I am delighted to share with you a different perspective on learning to love yourself after trauma; a guest post by Darlene Ouimet of Emerging from Broken. I hope you will find this post as valuable as I do! For me it really highlights the idea of what must be overcome to get to a place of self-love after trauma. Thank you for sharing this part of your story, Darlene!
Learning to Love Myself ~The Beauty in the Broken
The process of learning to love myself is best understood backwards; there are so many layers and levels to it; so much confusion. There was so much deception; deception that I had come to believe was truth, and on top of that deception, there was this thick layer of fog kind of hiding things, making my memories murky. At the core of my belief system were mixed messages and among them a very confusing conflict; I was sexually abused at a young age and at the same time raised to believe that my only value was in my looks and appeal. My parents were very popular and seemed to be well liked, but with me, my mother was controlling, unloving and very sexual; my father was disinterested, un-relational and emotionally unavailable. These things made up my life and formed my identity and resulted in a dissociated mess. I had some serious sorting and re-organizing to do before I could heal.
I already doubted my memories were accurate because I was told that I made up stories and was punished for it. My mother told me that I needed too much attention. My father told me that I talked to hear myself talk.
The truth is that I didn’t have enough attention. I made up stories to get someone to notice me. I was ignored when I told the truth and there were some big things that happened to me that I should have been protected from, but I wasn’t. Eventually I believed that I must have lied about everything and deserved the punishment. I did not feel loved or valued. It became almost natural for me to also accept that the abuse that I suffered was my fault too.
Being affirmed as a liar and invalidated by the only people that mattered in my life, has its own path of destruction. I kept trying harder to be “good enough” believing that if I were good enough then I would be loved. I also believed that if I were loved by someone else, then I would be able to love myself. This goes to show that I believed my worth came from someone else, and that I accepted the low value that was assigned to me by others ~ what choice does a child have other than to believe their parents?
I was fortunate to find a skilled and perceptive therapist. In the process of therapy, we went to the roots of my life, looked at the events that I remembered and with help I was able to figure out where the false beliefs were born. I was able to see why I split into multiple personalities. I saw how I had come to cope and even had to cope that way in order to survive. I realized that I hated myself, because I believed that I had been the cause of all the abuse, all the problems, and I was the reason that I was not loved. It was in the process of untangling the wild mess buried deep inside of me, that eventually I realized who I was in the first place and discovered the original me. I realized that I was not at fault, that I didn’t cause the abuse, that I didn’t deserve it, that I had been lied to, tricked and manipulated and that I never grew emotionally because of it. I realized that this faulty and rotten foundation my life was built on was why I believe that I was valueless, useless, unlovable and was the cause of not only my dissociation, which had become my survival method, but also my constant depressions.
In my therapy sessions we dug up the old foundation that my life was built on; dug up those dead roots, rottenness and beliefs full of lies. The slate was wiped clean and a new platform prepared on which to re-build my life. In a way I started over, replacing lies with truth.
I had regular sessions with my therapist for another year even after I considered myself to be healthy, whole and no longer fragmented. I had to learn how to live with my new truth. It was uncomfortable for me to be in charge of my own life. Often I missed dissociation and disconnection. I still needed support in re-parenting myself since I had never had a good example of that. I needed to learn how to live and to take care of myself emotionally. My new belief system was still fragile. There were days that I wanted to run back to the old way of life and my old belief system was willing to jump back into place especially if it was triggered by something that felt similar to feelings and fears from the past. Sometimes it felt like growing up quickly.
The more that I discovered who I really am and recognized the gifts that I have and the truth of how they were shut down by other people, the more interested in life that I got. I wasn’t born broken and I began to see that at my core I was very sweet, smart, loving and gifted. I worked hard on getting down to the core of myself and I am no longer willing to be defined by someone else or by someone else’s value system. When I started to value and appreciate myself, life took on a new meaning and I discovered living with a purpose and excitement that I never thought possible.
Learning to love myself and appreciate my individuality and equal value has not been the easiest thing I have ever done, but it has certainly been the most worthwhile.
Darlene Ouimet is an inspirational speaker, certified professional life coach and mental health advocate. While speaking in mental health seminars about her complete recovery from dissociated identity disorder, chronic depression, and a life time of low self esteem, Darlene realized that her journey to wholeness had a unique kind of impact and she embraced a new life purpose ~ to deliver this message of hope, healing and full recovery to a hurting world. Darlene Co-Authors a high traffic blog called “Emerging from Broken ~ from surviving to thriving on the journey to wholeness”