Survivors face many rebuilding roadblocks, one of these is facing our past. We’ve lived so long trying to bury and ignore what’s happened, that we feel facing the harms is more than we can handle. This is true for most of the survivors I’ve spoken with over the years.
Keep in mind that the term ‘Survivors’ in this discussion is those persons who have endured physical and/or sexual harm as children, but also those who have experienced dominance and fear so intense it included weapons threats or personal violations for teens and adults as well. Whether we are discussing acts from childhood or acts in adult relationships, this fear of actually verbalizing what happened can be the worst challenge you face because you are intentionally putting yourself in that memory. Most have endured the aftermath in the behavior of ignoring, moving on with their lives or simply refusing to deal with it at all. Unfortunately, this typically causes us to misuse substances from illicit drugs to alcohol in order to silence that fear. However, when you sober up or crash from your high that fear is still pounding inside.
This is where some of these suggestions might help:
If the fear you are carrying is causing distress enough that you have to be high or intoxicated, chances are it’s also affecting any sense of a healthy relationship so those closest to you will also be influenced by forcing yourself to live with the experiences.
Butterfly Dreams Alliance, NFP – highly recommends connecting with a therapist. In the past five years, our therapists/psychiatrists have become more informed about the Trauma Care client. While connecting with other survivors in online support groups is a very useful tool, perhaps this is not a service option for you or maybe you need a more one on one process to help you face the worst of those fears; helping you get a foundation started and ensure local resources in your area.
There is absolutely NO right or wrong process of rebuilding!! Everyone experiences things in a different way. We all have different tolerances of pain and fear so while one act might be quite traumatic for one person, it might be less impactful for someone else.
If you are a survivor of childhood physical or sexual harm, your emotional growth and life development are halted. There are behaviors, emotional responses, learning capabilities that are stunted because the sense of continuous fear rewires our frontal-lobe development which is our decision making, perception, and emotional control brain function. If all of this is not able to develop in a healthy pattern, we become stunted in these areas and it will affect almost every survivor far into adulthood; often until they allow themselves to face those harmful situations.
It’s important to understand you could do nothing to protect yourself then, but today you can not only defend yourself physically but emotionally as well. You can decide when you think about these situations and how you react when you do. You can control when you express suppressed emotions and how this causes reactions to others around you. You can face the fear because if you are in a safe environment today, then the harm is only a memory. It cannot hurt you. It will allow that child who couldn’t scream, cry, fight back or run back then to do all of those things today. You will begin to see your child self as an incredible hero for helping you stay alive to build and live the life you want today. You will feel empowered as you face these fears one by one. Don’t rush through because it will overwhelm you and can cause your reactions to become harmful or erratic towards others or yourself.
If you are an adult there are going to be some differences in your recovery. You have built life experiences and knowledge. However, if from an adverse childhood these may not be healthy experiences so your depression, anxiety, defenses and parenting is different from those with healthy, strong, positive upbringing. Many adults who’ve experienced childhood harm learn to build up a resilience to these violent or hurtful acts. You can tolerate more or might even believe, there is nothing this person can do that is worse than what you’ve gone through already. DO NOT DISMISS THE DEEP FEAR THAT EXISTS EVEN IF YOU COME FROM THE BEST ENVIRONMENT.
An adult’s sense of guilt and shame is different because you had options. They were probably not good options, but they were there. Anyone can become a victim of adult violence or sexual harm. It is not about anything you have done to cause these acts, but rather it’s the choice of the person who is causing this suffering to act against you in these hurtful ways. If it is typical domestic violence, which involves financial, emotional, sexual, physical and life-threatening control; perhaps you if you hadn’t done this or done this better they would not hurt you, so you keep trying. You may feel guilty about how it is affecting your children, even if they’re not in the home at the time. They come home or see you again; someone’s crying, someone’s hurt, someone’s angry. They feel this and absorb it as something they did that caused it to happen.
In facing your fears it is learning how to look at the real options you had at that time. Did family or friends support you or offer to help you? Was there any service that would have helped you get on your feet and keep your children? Could you have provided a home, food, and necessities for yourself and them without that other person? Could you really walk away and start your life over, maybe with absolutely nothing but the clothes on your back? It’s important to understand how and why people stay in harmful, dominating, controlling situations and then forgive yourself because you probably made the best choice you could at that time in the given options you had.
Regardless if you are a childhood survivor, an adult survivor, a survivor of human trafficking and captivity; the best you can do is get safe and start working towards your own rebuilding. It is not about how others feel you should do this or that, it’s about you and what you need to process so that you can live the life you deserve. The most important part is for you to truly feel like you are in a safe place in your life. Many postpone for years, some decades until we have a steady income, our kids are grown, we have a home, or are in a stable loving relationship before they can even think about what’s happened. This is why most childhood survivors don’t reveal anything happened until their mid 30’s or older. It takes time and you have to be ready because life challenges will cause distractions which will halt your progress.
Butterfly Dreams Alliance, NFP is a survivor recovery and rebuilding resource and we are very happy to be of help. We are just ONE of the thousands across the country, so our best advice is to be cautious because it is YOUR recovery. You have to use whatever method or many methods best suit you. You may need various tools from various resources, and coping strategies that will help you face your worst fears then conquer over it. The focus is strictly on your getting better, getting healthier, preventing future harm, and helping your children deal with any problems they may be struggling with because of either harm to them or harm inside their environment.
We are starting a collaboration with the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, (NAASCA). You will see more on our developing ‘Survivors World’ Zoom Meetings. The NAASCA website is primarily for adult survivors. They can connect you with other survivors across the country and around the world. Their leading survivors are strong advocates and peers who have gone through or are still going through their recovery, so it’s one of many great support systems. Remember that a qualified, trusted therapist is also important, especially if you are trying to face some really extreme fears. No one can tell you how bad your fear, anger, sadness is because only you have endured the experience.
You will see below some tools which I found useful in my ten focused years of rebuilding. Many of these tools I still use today, because this is a long journey. Many of us find that fear and darkness, difficulty concentrating, or completing small tasks are a continuing challenge. This is something that has helped me understand my tolerances, the rewiring of my perceptions and acceptable “normal” pattern of life. It’s helped me help many others, so I do hope it will help those reading this blog.
When you choose it’s time to face your worst fears, focus on all that is positive in your life. Keep in mind that the simplest of safety, shelter, food, employment, healthcare; all of this is positive because you are making it happen for you.
Your dreams matter!! Your wellness matters!! YOU MATTER!!
Thanks for reading