Thursday, November 05, 2009
The Sword of Trauma
Welcome to the first day of the rest of my life... although I have been in therapy off and on for years and have spent the last nine months in intense therapy, I have never really publicly spoken of how being a victim of sexual abuse and rape has truly affected me as a human being. This "joy journey" is in some ways familiar to me, as I have done a tremendous amount of work with my therapist in "The Courage to Heal" and "The Courage to Heal Workbook" and have already found that there are things in life to look forward to. I have joy. I have a certain amount of peace. But the idea of taking a 30-day challenge to really look into things with nothing but the intent to spread joy and live joyously intrigued me. So here we are.
"Finding Angela Shelton" - Day One...
First off, let me say that I love this analogy of the Sword of Trauma. My life has been pierced with a sword. I spent many years trying to ignore the fact that I was walking around with a huge sword stuck right in my center. It's hard to live that way. Hard to move. Hard to breathe. In my life, I did anything and everything I could to hide the sword, and to medicate the pain the sword caused me. I didn't want to face the sword so that I could remove it from my core. I knew removing the sword would be excruciatingly painful. Never mind the fact that the wound created by that removal would heal... I just didn't want to feel the pain. I didn't want to go through that healing process. It was easier to just let the sword stay where it was. I never realized the sword could be removed and fashioned into a weapon I could use to fight for myself.
Day one's challenge is to list ten ways the Sword of Trauma has affected me in my life. Upon reading my task for the day, I thought it was going to be really difficult to come up with a list of ten things that have resulted from my trauma. Once I started writing, I learned that I could probably list a hundred. Here are the first ten that came to mind:
1) FEAR - I was afraid of anything and everything you can imagine. I don't ever remember a time in my life when I wasn't afraid.
2) CONFUSION - I had a very hard time understanding what healthy relationships looked like. Family dynamics confused me. Friendships confused me. I confused me.
3) THE CONSTANT NEED TO PLEASE PEOPLE - It took me 30 years to realize that not everyone on this planet is going to like me. I could tell you some pretty horrific stories about the things I've done just to make people happy. "No" was not a part of my vocabulary.
4) THE ILLUSION OF CONTAMINATION - I felt dirty. I took scalding hot showers. Sometimes I didn't care for myself properly because I didn't think I could be clean.
5) FEELING LOST - I felt lost most of my childhood and teenage years. I didn't know where to go, what do do, how to feel, who to trust. I just felt lost.
6) FEELING ALONE - Practically every relationship I had was superficial. I felt if people really got to know me, they would hate me because I felt so disgusting.
7) THE INABILITY TO SET BOUNDARIES - I did not know how to set healthy boundaries in my relationships. I let people touch me, hurt me, humiliate me and invade my personal life at times when they had no business being a part of it.
8) LOST CHILDHOOD - I have very few memories of my childhood. What memories I do have are usually peppered with fear and loneliness.
9) NIGHTMARES - I have nightmares of unspeakable things. They all relate to my experiences of trauma.
10) ANXIETY - I've had panic attacks since I was 19-20 years old. (The rape occured when I was 18 and I believe my anxiety stems mostly from that experience.)
As I said before, I could list many more ways my life has been affected by this sword. I've wrestled with self-injury, manipulative behavior, the constant need for attention, experimentation with drugs, a food addiction. I'm overly-emotional and overly-sensitive... I could go on and on and on.
My point in sharing this with you is to let you know that this happens to other people. You are not alone. Being a victim of any type of trauma is an unsettling, life-changing thing... but there is hope. Maybe you will find it with me as you follow my journey. I hope you will.