The main thought I had is that Survivors spread Strength to other Survivors. My brain thought and thought, trying to condense it down into a good hash tag. At first I summarized it as Survivors Strengthening Survivors. But really that all boils down to Spreading #SurvivorStrength. In my mind I was tracing the legacy of survivor strength that gave me back my voice. The more I went over the Survivors that inspired me the more I knew, strongly knew, that Survivors speaking out Spread #SurvivorStrength. I loved remembering the legacy of Survivors that lead me to my strength. Let me recap that legacy to you.
The Trauma that breaks loose repressed Trauma memories.
It all started with life stacking trial after trial on me, until my entire world felt rocked to the core and I was just doing my best to get through each day one day at a time. How many years ago was that now? Is it really five years now? I am not exactly sure. I had two miscarriages that were very difficult for me, the first one right after announcing the baby at Christmas, that miscarriage sent me into shock (Oh, My Gosh! I just realized what I was experiencing at that time was a flash back to abuse). Then I had a house fire that displaced my family for six months. Upon moving back into my repaired home I had a third miscarriage. All of this happened in a short time period. My counselor says one trauma can cause the experiences from another trauma to surface. Well this did, bubbling up to the surface were memories of father daughter sexual abuse that ended up only being the tip of the iceberg.
Visiting Teachers and Women in the Church
My dear visiting teacher came over to my home, along with a lady in the ward who had some mental health expertise. These wonderful ladies listened to me with sympathy and compassion. After hearing me out the woman from my ward recommended that I see a more skilled counselor. I had been seeing a crisis counselor that was provided by my husbands work for free. Their visit lifted my mood. But I never knew then how much that one visit would change my life in the future.
I had only seen the tip of the iceberg. I believed that was the sum total of the abuse. I believed that I should be healed, considering how small the tip was. But I mentioned this tip to my sisters and they were understanding and non-judgmental. I felt awful mentioning it to them, and feared I would ruin people for talking about it. But I was only talking about the tip, and this little bit of talking did not rock any boats.
The Memory that could not be repressed.
After some minimal discussion of the tip of the iceberg I felt it was most expedient if I moved on with my life, ignored the iceberg, and hid the complicated emotions that came with it away. I managed to keep it hidden for about two years. Eventually we bought our own home and moved out of a family rental. Once established in my home I felt safety and security to a greater degree than I had ever felt before. It was at this time when awful complicate emotions, of the tip of the trauma, would not leave me alone. In spite of this I still tried to hide it and repress it.
Night after night I stayed up all night crying, so full of emotional pain that my whole body ached and I felt I could not contain the pain. Anguish, emotional anguish would be the best way to describe how I felt. I would cry and moan and curl up in pain. I did not understand this pain. I told myself it was wrong and misplaced. Because the pain came with severe negative judgements of myself I hid the pain, from everyone, even my husband.
The seed plated two years earlier sprouts
Remember the lady in my ward who recommended I see a counselor two years earlier? She continued to check in with me from time to time. Still, even so many years later. She asked me if I would like to have a free consultation from the counselor she was an office manager for. I politely thanked her, and told her that I did not need to see a new counselor.
One evening as I was overwhelmed with anguish, I remembered her polite invite. Desperate to have a way to release the pain I emailed her in the middle of the night. I told her that what I was emotionally experiencing was awful, that I would be in complete denial tomorrow morning, and believe that I was doing fine. I did not want to let my denial take over and stop me from seeking help. I asked her to please not let me forget that I need help, even when I was in denial. I sent this email, felt peace, and was able to sleep again. She did not forget. She politely asked me from time to time if I was ready to try a new counselor. Finally one day I was brave enough to set an appointment to see the counselor. I missed my first appointment, and was very late to my second appointment, because I was so resistant.
An Excellent Counselor
Fred Riley, with Riley Individual Family and Marriage Counseling was a breath of fresh air from the other counselors I had seen before. He had a way of validating my long repressed feeling, giving me comfort, and thoughtful insights. Eventually I began to feel comfortable in counseling, until it became a welcome weekly appointment. Now I have seen Fred for three years. We are speaking of a future time, where I have grown enough from counseling in order to no longer need it. I see that in the near future, for now I am thankful for the support I am receiving.
Wow this has gotten rather long. I will have to discuss the second phase of my healing, the strength to speak out, in another blog post.