How to Recover from Child Abuse
Due to modern media, there is a stigma attached to child abuse that makes most people automatically assume that survivors have experienced abuse of a sexual or physical nature. However, there are many different forms of child abuse, from verbal and emotional abuse to neglect and psychological abuse. All of which can have a serious effect on your happiness and sense of self-worth as an adult.
Whether you suffered at the hands of a family member, a stranger or a parent, processing what you went through isn’t easy and can take many years to do. Many survivors struggle well into their adult lives and if they don’t address the trauma it can lead to depression, addiction, anxiety and relationship issues. It is important to remember that your past should not define your future.
If you had a difficult start to life and are feeling the consequences of surviving child abuse, these are just some of the ways that you can start on your journey to overcoming the trauma and improving your well-being and happiness.
Mourn for the lost childhood
After enduring child abuse, it’s normal for you to feel that your childhood has been stolen from you. It is a completely natural reaction to feel upset, deprived and even angry. You may look back at your past and feel that your life could have been better if you had been born to different parents or in different circumstances. Feeling resentment towards your parent/s for the way they brought you up or the fact that they allowed you to be in a position where you could be abused is understandable. It’s also common for survivors of child abuse to compare their youth to their friends. Maybe you know people who had blissfully happy upbringings with supportive attentive parents and you don’t understand why you were regularly ignored or shouted at. It is important at some point to let go of this. You need to mourn the loss of what you feel your childhood should have been but also accept that what has happened is in the past. Comparing your life to others or wondering “Why me?” will only plunge you deeper into unhappiness. You should focus on your future but allow yourself time and space to grieve first.
Decide what you want
In order to recover from child abuse, it’s important that you understand what realistic outcome you would like. Sadly, there is no way to wind back time and change things. The only thing that you can do is improve your future and embrace life. A lot of child abuse survivors get caught up in their past and dwell on the actions they, or their parents, could have or should have taken without thinking about what they can do now. Deciding what outcome you want and where you would like to be is the first step on the road to recovery. Try to be realistic with your aspirations. If you want to improve your relationship with your parent/s you need to be prepared to face that they may be set in their ways and struggle to maintain a healthy relationship.
Try not to place blame
Addressing blame and anger does play an important part in recovering from child abuse. But during the healing process, you should try not to fixate on blaming your parent/s or yourself. People who have experienced child abuse are usually left wondering why they were treated that way and they can become consumed with trying to find an explanation. Sometimes there are underlying issues that may play a part in their explanations for the abuse – perhaps the abuser was abused as a child, or they suffer from mental health issues or addictions. But in reality, you will never truly understand their motivation, mind-set, or why they chose you. It may be hard, but you need to accept this and move forward. The important thing to remember is that it is not your fault. No child deserves to be abused and by concentrating your energy on blaming people you only continue your suffering as you can’t get past the trauma. The reasons why it happened will not be able to change anything so let go and move forward with your life.
Talk about it
When you have suffered from a traumatic experience, like child abuse, it can be hard to find someone who you can talk to about it. It’s common for survivors to be ashamed of their past and not want to open up to their friends or family due to the fear that they may be judged or not believed. It can also be difficult to admit if you are concerned that there may be repercussions or rumours if you tell anyone. It can make survivors feel very alone and unable to make healthy relationships. Therapy can be the best way to overcome child abuse and free yourself from loneliness. By discussing your past and current feelings with a professional you can lighten the burden and speak freely in a safe and secure environment.