HEALING FROM TRAUMA

Licking Our Trauma Wounds

November 19, 2016

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I remember being so impressed when I first learned about the healing properties found in a dog’s saliva. Apparently there are three components (lysozyme, histatins, and another protein that supports nerve growth) that work together to, in some cases, reduce healing time in half. This is yet another reason to marvel at God’s infinite wisdom! While I never felt inclined to jump on the bandwagon of people who allow dogs to lick their wounds, I do still think this is pretty awesome!

Because I’m weird…I thought about applying this concept to healing our trauma wounds. As I hit on briefly in “My Story“, I am a survivor of sexual trauma. It has taken and still is taking years to heal from what I experienced. But what if there is a way to cut our healing time in half? What would that look like?

I have been on my healing journey for almost 20 years. You’d think I’d be over it by now, right? Wrong! Even if intellectually I am able to process things at a more healthy level, there are these tentacles of subtle and subconscious experiences at play that I am often unaware of–until they are triggered. There are certain experiences that I am hyper-sensitive to such as manipulation or inauthenticity.

Among the strangest of my triggers is the shape of a man’s hands and the length of their fingernail beds. I distinctly remember the way my abuser’s hands and nails look. And while this may sound absurd, I have not been able to bring myself to establish connections with any man whose hands and nails resemble his.

I’ve come a long way from my days of sexual promiscuity, people pleasing (which lent itself to poor boundaries), and distorted thought processes and decision making. I was somewhat relieved to learn these are all common symptoms of those who’ve been sexually abused.

While I was in the midst of the toxicity that was my life, I could not understand why I was doing the things I was doing. All I knew was that I had these strong and impulsive urges, and I was more inclined to oblige them than not. This did nothing to contribute to my healing. Instead, it delayed the process and exacerbated my problems because the consequences of my behavior only added to the layers of damage.

I believe there are some things that could have taken place immediately following my abuse to aid in the healing process and reduce the impact to my life and relationships thereafter. I’ve adapted the concept of having three distinct healing properties (as found in a dog’s saliva) that work together to improve healing experience and time. Here goes…

  1. Histatins is a protein that plays a role in closing the wound. I’ll be honest, I’m not certain the wound from sexual abuse ever closes, but I believe we can reach a place where it no longer controls us. And so, closure here may just be relative to the extent to which we are still controlled by our abuse.
    • Name it. Identify what happened to you as a form of sexual abuse. In other words, trust your gut instinct that what happened was not right.
      • Child Sexual Abuse
      • Incest
      • Molestation
      • Stranger Rape
      • Date or Acquaintance Rape
      • Marital Rape
      • Sexual Assault
      • Exhibitionism
      • Voyereurism
    • Grieve. Give yourself permission to grieve the loss of your personal and sexual rights. There’s this unnatural societal pressure applied to human beings who go through challenging circumstances to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and keep moving. Being sexually exploited or manipulated is not something that you can merely move on from as if nothing happened. Allowing yourself to FEEL holds significant merit in the process of healing. Similar to the stages of grief, one should give themselves permission to naturally progress through the following emotional stages:
      • Shock
      • Denial
      • Anger and Guilt
      • Despair and Depression
      • Testing (or Questioning)
      • Acceptance
    • Share. Sharing can be risky yet it is also extremely freeing. You are deciding not to keep the secrets of your perpetrator and to starve the feelings of guilt and shame that come along with being sexually abused. Be discerning with regard to who you share with. It should be people who you consider safe, like a parent, sibling, or close friend. Prepare yourself ahead of time for varying reactions. Some positive and, obviously if you’re sharing with loved ones, there will be some angry responses. You may want to think ahead of time about the ways in which you would like your loved ones to support you post sharing. They may want to get the authorities involved, but if that is not your wish, you will want to be able to state that assertively. That old adage “your secrets make you sick” is one that I can attest to. My secret was destroying me! There were times when I literally would gasp for air because I was hurting so badly and could not breathe.
  2. Lysozyme is an enzyme that destroys bacteria. This functions to starve infections. A similar function in the context of healing from sexual trauma would be acknowledging the abuse.
    • Reflect on Impact. Do an inventory of where and how you’re hurting. So for me, it meant being honest about the source of my behavior. And confessing that at the core of my promiscuity was my desire to control sex since that was something that was taken from me when I was raped. I realized that I had a tendency to create chaos in my life because oddly enough that felt comfortable and familiar. More than that, it felt like what I deserved (this stemmed from the shame I still bore). I reflected on the fact that despite constantly being in the company of others I felt depressed and lonely. I had a hard time trusting the intentions of men and essentially had walled myself off from ever experiencing true intimacy. These are just a few of the ways in which I learned I was hurting. Spend some time doing your own reflections and self-inventories to reveal where and how you are hurting.
    • Surrender. The hard and honest truth is that we can’t go back and undo what has been done. Given our past is behind us, it is no longer something we can control. The beauty of this is, we get to control how we respond to our past moving forward. The process of surrendering your past is just that- a PROCESS! I did this many times over. In my journals, in prayer alone, in prayer with others, and in statements aloud to myself. I have chosen to surrender any sense that I have control over what occurred and rather, give that to God. A passage of scripture that brought me to my knees in gratefulness and ultimately helped me hand over the last little bit of control I was holding onto is Matthew 11:28-30- “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  I won’t lie to you and say that there still haven’t been temptations along the way to try to take control back but like I said, it’s a process.
    • Pay Attention to Triggers. I mentioned a few of my triggers above. When I am experiencing a triggering event, my heart starts racing, my underarms will start to sweat, and I feel emotionally threatened. Initially I didn’t know what this was so I would proceed and then realize after the fact that my body was trying to save me from experiencing unnecessary hurt and distress. These internal indicators have never served me wrong. And they were especially helpful once I started honoring them. It’s almost like people who have been sexually abused develop super powers. My instincts are extremely sensitive and those closest to me know I’m typically spot on.
  3. Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) is a protein that has been said to cut a wound’s healing time in half. It does this by promoting the survival of nerve cells. In order to survive or thrive after experiencing sexual trauma it is imperative that you have a supportive environment.
    • Choose Your Circle. You will want to surround yourself with people who love you and accept you unconditionally. This will help you to redevelop sense of self and trust of others. Time spent in this pseudo incubator style environment will vary from person to person. But you will want to eventually test out your ability to navigate the world on your own- paying special attention to your gut instincts and honoring your need to extensively process emotions in intimate or romantic situations.
    • Prioritize Emotional Healing. I benefitted from professional counseling later in my healing journey. The experience was amazing! Having a safe place to dive into the depths of my brokenness made all the difference in my experiences being validated and freeing me to let go of anger and resentment. One regret I have is not doing this sooner. I believe traversing the waters of our emotional healing earlier on provides the following:
      • Opportunity to fully experience the natural stages of processing the abuse (within a safe and guided relationship)
      • Greater awareness which will provide a better sense of control when triggering events occur
      • Resolves temptation to believe lies (ex. “I’m all alone!”)
      • Effective tools and techniques to address the challenges you have and will be facing.

Wow! I didn’t anticipate this to be such a long post but it was kinda necessary. Sexual trauma is a HUGE deal! It affects people in ways one would never imagine. And sadly much of it is in our subconscious. Anyway, so as not to take up any more of your day, I’m going to end the post here. Let me know if you want me to write about anything else regarding this topic.

If you’re interested in reading more on this, I found The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz to be an incredible resource.

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10 Comments

  • Reply Annsha November 20, 2016 at 12:43 am

    This was an awesome read. For many people it’s not easy sharing about such a traumatic experience. Thanks for sharing and I hope that this encourages someone to share their experience so they can heal.

    • Reply Veronica November 21, 2016 at 4:20 am

      You’re welcome and Thank You Annsha! I’m really hoping that the blog will do just what you said- aid others in their healing process.

  • Reply Cheryl Beckam November 20, 2016 at 8:26 am

    What an amazing young woman you are and a gifted writer. There’s more on this plate than broccoli. ….as the elders use to say “chew on the meat and spit out the bones”, there were none; everything was digested. YOU are a new creation!

    • Reply Veronica November 21, 2016 at 4:22 am

      Ms. Cheryl you know I read this in your voice lol. Thank you! I so appreciate your love and support!

  • Reply Nathaniel Lewis December 3, 2016 at 12:37 am

    Ronnie I’m proud of you! It’s not easy to say these things, but it’s awesome when people spread good information to help a healing process!

    • Reply Veronica December 3, 2016 at 8:31 am

      Thank you Nate! You’re right it’s not easy to share these types of things. Which prevented me for years from doing this. But comments like yours confirm why it’s needed 🙂

  • Reply Naundi white February 7, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    I knew meeting you and the guy in the airport was a blessing reading you blogs is some type of support and how can I say to make me try to think better for myself I can’t really find words to discribe how I feel I enjoy reading your blogs and I’m continuing to read more. I thank you veronica.?

    • Reply Veronica February 7, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      🙂 Naundi I didn’t realize it was you until now. I’m so glad you’re finding comfort and support in reading my posts. It was such a pleasure to meet and speak with you. I just responded to your other comment you left on “It’s Me I Don’t Trust!”

      • Reply Naundi white February 7, 2017 at 6:16 pm

        I know I went back to see if I got a reply back and I am trying to find counseling that’s affordable for me. And I thank you you and other are truly opening up my eyes and I apercate you commenting back I know it was a lot but I thank you for breaking down everything I expressed into it. But I did go through trauma when I was younger sexually from a friend and verbally from my father. I’m still trying to find something to keep me in my comfort zone until I can figure out what to do in my situation you know. I still taking my time reading your posts. Everyone catches my eye.

  • Reply Naundi white February 19, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    Can you email me again for some reason I can find u in my gmail

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