If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuses, you are most likely fighting a silent and invisible battle all throughout your life.
You probably never talked about it with anybody and probably always thought you were successful in overcoming whatever happened to you as a child. you might have always tried to minimize the experiences of abuses by blocking all the memories of it. Yet, as an adult, you probably are struggling in your relationships, mood, or suffer from chronic depression or anxiety.
Or you tried to disclose your experience to someone, but that brought more trauma in your life. You just wish you could completely wipe all the memories out of your brain, permanently.
You might have been molested or abused by a family member or someone you really loved and trusted, and you are carrying a deep sense of pain and grief within you all along.
How and to what extent your experience of childhood assault or abuse is dominating your present life cannot be predicted. It is different for each individual and varies case by case.
Childhood sexual abuse survivors usually suffer from higher levels of depression, guilt, shame, self-blame, eating disorders, somatic concerns, anxiety, dissociative patterns, repression, denial, sexual problems, and relationship problems.
Whichever have been the coping strategy, every survivor carries the scar for the rest of their life. And some of them don’t even acknowledge that they are fighting with an invisible enemy.
The Path of Healing
Very similar to trauma responses, when it comes to healing, there is no single definite answer or ‘one size fits all’ approach. There are many paths, most survivors adopt multiple of them, in order to find a better life. The path of healing could be different depending on your social, psychological and circumstantial condition.
Believe that you can heal
In whichever situation and stage of your life you are at, always believe that you can heal. Healing starts with the simple affirmation ‘I can heal. ‘
Healing is a process
It does not happen overnight. It is a journey. You have a very important role in your healing journey, and that is your active participation. The journey begins with you choosing to heal.
Healing is also a choice
Unless we choose to heal ourselves, we would never heal. Make a conscious choice to heal yourself from your past trauma and negative memories. The process of healing is not easy, there could be many setbacks and roadblocks.
Find the Right Therapist
If your depression, anxiety, PTSD, self-esteem or relationship issues are interfering with your daily life, seeking professional, psychological therapy or counseling is the best option.
Yet, many women in different parts of the world are not in a situation where they can access treatment or therapy. Psychological well being or mental health is either not valued or seen as a stigma in many societies. Women can have different social, financial and personal reasons for not able to consult a professional therapist.
If going for in-person counseling or therapy does not work for you, you can look for online counseling options, if that is something you are comfortable with.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms and your access to treatments, you may choose alternative therapies or other means for combating with your symptoms.
However, the alternative therapies mentioned in this post are not meant to be used as a substitute for counseling or psychotherapy. They can often give very good results when used along with psychotherapy.
But, it is also important for you to know, if you do not have the access, or you do not want to do treatment or counseling, you still have the right to heal. And you can heal. Healing may appear to be difficult but is possible.
Be surrounded by the right type of people
Having meaningful, positive relationships could have a tremendously positive effect on our personality and well being. Likewise, negative and toxic people may totally destroy your healing process and general well being.
We all have negative and toxic people in our lives. Most of the time they are the self proclaimed well wishers. They could be your parents, siblings, partners or friends. Most often they make your journey more difficult by making you feel guilty, blaming you for your past or present, making you feel small or inferior, reminding you things which you are struggling to forget, or making you unhappy in some way or other. Sometimes they also try to control your life.
It is not easy to free yourself from these type of people when they are family, friends, and relatives. In some societies, family and relatives have utmost priority. Irrespective of the damage they cause, you need to be respectful and cordial to them! Women are supposed to comply with several codes of conducts which society imposes on them. Sometimes, even after realizing how harmful their influence is, we can not cut off our connections with them because they are the people we love or have some social or familial connection with.
What do you do then?
It is not worth to accommodate people in your life who are making your healing process more difficult. Having said that, I know sometimes you may have very little choices in terms of who you want to keep in touch with. Nevertheless, try to develop a friends-circle who make you feel comfortable, accomplished and allow you to feel good about yourself. You can also connect with like-minded people on different community or forum on social media and the internet .
Be firm and strong when you are dealing with dominating, judgmental people who are trying to belittle you. Let them know firmly when you do not agree with them. Be it your parent or best friend, try to adapt a silent but meaningful way to show them their limits. Just because you are vulnerable, hurt or depressed does not mean that your they have the rights to control your life .
Join a support group or community for survivors, either in person or online, to help negate the effect of judgmental people. These are few useful online Resources where you can interact with, ask questions or find lots of resources and a community of like-minded people.
- Survivors of Incest Anonymous (SIA) has a worldwide directory of SIA, self-help, support groups, and meetings. The only requirement for their membership is that ‘you were sexually abused as a child and you want to recover’.
- In isurvive you get books, articles, crisis hotlines and links to other useful resources. They also have a peer support forum where members share and receive encouragement as they seek their own recovery and healing.
- Survivor Manual also has books, the recovery process, narratives of survivors who are healing. They also offer 30 days online healing course for the survivors.
- YesICAN is a leading global provider of online information for childhood sexual abuses. YesICAN Community and facilitated chat where the survivors can speak with other survivors and can also get council and support from a trained facilitator
- Stop It Now has a toll-free and confidential Helpline (1.888.PREVENT), email and chat services, an interactive Online Help Center (OHC) and Ask Now! advice column to help provide guidance on questions about child sexual abuse.
- ASCA (Adult Survivor of Childhood Abuses) is an International international self-help support group program designed specifically for adult survivors of neglect, physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse. The ASCA program offers:
- Community-based self-help support groups
- Provider-based self-help support groups
- Web-based self-help support groups
- Survivor to Thriver workbooks
Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness
Yoga is an ancient Indian form of exercise where mind and body are integrated and harmonized through controlled breathing, postures, and meditation. A combination of simple postures, breathing techniques, and mindfulness can strengthen and heal both mind and body.
Yoga is one of the commonest forms of complementary and alternative medicine therapies today.
Studies showed that practicing Yoga and meditation help reduce chronic stress response, emotional dysregulation, depression, and anxiety, control and calm your mind and thoughts, remove the mental and psychological blockage and also an excellent relaxation technique.
Researches on Yoga and Meditation
Here are some of the researches on the benefits of Yoga and meditation on our mind and body
A study from University of Pennsylvania found that a breathing-based meditation technique known as “Sudarshan Kriya yoga” helped reduce major depressive symptoms in those who had an inadequate response to antidepressant medicines.
In March 2017 findings published a new report showing that people with Major Depressive Disorder experienced a significant reduction in their depressive symptoms after participating in yoga and deep breathing.
A Harvard study suggested that yoga and meditation relieve anxiety and modulates the stress response.
Another study on young adults with mild depression found that biweekly yoga classes resulted in improved mood and reduced anxiety and fatigue.
How to Start?
Now that you are aware of many benefits of yoga, you are probably thinking of making yoga and meditation a part of your healing process.
If you are a complete beginner, joining a yoga class is recommended but not an absolute requirement. There is nothing to worry about even if you have never done yoga before and can not go to a yoga class right away. There are excellent instructor lead videos and free courses are available online to help you learn and practice Yoga, meditation and mindfulness
DoYoga have a 28 day Free Yoga programs for beginners, as well as a lot of other videos and guided instructions on meditation for healing. They have loads of different free programs to address the requirement of students of different levels.
Yoga For Healing & Meditation – 30 Days of Yoga and Meditate for Beginners – 30 Tips, Tricks, and Tools are two guided video series, available on YouTube.
The Art of Living has a Get a FREE Meditation for Beginners E-Course and some very good resources on Yoga Poses, Breathing Practices, Everyday Tips to Deal With Stress and Anxiety
If you have any other health condition which might interfere with your ability to perform the yoga posture, always talk to your doctor before you start doing Yoga. It is also recommended to start Yoga under the guidance of a certified instructor.
Hobby, Creativity, and Sports
Have you ever wondered, when was the last time you did something for the first time? Or how great it would be to start learning a musical instrument or may be making beautiful decorative art pieces for your friend and family members?
You may be thinking, how on earth these are related to your healing or your day to day battle with fighting with the toxic memories!
Well, research has proven that having some hobbies, creativity or any outdoor activity boost our moods and relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Hobbies can have following direct and indirect benefits on one’s personality and mood-
Give you a sense of purpose
Give you a sense of accomplishment,
Give you more control on your life and choices
Improve focus, attention, and concentration
Improve social and community connection
Provide creative freedom helping you to distract from compulsive negative thoughts and emotions.
Several studies have proven that engaging with a hobby can improve your mental wellbeing., creativity can improve mood., team sports are associated with reduced depression, stress and anxiety, knitting combats depression and chronic pain, etc.
Those who are already involved in any such activities know what I am talking about. And for those who have either never thought about it, or could not start anything yet, this is the right time to explore towards a new direction of life!
Which hobby to choose?
Ask yourself, what are you genuinely passionate about? Is there anything you always wanted to learn but somehow could never manage?
Depending on your level of interest and comfort, you can choose any hobby. Some people choose to pursue something as an adult, which they were already passionate about earlier or had some level of proficiency. But, others find pursuing a new hobby more interesting and stimulating. The idea of learning a new form of art, technology or sports and mastering new skills is very exciting to them. However, there is no restrictions on the number of hobbies you want to pursue. Choose whatever feels appealing to you, for whichever reasons. Some hobbies, like sports or hiking, are performed in groups. These are great for increasing your social connections and building a circle of friends. But there are many great hobbies, which you can perform on your own, at your home, like painting, sewing. They could be equally worthwhile to learn and pursue an associate with a great sense of pleasure and achievement.
It is absolutely wonderful if you want to join a class or paid courses for learning a new skill. BUT, that is not an absolute necessity. There are lots of really great FREE courses and videos available online. All you need is to motivate yourself and then just get started!
Hobbies, if pursued seriously, can also become a source of side income for many, giving you financial freedom. Many people monetize their hobbies for some income. You can earn by blogging, writing, photography, painting, or arts.
Read to Relax and Heal
Do you enjoy reading? With the widespread popularity of the internet, social media and Netflix, reading habits are on the decline among all age groups. But Research suggests that reading could be really beneficial for our brain.
You do not necessarily have to be a habitual and avid reader to enjoy the benefits of reading. It is never too late to develop a reading habit. If you are someone who is trying to read a book for the first time- set small goals, like finishing a chapter.
How reading can help you?
Be it fictions, self-help or comics, reading can help to heal chronic and complex trauma, insecurity or other disorders. Research showed that reading helps to improve our memory, increase our empathy and re-wire our brains to recover from old patterns of repetitive, compulsive thoughts. Reading increase our attention span, establish a stronger connection with life, increases our awareness about our individual issues, as well as about different people, culture, and problems.
Here is a list of the books on the healing process of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuses. Some of these books are written with the objectives of helping the survivors to heal, whereas some of these are personal narratives. If you find any particular story or book is acting as a trigger for you, it is recommended to skip that part of the book completely-
Lynn Daugherty, 2007
Answers questions about child sexual abuse and abusers, shares stories from other victims, and provides step-by-step guidance to those seeking recovery from childhood trauma.
Jane Middelton-Moz, 1989
This book will serve as the map to guide you and help you rediscover your discarded self. As each of us strives to become the healthiest person we possibly can, we will have to come face-to-face with emotional fears that may be the result of traumatic childhoods even if that journey could be paved with the pain of unresolved grief and unrecognized loss,
Cynthia Crosson Tower, 1989
In this book, Tower relates actual stories, examining the feelings and fears that are common to survivors.
Dan B. Allender,
Sexual abuse not only destroys trust, relationships, and dreams, it also causes grief, stress, and feelings of guilt and shame. The Wounded Heart offers a tender, compassionate window into the psychological effects of abuse and the theological foundations for healing.
This is an inspiring self-help book for all women healing from the effects of child sexual abuse. It is in a workbook format and includes checklists, writing and art projects, open-ended questions and activities which serve to guide the survivor through the healing process.
Sharyn Higdon Jones, 2010
A step-by-step guide to healing from the deep pain of early sexual abuse. Such profound abuse touches the core of a woman’s being: in unwanted memories, confusing feelings, distorted self-image, and ongoing relationship struggles.
Discover The Happiness in Helping others
Try to restore a greater purpose in life by helping those who are in need. Serving the disabled, trauma or conflict survivors, orphans, homeless, refugees, women or children could be an extremely gratifying and fulfilling experience. Helping others could actually have a lot of postie benefits on your own well being.
Volunteering may help you to establish a great connection with your own life and with other people. Some opportunities can totally change your perspective about human sufferings. For example, whenever I worked with people suffered from acute poverty, disability or disease, I forget about all the problems I have in my life.
It helps to shift our attention from our life and issues to those around us. Volunteering experience also teaches us to embrace the fact that life is not perfect for anybody.
Helping others could also provide you a greater sense of purpose in life. It could be really helpful for you to forget about your own pain, trauma, and stress.
Those who struggle to make new friends, volunteering could be a very ideal way to meet and be in touch with lots of like-minded people, increase your social and relationship skills
Those who struggle with self-esteem issues- Your volunteering work can give you a sense of accomplishment and make you a more self-confident individual.
Last but not least, accept what you can not change in yourself and in your life. Try to release blame, shame, and guilt. Try to develop your own strategy of dealing with recurring memories, strong emotions, and negative thoughts. Feel and appreciate yourself as you achieve any milestone in your journey of healing.