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Chapter 6

Pausing to Invest in Myself

 

Left with only my parents’ abuse still occurring things started to change - slowly but surely. By now I was in my mid 40s and my son was 18 which meant that he was now old enough to start working. I got him a job as my home health aide. This is a position that was filled by others over the years because I have numerous health issues and needed help. I’m thankful that this help was available to me as it made being a mother a bit easier but I’m especially grateful that Adrian could now have this job, especially since it meant that I no longer had to work. 

 

Not having to work soon made me feel miserable though. At this time Adrian also came to the conclusion that he no longer wanted to talk to my parents because my mother had called him a “$20,000 thing.” All of this left me with plenty of time to think about life and I started to wonder “What is normal?” My questioning and confusion became overwhelming and led me to enter therapy for the first time in 16 years. Yes, up until this point I’d tried to bury everything in work and motherhood. Now I started to realize what I’d been doing and that life isn’t all about working. I also realized that I didn’t even know who I was or what I wanted.

 

Initially, when I realized that I didn’t need to work I wasn’t only confused but I also felt really unsettled. This was because I’d been use to working 24/7. Now I had all this time and no idea what to do with it. This is what led to the many feelings that I was experiencing. They led me to make the decision that I needed to be in therapy. Now I had plenty of time to really invest in figuring out who I am so that I no longer saw myself as a victim. Personally, I believe that everyone needs therapy at some point in their life because if nothing else it’s a great way to decompress. This is why after I worked through my trauma I’ve chosen to remain in therapy today. It not allows me to decompress but even now that I’m three years into therapy I’m still discovering new ways that my trauma has impacted my life. With each discovery I also learn to work through this thing not only so that I can heal but so that I can get to know myself better and thus become a stronger person.

 

It’s important to also mention that when I entered therapy was right before our country was put into lockdown because of COVID 19. I’m really glad that I’d started therapy at this point because when we went into lockdown a lot of unresolved feelings from the past popped up. I remember sitting on the front step to our apartment telling my PCP at that time that I felt like I was being abused again because I couldn’t leave my house. I had serious flashbacks throughout this time of the abuse. I even started having PTSD episodes which weren’t the same as panic attacks. These would cause me to dissociate and almost hyperventilate at the same time.

 

I honestly don’t think I’d have made it through 2020 and these intense feelings that it brought back up again for me if I wasn’t in therapy. Instead, 2020 was a year of real growth for me. During this time I learned that my reality was far from normal and that there were many things in my life that helped shape me into the person that I am today. 

 

While I admitted that I was a product of an abusive environtment, I went through a lot of deep introspection to see just how strong of a person I was and I started to heal. It was also at this time that I made the conscious decision that I would overcome these this abuse and not just be a survivor but I’d also be a thriver. I honestly believe that anyone who’s willing to do the work and invest in themselves, introspection can also bring a lot of healing and outward growth to their lives as well.

 

Slowing down and taking some time to get to really know yourself and understand the abuse you’ve been through is vital to healing. However, this isn’t something that you can do with just any therapist. You need to work with a trauma informed therapist because otherwise your therapist can do a lot more harm than good. This isn’t something that I understood right away and thus I didn’t start out with a trauma informed therapist. 

 

Initially I didn’t realize that I hadn’t given myself time to heal from the domestic abuse even though it had happened 16 years ago at this point. I also didn’t think that my parents had much of an impact on me anymore. However, in reality I was still running from the domestic abuse by burying myself in work and anything else I could do to keep myself busy - something that actually prevented me from taking the time to heal. These things also caused me to become really detached from the world around me. So while some people used substances to help them escape, my substance of choice just happened to be work.

 

I don’t mean this to say that my first therapist was a bad therapist. It was simply that he wasn’t a trauma informed therapist. He didn’t understand trauma and its affects. However, he did help me to see that what I’d always thought of as normal was actually very far from normal. This doesn’t mean that normal is the same for everyone. It just means that the abuse I’d undergone throughout my entire life wasn’t normal. This is one thing that I’m thankful this therapist helped me to understand.

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