You Should Just Move On.


I've heard it many times. You should just move on. 

The thing is, I have moved on, it just may not look the way you think it should. I assure you, though, if I hadn't moved on you would see a much different person than I am now, and I know that because there was a time when I hadn't yet moved on. I spent a great deal of time consumed by my past, bleeding out from the gaping wounds abuse had left in my mind and heart.

Before I "moved on" I tried other techniques to distract myself from the rising tide of my pain.

Oftentimes I'd just build a dam so I could pretend as though the past had never happened. Of course, this was not a highly effective technique - it was exhausting to maintain this facade and frequently resulted in the dam breaking and me nearly drowning in the ensuing flood.

A recurring theme arose in the several years after my abuse: as I tried running from my pain, hiding from it, pretending it wasn't there, convincing myself it didn't effect me, even tried killing myself a handful of times, the pain always came barging back into my life from the shadows where I'd banished it to. Much to my dismay, it never actually left. It never even shrank at all. On the contrary, it grew. Chronic depression, PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, anorexia, flashbacks and nightmares haunted me on a daily basis.

I've never actually spoken specifically about how I began the process of healing, but I'd like to share some of that now.

When I was 20 years old, I finally began what would end up being almost 3 years of Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Through this method of therapy I would learn that running from the pain in my past was crippling me and destroying me from the inside out. Instead, I learned how to turn around and piece by piece acknowledge the parts of myself that were suffering. Through meditative practice, I began to get to know the parts of Natalie that had been screaming for my attention for years, the parts I'd never validated or recognized because I thought it would just hurt too much. I thought it might kill me.

As it happens, it didn't kill me. In fact, it saved my life.

With the careful guidance of my therapist and over a great deal of time, I slowly and methodically addressed each part of my psyche that had been injured by abuse. Oftentimes, facing one intense pain meant opening a door to an even deeper injury I'd never been aware of. The process was all at once depleting and fascinating. Like a flower stuck in its bud for far too long, beginning to bloom was excruciating but once the process began, it was inevitable. The tools I'd be given couldn't be ignored. Even when I felt as though I was too broken to ever truly heal, a quiet voice in my head would tell me otherwise.

When I was 23 years old, I spoke publicly about my abuse for the first time. Many people have asked why after 5 years I continue to tell my story. Over the last several years, my reasons for speaking out have evolved but at the core have always been essentially the same:


  • I speak out because every time I do so I am declaring my innocence and thus shedding my shame.
  • I speak out because when we share our suffering and our joys with those around us, we have the opportunity to experience deep and meaningful connections.
  • I speak out because the world needs to hear more about what it's like to be a victim of abuse, and because through a deeper awareness and understanding we will learn how to care for the victims among us in a more loving way. 

Speaking out means being vulnerable, and most of us have great fear associated with vulnerability. By being vulnerable we place ourselves at the mercy of others to either accept us or reject us, and that trust can be a terrifying thing, especially if our trust has been broken before. When I discovered the healing power of vulnerability, I was astounded. The potential for hurt is definitely very real and I have had to learn the balance between being vulnerable and protecting myself, but ultimately I have experienced great healing through exposing my pain and telling my story. 

My truth is too much for some people to hear and I understand that. To those people I'd recommend moving on and reading something else, but for those willing to listen I'd urge you to be open to the idea of sharing our burdens with one another. There is an honor in helping carry each other's pain. Suffering is universally shared, though our stories may differ. When we choose to get visceral, to really get down in the mud with another human being and help drag them through their suffering or if need be, just sit there in the mud with them for a while and listen to their story, we will inevitably learn more about ourselves then we knew before. 

I know I'm a dreamer, but I truly believe that we would begin to see a better world if we shared one another's pain rather than looking down and telling each other to move on.  

When we suggest to others that they "move on" from something painful in their past we are telling them we don't want to hear about their suffering. We are telling them we don't want to witness the messiness of healing and we certainly don't want to be touched by that messiness.

What it all boils down to is this: we're all a mess of deep suffering and ecstatic joy, of disease and health, of blubbering tears and wild laughter. Whether obviously or subtly, we're tethered together and we each are given the choice, again and again, to either walk isolated and alone or to reach out and grasp onto one another.

Here is my hand, we both have suffered. Take mine and I will take yours.





Comments

  1. Beautiful. Good on you Natalie.

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  2. So beautiful! Thank you for sharing your story and helping us to heal who have also walked in that path and at the same time making people aware of how to protect themselves and others. ❤

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  3. I love this post. Thank you Natalie!

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  4. Thank you, Natalie. I have never had mindfulness based therapy, but I feel like in some areas I'm 'attempting' that through my own amateur methods (yoga has been immensely healing for me). I am not in the 'speak about it' stage by any stretch, but I am so thankful that you do and continue to do so. You inspire me. :)

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  5. This was wonderful on so many levels. I admire your strength and your willingness to share your story. Keep on keeping on!!! May we bear each others' burdens and somehow make suffering a little easier.

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  6. I keep coming here to say something coherent and meaningful and I keep exiting this post. I am so saddened and disgusted by the way your then "pastor" Douglas Wilson treated you and your family it is soul numbing.

    I am glad you were able to find help and shame on the church that it was not found there.

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  7. Thank you for doing what you are doing here Natalie. Seeing others honestly and constructively dealing with their pain is genuinely liberating. Bravery is contagious. You are a blessing. - d

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  8. Natalie, what a poignant post. You have depth and maturity beyond your years. Keep telling your story - others are listening.

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  9. These sentiments have been near and dear to my heart for a long time. Thank you for sharing and expressing them so eloquently. I love you!

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