Recovering From Trauma Doesn’t Happen Overnight
I’ve been doing prolonged exposure therapy for about 7 months now to deal with a sexual assault that happened when I was 13.
I thought I was over it for YEARS. I got into therapy right after it happened, where I was diagnosed with PTSD. At the time, they didn’t know how to handle sexual assault, especially in a young girl, so therapy didn’t exactly help.
The two boys ended up doing the same thing to two other girls. I still regret not speaking up soon. However, one of the girls was brave enough to speak up and the boys were expelled from school. After months of legal proceedings, the boys were sent to juvenile detention. This was the first time I realized that justice doesn’t exactly make the pain go away.
This year, I had some other traumatic things happen. I started having PTSD symptoms. Panic attacks. Dissociative episodes. I was having nightmares all night every night. I’d wake up in a pool of sweat and panic. I was diagnosed, again, with PTSD.
I started doing a combination of Prolonged Exposure and Cognitive Processing therapy with an amazing psychologist. I’ve been making really good progress processing the trauma over and over so my brain and my body “gets used to it.”
I’ve been making such good progress that my doctor and I thought I was ready to move forward onto domestic violence related trauma.
But then last night, I dreamt that one of the boys was trying to kiss me again. In the dream, he told me how beautiful I was and that I was so special. I let him kiss me, but when he tried to go further, I said I wasn’t ready. His dream projection was so mad. Then, in typical dream-like fashion, he threw himself down the stairs and told everyone I pushed him.
I know it was just a dream but I’m a firm believer that my dreams often reflect the state of my subconscious. To me, that dream tells me I’m not ready to move forward. It tells me that he is still a monster in my head, and that I am having a hard time believing myself, even today.
I woke up in a panic.
But that’s okay. It was just a dream and I am safe now.
Today, I’ll be extra kind to myself.
This is a reminder that recovery is not linear.
There is no set amount of time you need to “get over” something.
Even if you are making progress in recovery, it’s okay if you slip backwards.
You are doing your best.