what I said in that blog entry today.

The first step was believing that I needed to feel the pain in order to heal. I spent most of my life feeling numb, which basic means that I did not feel anything. Unfortunately, you cannot simply turn off the switch to the bad feelings. When you numb yourself, you numb the good stuff, too. It is like you spend your life watching it through the wrong side of binoculars. You feel no passion, no joy … no anything. You are simply existing until you die.

The Survivor to Thriver manual gave me the hope that my life could be different. The manual walked me through how to heal, and there were steps along the way that I did not want to do, such as Step 3, which is making a commitment to recovery from the child abuse. That step talks about finding a therapist, which I did not want to do. I found that I needed a therapist, and that relationship being such a positive influence helped me believe in the importance of the next step and the next.

Step 3 of the Survivor to Thriver manual includes the following advice:

Disclosing your abuse to someone else can be extremely powerful because it shatters the silence and secrecy of the past, and may well shatter your expectation of a negative response. ~ Survivor to Thriver manual

If I was going to commit to healing, then I was going to have to move out of my comfort zone. I was going to have to risk talking about what happened and trust that I was going to be okay after I did it. It wasn’t easy – it was actually one of the most difficult things that I have ever done in my life. Being brave doesn’t mean that you are not scared – it means that you are scared to death but do it, anyhow. I was brave to take the risk of talking about what happened, and it helped me to have the Survivor to Thriver manual holding my hand through the process.

For me, talking about what happened is what got the ball rolling. Like you, I never felt any anger toward any of my abusers – only toward myself. However, when I told other people about what happened, they would get angry at my abusers and be compassionate toward me (two things that I did not know how to do myself). Just like a child learns how to react in different situations by watching the behavior modeled by his parents, I learned how to be angry toward my abusers and compassionate toward myself by watching the reactions of the people in my life as they learned about my abuse.

To heal, you have to find the courage to ignore that inner voice trying to silence you. For me, this meant talking about what happened. For another survivor, it might mean painting, drawing, or sculpting your truths. I had to give my inner child a voice to heal. Once I found the courage to do this, the rest fell into place.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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My blog entry entitled How Do You Let Yourself Feel the Depths of Your Pain? seems to have struck a chord with several readers, so I am going to talk more about that topic for the rest of the week.

On that blog entry, a reader posted the following comment:

The only thing I wished I could have heard more about was the actual therapy/healing process. I am in yet another layer of remembering and I have flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, panic… I am making progress but progress is often ugly before the beauty of healing. It is helping to hear how others acted/behaved/struggled/thought, while healing. ~ AJC

I am going to share what my healing process in this area was like. Please do not assume that yours must be or will be like mine because different child abuse survivors heal at different rates and in different ways. While the key to healing is loving and accepting each part of yourself as “me,” how each person gets to that place can vary widely.

I used the Survivor to Thriver manual as my “healing Bible.” I worked through each of the steps and explored the “self-help” and “professional” help tips. Step 14 is:

I am able to grieve my childhood and mourn the loss of those who failed me. ~ Survivor to Thriver manual

The manual advises that this step will take time, patience, and the need to be compassionate toward yourself. The manual includes these comforting words:

You can’t be rushed into healing these deepest wounds from childhood, and the healing won’t happen all at once. More likely you will heal the wounds in layers throughout your recovery, coming back to this step several times…You can get past [feeling stalled in your healing] by sharing the most vulnerable parts of yourself with others, thereby turning your fear of being hurt into the building of trust…You need caring, and you need to be able to accept it from others. ~ Survivor to Thriver manual

By the time I had reached Step 14, I had learned that the manual was reliable. It had guided me where I needed to go up until this point, so I believed in the advice about the need for mourning and the healing I would experience by finding the courage to do so. I believed I could allow myself to be vulnerable and open myself up to receive caring from others simply because the manual said so.

So much of healing from child abuse is learning how to build trust …both trust in yourself as well as trust in other people. In my case, I built trust in the authors of the Survivor to Thriver manual, my therapist, a close offline friend, and the Isurvive community. I finally gave my wounded little girl a voice. As each memory surfaced, I told my story. I would post it on Isurvive immediately as my way of shouting from the rooftops that it happened. The positive reinforcement from that community gave me the courage to tell my story face-to-face to my therapist and my friend. Their love and acceptance helped me to start to trust myself. I could believe my own truths and that I was worthy of receiving love because they loved me even after knowing these horrible truths about me. In fact, I have found that the people in my life who know my full story are the ones who love and accept me the most!

For me, working through the grieving and mourning goes hand-in-hand with talking about what happened. I could not heal each piece as long as it was my “dirty little secret.” I needed to tell someone else and experience their compassion so I could learn how to be compassionate to myself. Brick by brick, I dismantled my internal wall, which enable the pain to pour out.

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On my blog entry entitled Inspirational Song: Kutless’ “That’s What Faith Can Do”, a reader posted the following comment:

You mentioned that you allowed yourself to feel the depths of your pain. I am just wondering, how did you let yourself do it? ~ Lanna

This took a lot of courage, and it did not happen overnight. For me, it was always okay to feel sadness and cry in private, so I started with what was comfortable. Because I allowed myself this outlet, I would often express other emotions, such as rage, through tears, which did not fully process those emotions.

I used the Survivor to Thriver Manual to guide me through the healing process, and that manual did a great job in walking me through how to process my emotions. I highly recommend this resource to all child abuse survivors regardless of the type of abuse you suffered. The manual is written in a way that encompasses all forms of child abuse, including emotional abuse, and it is written in a way that is not triggering.

A big part of my struggles was dissociating whenever I experienced a strong emotion. I had to accept each emotion as “mine” rather than “hers” (as in my inner child’s or alter part’s emotion). Until I embraced the emotion as “mine,” it was very hard to process the emotion.

I also needed to connect the emotion back to the source. I used to cry at commercials but had the inability to feel anything (couldn’t even cry) when I thought about some of the more traumatic abuses that I had suffered. Sometimes I would watch a movie to access the sadness, and then I would direct the sadness to the source (the abuse). Once I connected the emotion to the trauma and expressed it, I felt an amazing amount of relief.

Another tip is opening up your mind to the possibility of feeling certain emotions. For example, I truly believed that I held no anger toward my abusers. I was wrong. My therapist assured me that nobody could endure what I had without feeling any anger. I chose to invite the anger out. I punched a pillow and felt like an idiot with the first three punches. The anger exploded out with the 4th punch, and I throttled that pillow while screaming obscenities for about 20 minutes. I was physically and emotionally exhausted afterward, but I also felt really good.

There was another time where I became so triggered that I found the courage to access the most deep and raw places inside. I felt emotional pain so deep and raw that I questioned whether it was survivable. I released wails and sobs that ran so deep that words like “wail” or “sob” do not begin to describe it. Again, this was excruciatingly painful, but the relief I felt on the other side was amazing.

Going to that deep and raw place inside is a choice, and it takes a lot of courage. The Survivor to Thriver Manual assured me that accessing my deepest wounds would bring me the greatest healing, so I took a chance and dove in. I am glad I did.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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