Honor your Journey – January, 2018
I’ve been sharing my very personal story of abuse in a very public way for almost fourteen years now. When I began my public speaking career, I was laser-focused on educating as many people as humanly possible. I read every article, contacted every school where an abuse case had just been publicized, and wrote countless posts and blogs with the intention of raising awareness. I couldn’t get enough, and I was determined to spend the rest of my days doing all I could to stomp out educator sexual abuse. It became a vital part of my identity.
More recently, I started to notice a shift inside of me. Initially, it was hard to identify. As I began to honor this shift and listen to my mind and body, I recognized some troubling signs. I was getting numb. I was experiencing fatigue. Abuse stories were the norm everywhere I turned. I erroneously assumed everyone had an abuse history. I was tired!
When the reality of my changing viewpoints became illuminated, a wave of panic ensued. I had come to cherish that part of my identity that was the advocate, the truth-teller, the silence breaker… what would it mean if I didn’t follow the same fiery path? Would I become a disappointment to others? Would children be more at-risk if my voice quieted down? Confusion and doubt plagued me.
I started making a few changes in my daily routines which included pairing down my exposure to abuse-related social media. My work focus shifted from sexual abuse to teaching cute little kids how to swim. Intense training for a half Ironman morphed into practicing gentle yoga, meditation, and Reiki.
I needed self-care! Fourteen years of my life had been devoted to a really intense topic, and it had taken its toll. Balance was needed. What surprised me was that the more love I gave to this balance, the more renewed love I had for my advocacy work.
I felt compelled to write about this after a particularly difficult week. The US gymnastics team’s medical doctor was just sentenced for sexually abusing more than 150 athletes. Something in me became unhinged watching impact statement after impact statement being read by those incredibly brave, strong women. I got triggered – something that doesn’t happen to me nearly as often as in my past. And I got angry with myself for getting triggered. So back to social media I went – posting, sharing, venting, etc. I noticed that many other survivors and activists were struggling with the news, too.
In case you don’t have an understanding of what the impact of triggering can look like for a survivor of sexual abuse, here’s an honest example. My husband and I were being intimate, and Larry Nassar’s face kept popping into my head. I kept picturing what he actually did to those girls, which led me to remembering what my abuser did to me. It’s pretty tough to stay present in the moment with your loved one when your mind floats to a past that was less than pleasant.
What makes me happy is knowing what to do next. This was a clear sign to me that I need to step back a bit. Does it mean that I have failed? Hell no! If I get triggered once in a while, have I made no progress on my healing journey? Absolutely not. Healing is not linear. I liken it to a spiral staircase. We may revisit the same issues, but we’re on a different level.
Perhaps getting overwhelmed helps to remind me what survivors who are new to this whole life-after-trauma thing go through on a regular basis. It’s strangely and joyfully hard to remember sometimes how much of a mess it all can be in the beginning.
So, I will continue to speak out, train, educate, collaborate, encourage, and celebrate survivors’ victories. I will also listen to my body, practice self-care, and watch cute puppy videos when I need to. I’m destined to screw it all up from time to time. And that is really okay.
Bottom line: Honor your journey, whether you’re just starting out or well on your way. And if you stray from your healing path, the good news is it will be right there waiting for your return.