The long-term effects of child sexual abuse can be very painful. Remembering the magnitude of betrayal and violation hurts to the core of your body. The shame and humiliation can be consuming and the self-blame destructive. This is especially difficult when you have split yourself off in order to survive. In this case, you often don't realize the abuse until years after it actually happened. For me, the realization began when I was 31: a lawyer with a good job in the government, married to a wonderful man. We had bought a home and I was by all accounts happy and successful.
What I didn't know was that the blanks in my mind about my childhood were due to dissociation and Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder). I struggled against the idea of therapy, only really starting after panic attacks began to affect my job and relationship. I happened across an amazing therapist and started saying aloud the strange thoughts I was having... thoughts that my father had done bad things to me.
Thus began the long painful process of deconstructing and reconstructing my life. I spent years uncovering the memories stored safely in different parts of my subconscious and slowly began to grieve the loss of innocence, family and trust-the loss of who I thought I was.
Now after many years of healing I am happy, and not just on the surface. Despite how difficult it can still be to grieve and remember all I have been through, I am proud to say that I am better than I have ever been. I feel more stable. I believe this is because I am more whole than I ever have been. I have learned about the ups and downs of the process and survived them year after year. I have a wonderful relationship with a partner and am blessed with great friends.
Still I struggle (see the bumpy road of healing). The holidays are especially painful, as are anniversary dates of particularly brutal or repeated attacks. Some years are easier than others. This year the release of my memoir, The Sum of My Parts: A Survivor's Story of Dissociative Identity Disorder, threw me an unexpected twist. Even though I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment in writing the book, I had no idea how exposed I would feel when it was released.
Nowadays, when things get hard, I remind myself that I have lived through this before: the depression, the suicidal thoughts, the deep despair. I know from my experience of healing that as bad as I might feel, I have come out of similarly painful times and I will get through this one, too.
I have worked hard to balance the dark thoughts and self-doubt with positive thoughts of all I have and who I have become. I remind myself how lucky I am to have survived and thrived despite all the violence I endured. I remind myself that I am strong and resilient.
Each time I come out of the darkness I revel once again in the light and my newfound strength. I have overcome it and when it comes again, I will ride that out, too. In the meantime, I enjoy the peace of feeling happy, sane and stable. I enjoy as much of my life as I can: rejoice in my partner, our dogs, our friends. I laugh hard, sleep well and work hard.
For all of you who struggle with memories of child sexual abuse, sexual violence, or dissociative identity disorder - it does get better, even when you think it can't.
To learn more about Olga's memoir The Sum of My Parts visit New Harbinger Publications
To learn more about Olga and her work see www.olgatrujillo.com