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Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse: I Am A Survivor

The aftermath of sexual abuse can be devastating. For Hannah, it manifested itself through alcoholism, eating disorders and even cutting herself... all before she turned 18. This is her story.

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My Journey from Survivor to Thriver


My journey began about 11 years ago, when I was working as a home-based writer, and memories of sexual abuse and rape suddenly began flooding my consciousness. It was a good thing I was self-employed, at the time, because what happened over the course of the next few years sent me spiraling out of control.


In the beginning, I experienced intense flashbacks and body memories, which forced me to re-live the abuse that occurred when I was young. At times, I was blind-sided by waves of physical and emotional pain.

At first, I couldn’t believe what was happening to me, and hoped and prayed I was inventing these horrifying images. That the physical pain I was feeling was fake. That I was creating these fantasies. Because that was more comforting than believing that the people I trusted had betrayed me.


But the more I resisted, the more the memories persisted. On and on, like a nightmare that would seemingly never end.


The good news is that when I finally allowed myself to believe the memories were true, the flashbacks and body memories tapered off and eventually stopped. But there was still plenty to overcome. Over the course of the next several years, I did a great deal of healing, in therapy and support groups and with the help of my wonderfully loving husband, Jeff and some supportive survivor friends.


Dealing with Abuse Takes Time, But How Much Time?

They say that dealing with child abuse or any difficult loss takes time, and that’s true. But in my opinion, it doesn’t need to take THAT much time, and sometimes, if you’re not careful, it can take a lifetime to move beyond the pain. One day, I realized that my life was slipping away, and I had allowed my entire identity to become tied up in being a “survivor.”


At that point, I realized I had a choice. I could continue to wear my “survivor label” like a badge of honor and blame others for what I didn’t like about my life. Or I could take responsibility for my life, and realize that my past didn’t have to define me. Yes, I was a survivor of sexual abuse and rape, but I was so much MORE than that. I didn’t want to just survive, I wanted to THRIVE!


It was probably no coincidence that I began exploring my spirituality at this same time. I had never been religious, (and I’m still not) but suddenly I wanted to believe that all these memories had bubbled up for a reason, that there WAS, in fact, some divine plan. That something good would come of these horrible revelations.


Transcending My Past and Helping Others Thrive

Over the next couple years, I traveled on a spiritual journey of faith and forgiveness that transformed my life. While I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anyone, the abuse I experienced taught me an important lesson: that I possess an amazing strength and compassion that can never be broken, a powerful spirit that can never be extinguished. Painful though they were, those experiences shaped me into the strong, compassionate woman I am today.


My spiritual journey ultimately led me to the realization that I could make a difference in the lives of people who have faced adversity, including survivors of abuse. Though it took me awhile to decide what form that might take, I finally decided to become a coach, because I wanted to help people move forward rather than taking them back to the past to explore their wounds.


After graduating from the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland’s 18-month-long Gestalt Training Program and the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching, (an ICF-accredited program) I became a certified professional coach.


Today, as a life transitions coach, I am honored to help clients navigate challenging life transitions such as job loss and the loss of a loved one (and the transition from survivor to thriver) with courage, hope and optimism, so they can create the lives they truly desire.


Visit my website at http://ellen-brown.com to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.


Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach in Cleveland, Ohio who works with clients, by phone, all over the country, to help them overcome their challenges with courage, hope and optimism. She is also a regular contributor to ShareWIK.com.


More Ellen Brown articles, click here.


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