Is it possible to heal from sexual abuse? Yes, healing is possible.
I wish I could tell you there was a formula or a prescription that would make the pain all go away, but that has not been my experience. Over the last ten years, I have been intentional to focus on healing and God has faithfully met me and continues to meet me on my journey.
When I started my journey ten years ago, I didn’t know if healing was possible. Those awful memories were stuffed away, and I didn’t want to face them again. I seemed fine on the outside and could continue to pretend like all was well. I had kept the secrets for so long; why speak up now? Would it even be worth it?
In chapter 11 of my book Journey Pink, I asked my counselor if she thought my brain could be fixed. I said, “Maybe I wouldn’t be so messed up if I’d never been abused. The mind games, control, and manipulation have hardwired my brain into thinking everyone has an agenda. I always need to be on full alert.”
Her response was a big part of my healing journey. She said, “You have taken big steps, and we can rewire those thought patterns. What do you think it would look like if you had never been abused?”
That question changed everything.
Healing is possible, and it is worth it. Just take the next brave step. Those old thought patterns can be rewired. (It is called neuroplasticity). Okay, but what does healing look like?
A Moment of Healing:
“Healing is like the ocean;
it comes in waves.
It catches us off guard.
And refreshes the ache in our soul.”
I am sharing a real, recent moment of healing for me. I pray it blesses you and brings you healing and comfort by reminding you that you are not alone and there is hope!
I was at a table with new friends, and one asked, “Please share something vulnerable about yourself and describe how it is a strength and a weakness for you.”
We all went around the table, and my mind pieced my words together as I waited my turn. I had an idea of how the abuse affected me, but I have never considered both the strengths and weaknesses that it brings.
It was my turn.
I shared, “I was sexually abused throughout my childhood. What you may not know is I had to go throughout my day thinking of ways to avoid the abuse. At the same time, I intentionally looked for ways to ensure everything looked fine to convince others that I was okay because I had to keep the secrets.
Instead of thinking about toys, I thought about avoiding and hiding a lot of harm.
The strength in this is I see beyond the obvious. I think of alternative possibilities and look for ways to prevent danger. My brain goes a step beyond to avoid danger. I think of several considerations before making a decision. This can be a strength, but it can also be a weakness.
For example, I noticed recently that when given a task, I will complete it, plus do more to cover any potential outcomes just in case. It takes a lot of work and energy to come up with all the possibilities, but it is not always appreciated. I thought I had to cover all the bases when, in reality, the main task was all that was necessary.
Trauma makes us overcompensate and cover all the bases so we don’t get blamed.
This ‘strength’ of sensing and avoiding danger has monopolized most of my life, but most of it is unnecessary and perhaps a weakness. Part of me feared that I would be in trouble if I failed to mention the alternative outcomes. Any surprises would be my fault, so I had to anticipate them and make them known.
Y’all, that is trauma hogwash, and my eyes were finally opened.
As I shared, I started thinking of how this plays out in my life. Here is one example. I used to call people to remind them that their bill was due. I left messages, sent emails, etc. They already got a bill, but I felt responsible for ensuring they knew and paid it. If something happened, it would be my fault. Those thoughts kept me awake many nights. It was never my responsibility to make sure they paid their bill. Never. But, I felt responsible and worked much harder than necessary. I could give you more examples because these patterns play out at home, with family, at work, and with friends.
Trauma creates a pattern that seems so normal it is hard to recognize.
But as I shared it with my friends recently, I saw it. This was an opportunity to heal and rewire those old thought patterns.
After that meeting, you know what I did? I had a conversation with the precious little girl inside of me. (If the little girl inside you needs to hear this, please share it with her.)
I said, “You worked so hard to be safe not only from the abuse but from anyone finding out. You constantly scanned the room for danger and thought of all the possibilities. You worked hard, and I am incredibly proud of you. You did a great job. But I know you are tired. I want you to enjoy yourself and have fun.
From now on, when I sense that we are thinking in those old patterns of looking for danger and feeling responsible for things that are not our responsibility, I will hug you and tell you that we are safe now. You don’t have to worry anymore. I am going to tell you that it is okay to play. Go swing, color, and have fun being a kid.”
It will take practice, but I am willing to work on it. If given a task, I will complete the task and not focus on danger or what-ifs. I will own what is mine and not take responsibility for what isn’t mine. I will be intentional to have fun. Get coffee with friends. Laugh. Live. Love.
I will breathe.
I will play.
I will rest.
This exercise was so helpful for me. I pray it helps you to see some of your patterns that may need adjusting. Life is short, and you are worth it. The little girl in you is worth it, too.
Here’s the scripture reminder:
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:27 NIV.
God, help us to see old patterns that need adjusting. Please give us the strength and power to adjust our focus and efforts to be fruitful for you. Help us not to take responsibility for things that are not our responsibility. Help us to enjoy life and truly live in the moment. Teach us to hear your voice and obey. Show us what to pick up and when to let go. Lead, guide, and direct us. Thank you for your protection and provision. AMEN