What helped me survive the initial shock and betrayal that happened at the hands of my priest?
It helped that I had life experience for one. I had been through terrible things before and I knew that life eventually goes on. But it was getting to that point that was difficult.
I guess I can say it was lucky for me that I had experience working two years at a suicide hotline. I’ve had training on how to help people talk themselves through the moment. One minute at a time is how it works sometimes. And I have to say honestly that I was at that point.
I was so consumed by what had just happened….by being fired for basically being a “danger to priests” when I was the one who had been in danger….I could not function. I simply could not. Food did not exist. I could not concentrate long enough to watch anything on TV and have it register. I was basically a zombie bent on self-destruction.
The first thing that helped me get through this time was the support of a wonderful therapist and group of good friends that let me talk and cry. It was a loss and I was feeling grief and shock. Talking and trying to make sense of the situation was my lifeline.
The second thing that helped with the initial healing was writing. I wrote emails to friends and I wrote and wrote and wrote to myself and wrote letters I never sent to the priest and to H.R. and to God and to anyone else I thought might be remotely involved. I had to purge. I had to get this energy out of me before it ate me from the inside out.
The next thing that helped was Facebook and emails. Forwarding inspirational messages and quotes from great people and such…..thoughts on survival from those who had been through trauma and recovery and had lived to tell the tale after being abused and making mistakes and trusting assholes and hating themselves and all of that. That helped.
Music was next. As loud as I could take it. Music blasting through my headphones. My favorite song was “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson. Didn’t matter what the song itself was about. The chorus was empowering. That and the sentence….”You thought you had the best of me…..thought you had the last laugh….thought that everything good was gone.” And….”Never thought that I’d come back, I’d come back swinging…” It gave me the strength when I had to fake the strength. It made me feel so much better. It pummeled the dark monster inside back into a corner. If not just temporarily.
As I began to be able to focus, I did watch a bit of comedy TV. That was another thing I did to help get through the rough first days. I made sure not to be hard on myself as far as doing anything on my “to do” list or being a responsible adult. Now was not the time. I was as sick as if I had the flu. I hid under a blanket and watched junk TV and ate comfort food. It helped.
As the days wore on and I was able to focus a bit of my attention elsewhere and I began to realize I was still alive and things were not going to unwind, what helped me next was having something to focus on that required using my brain. For me, it was signing up for a craft fair. I am not particularly crafty so this took up most of my brain power to accomplish. I went to the craft store and picked out fabric and trim to make some scarves and things for my craft table. I really felt a sense of empowerment and a sense of moving out of the fog as it were, when I began to use a creative side of my brain. It was something I still had control over. It was something nobody else could touch. It was pleasant. It helped.
As time wore on, I was able to do research on survivors of sexual abuse by priests. I discovered that I was not alone. I discovered that more often than not, priests who abuse have patterns of grooming with the intent to lure their victims into a false state of security before they abuse them. From that point, I learned about SNAP…The Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests. And from there, my healing continued.
I am not going to say I am completely healed, but I have come so far from where I was three years ago when I was blaming myself and in such pain and confusion.
I have posted some of the things I did that helped me get through the moment….which then turned into hours then days then weeks and on and on. I’m sure that other people have things they did that helped them heal. It is so important that victims of abuse know they are not alone. That by itself can help in the healing tremendously. That and knowing that it was not your fault.
If I can help anyone get through their own process of healing, everything I went through is worth it.