For decades after I was abused by the priest I kept it a deep, dark secret; as is common for many victims. The guilt and shame was so intense that I told no-one. That was until 2003. A man I knew was about to be ordained a deacon in our church. But I had concrete evidence that he was a predator. His ordination was immanent and if I didn’t do anything he would be in a position of authority where he would have access to who knows how many would be trusting victims. I felt if I didn’t report him to the diocese then I would be culpable for the damage he, in all like hood, caused the vulnerable that he preyed on. Predators often seek positions of authority because it enables them
Even then I didn’t want to come forward and tried to report him by sending anonymously letters. But as it turned out, The result of coming forward for me is that the emotions were overwhelming. It was as if a dam had busted wide open. The church immediately put me in therapy. That therapy helped but it only took me so far.
Therapy takes on many forms and there are many places to turn for help depending on where you’re at in your healing journey. Many of us, including myself, were in self denial about what happened, suppressing memories of the abuses, especially sexual abuse, for many years, even decades. The emotions can be/are overwhelming especially when you’re just coming face to face with what happened to you and it’s okay to seek help. If you want healing, you have a responsibility, mainly to yourself, to face it and deal with it. When you’re healthier, you will notice that your relationships with others will be healthier. Don’t expect it to be an overnight thing. It’s taken me many years to get where I’m at and I’m still learning, growing, even struggling at times. My successes and failures wax and wane, but I still believe in hope. You can, too.
If you’re just coming to terms with your abuses, you may want to start with one-on-one therapy. A private setting can help you explore the overwhelming emotions when first acknowledging that you were abused. That’s where I started. But before starting one-on-one therapy, you may be wondering how to choose the right therapist and that’s an excellent question. Not all therapist have the training, experience, or personality to be in the position to meet YOUR needs. It’s important that there be a good fit for you and your therapist. Follow this link for tips on how to find the right therapist.
If you like to read, you may also consider reading books to get educated on the many dynamics of abuse. They don’t have to be hard copy of books. There are many websites that are excellent sources of information. Knowledge is power, they say, and I find that to be true. A good place to start is to check out my library. There are a handful of good, albeit mostly short, reads there.
If you’re further along on your heeling journey you may, at times, feel like you’re spinning your wheels. Talk talk talk. Experiencing one-on-one therapy burnout? It’s happened to me more than once. It’s not anybody’s fault, but it may indicate you need to take a different approach. You’re not alone. I, too, have felt that way many times. How many times have you heard practice makes perfect? As encouraging as those words are meant to be, perfection is an idea that defies reality and sets us up for failure. The reality is that practice makes better. When a person starts out in anything, even a healing journey, their skill level is going to increase the longer they ‘practice’ or work at it. Sometimes one ‘teacher’ can only go so far and it’s time to get another ‘teacher’ that can advance you further. Therapy, in it’s many forms, is very much like that. If one thing has quit working for you, it’s time to move on to something else that does.
Find a support group that you can relate to. There are many out there for all kinds of things. I’ve found groups that meet online, so you can do it from the comfort of your home. Maybe you’ll want to participate in several. SNAP offers support groups, some tailored by gender, location, religion, etc.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (or CBT) can be very helpful in treating anxiety and depression. CBT’s offers simple yet (not necessarily easy) powerful changes to the way we think and act and can have profound impacts on our health and well-being. Though my experience with CBT has been in an on-line group setting, led by a psychiatrist and following a handbook, you can do CBT on your own, at your own pace. If you find yourself getting stuck, seek help. Checkout the library for a very detailed book/workbook “The Cognitive Behavioral Work Book for Depression”. You can Google one you prefer but below is a link to a relatively concise workbook:
As much benefit as I’ve gotten from CBT, I have found that it only goes so far in helping me to deal with my issues. I’ve recently started an on-line Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It’s a type of CBT only with a different focus, is much longer than CBT, but is also led by a psychiatrist and follows a handbook. However you can also do DBT on your own. “Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was originally developed to treat chronically suicidal individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Over time, DBT has been adapted to treat people with multiple different mental illnesses, but most people who are treated with DBT have BPD as a primary diagnosis”.
DBT is heavily based on CBT with one big exception: it emphasizes validation, or accepting uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and behaviors instead of struggling with them. By having an individual come to terms with the troubling thoughts, emotions or behaviors that they struggle with, change no longer appears impossible and they can work with their therapist to create a gradual plan for recovery.” Checkout the library for a very detailed book/workbook “The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook”. You can Google one you prefer but below is a link to a relatively concise workbook:
You may get to a point in your healing journey where you can reach out to others to help them along their journey. It’s taken me decades to get where I’m at and yet I still have times of despair. However, reaching out to others, especially through this blog, is uplifting for me. It’s my hope that by reaching out I can offer others hope by sharing my experiences along my healing journey. It’s my hope that others can relate to what I’m saying and thus let them know they are not alone and that there is hope. Like anything else, there are many ways to reach out others. At this time I’ve chosen a blog. But you may find different opportunities that allow you to help others in meaningful ways.
The point is NEVER GIVE UP. Healing is a process. What works for me may not work for you. Ask your therapist or doctor for alternatives or different approaches to talk therapy. If you find you still need more, look for and find something for you. Healing is an ongoing process for many of us. Whatever you do, don’t give up!
There are also other forms of therapy. For a more thorough list follow this link. Also, if you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, flashbacks, nightmares you may find it helpful to talk to your medical doctor about those symptoms. These may be physiological conditions that can be mitigated by pharmaceuticals.
Thanks for reading.
Wishing you much love and peace,
“Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” ― Mother Teresa
Pope Francis, I appeal you to meet the needs of survivors of clergy sexual abuse by making reparations commensurate with the damage, emotional or otherwise, caused to survivors. I have ideas on how to do this. If you can’t do this, then I respectfully ask, on behalf of the Church, you to stop receiving communion until such time that the Church does. Because until the Church does, it will not be in communion with the saints. Sincere contrition is meaningless without reparations in kind. Demonstrate to the world that the Catholic Church is catholic; that is, the Church Jesus established with Peter as the rock, the first pope; that the Church practices what it preaches.
Ps: Have words of encouragement or a testimony to share? Does/has this blog helped you in some way? Know of additional, valuable resources? Suggestions for topics? Post a comment or you can also send me a private message by using the “Contact” page on my website or message me on FB.
Consider sharing this blog with others. Victim/survivors of abuses, more often than not, carry this burden silently alone, not knowing how to deal with it or where to turn, but need hope. Loved ones and caregivers also need support. We never know who is or wants to reach out for help. This blog might be of help to caregivers and loved ones of abuse. Silence is deadly and if together we are able to help or save just one life, isn’t that worth it?
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It has been great to meet and talk with you Matt… I look forward to reading long or short versions of any topic, story, thoughts or emotions you touch on.. I hope they help other survivors in their healing journey.. I know talking about it helps me.. be well !
The other day I shared a story on FB about losing two teeth in an accident, and someone said everything isn’t everyone’s business. I said, it was a burden and shame I was holding onto and I no longer wanted to carry it. God told me to turn over my burdens and turn them into … Continue reading Tamirra H.
In reaching out to others, you are Christ’s hands. It takes courage and broad shoulders. I will continue to pray that the Holy Spirit guide those open hands into a thriving ministry…Don’t let yourself fail prey to discouragement. It may be your calling. God bless you!