by Christina Enevoldsen
When I was a teenager, a classmate of mine was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. Paul wasn’t expected to live, but somehow he survived the first days and weeks. When I first saw him, he had already come out of his coma but he could only make moaning sounds when he tried to talk. He looked and sounded like something out of a horror film. He needed to be cared for like an infant and there wasn’t much hope he would ever change. But slowly, over the next few years, Paul repaired. He learned to feed himself, to talk, to walk and resume his life. The last time I saw him, he was a normal teenage boy.
I was one of those people who was mangled—not physically, but emotionally. Sexual abuse at the hands—and other body parts—of my father and the emotional abuse and neglect of my mother left my soul and my life a wreck. There were some who saw me and looked away in disgust. There were people who observed my woundedness and judged me to be beyond recovery.
I don’t know what made me think I could heal. Maybe it’s because shortly after I remembered my sexual abuse, I heard a courageous woman speak about her childhood incest. She was someone who I admired and it gave me hope to see another survivor who wasn’t a wreck. I didn’t know how to fix me, but I knew it could be done.
I didn’t know that I could do my own healing work. I didn’t realize that I have within me the ability to heal my inner being just like my body has the ability to heal and, in fact, is designed to heal. I didn’t see any doctors rushing to fix me, so I took up the task.
I found solutions from a variety of sources that helped me recover. I’ve taken long breaks, but I’ve never quit. The past few years of my healing have been the most productive.
I’ve gone from being used and abused in relationships to being surrounded by people who love and respect me; I used to be intimidated by anyone abusive, but now I stand up for myself; I used to only live day-to-day, glad to just get through it and now I have dreams and goals and am actively pursuing and fulfilling them; I used to get overwhelmed with any obstacle and now I face them confidently; I used to hate myself and constantly fight critical inner voices and now I love myself and I’m my own best friend and fan.
There are those who say that it’s impossible to truly overcome something so horrific as sexual abuse. They say that to make that claim is wrong because it sets the bar too high. I find that insulting now but when I was in the abusive system, I believed things like that. My abusers convinced me that I wasn’t capable of anything on my own and that I needed them for survival. They undermined me and caused me to second-guess myself so they could control me. So why is that bar too high for me? Am I too dumb or too weak? I’m not sure what’s worse, telling me to just “get over it” or that I’ll never get over it.
Maybe those people who think “overcoming” is out of reach believe that to say you can overcome somehow minimizes the damage or invalidates the pain. I don’t think it does that at all. My soul was mutilated. I was unrecognizable as the person I was meant to be. I don’t know how I survived. But I not only survived, I overcame. I’m so happy I didn’t pronounce myself too damaged to live. I’m so glad that even though others turned away in disgust, I didn’t lose hope in myself. I don’t know what else to call it. I was a half-dead person and now I’m fully alive, living with purpose and enthusiasm. I call that overcoming.
I may not ever be finished with my healing, but I’ll be overcoming until my last breath. Thank God that all those years ago, I heard a voice of encouragement and hope instead of someone claiming I was doomed by abuse.
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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