Seeing the good in myself has always been difficult for me. I have been encouraged to talk about some of the good things in my life rather than all of the negative things as is probably a good follow up to my last posting.
I too feel that in life in general we often focus on the negative things whether it be every day life, the news, or our relationships.
I went to the annual Traumatic Stress Conference a few years back and there was a wonderful guest speaker at the end. It was Elizabeth Smart. If you’re not familiar with her story I encourage you to do so. She is a woman of resilience and strength I could see that as she stood in front of an audience of 200 plus and told her horrific story of kidnapping, captivity, and abuse.
However, what I was disappointed to have not heard was how she got there. I could hear her story or rather watch her story on television or read about it in books. As a therapist, I wanted to know how she got to be this woman today that is standing on stage and has the wherewithal to talk about the horrific things that happened to her with such courage. How did she recover? What helped her? What struggles did she have?
Let me tell you a bit about my recovery. Which I am still working on by the way. I definitely still have some triggers and reactions to life and relationships that stem from my past trauma. I don’t know that it will all ever go away.
As you all know, I considered myself an awkward teen. I was tall for my age and for the boys, never felt like I fit in, had large teeth and braces for a period. Pile on the introduction of my abuser at that age and I was a mess and a half.
My time frame may be a bit off as things are very hazy from back then, but bottom line this was not all of my life. I do, looking back, consider myself to have been successful. I was good at art, I played volleyball through school starting in 7th grade and also played league volleyball on the off season. Despite my outside stressors, I had good grades too. I also got a job at age 12 at my aunt’s restaurant on my own accord. I did get in trouble from time to time due to my attitude but for the most part I was doing well…on the outside.
Now these things all would be considered protective factors for some of the negative/maladaptive responses or behaviors I engaged in in my life, but they are no guarantee.
Something that really helped me was Barbizon Modeling School. I clearly did not become a famous super model like my idol at the time Tyra Banks, but what I did get out of it was confidence.
I attended the school my freshman year of high school. I learned how to do hair, makeup, pose, walk with confidence, and to speak in front of others. I learned to meet new people and socialize. Around this time I worked a few modeling jobs in fashion shows, hair shows, bridal shows, and entered into two pageants. I was really proud of myself as my first one I made it to the top 20 of 200 girls. These experiences were very positive and built me up. I probably never would have made it through high school as I did if I had not went to modeling school.
I know I was not the nicest person in school. I bullied people because I was angry under all of these accomplishments and I never felt good enough. But I was also bullied and picked on and laughed at. I learned during this time to ignore, be dismissive, be aloof, and let things slide off my shoulders. But they always stuck with me no matter how I responded on the outside and they still do. If I had not had these positive experiences in my life I probably would be a shell of the person I was and who knows how I would have handled what I went through.
I continued to play volleyball throughout high school up until my senior year, which is a whole other story. My mom had sent me to counseling and a psychiatrist to help me better understand the emotionally abusive relationship that I was bouncing back and forth in and could not get out of. I feel that all I can say that I gained from that time in counseling was an understanding of the cycle and the definition of an abusive relationship, but never really figured out how to get out of it. I honestly cannot remember how it ended. I cannot tell you that there was “one day” or “this time” was the last straw. I literally haven’t a clue.
In closing…..thats a terrible line but I don’t know how to end this. What I gather….nope that’s even worse. Bottom line…..I can look back on my adolescence and be proud of myself. I may have done some stupid, unhealthy, and illegal things and experienced trauma, but they do not define me. I was so much more than that. Someone I can be proud of. I do have regrets. I definitely could have made some better decisions, but they have made me who I am today.
I have been to, at this point, so many counselors I cannot count and still go from time to time today. I can’t say that I am fully recovered by any means as I still struggle with anger, being distrustful, and many negative core beliefs I have about myself, but I am constantly working on them. I am constantly trying to better understand myself and why I do the things I do. I also try to focus on who I am today and not who I was yesterday. I don’t want others to judge me for that person so I have to remember not to judge myself for that person. Remember to focus on the positives!