to love life, to love it evenwhen you have no stomach for itand everything you've held dearcrumbles like burnt paper in your hands,your throat filled with the silt of it.When grief sits with you, its tropical heatthickening the air, heavy as watermore fit for gills than lungs;when grief weights you like your own fleshonly more of it, an obesity of grief,you think, How can a body withstand this?Then you hold life like a facebetween your palms, a plain face,no charming smile, no violet eyes,and you say, yes, I will take youI will love you, again.
In spite of the horror, in spite of the tragedy, in spite of the weeks of sleepless nights, I'm finally alive. I'm not pretending. I feel real. I'm not playing charades anymore. I wouldn't go back to the way I was for anything. I'm really like a different person. I'm where I am, and I'm making the most of it. I know I'm courageous now. I found out I had it in me to face this. — Barbara
So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted. Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. You can say: This did happen to me. It was that bad. It was the fault & responsibility of the adult. I was—and am—innocent.” The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis
This choreography of ruin, the world breakinglike glass under a microscope,the way it doesn’t crack all at once,but spreads out from the damaged cavities.Still for a moment it all recedes.The backyard potatoes swell quietlyburied beneath their canopy of leaves.The wind rubs its hands through the trees.
Healing isn’t just about pain. It’s about learning to love yourself. As you move from feeling like a victim to being a proud survivor, you will have glimmers of hope, pride and satisfaction. Those are natural by-products of healing.
... it is possible to heal. It is even possible to thrive. Thriving means more than just an alleviation of symptoms, more than Band-Aids, more than functioning adequately. Thriving means enjoying a feeling of wholeness, satisfaction in your life and work, genuine love and trust in your relationships, pleasure in your body.
You have the right to set ground rules. This means deciding if, when, and how you want to see the people in your family. Many survivors feel that if they open up the channels at all, they have to open them up all the way. When you were a child you had two options—to trust or not to trust. Your options are broader now.
If You KnewWhat if you knew you'd be the lastto touch someone?If you were taking tickets, for example,at the theater, tearing them,giving back the ragged stubs,you might take care to touch that palmbrush your fingertipsalong the lifeline's crease.When a man pulls his wheeled suitcasetoo slowly through the airport, whenthe car in front of me doesn't signal,when the clerk at the pharmacywon't say thank you, I don't rememberthey're going to die.A friend told me she'd been with her aunt.They'd just had lunch and the waiter,a young gay man with plum black eyes,joked as he served the coffee, kissedher aunt's powdered cheek when they left.Then they walked half a block and her auntdropped dead on the sidewalk.How close does the dragon's spumehave to come? How wide does the crackin heaven have to split?What would people look likeif we could see them as they are,soaked in honey, stung and swollen,reckless, pinned against time?
People don’t need to be forced to grow. All we need is favorable circumstances: respect, love, honesty, and the space to explore.
I know you're in a world of pain, but that pain will lessen. At the beginning you can't see that. You can only see your pain and you think it will never go away.But the nature of pain is that it changes— it changes like a sunset. At first, it's this intense red-orange in the sky, and then it starts getting softer and soften. The texture of pain changes as you work through it. And then one day, you wake up and realize that life isn't just about working through your incest; it's about living, too.- survivor of child sexual abuse
There is comfort in knowing that you don’t have to pretend anymore, that you are going to do everything within your power to heal.
Healing was a terrifying and painful experience and my life was as full of struggle and heartache as it had always been. Several years after I started therapy, I began to feel happy. I was stunned. I hadn't realized that the point of all this work on myself was to feel good. I thought it was just one more struggle in a long line of struggles. It took a while before I got used to the idea that my life had changed, that I felt happy, that I was actually content. Learning to tolerate feeling good is one of the nicest parts of healing.
Deciding to actively heal is terrifying because it means opening up to hope. For many survivors, hope has brought only disappointment.Although it is terrifying to say yes to yourself, it is also a tremendous relief when you finally stop and face your own demons. There is something about looking terror in the face, and seeing your own reflection, that is strangely relieving. There is comfort in knowing that you don't have to pretend anymore, that you are going to do everything within your power to heal. As one survivor put it, I know now that every time I acceptmy past and respect where I am in the present, I am giving myself a future.- The Courage to Heal
As you heal, you see yourself more realistically. You accept that you are a person with strengths and weaknesses. You make the changes you can in your life and let go of the things that aren’t in your power to change. You learn that every part of you is valuable. And you realize that all of your thoughts and feelings are important, even when they’re painful or difficult.
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,the ocean doesn’t care.But when Newton’s applefell toward the earth,the earth, ever so slightly, felltoward the apple as well.
As survivors, we’ve been conditioned to be victims sexually. Many of us have never learned to say no or to set limits on our sexual activities...To heal, it’s important that we take control, that we make active choices concerning if, when, and how we want to explore sexuality. Especially in the beginning, you need to put your own needs about sex ahead of anyone else’s.
Survivors are often good at both resolving and generating crisis. While this capacity to handle crisis can make you a good emergency room worker or ambulance driver, it can also be a way for you to keep yourself from feeling. If you are addicted to intensity and drama...you may be running from yourself.
Thinking for yourself and making your own decisions can be frightening. Letting go of other people’s expectations can leave you feeling empty for a time. And yet seeing yourself as an independent adult who can stand up for your own choices frees you to accept yourself as you are.
To heal from child sexual abuse you must believe that you were a victim, that the abuse really did take place. This is often difficult for survivors. When you’ve spent your life denying the reality of your abuse, when you don’t want it to be true, or when your family repeatedly calls you crazy or a liar, it can be hard to remain firm in the knowledge that you were abused.
Dead ButterflyBy Ellen BassFor months my daughter carried a dead monarch in a quart mason jar. To and from school in her backpack, to her only friend’s house. At the dinner table it sat like a guest alongside the pot roast. She took it to bed, propped by her pillow. Was it the year her brother was born? Was this her own too-fragile baby that had lived—so briefly—in its glassed world? Or the year she refused to go to her father’s house? Was this the holding-her-breath girl she became there? This plump child in her rolled-down socks I sometimes wanted to haul back inside me and carry safe again. What was her fierce commitment? I never understood. We just lived with the dead winged thing as part of her, as part of us, weightless in its heavy jar.