We have a new neurosis, albeit it has always been around but today has been given a name. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Those of us, survivors of child sexual abuse, who were born before the millenniums called it hyper-vigilance or used the word “anxious” as if it were just another state of mind such as anger, rage, touchy, jealous, dislike, animosity, resentment, envy or another of the multitudinous choices our emotions spit out for us. Life used to be simpler. When I was growing up (prior to my sexual abuse) if I displayed anger my mom had me write 100 times I will not hate or become angry; I will only like or dislike.” Most of them I just had to confess on Saturday night to our parish priest, say my penance and then I’d do them all over again the coming week. I was always highly intense emotionally so my feelings lit up like firecrackers. I wanted to be stoic, have controlled emotions, never losing my temper or display jealousy or resentment.
The world of mental health has developed new titles for everything. ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), schizophrenia, Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), bi-polar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social phobia and generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, or a variety of phobias, too numerous to list here.
While I don’t pretend to be a therapist and applaud those who are I can’t help but wonder sometimes if we are on the right track in stabilizing people’s mental health. Those of us who were abused as children are certainly more vulnerable to the above mental health problems and need to be moved to the front of the class in recovering from the abuse. Over the years before my child sexual abuse was identified and addressed head on I was kept alive by anti-depressants, to keep me from becoming suicidal and sleeping pills to make sure I got a good night’s sleep which lessened the difficulties I had during the day. While I’m grateful for those as they kept me alive I can also clearly see that going through the appropriate recovery program (in my case REPAIR) especially in conjunction with a 12-step program caused me to rarely have to resort to medication for those types of problems again.
In my world (and I freely admit it’s a rather small world with no initials after my name) I would prefer that people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, at least while taking anti-depressants to help prop them up, go through a recovery program and see if that takes care of the problem. It’s an almost simplistic solution to what is not a simple problem. But if I after undergoing my father’s brutal rapes and physical violence, my mother’s hatred of me (“hit her again, hit her again” still rings in my ears) running away from home at the age of 18, going from one domestic violence marriage to another even worse, then a third marriage where my husband was sadistic, raped me violently often several times a day and through the night, brutally chastised me for the wrongs I had done (he had found the journal that I had kept for years listing all my wrongdoings) and used them as a whip over my head calling me unclean, a cheat, a liar, and anything else he could think of that would get me to do what he wanted, whether it was to change my clothes into something he considered not sexy, chastised me if I laughed at a joke, battered me emotionally when I talked to my brother on the phone and more unpleasant situations. Towards the end of our relationship I lived for a brief time in a women’s shelter. I learned a lot there, mostly about how so many women had so much courage.
But I emerged sane and whole and healed. It took five years of working my own Repair program, working a rigorous and honest 12 step program, many weeks of going to Alternatives to Domestic Violence meetings, listening to John Bradshaw’s tape, Healing the Shame That Binds you so often that I had to replace the tape three times and anything else Mr. Bradshaw had written. But once I completed my recovery program and did six months of post-recovery work I no longer needed pills at all. I no longer had painful flashbacks. I no longer had vicious nightmares where someone was on top of me and crushing me to death. Everything was healed. Most of all my anxiety was rare and then mainly a mother’s worry about her four children.
I am not in any way trying to tell you to throw your meds away. I am only recommending a different path, one where you complete a recovery program and see if you need those pills anymore.
Call your phone operator to find the phone # for the nearest Codependents Anonymous chapter. It’s the 12 step program that I used while I was in recovery. Attend at least six of their meetings. Something magical happens by then. You realize you are in the right place. I would also recommend looking on our website under the book pages for the page on Repair Your Life as well as the page on the program. There’s a lot of help available on my website so you might spend some time looking it over. The REPAIR program took me from all of my above problems to being the happiest person I know. So I would definitely encourage you to get the book and start working the program. It is now in its second edition with two new chapters and a Forward written by Dr. Vincent Felitti who co-authored the ACE Study. Type in “the ace study” under Google and it will take you to more than one site that explains what they are doing. I knew Dr. Felitti during his ground breaking work and it is phenomenal.
If you decide to enlist the aid of a therapist make sure they either have a history of child sexual abuse themselves or that they have been working in that field. You have the right to interview your potential therapist. I’m here to help you if you have any questions or need help in any way especially by telling your story. That, the lancing of the wound, is the first step towards wellness. A shared sorrow is a sorrow halved and a shared joy is a joy doubled.
Keep in mind that being sexually molested as a child is like a wound struck deep in some part of your body –leaving behind a thorn or bullet or some foreign object. That wound, without proper medical attention, will become infected. It will undergo a state of progressive deterioration as it festers if you do not get help. When you work the proper recovery program you are putting medication on the wound so that it doesn’t develop gangrene. As you move further through the program you will eventually be able to remove the foreign object. From there you will put further healing medication on your wound and in time it will be nothing more than a scar, something you remember happening but put little attention on.
And soon anxiety will be like that wound–just something that you remember having before but now know that you can deal with it in a healthy way.