When I was only about five years old, I had the realization that life gets a lot easier when we are optimistic. Any challenge, no matter how daunting, feels a little less intimidating when we see the bright side — and there always is one. I think this is where my resilience comes from. I developed depression around the time my parents divorced and got the idea in my head that I could cure myself without drugs or therapy… or even a support system. Crazy, I know. But here I am, depression-free for five years. I held onto that imagined light at the end of the tunnel for dear life and somehow it worked. Same thing goes for recovering from sexual assault and domestic abuse. I knew that life would never be the same, but I knew that I could heal a lot if I just put in the work. I wanted those experiences to have as little effect on my life as possible. I also knew that it would be better to face things head on now when they’re fresh, rather than shoving it down and realizing much too late that I have major issues that aren’t easy to reverse. I’d rather just prevent those problems in the first place.
I’ve made a lot of progress because of this philosophy, but of course I’m nowhere near perfect. For example, I have this nasty habit of imagining what it would be like to have a severe trigger in a difficult situation. I really have no idea why. Curiosity? Trying to mentally prepare myself? Self-sabotage? All I know is that it’s a problem. Thinking about triggers can make me feel triggered and anxious. And besides, thinking this way is doing me more harm than good. I’ve been doing this for years and it’s crystal clear that I need to stop.
There are other ways in which I think negatively about what’s happened to me. I imagine running into the people who sexually assaulted me. When it comes to N, the imagined scenarios never end very well. And sometimes I even catch myself feeling sorry for myself. Fuck that. I’m a warrior. I should be proud of my accomplishments. If anything, this has made me stronger overall. No warrior is without their scars.
But I digress… I made a commitment the other day that I think has great potential to launch my healing process to new heights: I made a promise to myself to only think of sexual assault in a positive and constructive way. It’s simple, but very important. Like I said, I regularly have negative thoughts about what happened to me. If I just get into the habit of thinking about the positive things — ways to cope and heal, how much I’ve grown, healed and learned about myself, etc. — that could make a world of a difference.
The only exception I will make is if I think about a negative experience in the past (say, a particularly difficult trigger) but then contemplate how I can better deal with a situation like that next time. If I’m just thinking about how awful that situation was and that I’m just dreading the next time that happens, it will only make me feel worse. That’s a waste of time and energy.
I need to stop thinking about my experience with sexual assault as this bad thing that happened to me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s entirely true that I went through hell (and I’m still working my way out of it). However, it’s destructive to think about it in that way so often. I need the majority of my thoughts to be on how far I’ve come and how much farther I can go. Thinking about the negative will only bring me down.
Thank you for reading this article. You can find my backstory here.