I also want to chime in here that there's really no such thing as healing "wrong." All of our journeys with healing are very different, and often winding, and it can tend to take us instinctively trying and doing a lot of things to feel out our way to healing, especially if and when we aren't also getting some kind of therapeutic support.
So, before anything else, I hope you can start letting go of this idea you are doing or have done this wrong, and instead focus on finding a way to both live and heal that simply leaves you feeling better than what you've been doing, you know?
My friend and colleague Kimberly Dark, also a survivor, said some really amazing things about exactly some of this in an interview one of our writers did with her this week here I think might be helpful for you: https://www.scarleteen.com/article/abus ... r_light_in
ST: You are an abuse and incest survivor. How did you get through, especially through childhood and adolescence? What has your own healing journey looked like? What does it look like for you now?
KD: I am an abuse survivor and incest survivor, that is true!
I want to say first of all, that in any way that you figure out how to survive a situation that might make you not want to live? Any way that you come to do that is the right way.
This is such an important thing to hear because we see different coping mechanisms and it is kind of like there is a hierarchy, right? Like, yeah, if you can manage to do it, it is really great to take a walk in nature and learn to breathe deeply and do a little yoga every time somebody is horrible to you. But that is a lot to expect from ourselves. Other things work, too.
I think it is important, actually, to develop some really good habits, and I think that as a teenager I started doing that and I want to tell you — I’m in my 50’s now and I’m glad I had those habits because surviving things like child abuse or child sexual abuse is not a thing you just do once and then it is done.
I write about these topics and I talk about these topics and trauma is a thing that heals, but also, you revisit it again for new insight. You revisit it with the self of the day and hopefully, each new version of ourselves has more resources. It is different revisiting my incest experience when I was in my 20’s, then in my 30’s, then in my 40’s and then in my 50’s and good habits like exercise and yoga and connection with nature are really, really super important. So, whenever you can make those habits, do that because there are going to be times that you can’t make good conscious choices, but good habits can carry you through.
Those are the good habits but let me also just be really honest about how I got through this time period: I tried to kill myself a few times in the year that I was thirteen and I’m glad I survived that time period. One of the ways I did it was by smoking a lot of pot. Now, I don’t think this is a great thing to do in the long-term, but I think it is a fantastic thing to do if it looks like the option that is going to keep you alive until you see the light of another day.
I did a bunch of other drugs too, but pot was kind of a daily way to keep the assholes at bay in my life. I also stayed really focused on the fact if I could wait out the difficult times, I was going to be around than those people who hurt me. They were all older than me and this is a really important thing to hold on to and that is: You have a life that extends beyond most of the adults that hurt you. That is powerful, it is powerful as long as you survive it too.
Any of the things that let us live are good. It’s a paradox. I did things that were harmful to my body, but at the time, they helped me live. We have to be careful and keep an eye on the prize of surviving beyond the assholes! Whatever it is that you are doing: You are brilliant, your choices are valid, and don’t let anyone ever tell you that a label like “addict” or “anorexic” or “self-harm” —that any of those things are the sum of who you are. They absolutely are not!
You can change, and change, and change again.
You gotta stick around, and sometimes it is a weird jumble of strategies that gets you there. That doesn’t make you weird or crazy, it is really actually brilliant to figure out how to survive difficult things, because here is the thing: as much as we like to think, we should have control over what happens to us, it isn’t true. We can make choices but you know, sometimes even choices that look like they are going to be good choices end up being full of a bunch of shitheads that don’t treat you with the dignity that you deserve.
So, that is what my healing journey looks like, and it goes up and down. I do my best to be honest about my experiences and to connect with others, and to help form relationships that allow collective actions against things like sexism and racism and child abuse.
That is one of the themes of my last book Damaged Like Me, is that when you are traumatized you need help but then later once you have a few resources it is totally possible to be part of a positive force that influences the whole community, society, world in which we live.
Do you want help looking into some in-person survivor/mental health support?