A pivotal moment in my recovery occurred about a year ago during a Distress Tolerance (a module of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, also known as "DBT" group.)
Each person in the group was talking about ways that they had been victimized and were becoming emotional about past traumas - most of them abuse that they endured as children. I related and became emotional too.
One of the group members said, "I am SICK of feeling this way. It is SO UNFAIR that I was hurt as a child, and now I have to suffer for the rest of my life! They took away my childhood!"
At first, I was angry and sad. I could relate. It really is messed up. And, there is no way to go back in time and reclaim our childhood - that's true. I got angry at my abusers. I got sad for the loss many years of my childhood - experiences that no child should ever endure.
But, then, I focused in on her comment that he now had to suffer for "the rest of her life." I think I had been living with that story as well. I would replay tapes in my mind of the suffering I endured and then walk around living my life in victim mode, expecting to always feel terrible and to never be able to quite feel or function right because of the pain of the past. I believed it would hold me back forever and be my excuse for not succeeding at things or achieving my dreams.
I raised my hand and offered, "We don't have to suffer for the rest of our lives. We've already been victimized. I refuse to further abuse or victimize myself, and I hope you will, too. My childhood is gone, yes. I, too, am so upset by this -- but I REFUSE to let anyone take away my happiness now or in the future."
This was a pivotal moment for me. As children, we have very little control over how we are treated, and these messages go deep and train us on how others may treat us as adults and even how we will treat ourselves. The good news? As adults, we have the opportunity to CHANGE.
We have the opportunity to learn to love ourselves, to learn skills that help us manage and tolerate difficult emotions, and we can re-train ourselves to accept nothing less than being treated well - by others and ourselves.
We can learn to radically ACCEPT that painful things have happened and that those things are in the past. Remember that Accepting is NOT the same as Approving. Of course we wouldn't approve that horrible things have happened to us in the past, but we must accept reality in order to move on. Radical Acceptance is an important and challenging skill and decision.
DBT has been an important part of my journey and will continue to be. I'm so grateful that it exists.
Thank you for reading.