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Cataloged in Psychology / Healing

Understanding And Healing From PTSD After Childhood Sexual Abuse

Trigger Warning

I have been diagnosed with PTSD from childhood sexual abuse. Even though I cannot speak for everyone, for me, PTSD is basically like the habit of only being able to see the worst possibilities. It’s like a filter or lens that I live looking through, that convinces me that the world is insanely dangerous and that I can never let my guard down, or find a way to live feeling safe in most situations. I have a hard time thinking about myself and my desires and spend more time trying not to panic about what I should or shouldn’t be doing at any given time.

I think part of overcoming PTSD is learning to have faith in the odds of good and positive possibilities and to focus on them in spite of the terrible things I’ve seen or been through. It’s learning to live in a world where darkness is as real as light and learning to have faith that there is light to be found in spite of the darkness I currently reside in. It’s the exposure to something traumatic that completely throws off what we expect will happen in life, altering how a person perceives the world around them. It makes sense that when a horrific event happens to someone, that the mind is going to factor in the reality of that situation into how that person will now see the world and other people. When a person’s assumptions of scenarios are always first made from a place of fear, that makes it hard to be yourself.

Healing from this isn’t always easy… And when you’re healing, in general, it can be hard to recognize that it’s happening if you are afraid of the discomfort from change. Or if you are afraid to face how bad something is or feels, and fear what facing it might make you feel or do. Healing takes time, and healing takes work. It has its own pace separate from everything else in your life, and it takes persistence to see results and for it to eventually get easier. The hard part is sticking with the process through its ups and downs.

Healing is a choice… Not a choice to feel better, but it’s the choice to do better. To try harder. To have faith, and hope and to keep moving through all your emotions rather than from them. To stick to healthy choices and mindsets, and to take your well-being into your own hands by actively trying out different tools, approaches, and options to help heal your soul. Healing happens when you face each day determined to stay patient, and positive, and kind while still taking the steps to grow. You won’t be unstoppable, you will trip and fall sometimes, and that really is okay. Every story is different, just as every person is. And don’t let this kind of advice make you feel like it’s meant to make you feel pressure or guilt, because it’s not a matter of what you should do, but rather what it takes for you to feel better for yourself. Part of this is recognizing the control you have, and taking it back.

Healing doesn’t happen until you allow it to. Healing happens when you realize you need it to, like when you admit how bad you feel, or confront what you’ve been through in the past. It happens when you decide you will do the work to leave that headspace, and when you are willing to accept that you do need help. It happens when you are willing to try what you may not always desire in the interest of your own health and happiness. It happens when you get tired of feeling the same day after day, and you become willing to look directly into the eye of your problems, and let other people and ideas in. It happens when you commit to giving it consistent effort, starting where you feel comfortable and progressing in the ways you choose. But most of all, it happens when you decide you’re going to start somewhere and then you do.

You can begin to help yourself at your own pace, on your own time. You are the only person who can control the words you speak, the choices you make and the steps you take. Don’t try to find an easier way around confrontation, don’t let your life be lived from a basis of fear. The truth is that we will always be changing, and so to try to fight the natural flow of life in an attempt to avoid obstacles, is to avoid growth and evolution for yourself and your life. Stagnation can result from clinging to comfort in avoidance of things we rather not go through or feel, but then eventually you will outgrow your life when you realize the world around you is always changing, even if you aren’t.

Healing builds in momentum slowly over time. It almost can feel like a cycle going from a place of ease to a place of struggle, to a place of learning and then back. If you are riding your bike somewhere, the faster the wheels move the farther you get. The quicker you accept that this is life and that negative feelings and situations are inevitable, the sooner you can begin to focus on the better things in life. The quicker you will get at going through this cycle, and soon enough it will be second nature. Once you accept it, you will find that it’s no longer causing you as much turmoil. Then you’ll have more mental space to start thinking about positive and happy things.

Each person only has so much time to live, and only so much energy to give. If you spend all your energy in worry or doubt, or pain… You will begin to live there. So if you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. Just don’t stop moving. Because energy is a powerful thing. Just by trying to stay positive in your thoughts and in your heart, you can attract better things to you within and outside your soul. As un-authentic as the advice, “fake it till’ you make it” seems, it actually has some wisdom to it. Because just trying to be positive in your mindset, even if it’s not how you actually feel about it, will actually help get you closer to being happy than if you were to be negative willingly. If you are fueling any undesirable emotions, (and there is a difference between fueling and facing them), you will only attract the kind of life and thoughts you are focusing on.

In a way, I guess healing is kind of like learning to replace negativity with positivity in every aspect of your life. It’s learning to calm yourself of what you are feeling and learning to control it, rather than have it control you. It’s conditioning your ability to focus and choosing better things to focus on within your here and now moments. When you’re stuck in the darkness, your brain can operate from lower levels of consciousness because it is keeping your guard up high. This comes from anxiety, and anxiety is living in dread and panic. Since anxiety will not serve you, neither will dreading or panicking. Fear is different. Fear is for our own good, but fear can also lead to unnecessary anxiety, and that’s when you know it’s no longer serving your well-being.

Being able to connect, question and rationalize the value of the extent that you are cautious and guarded is one of the ways to process what you are feeling. It helps put things into perspective, and then you may realize that often you can give something more power or importance than it actually has. It’s important that you have more than a first glance at your feelings, too, because it’s similar to being in a fight with someone. Often times you have to step away from the person or problem in order to calm down, and then you can deal with the situation with a clear head that is no longer speaking from a place of anger or frustration. Once something is processed, it is stored in a different part of your brain that allows you to move on. So you have to face something for it to be processed otherwise, you’re just carrying so much extra weight with you all the time that you actually don’t have to, and it can drive a person mad over time.

Learning to accept your humanity will also bring you a long way. Accepting that you will never be perfect without letting it make you feel helpless, and accepting what is not really meant to be in your control are both things that will bring you peace and healing. Happiness is not something you obtain through something or someone, happiness is something you truly have to find within. First, you have to be realistic and realize that life is much more complex than the things we think we want or have to do. There’s just so many possibilities for your life, and you’ll be happier if you allow your soul to explore its curiosities. Life is beautiful and trying to find something beautiful in where you are now and who you are now is what will bring you the kind of happiness that you will always have access to. Finding beauty in every part of your life is what will make you happy, because otherwise you’ll just be living your life wishing for something else, and so you won’t really be living at all. Practicing kindness and love and positivity, inward and outward, will bring you peace.

It’s definitely important to realize that you are going to have harder moments or days and that you are going to always make mistakes throughout your life no matter what. All that matters is that you never stop growing and trying for your own best interest. Some people can go to extents where they attempt to control so much of their life, that their life is literally just them constantly trying to maintain control in every way possible. That is not a way to live. You can control yourself in this world, but you can’t control the world or the other people in it. Really thinking about immortality and what that means for you, can honestly give you more motivation than you would think. There’s something about taking the time to fully realize you will not exist one day as who you are at this moment, that helps trigger the inner desire to do something with your time now that isn’t from fear or pressure but rather desire. It helps convince you that now is the best time to try, and you’ll be less likely to be dwelling in the past or waiting for a future anymore. You’ll start making the most of the time that you have. It is in the present that we have the most power. TC mark

Image Credit: Joshua Reddekopp

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