Childhood sexual abuse isn’t something that just remains in the past. Depression, anxiety, guilt, shame, self-loathing, PTSD, addiction, anger, chronic pain, and a host of other issues are far more likely to occur in adults who’ve be sexually abused as children. But before my time in Ironwood, I didn’t know any of these facts.
I was sexually abused from the age of 5-13. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, people didn’t really talk about childhood sexual abuse. I didn’t see my story reflected in any movie or tv show, newspaper article, or magazine. Because of that, I thought I was alone in my experience. When the abuse stopped and I developed so many of the difficulties I just described, I thought it was because there was something wrong with me. I was defective. Worthless. Weak. Someone who wasn’t strong enough to “just get over it”.
And so I over-compensated. I became a relentless perfectionist. I tried to outwardly excel at everything I did personally and professionally to hide the fact that I was deeply suffering inside. To the world, I appeared happy and put-together. But when I looked in the mirror, all I saw was someone who was inherently flawed and unlovable.
The perfectionism didn’t solve my internal war, but it kept me going, so I soldiered on. And then, at 37, I was sexually assaulted by a doctor. All the childhood sexual trauma I tried so hard to suppress came roaring to the surface. I couldn’t control my emotions. I had angry outbursts and cried hysterically at random. I couldn’t maintain the image of perfection anymore. My inner wounded child refused to be silenced. She needed help. I needed help.
And that’s when I discovered the article about Ironwood in the paper. I was terrified to attend- the idea of sharing my deepest pain and secrets with total strangers made my whole being cringe- but I knew I couldn’t carry on as I had before. Life had become untenable, unmanageable. I needed to do something.
Walking through the door for my first group session is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it’s also one of the best. It is here that I learned I am not defective. That all the guilt, pain, shame and myriad of other things I’ve struggled with my whole life are what Chris calls, “A reasonable response to an unreasonable situation”. These words are a gift, they are my freedom.
Every time I share my story with the incredible people involved with this group, I see heads nod in solidarity, and am met with overflowing compassion, understanding, and support. I have attended Ironwood for four years, and in that time, I have done more healing than I have in my entire life. This group quite literally saved my life.
From the bottom of my heart, to all the donors and supporters who make Ironwood possible, thank you. You are changing lives in ways immeasurable and profound.
© Copyright theironwoodproject