Giving Thanks for the Journey

Giving Thanks for the Journey

I received this message a few days ago from someone involved in the ACT work. It was a message so painful and yet courageous I thought some might find comfort and support from it on this important day: Between the ages of about 5 until about 8 and a half I was sexually abused on almost a daily basis. Throughout high school I had panic attacks and was dissociating. Today I am alive. I’m not just going through the motions. I can have relationships with people. I can feel the rain, and the sun…

Giving Thanks for the Journey

Giving thanks for painful journeys on Thanksgiving Day
Published on November 26, 2009 by Steven C. Hayes, Ph.D. in Get Out of Your Mind
Today is a day of Thanksgiving, but it is important that we not give thanks in denial of our past. We give thanks in part for how far we’ve come, not in opposition to the past, but as an affirmation of our humanity and capacity for life. I received this message a few days ago from someone involved in the ACT work. It was a message so painful and yet courageous I thought some might find comfort and support from it on this important day. **** The day I turned 18 was the day I began therapy. Before then, I was unable to because my family was not supportive and did not know the full extent of what I had gone through, and did not get my subtle hints that I needed help. Between

the ages of about 5 until about 8 and a half I was sexually abused on almost a daily basis by one of my mom’s boyfriends. Aside from the rapes and molestations, I had to watch him, and participated with him doing it to his own daughter. Neither of us knew how to tell anyone that this was going on, so it continued until he and my older sister got into a fight and he swung at her in front of my Mom. They broke up. After that experience I did not have many friends and did not want to do many things outside from staying in my room, or with my grandmother. When I was a little older there were kids who moved in across the street from me, and I had made a friend. It was the first time I really had someone to hang out with. After some time, I went to her house to see if she was home. She wasn’t, but her father was and yet again, I was raped. Since I didn’t know any better at the time, I didn’t stop it. I stopped talking to that friend as well. I blamed myself for everything that had happened, not knowing that there was another way. I spent most of my life dissociating, unable to trust anyone. I did not know what the weather was like, or how the trees looked. The only enjoyment I got was volleyball. After my father died when I was 12, I began cutting myself. Pain was the only thing there to ground me when I would dissociate. Throughout high school I had panic attacks on almost a daily basis, and because I was dissociating so frequently, I was doing poorly in almost all of my classes. I was told by my guidance counselor that I should not apply to colleges, because I was not cut out for it. I discovered psychology by reading books on self-injury. When my high school offered a psychology course, I fought to get in it. It was the first time I succeeded. I got better grades, applied to college, and despite what I was told, I got in. I was still dissociating in my classes, and during a human sexuality class I realized that I really needed to get help. When I started therapy, things actually got worse. I wasn’t eating and spent so much time panicking, dissociating, and obsessing that I was throwing away my life. Almost 2 years later I discovered Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life, and finally began to gain some clarity. I convinced my therapist that ACT was the treatment that was going to help me. It did. Mindfulness was extremely difficult at first because it triggered dissociation. With enough practice, and being gentle with myself and my memories, I am now mindful on a daily basis. Though I never thought that I could be a complete human, who could engage in life, I am. I can be present in almost everything I do. My flashbacks now are just reminder of everything that I have overcome, and how strong I am to have lived through it. I still get that punch in the gut feeling when some of the more graphic ones float in, but I am thankful for that. That feeling is difficult, but even with it I can get through my days. I share my story to let others know that though life may be throwing you curve balls, it is easier if you catch them and carry them with you, rather than running from them. I lived through hell, and guess what, I’m still alive to talk about it. I want to help others walk through their hell so that they can smell the grass after it has been cut, and see the sunset and all of the brilliant colors it produces. Thanks to this work, today I am alive. I’m not just going through the motions. I can have relationships with people. I can feel the rain, and the sun. I can notice the leaves on the trees and their colors. I can feel the wind. Those are great, but best of all I can cry and feel the tears. I can laugh and joke with my friends and not worry about what hurt is coming next. I can be a whole human. The thoughts still float through my mind — maybe I could have stopped it, it was my fault — but I know it’s just my mind lying to me in an attempt to make sense of it. I can see through that. So I thank this work for where I am in my life. It’s a wonderful life, and though some days are harder than others, I’m so grateful to be alive when so many times in the past I just wanted it over. **** There is so much pain in the world, and we know that on the holidays people in pain often suffer even more. But a message like this reminds us that courage, love, and self-compassion is available in equal measure to the pain we feel if we step forward. On this Thanksgiving Day take the time to touch your own pain and that of others, but also notice the leaves on the trees and their colors, feel the wind, and hug someone tight who is close to you. We are so lucky just to be alive. Peace, love and life – S Steven C. Hayes Author of Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life

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