Pain permeates each moment of my existence: physical, emotional, spiritual. There is no beginning. There is no end. I am the pain. It has become me. I am one heart-raw, wounded, eternally bleeding. I am one teardrop, ready to spill. I will bleed to death, or the teardrop will spill, and I will drown in it.
– Kathleen Thomas, author of “Coloring Outside the Lines: Healing from Child Sexual Abuse and Learning to Live by My own Rules”.
I wrote these words fourteen years ago when I was aggressively working through the repercussions of child sexual abuse. I read them today, and I cannot believe that I ever felt such intense pain. Although it has taken decades to heal from the effects of CSA, the work was definitely worth my time and energy.
I would like to share a few beliefs with fellow survivors. First, you are the expert in your healing process. Books, counsellors, friends, and family may be part of your process, but you have the power to decide which resources you want to use. And no one, no one, will ever know you as well as you know yourself. Work as hard as you can to release yourself from the residual CSA pain, but also, be kind to yourself. Acknowledge your progress. I remember comparing myself unfavorably to other survivors, and criticizing myself for not being “as healed” as they were. Each person’s journey is unique, and healing cannot be rushed.
My sexual abuse occurred for two years, from the ages of twelve to fourteen. I spent the next few decades believing that I was flawed, damaged, less than, and crazy because I did not have a clear understanding that my erratic behavior and suicidal ideation were CSA repercussions. It helps to know what the possible repercussions are, and to understand that your behavior is most likely a normal and anticipated result of the traumas. Some of the repercussions are:
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
- Depression/anger/anxiety/dramatic mood swings
- Suicidal ideation/attempts/completion
- Hyper-arousal/exaggerated startle reflex
- Avoidance of triggers
- Guilt/shame/blame/grieving/inability to verbalize assaults/inability to trust
- Substance abuse/eating disorders/sleep disorders
- Fear of abandonment/low self-esteem/feelings of helplessness/lack of control
- Inability to concentrate/dysfunctional interpersonal relationships
It is important to educate yourself. Knowledge is power.
The last, and probably the most important words I want to share with you are these:
It was not your fault. It was never your fault. It is not possible that it was your fault. You were a child.