By Jodhi Mae
My journey towards recovery from sexual trauma is a journey that took me a little while to start, because in starting this journey I had to first accept that the trauma happened and it wasn’t just some awful nightmare, and I also had to stop running from it.
Each year December rolls around “my trauma anniversary” and then I breathe for a little while and then along comes summer an extended season of my trauma due to the anniversary of my trial. Each year these months roll around and I feel like I've had the wind taken out of me. All I want to do is scream all month long and the exhaustion of holding it all together hits me like a tonne of bricks.
But then one day I just said to myself
“You’re going to have to learn to live with this”,
now by that I don’t mean accept what happened or accept that it’s just another thing in life because yes life is traumatic and amongst the great things in life there’s also a lot of sad moments and tough moments. But these kinds of moments this trauma isn’t just something that you sweep under the rug.
I decided to hold space for myself and that each year as these seasons come and go, I’ll allow myself to feel what I need to and hold space for those feelings.
I love to be busy and I always like to be doing too many things at once, but I noticed a pattern that as these tough anniversaries showed up again every year I felt (and still do a little), the need to be so busy that I wouldn’t give myself any opportunity to sit with my feelings & I believe a big part of this was me trying to protect my brain from having to relive the trauma because honestly it was just too painful and mentally exhausting.
But when I decided to start my journey towards recovery, I hit a common ground rather than sitting with my feelings for too long that they consumed me or running in completely the other direction and being so busy I wouldn’t have a chance to think, that I would try and do a bit of both to get me through the tough days.
So that was a first step for me, holding space and working with what I feel each year in those seasons, as it changes every year. Some years I feel sad and angry and it’s all too much and other years I feel strong and powerful and I have a fire in my belly.
Another step that I think is massively important in the journey towards recovery is allowing anger, it is so okay to get angry. I used to go on this absolute emotional rollercoaster of thinking I was the worst person when I got angry. But then I learned that the anger is so justified and it’s natural, it’s totally normal to feel anger when you have been through something so traumatic and at the hands of another person.
It’s just knowing what to do with that anger and where to put it and to not let it consume you, you don’t want the anger to become like a Pandora’s box that just explodes all the time because firstly it’s painful to keep going through that and secondly, it’s exhausting. So, finding somewhere I can place that anger has been something I have found massively helpful.
For me when I'm angry I turn to my creativity, sometimes you can really see that in what I create and other times it’s more of a gentle anger. My creativity really is my best friend when I'm going through it. And it’s become a key player in my journey to recovery.
Finally, one of the biggest steps in my journey to recovery has been allowing myself to grieve, allowing space for that feeling because in my experience that’s been one of the most difficult feelings to process. But again, it’s perfectly normal to grieve, to grieve the assault, to grieve the person you were before the assault and grieve the person you had to become to get yourself through it. I still find it hard looking back at photos and memories before this traumatic experience, I feel so far removed from that person and I also grieve for her and how she didn’t know what was to come and the people who love me and who stuck by me in such a difficult time as I know whilst my life has been changed forever so has theirs.
I’m not going to lie and say that as each year passes by things get easier because that would be a lie, but you get stronger you learn to live around what happened and you learn to allow yourself to have a life after the trauma.
And you owe it to yourself to allow that.
What happened was not your fault, you didn’t deserve it and it’s a whole grief that will change you and will change a lot of how you see things. But it will also bring you an immense strength and a power to pull yourself, sometimes kicking and screaming out of the darkest times. And that really is so powerful, and if you can get yourself through that, you really can get yourself through anything.
I honestly think the journey to recovering from sexual trauma is one that in small ways will last a lifetime but as each days passes you become stronger and mightier than ever before.
Hold space for yourself and your feelings.
Allow yourself to be angry, it’s okay!
Allow yourself to grieve.
Know that you are so powerful and so much more than what happened to you.