Jessie’s Childhood Trauma
Jessie* had been abused as a child by a family member for years. She had grown up in a chronically hostile environment and learned to walk on eggshells. Staying small and unseen was her strategy to avoid attacks. Early on, Jessie learned to appease her abuser so that the abuse was not so bad. She even convinced herself that the abuse was enjoyable at times.
Jessie left her childhood home as soon as possible. Despite the turbulence at home, she was a high-achieving high school student and was granted a merit scholarship to a four-year university. Jessie continued her high school success in college. She kept a 4.0 GPA and was in the top 10% of her class.
However, Jessie noticed some differences between herself and her peers. Unlike the others, Jessie never socialized or dated. Sure, Jessie had acquaintances and study partners but no real friends. It was hard to be close to anyone, especially men. Jessie attempted to overcome her awkwardness by going to a few parties, only to have a major panic attack when approached by males wanting to talk and dance.
Jessie graduated Summa Cum Laude from her program and found a job in her field immediately after college. Her future was looking bright. She got her first apartment living alone in a new city, and started working.
The trauma continued to plague Jessie
Months into the job, Jessie began to experience a profound aloneness and crushing sadness, with unwanted childhood memories flooding her evenings with terror. She thought she was past all of this! But the memories came like a flood, haunting her waking quiet time and dreams.
Jessie could not function during the day because she lacked sleep. Those memories made her jumpy and prone to panic. She was fired from her job for poor performance.
All alone with a failed career and bills piling up, Jessie wanted to run away.
The change occurred gradually
Instead, she sought therapy. Jessie and I initially worked on stabilizing her life and moving beyond her current crisis. Jessie and I discussed short-term medication to help alleviate the lack of sleep and crushing sadness, and she agreed.
Jessie began to feel a little better over the next month as we worked together to build trust and a relationship. Jessie often did not feel like talking in these early sessions and used art to express her feelings.
As she built trust in the relationship and process of therapy, Jessie began to open up about her family. I greeted what she shared with kindness and validation. Jessie had indeed lived through hell. Over the next year, Jessie and I worked on her ability to say no, build firm boundaries, and connect to her body with gentle mindfulness.
We also worked on how to breathe when feeling overwhelmed, reconnect with her values, engage with new experiences, form a new image of herself, reclaim pleasure and joy, and process the trauma from childhood.
Jessie’s life transformed
She no longer saw herself as that poor victimized child who needed to stay small and hide from attacks. Instead, Jessie bloomed into a competent adult. She learned to protect herself from past traumas.
Jessie became a good mother to her wounded inner child. She processed those childhood memories. They stopped flashing into her mind and no longer caused panic, dread, and sadness.
Jessie was a rock star at her new job and was up for a promotion. She was in the process of buying her first home, and best of all, Jessie started dating a wonderful man whom she loved.
Jessie built a life that truly made her heart sing. Her past gave her the strength to know she was resilient and could overcome anything. Jessie felt free and whole for the first time in her life, and so did her inner child.
A New Life Is Possible
Have you ever wondered what a different life might be like if you never encountered that trauma? While you cannot erase the past, the pain and trauma of the past do not need to hold you, hostage.
It is time to rise from the ashes of your experience and start a new life. Discover and live a new life like Jessie!
Reconnect with loved ones, gain joy, and allow your life to make your heart sing. You are not alone. You are powerful, strong, and capable of healing. Let’s work together to collect your pieces and make you whole again.
“When I read the words, ‘a woman has the power to… change her experience,’ I knew overcoming my fear that my father would come into my room, even after he was dead, would be one of my biggest challenges. Because he had come in so many hundreds of times, I had been indelibly conditioned.
I guess that’s why I call it the ‘work’ of healing. It is grueling, nose-to-the-grindstone work to change long held beliefs and accompanying emotions… but it can be done.”
– Marilyn Van Debur
Disclaimer: Name and story are composite narratives and do not reflect an actual client.