As I’ve slowly but surely challenged myself to survive and even sometimes thrive it’s hard to imagine this progress without SurvivorsUK. It was around a year and a half ago that I did the 12 session programme. I’ve been attending the ongoing monthly support group since then.
I’ve been to a few groups for survivors as well as a few years of individual counselling sessions. Everything has been helpful and informative in it’s own way. I can honestly say that the 12 weeks with SurvivorsUK stands head and shoulders above the rest.
The level of safety and comfort and acceptance was like nothing I’ve ever experienced (knowing I’ll be understood), and the sharing so honest and full and free. A place where I can say exactly how I feel, exactly what worries me, where I can think out loud and take my time without being interrupted, and analysed. Instead of a raised eye brow and panicked eyes I’m met with compassionate knowing nods of shared experience, approval, understanding. I’m listened to, and what’s more respected!
Slowly but surely my “bizarre” experience of the aftermath of sexual abuse becomes more and more normal through hearing experience after experience after experience that I relate to. One of my favourite things about the group is listening. As I listen more and more, time passes and I find I’m naturally beginning to face the reality of my experience. Things like repressed emotions making an appearance, trauma in the body, not feeling anything, dark moods, isolation, shame, self-hatred, emotional distortion, emotional pain, horrendous nightmares (the list could fill a page!) all become more understandable. I come to realise what I’m up against more fully… What we are up against more fully. Rather than “bizarre” it all slowly begins to make perfect sense.
There are times when the tension, the stress, is washed away, and a sense of liberation comes over me. This is what it feels like to be human I think to myself. To not be a machination designed to protect myself. To not be at internal war. Tears flow these days and the lovely sense of relief comes. What a feeling this is. What an addition to this whole experience of recovery.
I also want to mention the ideas, the coping strategies, and the hope that comes from meeting and talking regularly in such a warm and safe space of understanding. Naturally, we all want to cope better, to heal, to care for ourselves. There were ideas a lot of good creative ideas I took away with me. Ideas for releasing pent up anger, kind of encouraging mantras we wrote and took away for each other.
I’m a fan of the idea of creating self-compassionate challenges and directions for myself. Things like changing the way I talk to myself, being less critical of myself if I decide not to attend something, putting less pressure on myself. Sometimes I might try slowing down and being more aware of my surroundings, sometimes it might be allowing myself the time and space to feel, at other times it might be treating myself, doing something I enjoy. In one sense the SurvivorsUK group is like a creativity hub where we share sometimes original, or borrowed, or read, or heard, often creative and inspiring ideas for tackling recovery together. Naturally it takes time to heal the pain and repression of decades. To undo, to reverse the devastating momentum set in motion by Trauma that took place when we were young and powerless is bound to take time, and we are wise I believe to not rush, to go at a pace and in a way we are comfortable with. That said, if you are ready, the group was, and continues to be, life changing.
James is the owner of wisegoals.com, a site that aims to bring self-compassion, flexibility, and wisdom to the party of conscious challenge and growth.
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