This post contains an excerpt from my autobiography that goes into great depth about how difficult it can be to remain true to yourself when you are healing from profound trauma. If you are currently, or will be at some point in the future, facing such a gargantuan task, I encourage you to maintain your dignity and integrity in the face of opposition.
Non-graphic references to sex and sexual abuse are contained herein.
“Setting boundaries was the most important aspect of staying true to me no matter what anyone else felt, said or thought. This was very difficult to do when I was vulnerable but certainly not impossible. I simply had to start putting myself first. I received much criticism during these times which was made worse by the fact that I had no emotional support from those I interacted with day-to-day. I did eventually come to understand that standing up to these people helped me develop a strong sense of self. Until this revelation, I endured consistent backlash most of which was related to the amount of therapy I received.
The worst critics of my need to have ongoing therapy as new issues and memories arrived were those who turned to me most often when they needed help. These people did not experience one millionth of the trauma that I had endured (which most of them were aware of) yet they had the audacity to tell me that I was too ‘dependent’ or that there was something ‘wrong’ with me – this from individuals who used to come running to me at the drop of a hat. However, when I stopped helping them, they too sought the very assistance that they condemned me for. (Deep down these people didn’t want me to heal as this meant that I would no longer be available to them for free therapy. That is, once I became a whole person with high self-esteem I would not permit them to exploit me in such a manner.)
Similarly, when I needed to stop working, to work less or to take on more healthful employment, I was often thought of as lazy or unproductive. What most people do not understand is that healing from severe trauma is a full-time job. Even some of my therapists didn’t get this so I was lectured by them too. The most memorable criticism came from my regular therapist when I left my healing practice in my late thirties in order to work with children. Being around kids every day assisted tremendously in regaining lost aspects of my childhood because I got what I needed via osmosis (e.g. fun, freedom and innocence) even though I had to be the responsible adult in their presence. My healer dismissed this experience by stating that we did the ‘inner child work’ in therapy. The reality is that a few sessions could in no way make up for my entire youth. Years later another counselor described me as proactive for doing what I felt was necessary for my healing. The support from this healer was great but if she too was negative, I would still be OK about my decision to do what was appropriate for me at that stage in my development.
Sticking to what was right for me was very important when it came to romantic relationships, especially during my celibate years (which I never formally announced to anyone) because there was again, much disapproval from others. For my parents, specifically my mother, this meant that the likelihood of my getting married and having her grandchildren decreased drastically. Most of my friends and cousins were busy getting hitched simply to fit in – this often meant that I was a danger to them as a single woman still hanging around. They usually made excuses as to why I couldn’t meet their partners and/or tried to set me up with men who were part of their circle as this was a non-threatening way to keep me in their lives. I never once got together with their choice of ‘love matches’ for me.
Celibacy, I have discovered, takes much strength not only because I had to deal with other people’s reactions but also my own sexual desires. I had to get real about why I wanted sex and who I was going to do it with if I wanted to. Through some metaphysical study and my own healing journey, I realized the need to be careful about whom I became physically intimate with since sex is sacred and should not be messed with or taken lightly. During any sexual act there is the following to consider: on the physical level, the exchange of bodily fluids and genetic material exposes me to the possibility of disease and unwanted pregnancy (I know that I am stating the obvious here, but how many people really think about these things before having sex?); on the psycho-spiritual level, I am vulnerable to the other person’s thoughts, emotions and pain. This does not mean that I become like the people that I have sex with but I can be affected by their energy the way negative people might drain me or make me feel ‘bad’ when they’re around. The increased level of intimacy during sex means that this is far more likely to occur which will have longer-lasting and deeper detrimental effects. This is because there is an exchange of energy during sex even when there is no intercourse or penetration of any kind (sex encompasses many different types of acts which I will not go into detail about here). However, in the case of rape it is the taking of the victim’s energy by the perpetrator.
Since I had so many violent sexual experiences during my formative years when there were few, if any, physical and psychic boundaries, celibacy was VITAL. Receiving professional therapeutic help (including the spiritual variety) and taking the time to ‘wipe the slate clean’ from all of those episodes of violation aided my healing process as it gave me the sex-free experience that I should have had as a child. In turn, I was able to regain some of my lost innocence which allowed me to get in touch with the pure, real me.”