This Year in Healing

One thing I’ve noticed over the years of healing from child sexual abuse is that the issues are often the same as in the past, but I often find myself on a different level from year to year. This past year I’ve seen a lot of movement on several issues. There are other issues of healing that I’ve done very little work on this year, but I think there has been progress because of the specific issues that I have purposely been working on. Usually each new year brings a re-assessment of where I am and where I want to go in my life and my healing work.

One lesson that I’ve re-learned strongly this year is one that I’ve learned most years of my life and especially in my healing, if it doesn’t work for you, find something else.There is no shame in that, though often others, their expectations, their judgments, and their words make us feel ashamed and different, unacceptable and unwilling to change and heal.

There are tons of self-help stuff out there, tons of therapists, and tons of therapy techniques and tools. We’ve probably all heard about them. We’ve probably each tried tons of things to get better, handle our daily life, cope, and deal with our past of childhood sexual abuse, the aftermath of abuse, and our present life.

Yes changing and healing are hard, but we need the right tool or tools at the right time. We need to learn the new tool and learn how to use the tool. We need time and practice and patience to work our new tool, until it is a familiar tool and we become comfortable and used to it, until it is a tool we reach for unconsciously when we need it.

From where we are at in our healing often we don’t know what to do, we think of several things that we can try, our therapist or books or friends or others can suggest. We are at one knowledge level and one skill level but others, especially therapists and survivor friends, can be at many other levels and give us of their compassion, advice, knowledge, wisdom, love, and acceptance. Temper what they say with where you are at in your life and healing. They might not know everything about where you are at. You might not know everything about where you are at either. But trust yourself when one thing isn’t working in healing to try other things. This is what I have been trying to do this year. Now I strongly believe in finding the right tools for the right job and making my healing a personal one-of-a-kind personalized healing project.

We aren’t unwilling to change and heal. We just need the right tools at the right time. We need help and acceptance by those who care about us and our healings, friends who love us and envision us as a healer, working on ourselves to change and grow. We can heal even without any of those things, but we come to a place in healing where we know we deserve to have what works best for us, in our life, in our healing, and in our present and future.

I was having a problem recently with my bicycle seat. It wouldn’t stay tightened and would often loosen up, moving around as I was biking. I went through some of my packed boxes and found the tools I needed to tighten up the nut and bolts, but for some reason it needed tightening almost every time I rode it. I thought what I needed was new bolts and went and bought them, replaced them. But what I really needed, I discovered, because that did not fix the problem was a different nut, one that was wider and I needed wider bolts as well. Seriously problem solving this type of stuff is beyond my skill level, but I figured I had to figure it out or pay someone else to do it and that is not what I normally do, if I can avoid it.

So adjusting the bolts did not solve the problem and replacing the bolts did not solve the problem. It looked like the problem, but the problem was something else. This is a lot like what life is like. This is a lot like what healing is like. If you work hard on one area and there is no improvement, it is okay to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Maybe it’s something else, maybe there is another way to approach the problem, maybe there is a work around, maybe you can do things that sort of short circuit the issue and allow you to just do things.

What I have learned last year, 2011, is to discover what I am already connected to, what I want to be connected to, and what I might want to become connected to. Connectedness has become a healing tool in my life this past year. I used to feel untethered. I think that most survivors of child sexual abuse feel untethered. I don’t feel comfortable with grounding or groundedness work, so finally instead I hit on the idea of working on connectedness. When I am upset I find myself thinking of my favorite library, the downtown Minneapolis library. It helps me feel connected to something solid, good, loveable, and caring. Connectedness brought me so much, an awareness that I have a solid core. I didn’t know I had a solid core before, I didn’t know anything about being solid to my core. Doing my connectedness work brought me that awareness recently. It was a huge step in healing for me to find myself with a solid core. This is the core that I was able to work from this last year.

I have sort of devoted this year in healing to be about doing and being. I had huge issues of anxiety and fears that continued to control me and much of my daily life. I didn’t have a lot of healing tools that I was comfortable with and that really helped me with these areas. My work with biking with the doggies gave me lots of opportunities to work on being the pack leader, with no fear, no weak emotion, just feelings of competence and leadership. This is often a moment by moment challenge and still is. However I have found when you find the right tool, it fits comfortably in your hand and your learning process is pleasant as well as challenging.

Doing good things for myself has always been difficult for me, a huge challenge in my life. I didn’t realize that approaching this issue from another angle would help me with these challenges. Sometimes you need to do something different and go in a different direction to get to where you want to go. Healing is like that. Establishing my connectedness and my leadership in my own life have become an excellent platform for diving off of into the waters of doing things and actitivities for myself(ves), my life, and my present and future.

If you can’t get to where you want to go from where you are, I hope you will try new tools. I’ll keep doing that and writing about that process and hoping that you will read and hoping that it will give you some suggestions, or help your mind to give you some suggestions, or help you bring the topic up to others and get some more ideas and tools. Modify, change, learn, grow, accept yourself if something works or it doesn’t, try something else, it is all a part of healing.

Being

What I have learned that has been the most transformative, as a survivor and while working on healing from child sexual abuse, is:

Being.

I’ve tried hundreds of things during my process of healing from childhood abuse and this is the one thing that works the best for me; being calm and assertive.

I’ve tried meditating. I’ve tried cognitive therapy. I’ve tried Dialectical Behavior Therapy. I’ve tried over a decade of therapy. I’ve tried refuting the false cognitive beliefs, which was helpful, but not much. I’ve tried increasing my self-love and eliminating self-loathing and reducing self-hatred and that was good, but I always believed that I had to have a reason to love myself and really had trouble finding  one. I would remind myself that other inners in the multiple system all loved me and that they loved me for a reason. Even after all that I was still being bullied and emotionally abused by bullies and abusers almost each time that I went out in public. As a consequence I never felt safe. Safety was an important element to healing.

What I ended up with was a long list of things that didn’t work, a long list of things that mostly didn’t work and a long list of things that triggered me and made things worse. I guess this was a good thing, because it helped me to look elsewhere with an eye to changing things around to suit me and our multiple system. If something doesn’t fit, no shame should be attached, and I should feel free to learn my valuable lesson and move on to trying something else.

What I learned from therapy and from all the things that I tried that were not very effective, helpful or healing was:

The mindset that you had to work from the inner experience of self outward. All that assault on the inner self and my personal beliefs was very bruising. I didn’t feel healed from it, more like beleaguered.

What I’ve found the most helpful, healing and transformative has been exactly the opposite.

What I’ve learned is that I can figure out what is best for me; that I am the best person to do that. What I have learned is that my mind and my heart, my self and selves, that together we can make the best decisions about life and healing and that other ideas are only a suggestion, a stepping stone to what works best for me, for us.

I had heard of the fake it till you make it philosophy. I didn’t find that easy, firstly you are faking something, not being, not doing, just faking. One of the hallmarks of my life is a strong desire to live a life of integrity, honesty, and my own truth. So faking of any kind did not sit well with my soul or us. I didn’t think that it felt right to other survivors either.

What has worked for me is:

Being.

I got this idea from Ceasar Millan, The Dog Whisperer. I know I have written about this process a lot on the blog. For me it has been the key. I would start on the bike rides with doggie with the plan of being calm and assertive. Each time a challenge came along, a person, another dog, a squirrel, a car driving too close or too fast; I would feel my fear spike. I would get off the bike, get the doggie sitting down and obeying me and then calm down once again.

Calm and assertive was not a place I found within me. It was a state of mind that I presented to my mind and my body. It wasn’t something that I had to meditate into. It wasn’t something that I spent a lot of time or money on, it was something that I did by myself and for myself. It was something that I did. It wasn’t something that I wore, it was something that I put into my mind and into my body, into all my cells, I think something I did with the force of my will. Something that changed my energy, my vibe. It didn’t have anything to do with how much I loved myself or how much I hated myself or how someone else was treated me or loved me or didn’t love me. Sometimes it didn’t last long, a block or two. Then I got the opportunity to do it again; over and over.

At first I only did it while I was on the bike rides with doggie. And then I found myself doing it more and more in my daily life, even at times doing calm and assertive when I wasn’t thinking about it. What I figured out was that after a while it was easier and that after doing calm and assertive for a while my body and mind would start doing it all by itself, they must liked being in that state of mind. I started seeing myself speak assertively back to others without thinking about it. I’m sure that others who were not used to me speaking up like that didn’t like it or appreciate it, but really I believed they would have to just get used to it.

What I’ve found is that I do calm and assertive a lot. It has helped increase my self-esteem and self-love. The other way of increasing those didn’t work well or much for me, so I am tremendously happy that I have found another way of working on them by being.

What I’ve learned is that all of us are different and things that work for someone else might not work for another. There is no shame in that. We all deserve to have a self-designed healing path. Indeed it is what we all find in the end.

Healing Quotes Littles 81

One of the best things to do sometimes is simply to be.

~ Eric Butterworth