Dear Brave Soul,
Don't laugh, I call you this because, even though I don't know you, I know the amount of courage it took you to face up to the fact that you need to heal. And then from there to decide, okay, I want to do this. I want to heal. You've perhaps come to the conclusion, as I did years ago, that time itself does nothing but age you. It doesn't heal, it simply moves you physically further from the season of your abusive childhood, offering you no healing properties in the process.
And so here you stand (or slump, or lie facedown on the floor, whimpering) with a steadily growing conviction (that you need healing) morphing into a coherent resolution (I want to begin the healing process). The good news is, you've taken the first step which will set all kinds of things in motion. The bad news is, you've taken the first step which will set all kinds of things in motion.
Your decision to begin a journey of recovery from your traumatic childhood is going to stir up all the memories you've been trying to shut out for years, or decades. You will wonder why you ever thought dealing with your childhood was such a great idea. No one told you it would be this painful! What's the point, anyhow, if all you have to look forward to is more pain?
The point is that by facing and confronting the memories your pain will begin to be manageable. Some days it won't seem like it because some days you will feel raw, and everything around you will feel like salt in your open wounds. But not every day will be like this. Like everyone else, you will have your good days and your bad days. Some days and weeks it will seem as if your entire universe revolves around your healing, and you're right because it does, at least initially. In the beginning of the journey you're about to embark on, you will necessarily have to focus on you and everything that made you who you are. You can't accomplish this without looking back from where you've come. It's unavoidable. But you won't have to live simultaneously in the present and the past forever, at least not to such an extreme as is required in your early season of healing.
Life will seem not to change much, perhaps for a long while. You must expect this so that you can be tender with yourself (or, if you're a multiple, your selves). You must believe, even in the face of no such tangible evidence, that one day you're going to come into your own. You mustn't crack a whip over your own head in a frenzy to force yourself to arrive there before you're ready. Your abuser did that when he introduced you to sexuality on his timetable. You mustn't continue what he started. Forcing yourself to move faster than you are able to along your journey of recovery and healing will stall you out. Healing takes time; it can't be rushed or forced.
You will have nights when every cunning demon in the universe seems to be whispering your name in your ear like a contemptuous taunt, nights when sleep is like an offended friend who has turned his back on you in disgust, and refuses to return. Nights when you recall with clarity every detail of your abuser: the color of his hair, the pores of his sweaty face, his favorite brand of aftershave which you can smell again there in the night, alone. You will convince yourself that this is all you have to look forward to for the rest of your life: these night time horror fests when bits and pieces of your childhood come up like vomit, and you powerless to stop it.
In spite of this, you mustn't allow yourself to give up your resolution to recover. Though this resolution may not seem like much, it's the strongest thing you own. No one can snatch it from you, it can only be freely surrendered. You may relapse and throw in the towel on an especially hard day, but don't let that rob you of your future. There is a certain rhythm to this process of recovery. You might take one step forward and then fall back five, but that's okay, it's just part of the process and not to be taken as a permanent failure. You're not a failure, no matter how often you stumble. You are stronger than you think: you've already survived the worst thing that ever happened to you!
I've been dealing with my own recovery for close to 15 years, and I can honestly say I never thought I'd be where I am today. And yet there are moments when I despair of ever being totally free of my past. Though it doesn't loom over me in the way it once did, I must face the fact that we can only choose how to deal with our childhoods. We are never quite free of them, though the hold they've had on us can be loosened to such an extent that we can live without remembering the brunt of the abuse every minute of every day. Once we've got some mileage under us along the road of recovery we can choose what to focus on. We can choose, and make little adjustments along the way, because, well, because why not? We're in charge of our lives now!
Some days I just sense that I need to address certain issues. For me that usually means I need to deal with my DID system, something I don't like to do. But for every day like that there are many, many more where I barely think of what was done to me in the first place that made my many personalities necessary in order to survive.
As you head out into the first steps of your oh-so-brave journey, with nothing more than your wobbly resolve to guide you, hear my blessing over you from one overcomer to another:
May you find the footprints of those who have gone before you to help guide your way, and encourage you in the heat of the day and the cold of the night.
May you gift yourself with all the time in the world you need for your journey, remembering it is the journey itself that brings the healing you so yearn for, for there is no destination at which you will magically arrive.
May you allow yourself to be the intelligent, sensitive person you've always been beneath the heavy, dreary weight of trauma and abuse.
May you find like-minded souls for friendship, nurturing and as a source of encouragement along the way.
And, may you some day find yourself on the other side of your worst struggles and fears, standing strong as you cheer others on, away from the past of their victimization into their true place under the sun.
All my best,