Being a survivor of childhood abuse is hard. But when one finds the right therapist and earnestly begins the recovery process, it can be even more difficult. It is critical that you be kind to yourself during this time in your life. Don’t chastise yourself with should and should-not comments or attitudes towards yourself. Everyone recovers at their own pace. Everyone is unique in the recovery process. Allow tears when you’re sad. Vent when you’re angry. Don’t feel guilty when you’re happy.
It is important to take good care of yourself during this time. Get the rest and nourishment that you need. Don’t take on more than you can handle and don’t feel guilty if you have to ask others for help. You will tire more easily during this time—both physically and emotionally. If you need to be alone, honor that. If you desire the company and affection of others, seek it out. Do whatever feels right to you. Don’t spend time with others out of guilt; this is a common occurrence that happens between survivors and members of their family-of-origin. Honor your need for space. If family-of-origin members, or anyone else, tries to make you feel guilty, remember: only you can allow guilt. It takes strength to stand up for yourself, and as a survivor, you already know you are strong. You can survive this as well.
Find a support group with others who are going through similar recovery issues. Sharing your feelings is the best way to get through them. You need people you can talk to who are going through many of the same feelings and who will understand. Relatives may be unable to offer you the support you need, especially if they were somehow involved in your abuse. Friends may not always be the greatest form of support either, as sometimes they can grow resentful that the friend they have known is now gone, caught up in their past. They might say, “Get over it,” which of course would be tremendously painful to hear.
Although it can be tempting to isolate, this is not a good idea because, now more than ever, you need the support of others who understand and care. Ask around for suggestions from others who might know of a group that would be a good fit. If you are already in therapy, your therapist might know of a group that would be helpful. As you befriend fellow group members, learn to ask for and accept help from others, even if it’s just asking for a listening ear. Amazingly, support group members often make friendships that lasts for years.
You’ve learned to show strength to endure your childhood. Learn, too, that it is okay to show weakness and vulnerability when you are around others who are safe. Learn that it’s okay to seek and accept the help and support of others. Show others how they can be helpful. Maybe you need someone to listen to you rant. Maybe you need someone to sit quietly while you cry. Perhaps you just need someone to sit in the next room while you rest, to give you an extra measure of feeling safe. People don’t always know how to be helpful. It’s okay to let them know.
Recovery from childhood abuse issues may require more than a support group and good friends. Recovery may require the help of a professional therapist who is trained in this type of recovery work. Therapists who specialize in this type of work have overcome their own issues of childhood abuse. They can be a wonderful resource, as they understand the intensity of abuse. Their understanding can lessen the guilt and shame of the survivor.
Try not to compare yourself to other survivors. Everyone heals at their own pace; there is no right or wrong way to heal and no timeline to follow. Know, too, that although someone else might be going through survivor healing, their past journey may have been a lot different than yours. Embrace yourself as you are. Accept that you have much healing to accomplish, but that you are well worth it. Take pride in the progress you’ve made. Most of all, honor the child you once were for being resilient and for enduring all that you have.
As hard as it is for you right now, try to remember that you will survive, even if it feels as if you won’t. You will make it through the healing because you made it through the original abuse. You are much stronger than you realize, even if you feel that you aren’t. No longer a helpless child, you are a survivor. Eventually, although you may not believe it at this point in time, you will come out on the other side, much stronger than ever before.
© Copyright 2009 by Joyce Thompson. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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