How It Feels To Heal

February 6, 2008
I know what it is like to live through that feeling of post-traumatic numbness. I also know what it’s like to testify in court.
My sophomore year in high school, I came out and told my parents that I had been sexually assaulted since I was a little girl. I couldn’t bear to hold that secret in anymore. I can’t remember exactly what age I was, but I can remember times that it happened as early as six and seven years old. I didn’t understand at first what was happening to me and that is was wrong, until I got older.
During the abuse, I felt so separated from what was happening. My body was in one place and the rest of me in another. It was as if my mind was saying, “This isn’t really happening. This couldn’t be happening to me”. I felt so uncomfortable about my body.
For a long time, I thought that if I told people what had been happening to me, even my parents, they would think I was a bad person and blame me for it. I even blamed myself. For the longest time I was blinded. I needed to tell someone, because I couldn’t hold it in for any longer or I was going to burst. However, I didn’t know how to handle it. At some level I guess I was angry about it, but I couldn’t say it aloud or even admit it to myself.
The day I told my parents was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. They had been so worried about me, saying that I had changed. They knew that I was hiding something and blaming myself for it. I had been angry and distant from others. I started to self-medicate using drugs and alcohol, just so I wouldn’t have to feel the pain.
When I told my parents, I still felt emotionally numb. They were crying and squeezing me, saying that they were sorry. My mother made me start seeing a counselor, so that I would have someone to talk to. My counselor tried to get me to break out of my shell. Other people had clearly defined emotions about what had happened to me, but I didn’t. I felt like an observer of my life. I was afraid of my feelings. I’d never had to deal with anger before-not anger that deep, not rage, and I didn’t know how it would come out. I thought it would scare people, because it scared me.
It’s hard to put into words, but it was such a relief to feel. I wanted to cry and scream and hit and hug people all at the same time. The weight of the world had in an instant lifted from my shoulders. I started expressing my anger in my diaries. It was nice to express my anger in a way that was constructive. Maybe that’s what healing is- allowing your emotions to run their course.
I went through a series of sexual abuse trials that were nerve-racking. There is something incredibly valuable about getting to tell your story in your own words in an officially sanctioned room where the person who hurt you has to listen to you and so does everybody else.
Once upon a time, I was naïve and trusting of everybody. I no longer believe that everybody is good and the world will look out for me. Now I understand that it’s up to me to take care of myself. It’s a powerful thing, actually, to embrace all of your feelings-to not run from anger or pretend it isn’t alive inside of you, but to face it, cultivate it, turn it into strength. And if I was to ever wish that away, I might be wishing away the source of my strength.

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