Learning and Healing Part “29”: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
The last article I wrote was about triggers and learning new ways to address them to produce different outcomes. I called it a reclaiming of my life. I am beginning to think that it is learning what well balanced and healthy children learn as they are growing up. But as they say, better late than never!
I shared that I had a problem with a person of power and potentially for the first time in my life I told them what I needed and set limits on what I would and would not do. I expressed my needs, and set a healthy boundary. That felt like a great success, but it was not the end of the story.
As the process continued I found my boundaries being pushed, like when you stick your finger in a balloon. I was not inclined to move my limits, but the pressure was uncomfortable. In fact it made me feel terrible. How could someone I trusted, try to replace my limits with theirs? After weeks of trying to convince myself I had done something wrong, or was being unreasonable, I ended up with serious health problems and was sick in bed for a week.
One thing I have learned well is to listen to my body and my body was trying to tell me something. My square edges just would not fit into that round hole. The message I was hearing was if I backed down from my position I would be “sick” from then on. It finally came to me that I was in an abusive relationship and the person who was trying to get me to change my values was not my friend after all.
I wrote an email ending our connection, and I felt better than I had in months. I thought I wanted and needed that for my future and yet things got instantly better when I let go.
In the past I never would have had this experience because I never would have let anyone get close enough to betray me like that. After my abuse ended, I put up walls to keep everyone out. A major part of my healing process has been to take my walls down and let people in. I have just found out that makes me quite vulnerable.
Being vulnerable is not comfortable territory for most survivors. And yet my life is so much better today than it was when I thought I was protected, I will not consider putting my walls back up. The walls you see, keep out the good and the bad. I would lose the connection I feel to my own family as well as to all the great people and survivors that are part of my life today. I would rather be honest, vulnerable and living in the present moment and risk the possibility of being betrayed again.
If I want to experience the joy of life and connection to other people, I will be vulnerable to attack. But guess what? I am learning that I can even deal with the bad in life and still feel good about myself, and my choices. I think I am happier today after dealing with a bad situation than I have ever been before. Growth and healing can be painful, but also immensely rewarding. I know my life will have many ups and downs, but as long as I keep listening and learning I know I will find a lot of happiness along the way.
I can’t say that I know what I’ve have missed in life because of my abuse, but I can work to stay open to learning new behaviors that are not connected to survival, but may enrich my experience on this earth.
– By Randy Ellison
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Speaker, writer and author of the book Boys Don’t Tell: Ending the Silence of Abuse, Randy Ellison is a child sexual abuse victim’s advocate and an activist promoting cultural change working with local, state and national organizations. He addresses abuse prevention and healing for survivors from a survivor’s perspective. Randy is a member of the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force. He is a founding member and former board president of OAASIS, Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service.
Randy recently received the Diane Sandler Award for his work in education, awareness and prevention of sexual violence in Southern Oregon.