by Christina Enevoldsen
As the co-founder of a site that deals with healing from abuse, I’m supposed to be very enthusiastic about healing. I’m the one who yells “Hooray!” for those small victories and I spur on the weary survivor.
Most of the time, I love that. I do it whole-heartedly. But what happens when I’m the weary survivor? What if I think that the healing process sucks and I just want to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head? What if I don’t want to hear another thing about sexual abuse or family betrayal or the effects of trauma or self care or anything that reminds me of such evil in the world or the constant struggle to overcome it?
That’s what happened recently. After experiencing the usual rough beginning that most survivors talk about, I’d been feeling really good for the past year or more. I’ve had an occasional minor bump, but I took it all in stride. I thought the healing path would be smooth for the rest of my journey.
I’ve lost my footing a time or two. I used to have a tendency to want to go faster than I was ready for. I was driven to “get normal” as quickly as possible. I was impatient to get to the next part of healing since I thought I was pathetic to be so messed up. It didn’t matter that I always thought that I’d feel better at the next “healing level” but never did. It was never good enough.
But I dealt with that. I’ve accepted that there are some things about me that might be a little “off”, but I SURVIVED years of living with a sexual predator at the most vulnerable time in my life—my childhood—and I was all by myself with my pain. I think being a little “off” in some areas is a normal response to what I experienced. Those aren’t character flaws or a signs of weakness. Actually, they’re a sign of a struggle—a struggle to survive another day. I picked up some “weird” ways of coping, but damn it, I’m alive to tell about it. And I’m not ashamed of my quirks; I’m proud that I was creative and resourceful and did whatever I had to in order to get through it. And I am getting through it.
I watched a movie about a man who was trapped in a crevice while hiking in a remote area. He had the choice of dying or cutting off his arm to free himself and he chose to live. Do I think he’s a freak for missing an arm? No, I admire his courage and ability to face that choice and do what was necessary to live. He’s a hero. So I can’t look at the one-armed man one way and myself another way. So now I know I’m strong.
But I do have weaknesses and that’s okay too. The abusive system that I grew up with and continued in for many years taught me that weakness meant death because only strong people are valuable and worthy of life. Only people who earn their way are deserving of love and approval. So I despised my weakness and my entire existence seemed dedicated to covering it up. That fear drove me to work and work and do and do and my healing was powered by that same fear of not performing well enough.
I’ve had a lot of people who have been very supportive of my healing journey. Even though they’ve never asked me “How much longer?”, I used to be afraid they were wondering that. I feared not recovering quickly enough to fit their schedule. They admired my determination and perseverance, but how long would that last? Would their admiration turn to disgust? I figured they’d grow tired of cheering me on and then reject me for being weak the same way the dysfunctional people had before.
But I’m not in that system anymore. I don’t let others determine my value since I know the truth about me now. I have the same worth as the most emotionally healthy person or someone who has never been touched by the things I have. I’m just as important if I’m weak or strong, sick or well. For those who disagree, they are deceived by the same abusive system of inequality that I used to be in and I don’t need their fickle support. But no matter how I’m treated, I’m important and valuable. I love myself—weak or strong. Those fears aren’t chasing me through my healing anymore.
So I’ve had my healing struggles. I’ve tripped a few times but nothing knocked me down.
That was until just recently. As I look back, I don’t even remember the issue or memory that triggered it. That’s funny considering all the fuss it caused. Whatever it was, it was painful—and with the pain came anger. I’ve been angry about all of this before. I’ve been angry that issues come up without my control and at inconvenient times (when else is there? When IS a convenient time? If I DID have total control over when something surfaces, I’d choose NEVER!!)
I’ve been angry about the injustice of the evil tentacles of abuse invading every part of my life without respect for any boundaries. The effects seem just as invasive as the abuse.
I thought I passed the most treacherous parts of this journey. I thought I should have “earned” an easier time. After my rough early life and abusive twenty one year marriage and how bravely I’d faced the healing process thus far, I thought I deserved to float on clouds for the rest of my life. I wanted to scream, “When will it be bleepity-bleep OVER?”
Even if I couldn’t be finished now, I wanted to know WHEN I would be finished. I felt desperate to know where I was on the healing map–some chart that said, “You are here” with a red arrow so I could see how far I’ve come and how far I still had to go.
I felt as though all of my progress meant nothing—that all my hard work only yielded temporary results. In my emotional state, I discounted any progress since it fell short of where I wanted to be or expected to be. I saw all I still had to face instead of how far I’d come.
So I cried and shouted and pouted for a few days. I complained to the people closest to me. I cried some more and then I examined what caused my breakdown.
I realized that I still thought of this healing journey as a temporary thing. I thought there would be a definitive end to dealing with the majority of my issues—like checking out of rehab. After that, I thought minor issues might pop up again periodically that would be easy to face. I told people that I considered recovery a life-long journey, but I didn’t really believe that like I thought I did. My expectations collided with my reality and I was devastated.
But now I’ve finally made peace with the journey. It’s not the healing process that I got angry about or angry with. I was actually angry that I was abused in the first place—that I was denied a happy, healthy childhood and my adult life is a fight to overcome the effects. My anger toward the healing is like anger toward a doctor trying to put me back together after a physical trauma.
I’ve faced many cycles of anger about my abuse and every time I go through that cycle again, I’m accepting on a deeper level that it DID happen, which helps me with my two choices: To give in to the effects or to keep overcoming. So I keep overcoming. And I get more and more of my life back all the time.
Where am I in this journey and how much longer is it? I don’t think that’s relevant to me anymore. I don’t think there is any way to know where I am in the healing process anymore than there is to know how long I’ll live. Healing is a lifetime commitment the same way all growth is so I’ll keep healing as long as I’m alive. I’m healthy and whole even if I’m still working on issues. I am excited to get up most mornings, I’m optimistic about my future, I’m surrounded by healthy people, and I’m good at taking care of myself. I love myself and I love my life. So it’s not the life I could have had if this never happened, but it’s a great life anyway.
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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