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Four Things Multiple Sexual Assaults, Bankruptcy, Divorce, and A Near-Death Experience Taught Me About Resiliency.

When you've been through hell and don't know where to start, start with self-love.

(Warning: Potentially triggering for some. Please read with caution.)

As a Certified Hypnotherapist and Life Coach, I’ve built a career helping clients all over the world take courageous actions, find their purpose and heal emotional traumas. But I’ve also faced countless traumas in my own life. 

I’ve been rock-bottom more times than I can count. I have looked evil squarely in the face, repeatedly. So when I say “I know trauma”, believe me, I know trauma. I now see myself as a warrior, but it wasn’t always this way.

Being the sole daughter of teenage parents, I didn’t have a lot of supervision growing up. I frequently ran off with neighborhood kids until the sun went down. It was the eighties, and back then, that was as normal as crimped hair, leg warmers, and bedazzled everything

But that carefree independence came at a price. I was sexually abused multiple times. Older kids in the neighborhood (who were old enough to know better) often forced me to perform sexual acts on them. 

From the age of three to five, I was being molested regularly by a family friend I referred to as “Uncle”. I thought this was perfectly normal, until the day he threatened to kill my mother if I told anyone what he did. After my parents divorced a few years later, my mother met a man who began sexually grooming me for his own twisted and perverse fantasies. 

He made me the target of his narcissistic abuse, telling me daily how fat I was. I developed comorbid eating disorders, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, PTSD, Clinical Depression, and Social Anxiety Disorder, all by the age of sixteen. 

Fast forward to my early thirties and I found myself again the victim of sexual assault. I was raped twice. The first attacker held me captive at knifepoint in my own home for nearly twenty-four hours, violating me, torturing me, beating me, threatening me, and humiliating me mercilessly. With the knife never too far away from me, he repeatedly told me he’d kill me if I screamed. And I didn’t.

I also didn’t allow myself to process this at the time. I numbed myself to the pain with sex, booze, and lots of cigarettes. A few months later, I met a man who promised me the world, despite all the red flags to the contrary. I was newly divorced and terrified of being alone, so I ignored the warning signs. He turned out to be a legit con-artist who targeted me from the start. Just seven months later, my credit was destroyed and I was forced into bankruptcy.

My eating disorders spiraled out of control and I started drinking excessively. On a sunny November day about six years ago, the self-abuse caught up to me, and I was admitted into the ER. I passed out in the waiting area and woke up from a coma about six weeks later.

I was admitted to the Critical Intensive Care Unit with multiple organ failure and acute pancreatitis. I was being kept alive by machines and tubes. The outlook was bleak. Medically, I should not be typing this right now. 

So what has all of this trauma taught me about the resiliency of the human spirit? Plenty.

Trauma can be healed. When we’re stuck in the “drama of our trauma” as I like to say, we’re reliving the pain. And we’re human, so it’s understandable. But we don’t heal by trying to swerve around the pain; we heal by moving through it. Whenever I face a challenge or struggle, I remind myself that I’ve been through worse (because I have).

Forgiveness is vital. It’s not about letting anyone off the hook – it’s about releasing yourself from the bondage of anger and resentment. I had so much guilt and shame because of self-abuse, and I worked hard releasing myself from that prison. I learned the invaluable lesson of self-love.

Incorporating a spiritual component is crucial. As a deeply spiritual person, I found that adding spiritual tools and practices helped me connect to myself and others on a profoundly deep level, and that allowed me to transmute the pain much more gracefully.

Self-love is non-negotiable. Through all of the sexual abuse, parental abuse and neglect, divorce and other traumas, I was consistently led back to loving myself. I had to really learn that I was worthy of love and respect. Almost dying from abusing myself was a wake-up call of the highest order. If I didn’t start loving myself, I was going to die. Nothing has been more transforming or healing than realizing I am enough and worthy of love. 

Developing resiliency is a process. Resiliency is less about thick skin and more about emotional intelligence. Find the tools that work for you and use them.

I promise – you are more resilient than you believe.

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