by Anne Lauren
I felt shy, scared, nervous, and alone. The Newness was waiting for me, but I still afraid to receive it. Standing on the curb, carrying a pack with a variety of tools, I was waiting to be picked up by strange people for an even stranger adventure.
Not just to go somewhere new, but also to be saved from all that was old. Eventually and finally, the van pulled up with the other backpackers and I climbed in curious and skeptical about what my new life could be.
One of my favorite friends describes the feeling at the beginning of romantic love as “The Newness.” New love, new feelings, new butterflies, new tingly noses and toes. It is the hope, the faith, the trust that something better awaits and is coming quite soon. It invites us to overcome the paralyzing fear of uncertainty and to thrive in the newness of what life will present next. I would expand this feeling to one available in all new beginnings.
Well, this Freshman year collegiate camping excursion marked a new beginning in my life. The purpose of the trip was to establish The Newness, to assist first years like myself in creating a group of friends and memorable experiences before term started to help alleviate the pain of leaving home and to establish a new community at school.
Sadly, I felt no pain in leaving home. Mostly because my life at home had been built around survival. I was born with a digestive disease that required surgery at six months old. For the next five years, I had a variety of grand mal seizures which doctors stopped by administering controversial shots of Valium. All throughout childhood, I was the victim of sexual assault by a few men in my family.
My body, my brain, and my being all have scars to show for it. By eighteen and college bound, I was ready for a new life. I was ready for The Newness, but fear kept me bound to that curb.
Genuine love was so unfamiliar to me. If I couldn’t receive it from my own family, how could I receive it from a group of peers who I had never met? I was dependent on my abusive providers.
Could I survive on my own without managing their needs? I had mastered how to survive in the context I was raised in, but this new context required different tools. How would I find them? How would I master their use?
Not soon after I jumped into that van, the strangers who I feared became friends who I loved. We hiked for miles, most of us underprepared, learned how to cook and crap in the woods, and snuggled in tents far too small to be shared with unfamiliar folks.
By the end of the weekend, I had experienced authentic care from companions and practiced using new tools to help me survive in this strange and lovely context. I grew confident that I could make it on my own. The fear had dissipated and The Newness had arrived.
I was giddy, excited, and falling in love with this new life adventure. Although I was still uncertain about what my college years would bring, I was ready for them, I was ready to thrive.
I quickly discovered, however, that it wasn’t time to thrive; it was time to recover. So, I built my life around recovery. In the past ten years, I have built a new community, a new home, and a new career, all while purging and reprocessing years of illness and violence.
I didn’t think I’d make it through, but the resilience that helped me to survive the illness and abuse reminded me that recovery was challenging but better than going back or giving up. The community I had built helped to sustain me when I couldn’t sustain myself. The psychological, physical, and relational tools I was finding and using along the way continued to make the process more efficient and effective.
The Hesitancy of Thriving After Sexual Abuse
Well, six months ago I began to notice the scars on my brain, body, and being were healing. I could see them, my memory still held their stories, but they caused me less and less pain. The Newness was finally arriving. It was becoming clear to me that it was time for my life to be mine. It was time to let go of survival, to close the chapter of recovery, and to begin to truly thrive. It was time to build my life around me.
Quickly, I began to feel like I did that day in college, standing on that curb, awaiting that group of strangers. I felt shy, scared, nervous, and alone. Life was again asking me to climb into a van of uncertainty to go on a strange adventure. Survival and recovery were common to me, but thriving was so unfamiliar. The more familiar fear flooded my brain, body, and being, and kept me stuck on that curb.
My life had always been defined by others. How do I reclaim it as my own? The abuse and illness compete with health and happiness. How do I integrate the pain of my past into the positive narrative that awaits me now? I don’t know how to choose for myself. How do I know what I want to do with my life and have confidence in that choice?
The Happiness of Thriving After Sexual Abuse
Well, the memory of my Freshman Year backpacking trip has reminded me to climb in: to dispel the fear, to embrace The Newness, to continue to seek and to surrender to all the good available to me. So, I have done just that. I have thrown myself into a community of loving friends, asking for their guidance and support in this period of uncertainty. I have sought the expertise of medical professionals to find new tools that will nourish my body and brain as I make this transition. I have explored all opportunities available to me to discover where I might be happiest living, working, and playing.
In this process, I have decided to say goodbye to anything that doesn’t honor my brain, body, and being and embrace all that does. I have let go of a job, a way of life, and a number of people who would keep me from thriving. I have embraced my passion for writing, self-care, and contribution to a community who nourishes and supports me in return. I have begun to build a life around my desires, my needs, and my passion for making a positive impact within my defined boundaries. I am carrying the wisdom learned through the experiences of my past into my present and future. This is what thriving after sexual abuse looks like for me. This is my life.
Today, as the New Year arrives, I have officially saved myself, been picked up by a van of hopeful uncertainties, and am ready to go somewhere new: I am healthy, I am happy, and I am ready to thrive. The Newness is carrying me now. Although I’m still uncertain about what this year will bring, what my new and strange life awaits for me, I am confident that with the tools in my pack and the friends at my back, that I will have an awfully good adventure.
Have you ever felt nervous about what happens after your recovery? Please share your feelings with us below and remember to subscribe to the comments so you don’t miss any of the discussion. You can post anonymously and emails are never shared publicly.
Anne Lauren is a a word weaver, a woman warrior, and a wisdom wayfinder. She authors the blog, Blue&Lavender, which speaks of her experience recovering from sexual abuse and seeks to educate and inspire others to do so. Check it out at: www.bluandlav.com. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium @BlueandLavender.
How about you? Do you feel ready for The Newness of 2018?
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