It’s Time to Say Farewell to Fear
By Jane Leigh
As a clinical psychotherapist and survivor of childhood sexual, emotional abuse and trauma, I have been asked many times by my clients and people who know me: “How did you move past your abuse? What would you recommend to other women in similar situations?” It is my hope that this article will be able to provide some answers.
I was sexually abused by my parents as a child and, in my adolescent years, by priests of the Roman Catholic Church. This catastrophic beginning to my life set off a domino effect of destructive events throughout my adulthood, culminating in failed, abusive relationships with men and several attempts at suicide. I became trapped in a pit of darkness and engulfed by the tentacles of severe depression and PTSD. However, giving up was not an option for me. I had two beautiful children who at the time were still in diapers and relied on my care and protection. Furthermore, I wanted to know what caused me to feel such utter devastation and how I could slowly put the pieces of my shattered life back together.
I began my journey of self-discovery by doing what I was not at all accustomed to – looking at the positives in my life. This was a near-impossible task, especially for someone who no longer wanted to live. However, I learned a very important lesson: No matter how bleak life seems, there are always positives, we just need to allow ourselves to focus on those little bits of sunlight instead of the all-encompassing darkness.
Aside from my children who saved my life in so many ways, my rays of sunlight were my loyal friends whose love and support helped me through many years of therapy, and the love I had for my uncle David, the closest to a father I knew. He gave me the chance to enjoy what little innocence of my childhood I had and always made me laugh. Sadly, my uncle David died a very violent death and I never got the opportunity to thank him for all he did for me. However, the love he demonstrated to me was the purest form – it was unconditional – and I saw my life as a testament to his memory, which I wanted to uphold with integrity.
This kept me focused throughout three and a half years of intense therapy. I relate this emotional cleansing and subsequent healing process as somewhat similar to treating a physical wound – imagine a deep cut that has not been properly cleaned yet has a Band-Aid carelessly placed over it. In time, that wound will fester and eventually become infected. It is at this point that most people seek treatment and this is how I view the counseling process, metaphorically: removing that pus-infused Band-Aid, disinfecting and thoroughly cleaning out the wound (the most painful step) and allowing that wound to heal and in time, become a scar that can never again cause harm.
It was during this time that I began writing my memoir, My Nine Lives – A Psychotherapist’s Journey From Victim to Survivor, which was published in December 2012. Writing was, for me, a thoroughly cathartic, cleansing and long-awaited process. I knew it had to be done but I was afraid of facing the pain. However, my years of therapy prepared me for this process and I paced myself carefully.
Being a mental health professional, I was well aware of the challenges I would face writing my story – i.e. cleaning out my wounds – so I planned my own therapy. I gave myself permission to cry and feel angry whilst reliving certain difficult and painful times in my life. I spent many nights crying in bed but ultimately, I also gave myself permission to acknowledge what I had been through and most importantly be kind to myself. It was my way of reminding myself of how much I had accomplished, how far I have come and most of all, that I should be proud of who I am.
I have shared my advice with my clients, my own children and now would like to share with my readers: You are not alone in your pain. Do not be afraid to speak up – it is time to say farewell to the fear, shame and guilt that has haunted you for so long. No matter how devastating life seems, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel – you just have to trust yourself to find it.
Most importantly, celebrate life and never take it for granted. Life is, to put it bluntly, unfair at times and we do not have control over our past, or what has been done to us, but what matters is that we ultimately have full control over what we choose to do with our lives – our future – so live the life you want and live it to the fullest!
About the Author
Jane Leigh is a clinical psychotherapist with a Master’s degree in counseling from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Leigh has been an ambassador for Beyond Blue, one of Australia’s leading organizations supporting people affected by depression and their families. She currently resides in Melbourne, Australia where she runs her own private counseling practice. Her new memoir, My Nine Lives, can be found online at amazon.com and bookstore.authorhouse.com.