Childhood sexual abuse – Let’s break the silence! 3

CSA series

The healing process

This is how the healing process went in my particular case.

1/ How it came up
I started to have a recurring thought: I was sexually abused as a child. The thought was totally out of context, without any memory, just the sentence on it’s own. After a while it got more and more frequent and had more and more emotional impact on me. It got to a point where I had to face it. I stopped and enabled myself to think about the topic and I gave permission for any thought or feeling that wanted to come up.

I also let the question open inside me: did it actually happen or do I have this thought for some other reason.

2/ Physiological responses
I started to do some research about the topic and I started to write a list of my earliest memories, which was from the age of 8-9. At this point I didn’t have any memories before this age. I wrote all memories that I could recall, I was listening to music with headphones and I was very much tuned in, I was in a relaxed state of mind with my eyes closed. Then suddenly I zoomed in, I went very deep in my mind, it was similar to dreaming. My heart started to beat really fast, also my breathing became very fast, it became faster and faster, it reached a point, then everything slowed down and I “woke up”. After this my body trembled for a while and I was very sensitive for noises, I could get scared of ordinary noises. This happened 3 more times in the next few days.

3/ Flashbacks
I started to have flashbacks. I went into a state of mind where I would feel/sense different aspects of the abuse. Sometimes it was an emotional feeling: everything is falling apart around me, sometimes I felt that anything I see or touch or hear is unbearably ugly or unpleasant. I felt really deep sadness or really deep anger and disgust. I felt left alone, without any help, I felt a lot of hopelessness and despair.
Sometimes it was a physical sensation, a dull feeling in my body. I experienced these flashbacks for about 3 months, I was in these states of mind almost constantly.

4/ Thoughts and feelings
I started to write about the topic, I wrote about the physiological responses and the flashbacks I was having, I also tried to guess what could have happened to me in the past. And I started to write my feelings and thoughts about childhood sexual abuse in general. Letting out my feelings and writing them down liberated me. While I was writing I discovered many statements or views I had about the world or myself that were false, that developed in me because of the abuse. Realizing this made those false statements go away.
With writing down what happened and unfolding the dynamism of the abuse it became clear to me that it was a crime against me and all responsibility lies with the perpetrator and none with me.
I expressed my sadness through writing, playing the guitar and drawing. And I expressed my anger through breaking things.
I wrote in detail about what exactly my trauma means to me. Understanding what exactly is my pain and giving empathy to myself made a huge difference.

5/ Visual flashbacks
I had some visual images coming back of the abuse. One image was especially haunting me, so I decided to draw it in a symbolic way. I looked at it for some time to face my fears, then I tore it up, spat on it and threw it out.

6/ Behavioral patterns
Just as any other behavioral pattern, the behavioral patterns of the abuse got stored in my brain. Luckily I wasn’t using them, they were just there passively, taking up space. With time these patterns just naturally left and disappeared.

7/ Talking about the trauma with other people
Starting to talk about what happened can be extremely difficult, it can almost feel impossible at times. Talking to other people made a huge difference to me, it was a huge shift from something that I dealt with alone to something I could talk about. Sharing my experience and hardships with others made my journey much easier.
First, I talked to people at online support chats. Then, after a while I told someone about my recurring thought and flashbacks that I recently met, but felt comfortable with. After that I told to a few of my friends and with time I told to most of my friends. It was a natural process and at each time I felt this urge inside and felt ready to share it with the person.
I used the online hotline of RAINN from time to time to talk about the abuse and about where I’m at with my healing. It helped me so much, because the volunteers on the hotline have a good knowledge about childhood sexual abuse and gave me great advises.
https://hotline.rainn.org

I also watched youtube videos of people talking about their healing journey. These helped me so much because I could know in advance what was about to happen and seeing them facing their trauma, being so strong convinced me that I can do that too.
https://www.youtube.com/user/RebeccaPatrickson
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC678CeiLNSBdoXXJ_tZzuw

8/ Letting in good sexual experiences
A very important part of my healing was to have very good and healthy sexual experiences and let them heal me. Luckily I had many experiences like that and I could let those experiences and memories make changes inside me.
I had one very healing meditative session where I relaxed and let myself reach the very deep part of my mind where I stored the painful memories of the abuse. And when I reached that part of my mind I thought about a very positive experience and in a way I left that very positive experience there to override and neutralize the traumatic memories. After that it felt like the traumatic memories were still there, but they didn’t have any emotional effect on me.

9/ Replaying the trauma
I replayed some aspects of the trauma both with a partner and on my own. Replaying the trauma gave me more detail about what happened and had a calming, freeing effect. When I replayed the trauma on my own I involuntarily got into a state where I had very little conscious presence and I almost thought I was 4 years old actually living the trauma. I acted out mostly what I did after the trauma and heard all my thoughts that I had back then. This happened 2 times, both started when I was dancing at home and I started to do unconsciously a dance move that would start the replay.
This was the point in the healing, where I could see the trauma as a linear narrative. Up to this point I only had many foggy, ambiguous pieces of memory that would float without structure, many of the memory pieces were only words, more like a symbol than a concrete thing or event.

10/ Forgiving
At the first part of the healing I thought that I wouldn’t going to forgive. I heard many stories where the person who went through the abuse forgave the abuser, which I found very beautiful and inspiring, but I couldn’t imagine myself doing that. I knew the tremendous amount of damage it caused in my life and I knew that it could have had way worse consequences. I exactly knew the amount of pain that I went through and forgiving seemed crazy and impossible to me.
I decided I’m not going to forgive, I will understand and accept what happened to me, but forgiving isn’t something I could do. I accepted this and went on with my days.
Then, suddenly at a random moment, totally out of context it just hit me. I was in my kitchen, I was opening a cabinet to find something to eat and I just felt this huge amount of love and forgiveness and joy. It was such a freeing joyful moment. At this point I felt forgiveness towards life or the world generally. It was absolutely illogical and unexpected.
Later on I had a similar moment where I forgave the perpetrator. And only after that I had a moment where I forgave myself.

11/ Healing the amygdala
At some point I started to think about fear and how I experience fear. I felt that there is a huge amount of fear somewhere trapped inside me. I did research about how fear works and I found out about the amygdala, which is a very fundamental part of the brain responsible for most primary functions, fear, rage or sexual feelings. When I experienced the trauma my amygdala became extremely active and since then it wasn’t working as if it got frozen. I realized I had to start using my amygdala again and gradually lower it’s intensity. With high stress level I got high cortisol level that I also had to lower with walking, sunbathing, eating certain food and sleeping a lot.

12/ Breaking the abuse
Even tough the sexual abuse stopped at a very young age, still at the age of 25 I had this almost unnoticeable feeling of this dark power over me. It was like a ghost somewhere around me. It didn’t stop me from doing anything I wanted to do in my life, but I could sense that it still had a very little impact on me.
Luckily with time, writing, talking and just living each day knowing what happened and knowing that it has no power over me anymore that ghost slowly disappeared. When I felt that dark power disappearing I simultaneously felt so much love coming in. It felt as if that dark power wouldn’t let me experience love fully, even though there were so many people who expressed love to me. As the abuse broke, all that love I ever received finally reached me, it was just a huge wobbly ball of love hitting me suddenly.
To achieve this I would say out loud: stop abusing me, get out, I don’t give permission for you to be here, you can’t abuse me, etc.

13/ Uncertainty
Maybe one of the most challenging part of the healing was the uncertainty I felt at many points in my healing. Because the sexual abuse happened so long ago and it’s a type of crime that doesn’t leave any tangible evidence it can be very difficult to get to a solid statement: yes, it did happen or no, it didn’t happen. If it did happen, exactly what happened. For most of the healing process I wasn’t sure about any of this. I experienced an altering shift between knowing and not knowing about the abuse.
At the end what convinced me that it was real was the fact that everything I was experiencing through these months was exactly what all other people experienced who went through childhood sexual abuse. I also spent a lot of time thinking back throughout my life and I found so many events or little details that made so much sense in relation with the abuse. I could list 6 pages of these events or details. And when I thought about what is against it.. I couldn’t think about anything besides that I don’t want it to be true.

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Childhood sexual abuse – let’s break the silence! 2

CSA series

How to heal from the trauma

Every trauma is unique and every healing journey is unique. I think there is no way to tell what could help someone who went through childhood sexual abuse, hopefully the person will instinctively search for people, art, information or experience that could help while getting a lot of support from friends, family members and also professionals.

This is how I dealt with the trauma throughout my life:

3-4          I experienced the trauma.

5-8          I knew what happened and I knew that it was a bad thing that happened to me, but I didn’t have a perspective on it, I didn’t know how big of an impact it will have on my life. I also didn’t know what is most people’s view on the topic or how often it happens.

8-15        I think somewhere around 8 I realized how bad it actually was, it was a feeling of facing reality, as if something heavy drops inside you. The trauma was so much to understand, I had to temporarily move into a fantasy world. In this time period I was living in my own world, which was a very idealistic, fairy tale-like inside world. I spent a lot of time just looking at nature or animals, doing creative activities, like writing poems or drawing.
In this period my memories about the abuse started to fade. They became less approachable each day. They went from a clear memory to a incomprehensible dull feeling to eventually nothing.

15-22        At 15 I noticed, I’m so much inside my own little world, I’m not doing all the fun things a 15 year old girl could do, why is that? I thought to myself, I want to change that! I want to be social and I want to experience, search for new interests and just live a full life. Little by little I found people, experiences and interests that slowly built me up. I chose a career that I really liked and started my studies. Everything was going really well, until…

22            I was at the end of my studies, I was doing really well, I had great friends and a great relationship, I was about to move out on my own and start working. I could have been really satisfied and happy with my situation, but I wasn’t at all. I was so frustrated and so scared and so confused. It felt like everything is falling apart and nothing makes sense. The only thing I was sure about that I have to move away on my own and become independent.

23            I moved away and started to live on my own. Not much after this I finished my studies and was ready to start working. Moving away helped a lot, but I was still feeling very confused and frustrated about starting my life. I started to apply for jobs, but I knew something is wrong.

24             I realized through many very embarrassing unsuccessful attempts that I can’t work in a traditional way. It made me so anxious I just wanted to run out of the workplace after a few hours, I knew I had to do something else. I had no idea why this was happening, especially because I had no problem with going to school, I assumed, something is wrong with me..
I thought the best I can do is to find a way of working that doesn’t make me anxious. After some searching I found freelancing, I never thought of it before, but I tried and I really liked it so I decided to go with it.

When my issues with work settled and I was working happily for online clients I also started to do some soul searching, I thought a lot about myself and life and my past. I found a creative energy inside me that I never knew about. It was a very difficult time, but I knew I was on a right track and doing a job that I love made me very satisfied and gave me the energy to deal with my deepest hardest feelings.

25               I started to have a thought popping up in my mind without any context from time to time: I was sexually abused as a child. It was just a thought without any context or any memory, just the sentence on it’s own. I thought this is crazy, why am I thinking about this? Nothing happened to me.. And I just ignored it for a while. But as time passed the thought became more frequent and had more emotional impact on me. It got to a point where I had to face it. I stopped and said to myself, alright, I don’t know why I have this thought but it’s clear it’s something important. I enabled myself to think about it and I gave permission for any thought or feeling to come up. I also left the question open inside me: did it actually happen or I have this thought for some other reason.

From that point my memories came back to me. It was an extremely challenging and painful process with many uncertainty at each point. I healed so much in so many ways. I will discuss the process in detail in my next post.

 

Childhood sexual abuse – let’s break the silence! 1

CSA series

So, I decided to do a little series here about childhood sexual abuse, how to prevent it, how to heal from it or how to be there for someone who experienced the abuse.
These are all my personal thoughts based on my experience and research, I hope it can help!

What can you do to prevent it?

1 Talk about sex and sexuality with your children from the beginning openly. Affirm them that they decide about their bodies and warn them about sex offenders. Talk with them about what is a healthy sexual act/relationship and what is not. The more they are informed and comfortable with talking about the topic it is less likely that they will be abused.

2 Teach them critical thinking, teach them that not all adults should be trusted, most importantly teach them to trust their own judgement and empower them to make their own decisions (that are appropriate to their age)

3 Believe them and listen to them. If they try to tell about an abuse, listen to it, ask more about it. They might try to tell about it in a symbolic/metaphoric way.

4 You can’t predict in any way if someone is a sex offender or not. In many cases the perpetrator is someone who the people around never thought could be an abuser. The perpetrator can be anyone, someone you knew for a long time, someone who acts kindly, or has a respectable career.

5 Look out for signs, there are so many recognizable signs on children who are sexually abused that you can spot. The signs, consequences vary, but here are some: escaping into daydreaming or fantasies, nightmares, the feeling of being insignificant, difficulties to speak about them self, copying the abusive behavior of the perpetrator and acting hurtful, manipulative or sexually abusive to others.
When the abuse is happening the child doesn’t understand it yet, so at this point they can be cheerful most of the time.

backpack ready to order

design, orderable

I got pictures yesterday from the last photoshoot we did. I like this photo especially, I like how much movement it has, Judit, the photographer and Hanna, the model made an awesome job! I made this backpack somewhere in the last years of university. I was feeling quite lost at that time, so I thought at least I’m making a backpack. Hope you like it!
I am using it right now, I really like wearing, using things that I made myself, so hopefully you can have that feeling also if I personalize your order to your own taste.

IMG_1141.jpg

here you can find more information about the backpack: backpack information
and here you can order one: backpack order

unexpected challenges

thoughts

I had a very unexpected difficulity/challenge while visiting Montenegro. The first time when I was at a place that was unusual, interesting or beautiful for me I recoiled.

I was thinking: how can I take in all I see, hear and feel at this place? What is the essence of this place, why it is beautiful, how is it beautiful, what does it mean to me, how does it make me feel?

My best answer for this right now is time. When I’m at a beautiful natural place for example for just ten minutes somehow I feel so distant from that place, it’s like I’m looking at a photo or watching a documentary. I don’t feel anything. But when I spend more time, couple of hours or more if I have the opportunity I’m slowly starting to connect with the place. The sounds are slowly starting to reach me. I feel, see and sense everything that’s around me. And I become a part of it.

traveling plans

what's up with me

In two weeks I’m going to be in Podgorica, Montenegro, yay! I’m going to be couchsurfing, my host is a musician, I hope I can learn something while I’m there.

I don’t know what I will do there exactly, but I guess the same as here, freelance, enjoy my days, meet people, walk around in the city, enjoy the nightlife, food and I’m interested in visiting the National Parks of Montenegro. Hope I don’t get lost or get in some kind of trouble. First trip as a freelancer!

While I was thinking about this trip and about traveling in general I came across videos about Chiang Mai and how it is the freelancer/digital nomad heaven. Since then I kind of want to move there. So my plan is, first go for half a year, see how I like it and if I really feel that I belong there, move there.
I think it’s a good place for me, I can imagine staying there and maybe start a digital nomad family.

And I found out that Budapest is one the best places for freelancing according to Nomad List, which is pretty accurate. 😀 It’s at 3rd place right now. Wow, and I just live here already, how cool is that?

thoughts on stochastic creation

art, design, thoughts

Something came into my mind since I wrote my last post about trying to understand beauty. If beauty is the number of good choices made in order to create an object, why are randomly, stochasticly created things beautiful? For example paint randomly poured to a canvas or treeleaves fallen to the ground in a random order?

Is this stohastic process actually made out of many unintentional choices determined by the laws of physics? Are these radomly created objects the result of many choices the same way as an intentionally designed object is, only difference is that not we are who are making them.

how I started to love my body

thoughts

This is how I found my way to love my body, I hope it can help to those who are also on their journey finding beauty in themselves.

There were a lot of things that were needed to make me able to feel really good in my body. First, I think I needed to reach a certain age, self-acceptance takes time.
I think for me it was also important to experience a healthy, positive relationship with someone. Experiencing what it feels like to love someone else’s body and someone else loving your body set me up on the journey of accepting myself.

The biggest change happened in the last few years when I started to live on my own and spend time by myself. For the first time in my life I was on my own, I wasn’t somebody’s daughter, sister, friend or girlfriend. It was just me. And for the first time in my life I saw myself as I am and not as a comparison to something or someone.

I saw what actually was there, a body with joyful eyes, full lips, yes, gigantic feet, a weirdly nice-looking nose, natural, wavy smooth hair, long arms and legs, curvy hips and belly, uneven ears, and so many other things. Just a body where it feels good to be in and experiencing life is fun. It’s beautiful because it is a living thing just like any other living thing, not because it looks or doesn’t look a certain way. It is beautiful and amazing because it makes me able to draw and sing and dance and listen to music and hug my friends and do everything I like to do.

getting emotionally attached to projects

design

When I get a project that I really like I always feel this way. After I accept the project I start thinking about it and it stays with me the whole time and it effects every minute of my life in that time period.

So when I’m at the finishing stages I can’t help but feel a little sad as if I’m saying goodbye to a good friend. I’m starting to miss everything that happened in that time period, everything I’ve learned, people I got to know, hardship and success.

It’s not so easy to find projects like this, where everything is really good, good client, good purpose, interesting topic and also it’s something that fits my abilities. When I do, it’s really memorable for me, I think I had four of these so far. I feel so thankful for them, I hope I keep finding projects like those.

This is what I’m working on right now. It will be a unique prosthesis with an Apple watch embeded in it. What I really like about this project is that it is very experimental and open for innovation. Also I found out during this project that I’m really interested in designing unique prosteses. I like designing personal objects, and what could be more personal than an artificial body part? I think that someone who wears a prosthesis should be able to make it their own and make it personal.

The other strange feeling after finishing a project is confusement. Where to go further after this? Should I find a project that is more interesting or more purposeful? More challanging or pays better? After a while it is not so unambigous what progress means.