I consider myself a very open book, but I have a story that I haven’t shared with many. It is a story from my teen years that I pushed to the side many years ago. While I knew deep down that it was a story that still had a hold on me, I truly believed that its impact was minimal. Since that time, 22 years ago, I have had many other stories…many that have been joyful and amazing and others that have consumed me with grief, heartache, and feelings of rejection.
Since some of those grief-filled, broken heart stories happened more recently in my life, I focused solely on them for my healing. It was those stories that I discussed with counselors. It was those stories that I worked the hardest to let go of. While I feel that I have made great strides in my healing, I do know that I still find myself in survival mode often. Our Survival mode instinct is controlled by our limbic system. It is when our brain responds naturally to a perceived threat and we either choose fight, flight or freeze. This ability can be life-saving during a very real threat. But, it is NOT life-saving during a non-existent threat that your limbic system perceives to be a threat. And when the response your body most often resorts to is fight mode, you may notice a rage come out of you that is not only very out of character but is also damaging to you and others around you.
I have found myself in fight mode a lot lately! And it has made me feel like a giant failure. When you feel you have been working so hard to heal from past hurts, but then find yourself going through life in survival mode, you begin to question your efforts. It is defeating and so very frustrating. I finally chose to analyze my natural irrational response and I noticed that there was a common thread. My irrational responses always occurred with my husband (poor guy) when I felt that I wasn’t being heard. It was during those times when I PERCEIVED that my feelings were not being taken into consideration or I was misunderstood that I would enter fight mode instantly. That wave of anger always began with my voice getting louder as I tried to appear more powerful. In the midst of it, I believed that if I was LOUD and EMOTIONAL, then my feelings would be heard. I tell you what, it hasn’t been pretty and each time I am left with a large amount of guilt and shame.
I have a friend who I have been discussing my healing journey with. She related to a lot of what I was going through. She confided in me that she often felt powerless. When she used that word, powerless, it reminded me of a recent session with my counselor. Her simple question stuck with me. During a session several months ago, she asked me, “Why are you always feeling like you need to have power? What happened to you to make you feel so powerless?”
Since that time, I have had that question circling around my brain. What happened to make me feel so powerless?
It’s funny what we sometimes choose to do with trauma. We have this ability to tuck away a difficult experience and fully believe that since it has been in hiding for so many years, that it truly can’t have an effect on us. It is also funny how we start to look back at some of our past experiences and begin to downplay them. We say things like, “It wasn’t THAT bad. Others experienced a trauma in that same category, but there’s was MUCH WORSE or lasted for MANY, MANY years, while mine was only one time. Surely it can’t have a hold on me any longer.”
Last week, I confronted myself about those thoughts. Last week I took the time to focus on that story, from my teen years, that I, for the most part, had tucked away. Last week I realized that the incident that happened to me so many years ago, has not been dealt with, has not been healed and has most definitely been wreaking havoc on my way of life. Last week, I realized that it is important to face it and begin healing from it.
That friend of mine, the one who has been sharing her story with me, she brought the Younique Foundation and their Haven Retreat Center to my attention. She excitedly shared a short video with me so that I could see what she was about to experience for herself in just a few weeks. At first, I watched the video focusing solely on her and her story. I was overcome with excitement for her. I knew that it would be perfect for her. Then, as the video introduced a craft that the women at the retreat do together on the first night, I burst into tears. The meaning behind the craft struck a chord with me and I realized I was longing to be there, at that retreat center, to begin my next healing journey. Here is that video:
After watching the video, I immediately headed over to the Yonique Foundation’s website and I began reading the Survivor Stories: testimonies of past participants. As I read story after story, I began feeling unworthy of such a retreat. Some of these women suffered much worse traumas than I did. Some of these women suffered sexual abuse at such young ages, whereas I was a teenager. Some suffered abuse at the hands of an adult they trusted, while my abuse happened with someone I dated. Some suffered abuse over the course of many years, while mine was a one-time incident. Surely, they were the ones this program was truly for. Surely, my trauma wasn’t THAT bad. Surely, I shouldn’t apply for the retreat and take the spot of someone who needs it more than I do.
Oh, how I find myself talking to myself like that often…so many times I feel unworthy.
Just as quickly as those thoughts entered my mind, they vanished, as I came across this blog post on the foundation’s website. The words leaped off the screen…
“When we started planning The Haven Retreat, we specifically wanted to create a place for the “Forgotten Survivor” – the woman who was doing okay in life; the woman who had figured out how to cope with her abuse; the woman who is high functioning; but nevertheless the woman who was still affected, often deeply, by what happened so many years ago.
We wanted this retreat because there are a lot of services for the woman in crisis, but there is virtually nothing for the resilient woman who has figured out a way to cope with the crisis yet still feels many effects. We know that she still deals with the impact of her abuse, and, despite her tremendous efforts, she still feels broken.
We often hear from participants that they almost didn’t apply because they felt the spot should go to someone else, someone more “deserving.” At TYF, we want the “high-functioning”, “doing okay”, “not as bad as” survivor to know that our retreat is for you. We built the retreat experience for you. We want to help you move past coping to healing.”
I entered into a time of prayer and I put it in God’s hands. Was this retreat something He had for me? I felt that nudge to apply, and so I did. On Wednesday I sent in a request for an application. On Thursday, The Younique Foundation sent the application my way, which I immediately completed and sent off to them. On Friday, I was accepted to attend, my travel arrangements were made, and my dates reserved. The whole process was quick and easy. I will be attending the retreat for 4 days in August and I am excited and definitely nervous.
While you can find a plethora of information about The Younique Foundation and The Haven Retreat Center on their website, here are a few quick facts about it taken from their site:
- Any adult female survivors of childhood or adolescent sexual abuse are qualified to participate. If you have a question as to what TYF defines as sexual abuse, you can find out more here.
- The retreat expenses are covered by The Younique Foundation and provided at no cost to you. The cost of travel to and from the Salt Lake City area is your responsibility. Yes, folks, the 4-day retreat is FREE.
- The retreat is at a mountain location in Utah County, Utah.
- The goal of the retreat is to empower survivors with specific understanding and skills that make healing more likely and possible. The strategies learned at the retreat become life skills that will help the participants go through the healing process.
- You are worth the effort required to find wholeness.
I also found this resource helpful about how trauma, especially in childhood and adolescence, affects the brain. In fact, I may do another post, specifically on that, because it is so important for us to understand, not just for our own sake, but for our children too.
I may share more of my story someday. In time I may also share my experience at the Haven Retreat Center. But For now, I wanted to share with you the incredible Younique Foundation and encourage any of you who think this retreat is something that you could benefit from, to visit the website and consider applying. Because you are worth it!