I’ve written a book, Healing My Life from Incest to Joy, which tells in great detail all I’ve done and experienced on my healing journey. In a nutshell – here’s the list:
- Support Groups
- Political activism
- Body/Mind work: Cranial Sacral, EMDR, Acupuncture, Massage
- Guided Meditation
- Writing a play and performing it (What She Knows: One Woman’s Way Through Incest to Joy)
- Leading writing & mindfulness workshops for survivors
Probably the most central component to my healing was the building of new relationships. I’m convinced that without embracing and taking the risk of building close and healthy relationships, I wouldn’t have made it out of my own particular internal dungeon.
I would come to call this alternative my “family of choice,” populated with people I love who love me in return. The act of loving others is the more important half of that equation, both for my soul and my sense of belonging.
I started building my first family of choice in junior high school, though I certainly didn’t call it that back then. It was my crowd. I found people who could be a grand distraction from all that went on in my family – a group of teenagers who’d both get my mind off my past and help me forget to worry about what might be waiting for me at home.
It’s a double whammy a) being born into a family that’s not on your side and b) the rest of the world (or at least a big part of it) thinks there’s something wrong with you for not staying in that family. I knew I had to find an alternative to my nuclear family. That held true for the majority of my extended family as well because it was filled with people who were either clueless or paralyzed about what my father had done.
Having a family of choice was an enormous help not only in coping with but ultimately accepting the disintegration of relationships in my biological family. That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally miss the first one, especially my niece and nephews and not getting to watch them grow up, but I’ve mostly gotten away from longing for it to reemerge. My family of choice is a counter to that longing. I put a lot of energy into forging and keeping loving, healthy relationships, which became a mighty contradiction to those I’ve lost or left.
This is what Judith Lewis Herman calls: “restorative love”. * And, through that restorative process, I came to a place where I refuse to spend my time and heart any more on people who are rude or mean, self-absorbed, neglectful or abusive – those who can’t love back.
* Trauma to Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror, by Judith Lewis Herman, M.D. Published by BasicBooks. a division of Harper Collins, 1992