“Broken but Beautiful” is a weekly column by Faith Gor, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She shares her story and healing journey to offer hope to other survivors.
A friend sent me a message a week ago and asked, “When did you realise that you needed therapy?” Usually I would go ahead and give a detailed answer, but this time I chose to be curious. I asked her, “What therapy?” Maybe she meant hydrotherapy, speech therapy, physiotherapy, art therapy or light therapy. I didn’t want to make conclusions.
From her description, it was clear that she was asking about psychotherapy. After a lengthy conversation, I gave her several options to pick from. And that’s what inspired today’s post.
I knew that I needed to see a psychotherapist right after I opened up to the pastor when I was 19. Actually, I suspected that I had bipolar from my self-diagnosis (mhm, the lies we believe) because I had extreme mood fluctuations. I would be extremely outgoing to the outside world but would get moody and withdrawn to my family. My mom pointed this out, but I would get defensive.
I didn’t like it when some friends would tease me and call me moody.
We even concluded that I have a melancholic temperament. I was not happy that I was moody. I didn’t like it that people would walk on eggshells around me. I also didn’t understand how I would be the life and soul of the party and suddenly become so moody that my stomach would start running. This made me avoid visiting people and attending events.
I remember one time, some lady sent her child, who was my friend, to ask me not to be too sensitive, and that’s how I took a break from church. I came back when I felt ready to face people again. Living such a life is not pleasant and it is nothing close to the abundant life that Jesus promises in John 10:10, so I began reading books because seeing a psychotherapist was not affordable for me then. Books helped me to a certain degree. I became self-aware, but I didn’t have the tools to know what to do with the self-protective coping habits that I had built.
I listened to podcasts, and this helped in the sense that I knew that I was not crazy, and I also heard about how others overcame. This gave me hope, but I still didn’t have the strength to uproot the lies I believed.
I began searching for Christian counselling services in Nairobi.
It was hard to do the search in my head, but I also didn’t want to be exposed. I was afraid of asking around because the person I reached out to before told me to just keep a positive attitude. This made me beat myself up more because I didn’t know how not to be anxious.
One day I got tired of the constant suicidal push I had. My mind was so sick that I could not see anything good in life. I was at war with myself. I felt that I wasn’t adding any value to life. I felt like a failure and a disgrace. These were lies I believed.
So, I reached out to my friend whom I knew was a psychology student. I got vulnerable with her then she gave me a referral. I called the counsellor and booked a session. The counsellor confirmed to me that I didn’t have bipolar, but they were not gifted in handling sexual trauma. I felt worse after the session. I was left hanging and felt ashamed that I could not feel better after the session. I coiled back into my dark world until another time when I couldn’t escape PTSD.
I got a Christian psychologist who walked me through breaking off the PTSD cycle. I’m so glad I met her. She moved out of town, so the sessions were suspended, and I hoped to get another therapist, and I did. I thank God for this.
See, sexual abuse ruins and changes the trajectory of a person’s life. It is the devil’s tool to break a person’s identity and to mar God’s image in our lives as good.
It touches the core of our being because we are sexual beings, and it corrupts the gift of sex, thus robbing the victim of the power to desire and cherish intimacy from a pure perspective. It causes more psychological effects than any other crime.
According to a study carried out by Dean G. Kilpatrick, PhD, National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center, Medical University of South Carolina, survivors of sexual abuse are three times more likely to suffer from depression, six times more likely to suffer from PTSD, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and four times more likely to attempt and contemplate suicide.
As a result, one lives with a deep sense of guilt and shame. To gain control, the victim will often feel the need to be punished, self-harm, stay in abusive relationships or engage in other intentionally destructive behaviours. These cycles cannot be broken by self-help.
Emotional pain is real pain, and the brain registers it as that.
Such pain can be best addressed psychologically. The therapist acts as someone holding up a mirror in front of you with compassion, then you’re able to see your true state, and you are then equipped with the tools that you need to live the abundant life promised in John 10:10.
We cannot prevent brokenness and evil done to us, but we have the power to choose healing. It is okay to pray and still seek counsel for psychological damage. God is able to connect you with the right person to walk the journey with you. As you search for help, find a counsellor that is equipped to handle sexual trauma. Feelings of ambivalence will come; feel them, but still choose to find help and thrive in life.
Remember, you are not what happened to you.
You are valuable.