Surviving Child Abuse: How do I channel it all?

by Andrew Richards
(Sydney, Australia)

Darlene, as you'd be aware, I recently submitted my story on the "child abuse stories" section of the site (see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of Andrew's Story). Since then I've slowly been showing people I know the published story, and while everyone has been nothing but positive and supportive-the conclusion that some people have reached, while very much turning a positive into a negative, is scary to say the least.

They think I should train to become a counsellor of some sort to help others through similar things. I've toyed with the idea of expanding my teaching degree so I could also become a school counsellor, but I'm worried that it'll always be painful enough that I can't do something like that without memories of abuse flooding back and it all getting too raw and painful.

Does it ever get to a point where it stops hurting quite so much? Does it ever get to the point where you can do that, or is it just something you have to grit your teeth and find coping strategies to deal with?

Andrew Richards

Reply from Darlene: Oh yes, Andrew, it is very possible to get beyond the "stops hurting-grit your teeth to bear it" stage. But whether or not a child abuse survivor ever reaches that stage depends on a variety of factors: personal growth, life's experiences, a willingness to let go and forgive, as well as the type of help received (and applied) for the emotional residue of a childhood rife with abuse.

Your friends mean well, and indeed are being highly complimentary when they suggest you become a counsellor in order to help others through similar things. I cannot advise you on this, but I can offer the benefit of my own experience.

The remainder of my answer to this Ask Darlene question "Surviving Child Abuse: How do I channel it all?" can be found at Comments below this submission. Depending on system activity, there are sometimes delays in comments going live on my site; but rest assured, they do eventually appear. So if you don't yet see them, I hope you will return later to read what I, and possibly others, have written. I thank you for your patience and understanding.

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Comments for Surviving Child Abuse: How do I channel it all?

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Jul 30, 2008
I can only use myself as an example...
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

In my twenties, I too had such...purposeful suggestions. But I knew that although I could relate to others in similar situations and that I had tremendous insight because of what I'd lived, I couldn't possibly help others as long as I still needed help myself. You see, Andrew, as long as I "needed" to show and/or tell people my story (which at the time, I did need to do), as long as I still felt pain at recalling the memories, as long as I suffered from nightmares, anxiety and relationship problems (I had very few friends), I realized I still had difficulty with acceptance, and I still needed the sympathy, empathy or acknowledgment of others in order to fulfill the needs that had not been met in my childhood. It wasn't until I truly learned, and then applied, the strategies and tools (what I'd been taught in therapy) to myself as they related to those unfulfilled needs, did I know that I could truly help others without getting caught up in my own painful memories.

My therapy lasted 10 months in my mid-twenties. But I did not miraculously leave therapy "all better." It was a process; that's why it's called heal-ing and recovery rather than just heal-ed. I had to become proficient at applying the strategies. I see that time in my life as the "practicum years." My 30's were so much calmer than my 20's. My 40's were spectacular. I've only just started in my fabulous 50's. These progressions in my life were due to evolving levels of self-awareness; self-awareness is a key element in mental and emotional growth. It comes in stages as we gain in experience and age; and therefore, spans a lifetime. I do not believe there is a way to thwart or otherwise circumvent these stages. One must simply live them, grow and learn from them. But not all of us learn the lessons we are being taught along the way.

Memories of my childhood do not generally cause me pain; but when they do, they are short-lived. These memories do not control me. When I feel pain, I allow myself that pain, and focus on what it is I'm feeling. I've learned to do this as a form of meditation. I can honestly say that those emotions are usually gone within a couple of minutes. They simply do not overtake me. This has been one of the greatest lessons I've learned in my life. When we understand that we are in pain and why we are in pain, we get better and faster at realizing that we ARE in pain. When we allow ourselves to feel that pain, knowing that we are safe and can no longer be harmed, we can concentrate on the emotions it is welling up in us. Doing so then allows our bodies to wash them away.

I share all this with you, Andrew, because I sincerely believe that in order to help others, we must first be highly practiced at helping ourselves.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Aug 03, 2008
by: Andrew Richards

Thanks Darlene,that's very reassuring to know. I guess it worried me because I've pretty much done all this on my own- I've tried counsellors, but none of them ever seemed to "fit". I attended one meeting of ASCA but had to give it up because of demands by my abusive girlfriend at the time and right now, because they're in a state of change, the support groups will take a while to get back on track.

When I'm forced to think about it, it stings now but fortunately in a different way to how it used to, even when trying to leave helpful comments for other survivors here. I grit my teeth and do it because at the end of the day I feel like that's why it happened to me, so I could be a force for good- but there's a difference between tearing up behind a computer screen and tearing up in front of a student as a school counsellor.

Nov 02, 2010
always hard
by: michelle f

It will always be hard I think but everyday you wake up and say I will tackle this issue is what brings us forward.And seeing that in you will help others to do it.Just talking about it helps me and to know that you are thinking about being so brave to help others gives me a mindset that maybe I was chosen for this that happened to me,for a reason,talking to and seeing all these others precious lives and reading their stories some of them are worse than mine could ever be has made me feel Im not alone even though I wish I was to feel the pain and crys of others that has went though the same thing or worse but to know you can be a voice,a friend,a lifter of the feelings would be a wonderful thing,If you have
thought about helping others than maybe it will be a good thing I wish you luck and all of GOD'S strength May GOD bless you

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