The moment I accepted Christ into my heart, the more choices I starting making out of love rather than fear and everything around me began to flourish once again. Even my closest friends who helped dig me out of the abyss I was once in, noticed that something was different about me.
It doesn't mean that the circumstances of my life immediately got better, but there was an inner peace that helped ground me. I sought out therapy from a trauma specialist. We did two particular types of treatment including sensory motor psychotherapy and EMDR, which is an abbreviated version of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy. We began examining my attachment theories, generational attachments, and worked through my conscious thoughts and cognitive disturbances. I admitted to her that after a few weeks of working together, I seriously considered not coming back. Therapy was hard work. It was unbearable at times to sit in front of someone and expose such vulnerable and raw things about myself. It was difficult to release the deeply seeded attachments I had formed in early childhood and carried with me all my life. But I also recognized how necessary it was for me to continue showing up in order to step into a greater awareness of myself and learn how I related to the world around me. I didn't have to allow the actions of others to disturb my healing or the way I viewed myself.
I would highly recommend to anyone reading this, take the time to go to therapy. You do not have to have some traumatic life experience as a prerequisite excuse to go. You will discover and uncover things you never had any idea had such influence or hold over you. I learned that a car accident I had gotten into when I was sixteen years old was still affecting me every time I am a passenger in someone else's car. I learned that the way I formed my attachments in early childhood influenced every relationship I made in early adulthood. Experiences in childhood friendships, sports teams, and child-adult relationships, all lead back to the same overlapping theme that I believed I was not worthy enough. So naturally, I became my own worst enemy and self-critic. No wonder I tried achieving my way through life in order to offset this extremely limiting self-belief. Most people throughout my life have misjudged me as living this 'picture-perfect-privileged' life. Yet I went through seasons of extreme self-hatred and grief.
We are all facing great battles inside our own heads and hearts. How deceitful and judgmental we are of ourselves and one another!
It was extraordinary to discover how much information my subconscious was capable of latching onto and refusing to let go of. We all have those deeply rooted subconscious memories. It takes courage to step into that kind of vulnerability, but it is also amazing how freeing it can be to step into a new awareness that allows you to rise above it. If it is important enough to you, you will be able to find the resources and the time to go.
I also started seeking treatment from a reiki practitioner. Reiki is the activation of 'ki' or 'chi' which is considered our 'life energy'. I experienced a lot of pain in my physical body because of the rape. There were many blockages throughout my body including unexplainable hip pain, extreme heaviness and grief surrounding my heart, and a lack of lung capacity. I had severe anemia my senior year of college which quite literally means 'a lack of energy' or a lack of oxygen to the red blood cells inside your body. It is not a coincidence that the anemia manifested during the onset of the PTSD symptoms.
I discovered reiki through my mother who had been seeking treatment of her own for six months. She has an autoimmune condition and was completely healed of the inflammation in her blood cells through diet changes and receiving reiki treatment alone. It was nothing short of miraculous, so I sought out treatment for myself to help ease my anxiety. The more exposed I became to it, the more my physical and emotional symptoms subsided.
It is a scientific fact that there is an energetic field in our bodies that cannot be detected once we die. I consider this our spiritual body, or the soul. I came to understand that reiki, in it's purest form, is the Holy Spirit moving through people. Everyone is capable of harnessing the Holy Spirit, therefore it is possible for us to heal ourselves and one another. Reiki originated in Japan as an ancient form of healing to clears blockages throughout the physical and energetic body. I started taking classes from my therapist to help continue my healing journey, and am humbled to say I am now a certified Reiki Master. She once told me, "It is more selfish to remain in a state of pain and self-pity then to step into your vulnerability and learn how to heal your life." The most incredible part of my reiki journey was discovering that in order to become a practitioner, you must first experience a healing journey of your own. There were times throughout my practice that I was so sure of God's presence, that not a single bone in my body could ever deny His existence. Reiki may have been the umbrella under which I helped hear God's call, but it is His voice that ultimately lead me to Him. We are but humble vessels doing His work.
In the fall of last year I also called the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center and was put on waiting list to join a free support group for women. There were only a certain number of people allowed per session which met over a 10 week period of time. The center required individuals to have at least four to six months of personal counseling or therapy before attending, and at the time I only had two. So I was wait-listed until the spring of 2017, which I was initially very impatient and distraught about. I just wanted to be 'back to normal' and check group therapy off of my list of things to do - as if getting back to 'normal' was as easy as changing the washer setting. But healing doesn't work that way - you never go back to 'being normal' and transformation at times can be extremely painful. The good news is that transformation usually turns you into something even more wholesome and good then you were before; it just takes a lot more time than I initially thought it would. "We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty." -Maya Angelou
When I got a call in early February that the group was starting, I remember being both terrified and relieved. What if it was uncomfortable and weird? At least I would have a group of people to talk to. Who cares if they think I'm weird. It can't be any weirder then having to spend three days in a psychiatric ward. I struggled the most with not being able to relate to others. I often felt shame or guilt when I would disclose personal information to a person and then feel pitied or invalidated because of it. I didn't need to be fixed, or ignored, or shamed; I just needed to talk to someone who could actually relate to the experiences I had endured.
Previously when I had tried relaying things to my significant other, he often interpreted it as 'bringing up the past' or 'talking about my ex' when in reality I had no idea how to express myself and convey the amount of pain I was in. I felt inauthentic because I couldn't speak the truth openly without it resurfacing in inappropriate ways or being condemned because of it. I just wanted someone to understand and listen to what I had to say without judgement. I wanted to be present once again and feel close to the people who were trying to offer me support.
And all of the women in this group did exactly that for me. They gave me the support I needed to no longer view myself as a victim, but rather as a survivor. We were able to talk openly without judgement. My expressiveness became natural once again and together we created goals as individuals and as a group to help continue our healing. I started writing in the fall as a personal form of self-expression. I never planned to share my work with anyone, but the more I wrote, the more compelled I felt to share my story with others to shed light on the reality of mental health, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence. It became my individual goal to publish this blog and share my 'hope story' with the world. It was the one thing I was most fearful of: being exposed and vulnerable in front of others in such a public way; which is exactly why it was the thing I knew I needed to do the most.
These women were all so strong in their convictions and courageous in their loving words and together we discovered that our voices did matter. They gave me the ammunition I needed to continue writing and publish something that was completely authentic and real. It became less about me and more about combating the negative cultural stigmas that suppressed our stories. I wanted to expose how often it happens in our communities, on our campuses, and in the lives of those closest to us. We all have a choice to speak up and do something about it. We all have the ability to not tolerate that kind of behavior when we see it happening around us.
It is also my hope to draw others who are facing the same battle, closer to a place of healing and understanding. You need to know that you are not alone. You are not crazy. You are not incomplete. You are completely entitled to the pain and heartache you are experiencing, but it will not last forever. You are whole and worthy of love.
There lies an inherent truth in every single one of us. We can drown those voices out by the noise of life, or we can take the time to listen. In my time of healing, I learned I had to withdraw from the world to withdraw from within that which was truly special and courageous in me. When I started paying attention, this is the truth I heard from my heart:
I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously. I know the real value of my own self-worth. I can make beautiful things out of hopeless situations. I have a heart that can survive unyielding storms and have a foundation of faith that knows something better lies ahead. In my brokenness I have found strength. I found God. I am whole. I am enough. I am worthy of a loving, healthy relationship, and deserving of a plentiful, prosperous marriage. I desire purity and unity with God and with my spouse. One person's actions were not my fault or responsibility, nor do they have to haunt me for the rest of my life. I am grateful for these trials, for they have served me well and strengthened my faith and extended my empathy and compassion towards others. I do in fact forgive those that have wounded me deeply, because I know that they too experienced suffering of their own. But the abuse ends with me. Every day I have a choice to believe in the lies of other’s untruths and injustices, or I can give myself permission to love and heal myself completely. I can reach outward to help heal the lives of others. I can expose the truth without feeling shame or guilt. I choose forgiveness. I choose love. Through both, we are granted the permission to be free. I am no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.