Women’s Words About Healing After Trauma
By Barbara Clearbridge, M.Div.
Table of Contents & Excerpts
Table of Contents
From Below Looking Up
The “F” Word: Forgiveness
Good and Evil
Types of Therapies
Wise Inner Voices
Checklist For Choosing A Competent Therapist or Counselor
Do Other People Refuse to Cooperate When You Try To “Create Your Own Reality”?
Helpful Books and Resources
From Chapter 2: “Coming Out”:
I’m going to get well. I’m going to live fully, face my feelings and
clear the trauma out of my body. I’m going to have wonderful, happy experiences
and not suffer from it any more. I’m going to survive and help others to be
Happy birthday to me.
I have decided to live. I had decided before, but it was never a complete
decision. Maybe that’s why I stayed so thin—I still hadn’t committed to
being here. But I have now. I have decided I can live and feel good enough, I can reduce the pain to tolerable limits and find
enough joy and enough health to live.
There is usually a lag time before inner healing is revealed physically.
We do the emotional, mental and spiritual work and then often expect our
physical state to immediately change. Sometimes it does. But sometimes that
takes some time.
I want to sink roots deep into the earth, a home, and rest, and start to
grow again, to expand outward into the community,unafraid,
committed. I don’t know why, what my life or anyone else’s is for, but I don’t
want a half-assed life.
So many books, so many people say, “You must . . .” or,
“It always . . .” or, “If you feel such-and-such, it means . . .
” Then I think I’m failing, or I think my recovery must take a certain
length of time, or I have to do whatever it is they’re talking about if I want
to get better. I frequently have to remind myself that we all get better in our
own way, and in our own time. No statement of absolutes is ever true. (Except this one!)
A grey egret is standing at the end of the dock just a few yards from
me. Still silhouette. In the darkness the water moves
seductively, so dark and smooth with a few ripples and sloshes. The egret flies
up on top of a post. Below, something dives, swims. Too dark
to see. The egret watches only east and west, by long turns. Part of me
still yearns for immolation . . . in the silent water.
It's wintertime now—the darkness brings melancholy. It’s all right.
It’s not “over” for you—you haven’t failed because you're
depressed again. It’s only some wistful melancholy in the dark days of your
first winter of recovery.
Being attacked does not mean I failed, nor does being alone, or in pain,
or seeing no fruits from my life. None of these mean failure. If I am doing the
best I can, then it is not failure. The world is full of circumstances, full of
other people, that affect my life. I can’t fail at
recovering, either—it’s a process.
I have trouble seeing myself as ever being completely changed and
healed. The wounds go too deep. But I don’t mind being partial, as long as I
have a sense of purpose. No, of accomplishing my purpose.
Is that what it is to have “meaning”? The depression takes that away,
that’s why it’s so debilitating.
I just wanted to say that today was a particularly productive day and I
didn’t feel heavy and gray.
I’m very surprised. Three months ago I made a wish list for changes in
my life. I found the list today and over half of them have happened.
I can survive and be happy. So many of my sisters
Everything is possible! Everything can happen swiftly—even if your
pain is extreme and your future unimaginable.
I had a particular health problem from the time I was a teenager. I began my spiritual search because of it, took many roads because of it, turned away from God, and then back to God, and then away again because the problem would not be healed. Eventually it became manageable, then negligible. After I started psychotherapy, when I began to be healed at deep levels, the problem came back! I could no longer handle it; it became as intense as it had at the very beginning. I couldn’t stand this! It brought more despair than almost anything else—that after all this time, after all my work, all the agony of looking into the past and healing, I was still sick!
Now I just pop a drug for it. I have no patience or courage for trying
again to heal it from an emotional standpoint. But I have accepted this—that
it is all right to use a drug. It is not “giving up.” Right now I
can’t heal the cause either physically or emotionally, so it’s all right—sensible, even—to handle the symptoms the best way I can.
One can be well before healing is finished: just work around the bent
I think that it takes a while to get established after leaving a cult. I
don’t just mean the finances, but something like the cuttings I took off the
impatiens plant and put in a jar of water. They have to grow roots before they
can be put in the soil and become an established plant. This is one image I
have. When I first took the cuttings, the leaves drooped as the cuttings were
in shock. But then they perked up and started to grow roots. When I put them
into the soil, they will have to struggle again. When I set the plants outside,
they will have another adjustment. But eventually there will be a strong and
healthy plant. Perhaps there are a series of small shocks to go through in the
I get insights during depression, but I can’t trust them. They’re not
really insights. I get down on myself and think crooked.
Making new friends is hitting a snag, because there is all of this
censoring of my life going on. What do I say to them about my past? How will
they react? So I am meeting some new people that I like, but there are odd
barriers in making friends that didn’t use to be there. Maybe I can treat it
like recovering alcoholics do—talk about it, give information, etc. But I am
not strong enough to do that yet.
Some of it is that I don't trust new people. I used to be very trusting,
and that is how I got into trouble. I still have some old friendships. But it
is hard to tell them about my [traumatic] experience. I have a lot of shame
about it, and confusion about it, which makes it hard to explain.
Things keep changing, as soon as I get used to them. They changed who I
work for. I was enjoying stretching, seeing how to balance the work and
everyone’s personalities, seeing what I was capable of, and suddenly something
not needed until the next day was needed immediately, and the other person I
work for needed some things right away and I just felt my mind collapse inside
and I couldn’t think, and I slumped down . . . and today, two days later, some
of my mind still seems exploded, not there. In trying to cope, I stretched too
far. I don’t know my limits. There’s no resiliency—one minute I’m fine, then
I went to confront [abuser]. I thought I was ready to tell him right out
that what he had done was horrible and that he was never to touch me again. I
thought I was strong and ready.
I saw him coming towards me down the hallway. When he saw me his face lit up and he said, “It’s so good to see you!” And I felt love for him! I was shocked. I was full of hate for this man, for what he had done to me and my life, and yet when I saw him and I felt this warm stream of love from him to me, besides the hate I felt love! It was horrifying. With all the strong feelings I completely froze up—I went numb. I saw he was going to kiss me and I had sworn he would never touch me again. But I couldn’t stop him. I was frozen! I managed to turn my head so he kissed me on the cheek instead of on the lips, and I mumbled something and kept walking past him. Then I was nauseous for two days.
It took a long time to forgive myself for feeling love towards him that day, and for letting him kiss me. He did love me, in his way. His kind of love was brutal, but it was the only kind of love I knew at the time [of the trauma]. So I loved him back, though I was also terribly afraid of him and hated him. It’s natural that when I felt his love again at this last meeting I also felt mine for him. Someday it will wear off, I will feel nothing for him. Until then I just remind myself that gentle, tender love also exists, and I choose that.
No matter how much someone hurts you, it is terribly hard to stop loving
him if that is the only love you know.