Dear Fellow Survivor Blog: There’s No Google Maps for This

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There’s No Google Maps for This

Summary

This is a blog post series by the author who wrote the devotion series "Dear Survivor". Follow along as he blogs about the background of his experience on his continued journey of healing.

Dear fellow survivor,

I regularly use the Google Maps app on my phone to help me get from one place to another. I like having the ability to see an overview of the route I’ll take before I even start the car. I like seeing approximately how long it will take to get where I’m going and my estimated arrival time. Receiving turn-by-turn directions gives me confidence, even when driving in places I’ve never been. Google Maps provides a wealth of helpful information to help me reach my destination with minimal delay and difficulty.

I wish there were a Google Maps app for the journey of healing from childhood sexual abuse. It would be amazing to know exactly what route I need to take to recover from the trauma. I’d love to have even an approximate idea of how long it will take. Step-by-step directions would be so much easier than fumbling around mindlessly, trying to figure out what, if anything, I needed to do.

But there is no Google Maps for healing from childhood sexual abuse. The journey we are on is not one that we can map out ahead of time. There are no step-by-step directions and no estimated time of arrival. There is just the journey, and the journey will be different for each of us.

I have often found this reality extremely frustrating. I’m the kind of person who likes a to-do list. I love seeing the steps I need to take to accomplish something. It gives me immense pleasure to check things off my to-do list once I’ve completed them. I can’t do those things with my healing journey from the abuse I experienced.

My therapist has helped me answer a lot of questions. But there are two questions that he has steadfastly refused even to try to answer.

  1. What steps must I take to reach the end of my journey?
  2. How long is this going to take?

Only God has the answers to those questions, and so far, he has not chosen to reveal his answers to me—or my therapist.

Comorbidities - Something is not right!

I know I am not alone in feeling frustrated over the uncertain nature of this healing journey. I’m sure you, dear fellow survivor, also feel frustrated over not knowing what to do and how long this will take. Add to that the fact that so many of the steps we take on this journey feel as if they are steps backward rather than forward, and it’s a wonder that any of us is still on this journey at all.

I have been on this healing journey for only about two-and-a-half years now. That may seem like a long time, but it’s not—not when compared to the thirty-six years I spent keeping all my trauma, anger, fear, and everything else bottled up inside me. I still have a long way to go on my journey and a whole lot more to learn. However, in these two-and-a-half years, I have learned some things about this healing journey that we are on. I want to share some of these things with you in the hope that I might encourage not only you in your continued healing journey but also myself in mine.

  1. You don’t need to know where you’re going or how long it will take to get there to start your journey. When I went to my therapist for the first time, I honestly had no idea that I was embarking on a journey that would last the rest of my life. In fact, at that point, I didn’t even realize that I had experienced sexual abuse. All I knew was that bad things had been going on in my mind for a very long time, and I needed help sorting them out. But I didn’t need to know my destination or even how long it would take to get there before I could start my journey. I just needed to take the first step.The same is true for you. You may not know your destination on your healing journey, what steps you will have to take, or how long it will take to arrive. None of that matters when it comes to starting your journey. All that matters is taking the first step. Go ahead and take that first step, knowing that every next step will become clear in its own time.
  2. Don’t make this journey alone. Few things in my experience have made me feel quite as isolated as the experience of childhood sexual abuse. The shame, the secrecy, and the unspeakable nature of what happened all worked together to make me feel completely alone. I’m sure you can relate.Our healing journey should not be like that. We may have suffered in isolation, but we will heal in community. And that community starts with the realization that, above all, God is with us on this journey. We have his promise, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). And he cannot break a promise.

    Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you. Hebrews 13:5

  3. But our community of healing doesn’t end with God. It also extends to our family, our friends, and the mental health professionals who will help us on our journey. I’ve written about all the people I have leaned on in my healing journey: my therapist, wife, and band of brothers. I cannot imagine making this journey without them. They support me when I’m feeling weak. They encourage me when I’m feeling discouraged. They pray for me. They love me. They constantly remind me that I am not alone.I encourage you, dear fellow survivor, to build such a healing community around you. It doesn’t have to be large. It can be just a few people whom you trust implicitly. It may take some time to find those people. But I assure you that it is worth the effort. This journey is too important and too difficult to try to travel alone. Take others along with you and let them support you, encourage you, pray for you, love you, and remind you that you are not alone.
  4. Know from the outset that this journey will not be a straight line. In a previous post (Painful Puzzle Pieces), I listed fifteen pieces of my healing puzzle (or steps in my healing journey) that I have gone through to get where I am today. I don’t want you to think that all those steps fell in a neat, straight line. They didn’t. In fact, as I go over that list of steps in my journey, I am reminded of what a winding, erratic, even plunging road I have walked over the past two-and-a-half years.One pattern I’ve noticed is that whenever I feel like I’ve made a breakthrough, whenever it seems like a new truth is taking hold in my mind, I can pretty much count on a crash coming a day or two later. It will feel as if my mind has given up all the progress it just made, as if I’m back, not necessarily at square one, but certainly not where I was just a day before. That has been extremely frustrating at times.However, when I take a step back and look at the route I’ve traveled, I can see that I have indeed made progress. I’m not where I was at the beginning of my journey. Good things have happened and will continue to happen. This journey is not a straight line. But with every step I take, I get closer to my destination. I just need to keep going.My dear fellow survivor, don’t let the winding nature of your journey discourage you. You may feel as if you’re not getting anywhere, as if you’re going in circles, or as if you’re moving backward. You’re not. You’re on a long, winding, sometimes erratic, and even plunging road that will eventually lead to your destination. Just keep going. Keep taking the next step.

    Every step is one step closer to where you’re going.

  5. Remember that little steps add up. Sometimes, I get frustrated because the steps I take on my journey seem so incredibly small. I could spend time with my friend today without feeling threatened by him. So what? That’s what any normal person experiences every day. I made it through the locker room at the gym today without falling into a self-defeating spiral. Big whoop. So do countless other people.What I miss when I start thinking like that is that all those little steps add up over time. In isolation, those steps may not seem like much. But each of those steps contributed to getting me where I am today, which is not at all where I was when the journey began.My dear fellow survivor, don’t let the smallness of any step you take deceive you into thinking you’re not getting anywhere. Each step, no matter how small, is a triumph. And all of them add up to bring you closer to where you want to be. A person who travels a mile by taking tiny baby steps still has traveled a mile. The size of the steps is immaterial. What matters is that you keep walking.
  6. Be patient with yourself. My therapist has told me that I have a bad habit of “shoulding” all over myself. “I should be healed by now.” “I shouldn’t feel this way anymore.” “This shouldn’t be an issue for me anymore.” The problem with “shoulding” all over myself is that it shows a lack of patience with me. And impatience with myself is completely antithetical to healing.I must constantly remind myself that I have decades of pain, fear, and false beliefs that I need to work through. I cannot expect that even a few years of journeying will get me to the finish line. Besides, there really is no rush. Sure, I’d like to be rid of this pain sooner rather than later. But no deadline must be met, no time beyond which it will be too late to heal. I can be patient with myself. I can give myself whatever time I need. Healing happens best when it is not rushed. I’m worth taking as much time as I need.So are you. You are worth whatever time is necessary for you to find healing. I know that you would like to find healing and relief from your pain sooner rather than later. But this journey has no estimated time of arrival that you must meet to succeed. There is no deadline beyond which you can no longer heal. You have time. You can take the time. You can be patient with yourself and know that you truly have no “shoulds” on this journey. And wherever you are on that journey, it is exactly the right place for you to be right now.
  7. Finally, take time to see how far you have traveled. When you cook a meal, you can see what you have made at the end of all your effort and enjoy its look, smell, and taste. When you complete a puzzle, at the end of all your effort, you can see the solution and appreciate your accomplishment. When you’re on a healing journey, especially a journey in which a lot of your steps seem small and insignificant, you need to give yourself opportunities to see what you have accomplished. Every so often, take some time to see how your little steps have added up. Think of the things you used to be afraid to do but now aren’t afraid to do—or are less afraid to do. Think of the false beliefs that used to be unquestioned in your mind but now don’t hold as much sway. Think of how you talked with someone about something you never thought you could ever talk to anyone about.Don’t discount any achievement just because it looks small. There are no small achievements, no insignificant victories on this journey. What you have accomplished took courage, strength, and a whole lot of work. Recognize that and give thanks to God for that.

    Success on this journey doesn’t just occur when you reach the finish line. It occurs every moment of every day as you just keep going.

I wish I could tell you that there is an app for this. But there isn’t. And that’s OK. We’re not alone on this journey, nor must we rely on ourselves for the strength we need to keep going. God is with us. He will provide us with everything we need for every step we take. He knows the route. He knows the finish line. And he will take us safely there, walking beside us every step of the way.

In Christ,
Your Brother Survivor

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This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series Blog - Dear Fellow Survivor