I know what you’re thinking. How could anyone possibly be thankful for something as horrible as childhood sexual abuse?
Don’t misunderstand me, sexual abuse is a terrible thing and it’s not OK, ever.
But it happened to me from the time I was 8 years old until I graduated high school. It wasn’t all the time. There were times when it was really bad and times when I felt pretty safe.
I learned how to manipulate situations so that I was rarely alone with this person. When the abuse was happening, I learned how to mentally leave my body, like an out-of-body experience.
I endured these times of my childhood years by thinking “If I can just make it until I leave for college, it will be over and I’ll never have to deal with it again. It will be like it never happened.”
Little did I know it doesn't work like that. Someone once told me it’s like trying to hold a beach ball under the water. You can only the hold pain under for so long until it pops up. I've found this to be true.
Wounds that are never taken care of will just keep oozing infection. They never heal. Abuse is the same way; you have to take care of it or it will never heal. You will have a scar, but at least it won’t be a painful open wound.
But needless to say, caring for old wounds is painful, excruciating at times. It took me 20 years before I could force myself to start the process.
When my oldest daughter turned eight, the age I was when my abuse began, my anxiety skyrocketed. Visions of past abuse filled my mind, feelings and fears I had buried for years popped up, seemingly out of nowhere. I knew I needed to get help.
Finally when I was 32 years old, I began counseling. I went through a six-month grieving process of tremendous proportions. I cried and grieved for the person I would have been if I hadn’t experienced the abuse. A person that I will never know.
Would I have been a better student, more confident, more secure, more loving, less introverted, less in need of acceptance? I don’t know.
What I do know now is that I have blessings in my life that wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the abuse. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The negative effects from the abuse will never completely go away. But at least I can see the blessings under the surface.
That may be difficult to believe, but it's my truth. The three main reasons I’m thankful for my abuse;
My Uncanny Ability to Read People
Because of the secrecy, deception and darkness of childhood sexual abuse, I developed a sixth sense of sorts. I can sense a person’s intentions and motivations after spending just a little bit of time with them.
I can see when people have darkness hidden inside them. My past has forced me to learn how to tune into people, how they talk and move, and what they want.
This came in handy during my dating years. I could tell right away who was safe and who wasn’t. That’s how I ended up with an amazing husband. He has a pure and genuine heart with no darkness to be found. He’s a terrible liar and can’t keep a secret to save his life. I love it.
I truly believe my ability to read people is a direct result of enduring abuse. This sixth sense has served me well and for that I’m thankful.
I’m Very Intentional in My Parenting
You better believe honest conversations regarding relationships and boundaries happen in our house constantly. My girls are in the 5 and 6 grade so I haven’t told them about my past abuse, but I will when they’re a little older.
Right now I’m working diligently at letting my girls know they can tell me anything, even when it’s difficult and uncomfortable.
If I would’ve felt confident and comfortable talking to an adult about the abuse when it was happening, it would’ve ended much sooner.
I’m intentionally parenting my girls in a different way; a way that encourages openness and honesty. I have a clear vision for the parent I want to be and for that I’m thankful.
My Empathy is Off the Radar
When I read stories of girls trapped in sex slavery, meet another survivor of sexual abuse, or even hear of animals trapped in abusive situations, I feel the pain they’re in.
I physically feel what they’re going through. My stomach churns, my heart races, and my knees go weak. When I say or think “I’m so sorry. I know what you’re going through,” I really do know.
My empathy for their pain is so strong it’s almost overwhelming. However, I’m glad I have this strong empathy for others who are hurting. I feel bad for those who don’t have the ability to put themselves in the shoes of others and to really feel their pain. I can and for that I’m thankful.
It’s only after 20 plus years and hours of counseling that I’ve arrived at the point of thankfulness.
I still have moments of sadness and grief for the girl I would have been, but now they only last a few minutes instead of hours or days.
The healing process is just that — a process.
I beg of you, if you are suffering alone from abuse, past or present, please talk to someone. Don’t give up. Healing is possible and there is hope.