My Inner Child Helped Me To Heal
The memories of my abuse are fractured, like a mirror shattered into a billion pieces. How many times did it happen? I don’t know. How old was I when it started? I don’t remember. But my most vivid memory is when I am nine, I think.
I am in my cousin’s bedroom and my uncle is in the bed. I have no idea why I am even in the room or how I got there. I have spent years ruminating and wondering about this. Did I follow him? Did he tell me to come? My brain will not answer this question.
I am staring out the window watching my parents laugh with my aunt. They are completely unaware of what is about to happen to their daughter. My sisters and my cousin are swimming in the pool. My uncle tells me to come over to the bed and I do. The abuse begins just as a train whistles in the distance. To this day, train whistles always remind me of him.
When the abuse is over, I am not terrified. I am not sad. In fact, I feel special. I feel like what has happened is completely normal. I am too young to even comprehend what has happened was abuse. And finally. Tragically for years afterward, I will unknowingly and innocently seek this feeling out, however, and whenever I can.
My first flashback occurred when I was 19. I was flipping through a bible and came across a verse that said anyone who engages in perverse sexual acts is condemned to hell. At that moment, everything comes rushing back to me. Emotions, visions, thoughts, memories. I am terrified. I begin to panic and have what I now know was the first of many emotional flashbacks.
I stop eating. I stop sleeping. My mom asks me what is wrong. I don’t tell her. She takes me to the doctor. I don’t tell him. Instead, I will keep these memories locked deep inside of me where no one will ever find them. I will become a perfectionist because this is my way of controlling the soul-crushing shame that threatens to destroy me every day.
I go to university. Get a job. Get married. The memories haunt me but this only makes me push them further away.
When I am 35, I discover alcohol. At first, I have a couple of glasses of wine after the kids go to bed. Soon my drinking escalates. Within a two-year period, I am a full-blown (functioning) alcoholic. I work during the day, come home, and start drinking while making dinner. Rye, wine, vodka……it doesn’t matter…..anything to obliterate the self-hatred and memories.
One night as I sleep on the couch, my then 7-year-old daughter gently shakes me and asks me if I am okay. I am confused so I ask her why. She tells me that I had fallen down the stairs that night and is afraid I might be hurt. I don’t remember falling. My 7-year-old daughter is checking on her mother in the middle of the night. My life is spinning out of control. I want to die. I have finally hit my bottom. I check myself into rehab where I am introduced to A.A. I cling to this program because I know my life depends on it. To this day, I am almost nine years clean.
When I am about a year sober, I meet a psychiatrist who will become one of the greatest teachers in my life. He is not your typical shrink….he does talk therapy and just happens to specialize in childhood trauma. I am diagnosed with Complex-PTSD. ( In addition to my sexual abuse, I was also physically abused and emotionally neglected as a child). Huh. So I am not crazy after all. I don’t have various forms of mental illness. Instead, I was abused and the fallout was developing C-PTSD.
This man gently takes my hand and every single week we examine my abuse. My NORMAL reactions to it. How the brain responds to abuse.
He is the first person to teach me about inner child work and he challenges me to face the younger parts of myself that I think are “bad” and that I despise. Slowly, as I peel the back the layers I find that kid that I buried so long ago. Guess what? She is lovely. Innocent. Pure. The fractured parts of my soul begin to come together and they form the most beautiful mosaic. In psychiatric terms, this is called integration.
Although I am somewhat healed, I tell my doctor that I wish I could meet other survivors and this is how I find The Gatehouse. It is at The Gatehouse that I find a tribe of women who finally speak the same language I do, who have felt the same feelings, and who are on the same healing journey. To this day, they are still my people. I now facilitate groups at The Gatehouse, which I absolutely love. I am still, and always will be, learning and healing.
Recently, I published my first book entitled Hiking The Mountain in Flip-Flops. It talks about my healing journey, including The Gatehouse, and focuses on inner child work. It was written in the hopes that it will help someone who is suffering the soul torturing pain we all endure as survivors of childhood sexual trauma.
Now, when I look back on my life, I don’t think I would change anything. Too much good has come out of something so horrible. I am unbelievably grateful that the universe gave me the strength to uncover and meet that little shame-filled, terrified child within me…..because strangely, it was HER who ended up being the one to heal ME.