When I was 24, my life, as I knew it, shattered. I had my first flashback of childhood sexual abuse, attempted to speak up about it to my family of origin, and was promptly kicked to the curb. I was set loose into what felt like a violent, insane world. Before the flashback, life looked one way, and after the flashback, I was, quite literally, living in a changed version of reality. This reality meant that the people I thought were safe were actually my abusers and the whole construct that I had imagined was supporting me was now, gone. I was alone and falling. Nothing was as it seemed. My own body became a minefield of horror. Sleeping, eating, moving, walking, working, thinking, talking, being- was a challenge so as not to explode into unrelenting traumatic memory.
I did not, however, have a nervous breakdown. This is because even though the new reality broke my heart, brought me into a non-functioning state of terror, ripped my trust for people clear out of my body, I felt sane. I was an utter mess but finally sane. I arrived, amidst the chaos, as myself.
My life has proven that the saying “the truth will set you free” is true.
For many years, it seemed like each moment required a constant level of hanging on. I felt so broken…and yet the sanity got stronger and stronger. For me, sanity was self-love and it grew.
There was a lot of resistance. I wanted the trauma to end, the memories, the losses, the fears, the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the projections onto people I knew and loved. I was so pissed that I couldn’t get my act together even when it had been 4, 6, 8 years of therapy, journaling, support groups, expressive arts, and constant practices in dance, meditation, yoga, and visual art.
I think it was around the age of 32 that I made a decision. I decided to stop trying to get better and to just accept the fact that I had had enough trauma to possibly require life long healing. I decided to live a healing life and stop waiting for the healing to end. I stopped trying to be “normal” and “better” and “over it.” Though I had little reflection from the world I lived in that my healing process was meaningful, I did it anyway. I chose it for real.
The choice to ACCEPT and build a healing lifestyle required coming out of denial about how bad the abuse was. It was bad enough that it would require a lifetime of attention, care, and support from other people. I chose to accept that because so far, it was true. Also, choosing the healing life had already transformed my every day into something worth loving. Through facing my abuse and working with it daily, I was able to find a career I love, a community that became my family of choice, form a dance/theatre company that fed my artistic needs, and slowly create a nuclear family of my own. I COULD NOT DENY THAT COMING OUT OF DENIAL had allowed me to save the only life I could save.
Facing the truth and having the feelings associated with the truth is a lifestyle, it is not an event. It is not a phase. It is not a quick fix. It is not a poison that needs purging. It is a lifestyle, like a garden that requires sun, rain, and seeds so that the crops can grow high and bright and strong. My advice is: turn towards the pain and open to the quiet truths that are waiting in the soil. If you are scared to do it, get help.