Hi, I’m Sarah and I am extremely happy to say that I am one of the luckiest women I know. I am my own boss; I get paid for doing work I find deeply rewarding and absolutely love. I live in a beautiful part of the world surrounded by kind people. I have the privilege of being mother to the two most beautiful humans on the planet, and miraculously I am married to my extremely hot, best friend and soulmate.
I feel loved, safe, heard, seen and understood. I am, for the most part, content with how I look and feel, both on the inside and the outside, and even able to accept the way that my body is changing as I grow older, ever grateful for my physical and emotional health.
Life is good, very good; however, it wasn’t always this way.
At age twelve I found myself sitting at a long wooden bench in a human biology lesson. The boys were on one bench, girls on the other. There was much giggling and sniggering from both benches as we were told to turn to the page in our books that showed the diagram of the human female and male reproductive organs.
I looked at the black and white line drawings, and as the teacher explained the basics of sexual intercourse and how babies are made, I felt the colour drain from my face and my stomach plummet to the floor, the feeling of nausea overwhelming me. As his words sank in, I realised that what the teacher was describing, was what my stepfather was doing to me.
It was at that moment that I realised just how different I was from everyone else in the class, that what went on in our house was never to be spoken about. I felt disgusted, ashamed, confused, and scared. My throat closed, my jaw clenched shut and I swallowed everything.
Five years later, aged 17, sat on the bottom step of the open plan, wooden staircase in the living room. I am looking up at my mother’s furious face. Standing over me, hissing in a fierce, hushed whisper: ‘’Well, you’ve got what you want, you can have him’’. ‘’Don’t go mum’’ I want to scream, ‘’please don’t leave me’’, the words crash around inside my head, but I make no sound. My jaw clamps shut. My throat closes. I lower my gaze, tears in my eyes, swallow the pain, the shame, and say nothing as she leaves with my brothers.
It is 1987, I am a student nurse, we are all sitting in the classroom in our white nurses’ uniforms, proudly wearing our white cardboard hats with the now three orange stripes, to indicate our lofty status as third year students. We are listening to a Child Protection lecture given by the hospital’s Paediatric consultant.
As the lecture draws to a close his eyes settle on me as, accusingly, he states that according to national statistics, at least two of us in the room will have been sexually abused by now, probably by someone we know. In the silence that follows my cheeks burn with all-consuming humiliation and shame. I feel as if I have a flashing beacon on my head, ‘’yes’’ the voice in my head screams, ‘’it’s me, now what?’’. I said nothing. I was back in biology class. My jaw clamped shut, my throat closed, and my mind left the room.
On 10th January 1994 I lay propped up in the maternity ward bed, having just had an emergency caesarean section, holding the most precious creature in the entire universe, in my arms, at that moment I didn’t know it, but as I looked into the eyes of my beautiful daughter, feeling the warmth of her tiny perfect body pressed to my breast and feeling the enormity of the indescribable love I felt for her, I had a precious glimpse into the future, of what eventually would be my truth.
In that fleeting moment I suddenly experienced what it felt like to feel enough, to feel proud of myself, to feel like the cleverest creature on the planet! Miraculously I had grown this precious gift inside of the body I hated, the body that had caused me so much shame and pain, I realised, could actually do something that I could appreciate it for. In that instant I vowed that what had happened to me was never going to happen to her. No one was going to hurt my child.
My fierce determination to protect grew stronger with the birth of my exquisitely perfect son nineteen months later. As he and his sister grew so did my resolve to speak up for myself, to be heard, and to no longer swallow my feelings in order to keep the peace in my dysfunctional marriage.
After weeks of thinking about it, only to chicken out at the last minute numerous times, I finally plucked up the courage to go to my GP and ask for help. He referred me for counseling. A month later, as I walked into the overly warm, cramped therapy room at the local psychiatric hospital to meet my therapist, my heart sank, Danielle was Daniel. I had been given a male therapist to share my darkest, deepest secrets about sexual abuse to. This wasn’t going to be easy.
Daniel did his best, although he admitted that he hadn’t any experience in helping people heal after sexual abuse. The sessions consisted of endless discussions about the abuse and how it made me feel. Leaving the clinic, I would invariably feel worse than when I had arrived. It seemed to take me all week to stuff all my disturbing, unmanageable feelings back into the box that they had been dragged out of during the hour we were together.
As I closed the door behind me for the last time, feeling exhausted and extremely relieved that the therapy was over, I decided that the only way to deal with my childhood was to box it back up and file it in the farthest depths of my mind, never to be revisited. Therapy, I resolved, sucked. I would sort myself out.
So that is exactly what I did. For the next decade I knuckled down to being the best mum I could be. I left the marriage, got promoted at work, started a side hustle, and devoured all the self-help books I could get my hands on. Lovers came and went, but no one lasted for more than 2 years. I didn’t let anyone in.
Although to the outside world I appeared to be doing fine, on the inside, I could feel that the way I was living was unsustainable. I was exhausted, but I couldn’t rest. At night the nightmares were terrifying, and I woke most mornings with my jaw clamped shut, unable to open my mouth until I’d unlocked my TM joint. I was plagued by migraines and back pain. I didn’t know where to go for help, or what help I needed. I just knew that as long as I could stay busy, put the mask on as soon as I walked out of the front door and keep my act together for the kids, we would be ok.
And we were. In 2004 the kids and I said our goodbyes to Cumbria and set off for an adventure in the sunnier climes of Southern Spain. Looking back, I guess I was running away from my past, but I wasn’t aware of that at the time. Once settled I continued to stay busy, whilst still keeping up the relentless search for that elusive inner peace I was sure was somewhere out there. I read all I could find on the Law of Attraction, mindfulness, metaphysical healing, energy healing, crystal therapy, Reiki, you name it, I read it!
My refusal to give up on the search was finally rewarded, ten years later. After realising that the physical and emotional symptoms that I was experiencing were probably something to do with what happened to me as a child, I made the decision to invest in a course in hypnotherapy. I enrolled at the Atkinson Ball College of Hypnotherapy and Hypnohealing. This amazing course was transformational. What I learned and experienced over the next 8 months completely changed my life.
Learning how to become a hypnotherapist is experiential, so each week we would practice what we were learning on each other. Under hypnosis, I was able to access my subconscious mind and find the programs that had been activated in order to protect me, when I was a child. These programs were the reason why I was unable to make any sort of permanent change to the way I thought and acted. Week by week the subconscious programs that were no longer serving me were upgraded or eliminated. I found my inner children, rescued and forgave them for doing what they had to do to survive. I healed at a profoundly deep level; I had found my calling.
Realising how powerful working with the subconscious mind is, and experiencing the amazing changes in my own life that followed as a result of this work, led me on a quest. This quest was to commit to my own healing journey, and with what I learned, create an effective program, uniquely crafted to serve high-functioning women who, like me, experienced childhood trauma. Women who long ago thought that they had buried their past, but find that keeping it hidden is getting harder and harder the older they get.
I am so immensely grateful for the healing that has resulted from my commitment to freeing myself from the pain of my childhood. With the help of mentors, teachers and plant medicine I have been able to forgive the man that abused me for 14 years, rebuild a relationship with my mum and make peace with her before she died. I have healed my attachment wounds, and am constantly deepening my connection to and love for, my physical body. I enjoy a deeply fulfilling relationship with my delicious husband and am secure in his love for me. I no longer feel like damaged goods, ashamed of what shaped my life. I know that I am worthy of all the good things life has to offer.
Whilst I believe that healing from sexual abuse is a lifelong process, it all starts with making the decision that life could be so much more fulfilling when able to move past the past. I’ve done this, and if I can do it, so can you. Transformation doesn’t happen by accident, and time alone doesn’t heal. Finding someone that has walked the path before you, healed themselves, understands your journey and has developed the skills to guide you back home to your true self is critical.
I can honestly say that as I write this, I feel happier, safer, more loved and in charge of my life than I have ever felt. Helping others overcome what they had previously thought of as insurmountable has been hugely instrumental in my own healing. I continue to work with several mentors of my own, as I have no intention of trying to do this by myself anymore. Life is so much easier when we have the support we need around us.
My greatest hope for you as you read this is that you feel inspired by my story, that you decide to fast track the years of searching I did and commit to your own healing. Your courage will be rewarded as, by overcoming your adverse childhood experiences you will find yourself able to deal with the ever changing challenges of life ever more easily. I want every woman who experienced childhood sexual abuse to know that they can find freedom and self-compassion, learn to love themselves and find the joy, freedom and fulfilment that I now experience in my life.
Sarah has a medical background as an Emergency Nurse Practitioner and has a Postgraduate Degree in Health and Social Service Management. She is a Trauma Informed Advanced Hypnotherapist and is a member of the Corporation of Advanced Hypnotherapists. Sarah is also an experienced massage therapist and Reiki Master.
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