by Christina Enevoldsen
For years, I didn’t realize how fragmented I felt and or how disjointed my life was. When I began to see the truth of my childhood sexual abuse, my world started to crumble. My personal history and the family I thought I had was an illusion; they only existed in my mind. I constructed them from pieces and parts of stories I read or television shows I watched, but it was all fiction. I hid the reality that was too much to face and now I was glimpsing the truth.
Seeing the truth was disorienting. For a few weeks and months, I remained in limbo, somewhere between my false past and my new reality. Was the behavior that I was seeing in my parents really happening? Was I imagining it to be worse than it was? Was I misunderstanding them? Or was I finally seeing what had been there all along?
Memories surfaced that made so much sense of my entire life, but how could they be real? I alternated between grasping the truth in relief and pushing it away in fear.
One of the main ways I transitioned into my new truth was to write about it. I started a special healing journal for things related to my abuse such as nightmares, recovered memories, and flashbacks. As long as everything was trapped inside my head, there was still something unreal about it. By recording my thoughts and feelings, I validated them. There was something about seeing it on paper—documented and recorded—that helped me accept what happened.
Sometimes I’ve had to force myself to note the ugliest parts of my experiences and feelings, but journal writing keeps them contained in a small, designated space instead of freely floating around inside of me. I can access them when I want, but until then, they are tucked away.
My past was revealed in little scraps, unconnected and without context. I assembled my history by writing my story from beginning to end (as far as I knew it). I saw how one event—and the feelings and beliefs I formed from it—related to the next. I made connections about how those things shaped me and forged a new identity through those revelations. Through those layers, I internalized more truth and became more ‘put together.’
Journal writing and recording my story helped me get started ( I still journal), but letter writing is one of the primary tools I continue to use in every stage of rebuilding. I’ve written letters to my abuser, to the public, to my body, to money and others. Each time, I am surprised by the depth of emotion that I express and the truths that are revealed.
One of the first letters I wrote was to my father, my primary abuser. I wasn’t aware of feeling much of anything toward him. I started to write the letter from my head, but as I progressed, my heart spoke. I didn’t consider if his feelings would be hurt or how he would take it because I didn’t plan to send it. Through the words, I poured out all the hateful feelings I didn’t know I had. The more I wrote, the more rage rose up. I imagined the hatred flowing from up within me and down my arms and hands and onto the paper. After that, the paper contained a little more of my anger and pain so I didn’t have to carry it.
Another significant letter I’ve written is to the people ‘out there’. I had trouble being in public and was always on guard. I felt defensive and angry when people invaded my space. I addressed my letter to “John Q. Public.” When I wrote that letter, it was eye-opening. I thought it would merely help rid me of some anger, but through it, I realized that I believed that the whole world was against me and I took every careless move or bump personally. I was still thinking like a victim in that area and it helped me confront that lie.
I also wrote a letter to my body. I thought of my body as a necessary evil, something I tolerated. I was disconnected from it as though it wasn’t mine. I started that letter by blaming it for how it had exposed me, shamed me and betrayed me and I transitioned into seeing its innocence and vulnerability. By the time my letter was finished (I wrote it over a period of months), I felt compassion and was able to nurture it and reconnect with it.
Another letter I composed was addressed to money. Money has been related to much of the abuse I’ve experienced beginning with my dad pimping me out when he lost his job. My ex-husband also manipulated me through money by punishing me with uncontrolled spending and shutting down his successful business when I refused to comply with him. An abusive church I attended also used money to control people. They preached that if you didn’t have a lot of money, then you were a faith-failure. All of those experiences led to a lifetime of money issues. Even though I’m a very conservative spender and at times even made a lot of money, but always seemed to have lack. By writing a letter, I worked out how threatened I felt by money and I’m starting to see the reasons why. My letter started out, “Dear Money, I think it’s time we worked things out….”
I continue to write as a means to tear down the false facades and rebuild my truth. I gain clarity about my experience, thoughts and feelings. I know myself better by getting more in touch with my past and how it shaped me. I’m building a more constructive relationship with my body and my money. Writing has repaired my relationship with the world I interact with. It’s truly been a power tool in my rebuilding process.
I’m Christina Enevoldsen and I’m the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. I’m a Strategic Interventionist and Certified Professional Life Coach with a specialty Life Story Certification. As a survivor of incest, sex trafficking and a 21-year long abusive marriage (now remarried to an emotionally healthy, loving and supportive man), I bring personal experience, empathy, and insight as well as professional training to help childhood sexual abuse survivors thrive.
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