Once upon a time, a fully grown-up woman called Erin lived near a theme park called Adventure Island. Erin had visited Adventure Island many times throughout her life, but as a child, she had been encouraged onto rides that were not age-appropriate. (Erin was tall and looked older than she really was). Erin still remembers her first ride and how much she screamed and cried because it felt so scary. Even today, when Erin visits Adventure Island as a grown-up lady, she still has a deep fear of them. Erin hears the screams of the people on the rides, and it feels right and okay that people are screaming because, in her mind, they are fucking scary. She doesn't understand the people who enjoy them, but “hey ho”, she thinks, “each to their own”.
The stupid rides at Adventure Island weren’t the only thing that had a lasting impact on Erin; her past also included sexual violence. Erin knew it had impacted her, but it felt too big and uncomfortable to face. Erin dealt with it by keeping busy all the time, wanting more but not being able to attain it. The benchmark of Erin’s days was measured against how much/well she could defeat the critical inner commentary accompanying her every waking (and sleeping) hour. She did her best to navigate the awkwardness and uncomfortableness she felt around being touched, kissing, and having sex, never really understanding the strange link between sex and love that people spoke of.
Erin wanted more. She wanted a life like the women at work who never had to take a day off. Erin wanted to feel assured and confident in her ability to step forward and handle her shit. A life where she could feel hopeful about getting the things she wanted and where those things didn’t feel like such a fcuking slog to attain. Unlike the rides at Adventure Island, Erin wanted an existence that didn’t feel like she had to hold on for dear life while tensing every muscle in her body and gritting her teeth to get through.
One day Erin found the support that taught her how to normalise what she was feeling instead of blaming herself, shutting down or minimising what she was experiencing. Instead of telling herself that she was stupid, pathetic, unworthy and worthless, Erin learnt that it was normal for women subjected to sexual violence to cry. It was normal for them to want to scream, not have sex, not want to be touched, feel burned out, on the edge, lay in bed for days, not leave the house, feel anger and rage and even be resentful of people who hadn’t experienced trauma. Instead of constantly asking herself why she wasn’t sleeping/eating/having nightmares/binge eating/taking drugs, she normalised it because what she was experiencing was typical when she looked at it through the lens of sexual violence. Just like understanding that it is normal to scream on rollercoasters.
Now, this normalising lark didn’t come without its challenges. It felt weird as shit to believe, think and feel that she was rational/reasonable/in the right/“normal”/valid and logical, and it also didn’t mean that a magic wand had been waved and everything she was struggling with disappeared. However, as normalising her feelings became more natural, Erin began to trust herself and believe in herself, which felt funking good. And yes, on some days, it did feel easier to blame herself and discount her experience, but she learnt to be gentle with herself and that this kind of work takes time, small steps and practice.
What used to be Erin's norm - crying, keeping busy, avoiding sex, unfulfilling and triggering sex, the constant never-ending inner critic, rampaging outbursts and not feeling good enough - changed. Erin understood herself. She now feels much more relaxed, like her internal self is a safer, nicer palace to be, not something she has to run away from. Erin’s kinder to herself, too; she likes it. For the main, she says it feels good to be her even if she still hates the rides at Adventure Island.
Getting support after sexual violence isn’t always just about talking therapy. I have set up a strong, supportive female community of women processing sexual violence trauma and building lives they f****** love. Leave a message here to find out more or become a member.
I host free workshops throughout the year, which you can sign up for - here.
There is a library of free resources that I am slowly and steadily building up that you are welcome to use, which you can find right here.
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