I started therapy about 2 ½ years ago for a sexual assault that happened in college. For years I had struggled with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and flashbacks. Immediately after my first appointment, which was just an initial assessment, I started having flashbacks of events from my childhood. I didn’t want to go there. I had pushed those thoughts back so long ago, I had forgotten them.
Two weeks later, I met with the therapist I had been assigned. It was terrifying, but she made me feel comfortable and safe. Eventually, I worked up the courage to tell her about the things that happened to me as a child. It took a long time to get my full story out about how as a child I had been repeatedly sexually abused by a neighbor. My therapist helped me through a lot of things and taught me so much. I learned that PTSD wasn’t something that just veterans get. I learned how to deal with my flashbacks, anxiety, depression and many other things.
My husband was loving, patient and supportive. My parents, though struggling with their own feelings of guilt (wishing they had known), were also very supportive. I had a couple of friends I eventually opened up to and shared my story. Even with all this support, I felt very alone in my journey.
Then I came across an article on Facebook about The Younique Foundation’s retreat for childhood sexual abuse survivors. I had seen something about it about a year before but passed by it with little interest. This time was different somehow. I felt more ready for something like that. I was struggling with a desire to find my voice – I wanted to find a way to reach out with my story in a way that might help others. I decided to apply for The Haven Retreat and attended a few months later.
It was an amazing experience! I gained so much. There were many wonderful things I gained from going, but the two most important rewards for me were: 1) Coming away with a bond to seven other women who understand my challenges; I don’t feel alone in my journey anymore, and 2) Understanding how the trauma affected my brain and how the effects from my abuse aren’t signs that I am weird or crazy, but normal reactions to someone who has been through the trauma I have.
I am grateful for all those who have been there for me, for all the love and support I felt by those at The Haven Retreat, and for my survivor sisters. I am excited about my life ahead. I am clear on the direction I want to go. I may have been broken, but I am rebuilding myself stronger and know I can do great things. I hope that if there is anyone who has been through sexual abuse, that they might hear my story and will be less afraid to reach out for help and reclaim the hope that is theirs.