Finding a Name

This is the fourth of seven posts in the Becoming a Wounded Healer: My Story Through Abuse series. All posts available here.

November 5, 2012

The other day I had a dream with John in it again.  He kept coming closer to me, hovering over me.  I kept pushing him back and he asked me why I was doing that.  I said it made me uncomfortable and I didn’t want him to do that.

I thought this was pretty momentous.  Most of the dreams I’ve had with him in it I’ve felt overpowered and helpless, frozen.  Some of them I may have got aggressive, but I never set a boundary like I did in this dream.  I know it is just a dream, but it felt so good.

In some ways, I was seeing healing in my life, but in other ways I saw that those years affected me much more deeply than I initially thought. I was intensely afraid of vulnerability with others and with God. I thought I would be taken advantage of again. I would see people who reminded me of John and all the memories would come back again. I couldn’t feel safe.

A friend mentioned how he noticed I was suspicious of people and couldn’t trust that people were actually being nice to me and wanting to help me. I wrote in my journal on February 25, 2013:

I guess to some degree I thought that was over…gone.  By not thinking about it, it was like an unfortunate event of the past that is IN THE PAST.  But I see that it still affects me… I don’t know how to process that.  I don’t know what to think about that.  It’s like I can’t escape.  I remember when I was really starting to face my depression, all of this came up and it just seemed like too much.  Now it seems like when I am doing a bit better it comes back again.  Will I ever be free and able to be really happy? I’m sick of being down, angry, irritated…I want to be happy and enjoy life.

I’m a theory and research type person, so I thought it would help to read up on what happened to me. If I could understand it, I could overcome it, or so I thought. I went through various books and websites, but couldn’t find anything that described my situation. There was sexual abuse, but John never actually touched me. There was emotional abuse, but it didn’t quite seem to fit. There was verbal and spiritual abuse, but that didn’t click either. It made me wonder if what happened was really a big deal at all, or even if I was going crazy.

Finally, I came across a book called The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Dr. Dan B. Allender. The different types of abuse were described, and I found a name that fit. Psychological sexual abuse. It was hard to wrap my mind around, but naming it afforded much needed credibility and legitimacy in my mind.

Psychological sexual abuse “will occur through verbal or visual means (usually both) but will involve more subtle (nonspecific, more mood-generating) communication that erodes the appropriate role boundaries between a child and an adult” (p.33). It is a “sexual/relational boundary violation” and can involve the “use of a child as a spouse surrogate (confidant…counsellor)” (p.34). As I kept reading, I could make some sense of what happened to me, but I also saw the long road ahead to healing. I felt hopeless.

June 9, 2013

I really don’t trust my own judgment. I was reading the Wounded Heart book again and I think it’s connected to what happened. I judged a person safe, that they had my best interests in mind, but I was so wrong. I feel so lonely on the journey through this, as most people who know about it just tell me I need to move past it. I can’t. I’m still understanding what happened and trying to process it. I can’t go faster because it hurts and takes time. It’s hard to remember and be in that place. It brings up anger again, even though I’ve forgiven. I already struggle with depression and this just brings me down again. I don’t want to be down; I want to be happy for once…but if I don’t confront this it will just be worse.

A few months later, in September 2013, I finally came off medication for depression. I had been taking various combinations for three years. I was elated that I had made it through some of the toughest years of my life. I was so sick of feeling sad and down, that I had no energy to deal with anything that might make me sad again. I knew the abuse was still affecting me, but I had no capacity to deal with it.

Dr. Dan B. Allender. 1990. The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

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