Starting to Heal
Q. Can I ever escape the pain?
A. Child abuse is like any other serious injury. Some people survive and do well, some people only get by, and some end up not surviving at all. Good support and a growing sense of self-worth can make your life much happier than it would otherwise be. There is help. You can learn to accept that the abuse was not your fault, that you are far from worthless. You can learn to live as a surivor, not a victim.
Q. How do I start?
A. You have already started by visiting our website and asking these types of questions. You have taken the first step by valuing yourself and your experiences. A good next step is often to meet with a mental health therapist, a person who is trained and experienced in helping people like you heal from the effects of child abuse. There are many local resources available for you depending on where you are most comfortable while you begin your journey of healing.
Q. I am not ready to talk to a therapist. Is there another way to start?
A. Many survivors start healing by confiding in a person they trust or by reading one of several good self-help books. If you have kept the abuse a secret, ‘breaking the silence’ may be your next step, and the hardest one of all. But it is essential, because secret wounds don’t heal.
Alternative ways to being to healing include keeping a journal or exploring other forms of creative expression. Some survivors find massage, self-defense classes or starting a physical fitness program to be important steps in the healing process. Everyone heals in his or her own way.
Q. I have seen movies where patients are cured by telling their therapist about a traumatic experience. It all lasts about five minutes. How do I get a cure like that?
A. We wish it worked that way. Revealing the truth is a big part of healing, but there is no quick cure for the pain of child abuse. The healing process is often described as climbing a spiral staircase. There is not top to the spiral, no point where you can say you are no longer affected by the abuse. But as you climb, you grow in strength and have increasingly healthy and satisfying relationships with others. You heal the wound with scars that strengthen you. You are a survivor!
Q. What can a therapist do for me that I can’t do for myself?
A. Trying to heal without help is like hiking through a jungle alone. You may eventually find your way, but it is quicker and safer to hire a guide who knows the territory. Moreover, counseling is a safe place to share your secrets, your hopes and your pain. You can say anything you want. When you confide in a spouse, partner or friend, you may worry about how that person will respond and how it will affect your relationship. With your therapist, you don’t need to worry. His or her job is only to listen and help.