trusting yourself

TRUSTING YOURSELF

TRUSTING YOURSELF

 

A lesson I was forced to learn late in life was to trust myself. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (including incest and human trafficking), I was not my own person. I did not have a chance to form healthy boundaries. People owned, used, and abused my little body and continued to do so for years. As for my mind, I had contradictory influences forming my intellect as well as my emotional state. On one hand, I received a good education including decent moral teachings during my high school years. On the other hand, I was given messages of my unworthiness and stupidity on a daily basis from my family and other abusers. Along the way though, I learned enough. My instincts became tuned. A skill I used to survive was repressing the memories of the abuse and becoming numb on many levels (including emotionally).

My many years of living with my former husband (perpetrator of abuse, torture and brainwashing) enforced my low self-esteem and self-worth. I was a capable, intelligent woman (although I barely realized it). The few jobs I had proved that point. On many levels, I was average.

When my daughter was born, my love for her brought out the best in me in many ways. It is as though a deadened inner part of me awoke. It took too long, in my mind, for me to find a way out of my life with my former husband and abuser. Once I did escape, (with my daughter, Megan), from the extreme domestic violence relationship a new segment of life and growth began.

During the early years of memory processing in pastoral counseling, dealing with the courts, homeschooling, starting my life over with Megan in my custody, and the usual experiences of daily life, I discovered I truly was a capable adult. The proof was in front of me; yet, I still lacked trust in myself or thought I did.

Fortunately, Fr. Marcantonio (pastoral counselor) guided me to look within for answers as well as seek guidance elsewhere. Ultimately the decisions affecting both Megan and I during that time period were mine to make and make them I did. The decision made on short notice to flee Germany with Megan to protect her was truly mine. I sought advice quickly. Inner spiritual guidance within myself was also sought by me. Becoming a protective mother is a decision I do not regret. It was worth the cost even without the favorable outcome I sought for my daughter and myself.

For me, trusting myself to make good decisions was not easy. Looking back, I realize that I trusted myself more than I thought. Freedom from the abusive situations brought freedom to make better decisions without the constant fear. The fog (and PTSD) during the early years of freedom made everything more difficult.

Unfortunately, the time of the initial freedom from an abuser is likely to include PTSD and possibly dissociation. It is also the time period when most survivors with children (especially if the father abused a child) are attempting to protect the children. Dealing with court systems regarding divorce and custody issues can be extremely challenging especially when some experts do not understand the dynamics of domestic violence and abuse.

Besides trusting yourself and your decision-making abilities, one might have issues of trusting her or his own body. During rape, incest, sexual, and physical abuse, the victim may shut down her body. This is especially common with repeated trauma, abuse and torture. As a childhood sexual abuse survivor as well as a victim of human trafficking, I did shut down on a physical level. My pain tolerance was high. As a child who was often hungry and also a child where food was used to torture me, I learned to turn off my body’s cue to hunger. Instead of listening to when I was hungry or not, instead of nurturing my own barometer of what it needed to eat, I shut it down. I ate when I had the chance and in amounts more than needed (because who knew when I would eat again).

As a child victim, my sleep habits were not as they would be for a child in a healthy family. Often my mother or grandmother would wake me up to perform sexually on one or both of them. There were times I was sent upstairs at night or in the evenings to service men in my great-aunt’s flat. Other nights, I would sleep naked in the closet as a punishment for something I did or did not do. In some ways, being in a closet by myself was the safest place to be and sleep would arrive.

As a free woman, I learned quickly how important sleep was. PTSD helped me to understand the necessity of a regular sleep pattern. To this day, I cherish and protect my sleep needs.

Exercise is crucial for one’s physical health. I did not grow up in an environment that taught that belief to me. Luckily, I like to walk.

Even now I have the inclination to push my body harder than I should. As time passes, I treat my body with more compassion and respect. I do tend to compensate with food more than is healthy. Challenges remain. Awareness helps. Improvements occur. I trust my body and its needs more than I ever have.

On an emotionally level, I have learned to trust my gut and my intuition. Feelings are noticed, felt, and often let go. I do not hold on to resentment or bitterness. It is easier to free myself of negativity (although still a challenge at times).

Another aspect of trusting yourself is in spiritual matters (if you lean that direction). As a survivor of clergy abuse and of extreme abuse (including spiritual abuse and ritual abuse), I needed time to heal and grow. When one is a victim of abuse as a child by a priest or other clergy, religious and spiritual matters are distorted in ways that may touch one deeply and sometimes seemingly irreparably.

I truly think I survived as a child due to a deep inner belief in the spiritual. As a child, especially as a captive in the closet, I sought spiritual solace from Mary, Blessed Mother, in the Catholic tradition. Mary became a spiritual guide to me in ways that I only realize now as an adult looking backwards.

Later, during my life with Tom M. (former husband and perpetrator), I left the Catholic religion and all sense of spirituality. To me, I look back at those years and see the void … the darkness … extreme darkness …

Once Megan, my daughter, was born, my need for religion and spirituality returned. This adult search for faith led me to finally being free from Tom M. and all the other abusers/perpetrators. After the physical freedom, I had a long path to travel to where I am now spiritually.

When a few clergy are rapists (in childhood and in an adulthood of psychological captivity) … when your Catholic religion, the Bible, and Catholic rituals are used in extreme abuse perpetrated on your daughter and yourself by your then husband, a priest and martial art adults …

When the questions of why has all this abuse and trauma happened to me occur over and over again …

When the courts and other institutions make decisions that lead to chaos and to the abuser (the father) gaining custody of your daughter   …

When memories, flashbacks and PTSD haunt you …

When a Catholic priest is your pastoral counselor who helps you to heal and withstand what life brings …

When Sisters of Providence provide refuge for your daughter and yourself (until you are found and life changes in drastic ways)…

When Sisters of Providence provide you refuge as you, a protective mother, charged with custodial interference, await trial …

When you find an attorney who will work with your public defender … and money is given for your defense …

When you are free to start your life over … without your daughter (who after being institutionalized no longer says the abuse occurred) and who is living with her father (the perpetrator) …

When you begin your life over in a new location … homeless shelter for a few days … housed by a stranger … find a job … struggle for self-sufficiency on a less than fair wage …

When you enter therapy with a humanist who shares in your grief …

When you enter therapy with a spiritual person who has different views which intrigue you …

When non-invasive, non-linear neurofeedback begins to work and eventually stops the never-ending loop of suicidal thoughts due to suicidal brainwashing …

When you have a spiritual experience in therapy that changes you somehow …

When you heal further and further ….

Life’s journey …

I personally experienced religion used with extreme malevolence and with extreme benevolence. I experienced the worse – evil words and evil deeds. I experienced the best – words and deeds of deep love and deep compassion.

After experiencing the above, trusting in myself regarding spiritual matters was essential and imperative. Oh, I seek wisdom and guidance from others I respect and whose ideas and compassion resonate within me. I am willing to share my doubts. I am willing and open to others’ experiences and views. I know there is much for me to learn. I do not have concrete answers when it comes to faith and spirituality.

I am amazed at my spiritual journey … my continued spiritual journey. I experience my spirituality. Words do not give this topic justice. Deep spirituality is not definable or explainable.

Growth in the spiritual arena is the most important to me. Do I spend time in prayer, contemplation and meditation? How do I change? Do I treat myself and others more compassionately because of my connection with the Divine? How does my relationship with God, Love, Divine Presence, unite us? What do I do to be of service? What is truly important during this life on earth?

Trusting yourself is essential. It may take time as a survivor of trauma to trust yourself, to be willing to take responsibility for mistakes and successes, to let mistakes be learning experiences, and to move forward ….

For me, trusting myself is connected to trusting the Universe, my Higher Power, God …

My trust in the Divine has grown …

As my trust in God grows, so does the peace within me…

I know this post will not resonate with all survivors. That is okay. I like the attitude of 12-step programs which recommend you take what you need or want and leave the rest. We each have our roads … there is no judgment from me …

My goal as a life coach is to meet you where you are. I share from my heart in these posts in hopes that something I write resonates with you. From a life coach and a survivor herself who read many books and websites during my healing process, I know that one thought can bring comfort or even change.

Please take care of yourself with compassion and love this week!