Women’s Words About Healing After Trauma

By Barbara Clearbridge, M.Div.

Table of Contents & Excerpts

  Table of Contents

From Below Looking Up

Coming Out



The “F” Word: Forgiveness

Good and Evil




Types of Therapies


Support Groups



Building Self-Esteem

Energy Work






Quiet Times/Meditation

Wise Inner Voices


Checklist For Choosing A Competent Therapist or Counselor

Do Other People Refuse to Cooperate When You Try To “Create Your Own Reality”?

Helpful Books and Resources



From Chapter 2: “Coming Out”:

I’m going to get well. I’m going to live fully, face my feelings and clear the trauma out of my body. I’m going to have wonderful, happy experiences and not suffer from it any more. I’m going to survive and help others to be well, too.

Happy birthday to me.


I have decided to live. I had decided before, but it was never a complete decision. Maybe that’s why I stayed so thin—I still hadn’t committed to being here. But I have now. I have decided I can live and feel good enough, I can reduce the pain to tolerable limits and find enough joy and enough health to live.


There is usually a lag time before inner healing is revealed physically. We do the emotional, mental and spiritual work and then often expect our physical state to immediately change. Sometimes it does. But sometimes that takes some time.


I want to sink roots deep into the earth, a home, and rest, and start to grow again, to expand outward into the community,unafraid, committed. I don’t know why, what my life or anyone else’s is for, but I don’t want a half-assed life.


So many books, so many people say, “You must . . .” or, “It always . . .” or, “If you feel such-and-such, it means . . . ” Then I think I’m failing, or I think my recovery must take a certain length of time, or I have to do whatever it is they’re talking about if I want to get better. I frequently have to remind myself that we all get better in our own way, and in our own time. No statement of absolutes is ever true. (Except this one!)


A grey egret is standing at the end of the dock just a few yards from me. Still silhouette. In the darkness the water moves seductively, so dark and smooth with a few ripples and sloshes. The egret flies up on top of a post. Below, something dives, swims. Too dark to see. The egret watches only east and west, by long turns. Part of me still yearns for immolation . . . in the silent water.


It's wintertime now—the darkness brings melancholy. It’s all right. It’s not “over” for you—you haven’t failed because you're depressed again. It’s only some wistful melancholy in the dark days of your first winter of recovery.


Being attacked does not mean I failed, nor does being alone, or in pain, or seeing no fruits from my life. None of these mean failure. If I am doing the best I can, then it is not failure. The world is full of circumstances, full of other people, that affect my life. I can’t fail at recovering, either—it’s a process.


I have trouble seeing myself as ever being completely changed and healed. The wounds go too deep. But I don’t mind being partial, as long as I have a sense of purpose. No, of accomplishing my purpose. Is that what it is to have “meaning”? The depression takes that away, that’s why it’s so debilitating.


I just wanted to say that today was a particularly productive day and I didn’t feel heavy and gray.


I’m very surprised. Three months ago I made a wish list for changes in my life. I found the list today and over half of them have happened.


I can survive and be happy. So many of my sisters have.


Everything is possible! Everything can happen swiftly—even if your pain is extreme and your future unimaginable.


I had a particular health problem from the time I was a teenager. I began my spiritual search because of it, took many roads because of it, turned away from God, and then back to God, and then away again because the problem would not be healed. Eventually it became manageable, then negligible. After I started psychotherapy, when I began to be healed at deep levels, the problem came back! I could no longer handle it; it became as intense as it had at the very beginning. I couldn’t stand this! It brought more despair than almost anything else—that after all this time, after all my work, all the agony of looking into the past and healing, I was still sick!

Now I just pop a drug for it. I have no patience or courage for trying again to heal it from an emotional standpoint. But I have accepted this—that it is all right to use a drug. It is not “giving up.” Right now I can’t heal the cause either physically or emotionally, so it’s all right—sensible, even—to handle the symptoms the best way I can.


One can be well before healing is finished: just work around the bent places.


I think that it takes a while to get established after leaving a cult. I don’t just mean the finances, but something like the cuttings I took off the impatiens plant and put in a jar of water. They have to grow roots before they can be put in the soil and become an established plant. This is one image I have. When I first took the cuttings, the leaves drooped as the cuttings were in shock. But then they perked up and started to grow roots. When I put them into the soil, they will have to struggle again. When I set the plants outside, they will have another adjustment. But eventually there will be a strong and healthy plant. Perhaps there are a series of small shocks to go through in the readjustment.


I get insights during depression, but I can’t trust them. They’re not really insights. I get down on myself and think crooked.


Making new friends is hitting a snag, because there is all of this censoring of my life going on. What do I say to them about my past? How will they react? So I am meeting some new people that I like, but there are odd barriers in making friends that didn’t use to be there. Maybe I can treat it like recovering alcoholics do—talk about it, give information, etc. But I am not strong enough to do that yet.

Some of it is that I don't trust new people. I used to be very trusting, and that is how I got into trouble. I still have some old friendships. But it is hard to tell them about my [traumatic] experience. I have a lot of shame about it, and confusion about it, which makes it hard to explain.


Things keep changing, as soon as I get used to them. They changed who I work for. I was enjoying stretching, seeing how to balance the work and everyone’s personalities, seeing what I was capable of, and suddenly something not needed until the next day was needed immediately, and the other person I work for needed some things right away and I just felt my mind collapse inside and I couldn’t think, and I slumped down . . . and today, two days later, some of my mind still seems exploded, not there. In trying to cope, I stretched too far. I don’t know my limits. There’s no resiliency—one minute I’m fine, then I break.


I went to confront [abuser]. I thought I was ready to tell him right out that what he had done was horrible and that he was never to touch me again. I thought I was strong and ready.  

I saw him coming towards me down the hallway. When he saw me his face lit up and he said, “It’s so good to see you!” And I felt love for him! I was shocked. I was full of hate for this man, for what he had done to me and my life, and yet when I saw him and I felt this warm stream of love from him to me, besides the hate I felt love! It was horrifying. With all the strong feelings I completely froze up—I went numb. I saw he was going to kiss me and I had sworn he would never touch me again. But I couldn’t stop him. I was frozen! I managed to turn my head so he kissed me on the cheek instead of on the lips, and I mumbled something and kept walking past him. Then I was nauseous for two days.  

It took a long time to forgive myself for feeling love towards him that day, and for letting him kiss me. He did love me, in his way. His kind of love was brutal, but it was the only kind of love I knew at the time [of the trauma]. So I loved him back, though I was also terribly afraid of him and hated him. It’s natural that when I felt his love again at this last meeting I also felt mine for him. Someday it will wear off, I will feel nothing for him. Until then I just remind myself that gentle, tender love also exists, and I choose that.  

No matter how much someone hurts you, it is terribly hard to stop loving him if that is the only love you know.


©1994 by Barbara Clearbridge  

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