The content of this article is mature and can be triggering for some readers.
By the time I was 28 years old, I had been molested, raped twice and had been in several physically, mentally and emotionally abusive relationships. I didn't know how to exist without abuse.
Since I was a little girl, I was so accustomed to abuse, I thought it was a normal way of life. I continued to enter relationships that were toxic and diminished a part of me every time I experienced them.
No matter what I tried to do, I just couldn't seem to break away from the pain. I was stuck in a life I felt couldn't possibly be my own; I just couldn't escape.
The pain was almost unbearable, and the experiences and trauma almost ruined my life. I have to tell you, it wasn't easy to overcome the things I experienced. But once I did, I knew what I had to do was worth it.
Rest assured that even if your abuser is never charged, you can still heal from the trauma and live a meaningful life.
These 10 steps helped me overcome the devastation of life after abuse:
1. Accept the fact that it really did happen.
It wasn't a bad dream you can just forget about. It wasn't a thought you can just un-think. It was real, and now, it is your reality.
Even though it hurts, it might seem embarrassing or it may make you feel shameful, it is now a part of you.
Your assault wasn't a bad dream you can just forget about.
2. Learn how to love ALL parts of you.
Loving yourself may be hard to do, especially when you have a hard past.
The love you have for yourself will show others how to love you. It will also help you see the beauty you have that the trauma tried but couldn't steal away from you.
The love you have for yourself will show others how to love you.
3. Forgive not only the person who abused you, but also yourself.
The first part of letting go and saving yourself is all about forgiveness. You have to forgive the person (or people) who hurt you, not for them, but for yourself.
The forgiveness has absolutely nothing to do with normalizing their actions, and everything to do with giving yourself a path to being fully healed.
And the next part is to forgive yourself. If you never forgive yourself for the things that have happened to you, you may view yourself as weak, the enemy, the embarrassment or needy.
You will never find your power if you cannot forgive yourself.
You will never find your power if you cannot forgive yourself.
4. Always be honest with yourself.
The last thing you need is to lie to yourself. It sets you back and stops you from moving forward.
There are survivors who have been in limbo for decades because they were never honest with themselves about their experience. Generations of victims swept things underneath the rug in fear of what the abuse might look like to someone who found out.
This method didn't do anything except cause great pain. Being honest with yourself and not sweeping your experience or your feelings under the rug can help you and the generations to come.
5. Despite what it looks or feels like, stand your ground.
No one, including you, can have hope unless they see hope. Learning to stand your ground in the face of a toxic relationship, or even in the face of yourself when you're holding yourself back from healing, is vital.
It's a way of forcing yourself to have hope because, when you're standing up for what's right, it means you believe things can be better. And that right there is hope.
Having hope isn't easy, but it will definitely be worth it to see the lives saved int he long run — yours included.
6. There's nothing to hide from.
Even if you have done some things in the past that you might be ashamed of or that aren't true to your character, you have nothing to be afraid of or hide from.
Trust me when I tell you EVERYONE has skeletons in their closet. Abuse happens to many people who hide behind makeup, clothes, success and money. For you to actually decide not to hide is definitely what's needed in the world.
7. Do something positive with your time.
Every time you think of your trauma, think of and write down three things that are positive about yourself and your life. It's easy to get stuck in a rut if you're constantly leaving yourself open to thinking about your trauma.
By ruminating on it, you will analyze what you did wrong, what you could have done differently, how you hate the person who did it to you and how you don't know how you're going to get past it.
Focusing on those thoughts for too long is toxic and will not allow you to heal and move forward with your life.
8. Talk about it.
I know talking transparently about your trauma is scary and seemingly impossible, but you can do it.
But you need to do it on your own terms and at your own pace. Utilizing the previous tips will make it a lot easier.
In the meantime, start writing down your thoughts, your feelings and your struggles surrounding what happened. After writing those things down, write down any solutions you can think of, positive things and things you are grateful for in your life.
Once you're ready to confide in a trusted person of your choice, it will be a lot easier. Remember, you got through it in the first place. Never allow anyone or anything to silence your voice.
9. Patience is key.
Don't think you can fully get over this kind of trauma in a couple of weeks. In fact, don't think that you can get over it in a couple of years.
The honest truth is, there are a lot of people who never get all the way over it. They still have nightmares, they have to look over their shoulders and they can't trust people like they once could.
But focus on taking things one day at a time and putting one foot in front of the other. Be patient with yourself, even if you're frustrated, and believe you will overcome it.
10. Never compare traumas.
Trauma happens in all kinds of ways, and the worst thing you can do is compare your trauma to someone else's. You might end up making your trauma smaller than what you went through or you can end up underestimating what's necessary for your recovery.
Everyone deals with trauma differently. You may come across someone who might think what you went through is no big deal. And unfortunately, by belittling what happened to you, it can and will only set you back.
Trauma is painful. It leaves scars, and it is not something you can just snap your fingers and forget about.
Overcoming your abuse is an ongoing process, but you will overcome it. Be brave, be strong and be intentional.