(Fergusson & Mullen, Sage 1999)
The counselling looked at every aspect of my life and it became clearer and clearer to me that my identity and the way I lived my life was as a victim. I was still living with the fear of being abused and in fear of my abuser.
I came to realise that the abuse had fundamentally distorted my development as a person; I had grown up as someone who needed to protect themselves from, rather than enjoy, the world. The abuse meant I saw people and situations firstly as potential threats, I had grown up being always hyper-vigilant and constantly on the defensive. Living this way was exhausting.
The longer the counselling went on the angrier I became, the sense of injustice and wrong that was done to me finally surfaced.
The next stage was, perhaps, the beginning of the end of the process.
I had given back the responsibility of the abuse and no longer felt shame or guilt over what had been done to me, I had accepted and now knew that what he did was abuse and was wrong, I even had the embers of self-worth. What came next was to look at loss and to grieve for what I had lost and for what might have been.
It took some time for me to gather the courage to even begin to think about what the abuse had cost me. Below are just some of the issues I needed to acknowledge and grieve over:
- Loss of childhood
- Loss of innocence
- Loss of naivety
- Loss of opportunities for happy memories
- Loss of some memory
- Loss of opportunity to develop a natural curiosity about the world
- Loss of opportunity to enjoy the world, rather than fear it
- Loss of healthy social interaction without suspicion and fear
- Loss of nurturing relationship with self
- Loss of innate Self-trust
- Loss of innate Self-belief
- Loss of innate Self-worth
- Loss of opportunity to develop my sexuality naturally
- Loss of relationships, including that of my father
- Loss of time and energy spent on the abuse, rather than on positive things
- Loss of education and improved work prospects
- Loss of opportunities
This was a period of huge sadness. I cried a great deal. I grieved.
How could I get all these losses back? The simple answer; I couldn’t; I had to let them go.
I also came to the conclusion that my recovery could not be based on regaining the specifics of what I had lost, but to reclaim the essence of them.
I could and would build better and healthier relationships for myself
I could and would go back to college and educate myself
I could and would make new opportunities for myself
I could and would learn to enjoy the world and be less fearful.
I was moving on from being a victim of abuse to a survivor.
I began to think about life after the counselling and what I could do. Throughout my life people had seemed to trust me and I was a regular confidante for family and friends. My abuser had given the reason for abusing me as being too nice and too caring. Perhaps, I thought, I could also reclaim these qualities and use them in a positive way to help others overcome the issues they faced, I talked this through with my counsellor, who agreed.
I took the decision to start training as a therapist.