I’ve recently finished two years of therapy to help me heal from childhood trauma. At times it was gruelling, but not always, there were many lighter moments. Those moments were like tiny beacons bobbing along the surface of the turbulent seas of recovery, guiding the way whenever I lost sight of the shore. I am truly grateful that I was able to access talking therapy. And the word ‘grateful’ is important.
Before therapy, I’m not sure I had any idea what it felt like to experience a sense of gratitude. I knew when I should be feeling grateful. But what that actually felt like, I didn’t really have a clue. I possibly thought of ‘practicing gratitude’ as some lofty, grand goal to aspire to. I couldn’t quite see its relevance to my life. How exactly was it supposed to make me feel better?
And now? Now I know what it feels like to be grateful.
I’m grateful to have worked with a therapist who never gave up on me, and who refused to let me give up on myself. I’m grateful for a safe space, a sanctuary in which I could, little by little begin to speak of events that permeated every fibre of my being, poking and prickling, until I acknowledged them. Learning to feel is scary. It’s disorientating and confusing. It was though, the only sensible way forward, the only way out from the all-engulfing, numbing agony of depression.
Periodically I would have intense bouts of suicidal ideation. I knew how to end my life. I didn’t know how to live it. And now I’ve shifted my focus. I’m no longer so pre-occupied with the pain of my past. That particular pain is considerably smaller, and it now exists as a pebble on my shelf. I no longer perpetually carry the weight of it around with me anymore. My mental load is lighter, I have more energy, I can think clearly more often. I can think about others which allows me to reflect and marvel at a generosity of spirit, kindness and compassion that exists within our communities, and within our world.
I don’t keep a gratitude-journal, but I do regularly make a mental note of moments I am grateful for. I’m grateful for a velvety soft cockapoo; an emotional support animal who joined in my therapy sessions, who made me laugh, and who provided tender moments of connection. I believe dogs cross our paths intentionally. They know who amongst us are in need their presence.
I’m grateful to folk I reached out to during my journey of healing and recovery from childhood sexual abuse. All provided a brief element of support and encouragement that gradually seeped into my brain until eventually I was able to see that yes, I am okay, right here and now in this moment, I am okay. My hope is that by remaining mindful, by noticing moments of joy and actively cultivating gratitude, I can create the best conditions to help me stay ‘recovered’.
Adverse childhood experiences can leave deep scars that will in all likelihood need attention. Try and give them attention sooner rather than later. Don’t wait until mid-life as I did. If you are able to access talking therapy, do it. Do it for yourself. Things can get better. Life can begin to have meaning. I can once more walk safely over bridges. Is my life all sweetness & jollity now? No, but it isn’t filled with constant thoughts of how to get through each day without ending my life.
And for that, I am immensely grateful. I am grateful to be alive.
Author: Felicity Dougie
Epione wants to personally thank Felicity for being the spark that brought this blog to life – and for her ongoing personal reflections on trauma and healing.