Is there anything more frustrating than having to go back and work on something, over and over again? I mean just when you think you’ve got a handle on this healing thing, and you’re starting to feel pretty good, gaining some confidence, and realizing that the hard work just might indeed be paying off…you realize there is still work to be done.
Now, that in itself is not a bad thing at all, because healing from trauma is not a one and done type of situation. You don’t just go see a therapist or counselor for 6 months and find out at the end of that time that you are magically healed and everything is peachy keen.
Everyone heals differently and in their own time; no two paths of recovery are exactly the same.
So, since we can’t put a timeline on healing from abuse, it’s important to keep in mind that is very likely that you will go back and rework through memories, events, and feelings, more than once.
That is the very topic of this post and of my conversation with Dawn Hendrickson, “Do I really have to go through this again?” “Why do the effects of PTSD keep coming back even when I’ve been at this healing for so long?” “What does it all mean?”
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will likely remember Dawn, since she has written many guest blog posts, each one telling a different part of her story. Dawn is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, incest, rape, and emotional and physical abuse. Her posts are powerful, vulnerable, and completely validating for any of us who have been through similar circumstances.
In our conversation, Dawn recalls the first time she realized that there was still work to be done, when it came to the effects of PTSD. She had spent a considerable amount of time working with her therapist, and for a few years things seemed to be going pretty well, leaving her feeling as though her PTSD had gone into hiding or perhaps had left all together.
Then the flashbacks, body memories,and nightmares all returned, and this filled her with a feeling of despair and confusion.
- Didn’t I work through this already?
- Why are all these feelings returning?
- What does this mean, has all this healing been for nothing?
- Was I doing it wrong?
The realization of needing to go back and rework through the same things that you’ve already covered is not something that we should shame ourselves for. Is it discouraging…sure it is. Is it frustrating…definitely! Confusing, and a huge pain…yep!
However, reliving old memories or discovering new ones, is an opportunity to learn and grow. There are likely more pieces to the puzzle that need to be put in place. Think of it as an opportunity to use the skills that you’ve already learned, and to possibly acquire some new skills.
As a survivor, there is no such thing as being “too well equipped”.
Being well equipped to handle what our past throws at us is so important, because life is full of triggers and invalidating situations. Over time, perfecting the skills that we have gives us the confidence to not only survive, but to thrive in the face of traumatic adversity.
Dawn also shares one of the most important tools that she has learned, and that is to no longer speak of her past abuse in the present tense. She no longer allows herself to say things like, “my abuser does this to me or makes me feel this way”. She chooses to reframe those types of statements in a past tense form; “my abuser did this, or used to make me feel this way”..and also being careful to understand that she is safe now and those things do not happen any longer.
Which brings us to another important topic that we discuss; it’s okay to feel safe now. If you are no longer living under the rule of your abuser, it’s a good thing to embrace how different your life is and much better things are and can be even more in the future, because you are free!
You are taking your life back, one step at a time, and putting in the hard of recovery. Each day that you advocate for yourself in any way, is a win and something that you should be proud of. Take those wins anyway you can get them, because you deserve it!
We also discuss resiliency, and the amazing feeling of embracing just how far we’ve come. No matter how long you’ve been healing, each day increases your resilient mindset to never give up. The fact that you wake up each day, go to work, take care of your family, or do whatever it is that you do in your life, means that you win! Every day that you are alive, is a win. And every win means that your abuser loses!
All of those wins accumulate and build on each other, and instill confidence that can help carry us through the tough times that will inevitably come up.
We discuss all of this and so much more on the podcast, as Dawn shares freely and passionately about her life, her struggles, and how her healing work has paid off in incredible ways!
Thank you so much Dawn, you are truly my warrior sister on this journey of healing!
Picture of Dawn used with her permission. Images courtesy of Pixabay. Social Media images created by Matt Pappas.