Trigger warning: This story contains child abuse and rape
“I have been asked how I overcame my childhood trauma and where I get my strength to keep fighting through my current health issues.
I am certainly not an expert, however, at this point in my life, I do consider myself unfortunately well-versed in trauma-related survival.
Living with my future based on my past was robbing me of any potential joy I could be experiencing. When I finally learned the power to move forward and that letting go of my past was my responsibility, I worked hard (with the help of therapists and psychologists) to learn how to process my childhood trauma and let go. Unfortunately, even with all my hard work, I still get flashbacks and memories that resurface. Like my health, this will be an ongoing battle.
For example, I learned as a little girl, some of the things I endured were so traumatic, my mind suppressed memories as a coping mechanism. It wasn’t until I was older and in a safe environment these memories surfaced. One of the most horrific memories that came up about a year ago was absolutely devastating. For years, I had this reoccurring memory. My mother and stepdad had sent me with a strange man in the middle of the night. I believe I was around 10 years old. I remember I was in my pink nightgown and was sitting in the passenger side of his truck. The memory always stopped there. Until one day, out of nowhere, the whole memory came rushing back to me. I was raped by this man. I can’t even begin to describe how horrific this was to have to re-experience this as this memory. So many questions and so much confusion. Was I traded for drugs? Why would I be sent in the middle of the night with a strange man in my nightgown? I was devastated for weeks as I worked to process these emotions.
Another example of a memory that happened recently was when I was young, I had a pin stabbed through my eye (child abuse) that caused a deep scar on my cornea, causing a cataract to form. After a visit with optometrist a few months ago, he said, unfortunately, the white scar in the center of the cornea is growing and changing. As the light reflection hits my scar, it’s causing my vision to blur.
As I age, this will continue to get worse and I will have to consider a cornea transplant in the future. While the news bums me out, what is more frustrating is the fact that even though I have worked so hard to emotionally overcome the abuse and trauma of my past, this will always be a reminder I can’t escape. And well, that just sucks.
My point in telling you this sort of ‘Disclaimer’ is, in my opinion, there isn’t some magic potion where you just ‘choose’ to forget about something and go on with your life. I am suggesting there are more positive ways to deal with these emotions. I would be doing myself a great disservice if I allowed all the awful things that happened to me in my past, destroy my future. And, well… I am already fighting for my future with the progression of my illnesses.
If you are reading this, I imagine you too have experienced some sort of pain in your life. Perhaps feeling unworthy or devalued because someone mistreated you. Emotions from your past you are still holding on to, bogging you down, and robbing you of the joy you deserve. These emotions will leave you feeling stuck and uncertain on how to forward.
I wanted to share with you the tools I have learned to cope with my pain that can hopefully help you with your journey. I love the saying, ‘If I can help just one person, my suffering would be worth it.’ I wholeheartedly hope this to be true.
There is so much I wish I understood 20 plus years ago. I carried so much resentment and negative emotions and my self-esteem suffered greatly because of it. I spent the majority of my life believing I wasn’t worthy because of what someone else did to me. I lost trust in others and in myself. I carried this lack of trust into future relationships, which wasn’t fair to that person because they did nothing to deserve my lack of trust that someone else caused.
I held so much value in what others thought of me. I gave all my power to those who have violated my trust and hurt me.
One of the most powerful lessons I learned is the forgiveness is for me. By holding on to so much pain and resentment of my past, it only gave those who hurt me power over me. As a child, I was vulnerable and I didn’t have a choice. However, as an adult, the power is all mine to choose what I hold on to and what I let go of.
Throughout years of therapy growing up, there is one moment, in particular, a psychologist suggested that helped me move on. I took a handful of rocks and stood by the river. With each rock, I said aloud the painful memory I was holding onto. As I threw the rock into the river, I said, ‘I forgive you,’ letting go of all the pain and resentment I had been carrying. Don’t get me wrong… the people that abused me in my past, who were supposed to care for me and protect me, did NOT deserve my forgiveness. However, I DESERVE forgiveness. By doing this, I released the power they had over me.
I learned how powerful my mind is and it can absolutely destroy me if I let it. Negative self-talk, wallowing in grief for too long, or being all consumed in pain can paralyze us. I have learned to be a master of distraction trying my best to focus on the positive and finding creative outlets.
I cannot change my past or the things that have happened or are happening to me. I can only change how I react to it. Stop obsessing over things you have no control over. Try to focus on the things you CAN change. Oh, and it’s not your fault, so please stop believing it is!
Another tip learned by my current neuropsychologist is to be present in this moment, not the pain of your past or the worry of the future because that’s out of your control. Sometimes, this moment in time may absolutely suck, and it’s important to be nurturing of yourself and forgiving, knowing that sometimes it’s okay not to be okay.
In some cases like mine, grief will be ongoing as the progression of my disease continues and old memories keep surfacing. It’s important I process these emotions as they arise. Sometimes it absolutely sucks to sit in these awful emotions. However, with time and self-nurturing, I can come to a more peaceful mindset.
Find ways to be grateful. There is always something to be thankful for. Find joy in the little things.
And finally… Let go of toxic people and things in your life. This includes the toxic talk you may tell yourself. We can often treat ourselves worse than any other human does. I know this is cheesy, but if we want others to love us, we need to start loving ourselves first. Take back the power you are giving others who don’t deserve it and use it for yourself and go kick some ass!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Laurie Christopher. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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