This blog reflects on an issue we are sure many survivors will relate to, the challenge of learning to love yourself. Thank you to the survivor, who wishes to remain anonymous, for writing this blog, sharing their journey and for contributing something back to RSVP through fundraising for us. We are very grateful and hope you feel proud of how many positive changes you’ve made in order to reach a place where you know what a strong, capable and resilient survivor you are.
I think everyone struggles to like themselves at some point in their lives. Unfortunately for me, and so many other survivors, liking myself always seemed an impossible task. After six years of sexual abuse at the hands of a person I thought loved me, I even struggled to want to be in my own body, let alone like it.
My journey to recovery started when I chose to tell a friend of my abuse. I was 12. My friend didn’t think much of it, and maybe I didn’t either. I look back and realise that neither of us understood it. By 15, my abuse had become idle gossip amongst the other children at school. Whispers in the corridor, messages posted online, texts to my phone, things shouted at me across the playground… Only they weren’t gossiping in belief; I was branded a liar and an attention seeker. My nightmare had only just begun when I was called into the Head’s office and told that he would be informing social services and my parents. My parents… it was the thing I’d always dreaded the most. What would they think? What would they say? Watching them be told, along with my big sister, was truly heart-breaking. It is a memory that is etched on my brain as the start of a downward spiral in my life.
I’m not ashamed to admit, I was in a dark place. I stopped eating, grasping at the one thing I felt I had control over whilst my life appeared to be unravelling around me. I truanted from school, unable to bear the gossip and the bullies. I isolated myself from my family, barely able to take the guilt I felt from the pain they were in. Years passed by; I was stuck in a haze of my own misery, self pity and guilt, hurting myself because I always felt it was my fault.
It was my sister who pushed me to go to counselling. She made the call. She set it up. And I can honestly say it changed my life. Driving there by myself, walking into the room and speaking to someone about my abuse is the bravest thing I have ever done and a defining moment in my life. I finally started to like myself a little. The pride I felt when leaving my first counselling session has carried me, enabled me to pursue my career and to finally raise some money for a charity like RSVP and give something back to people like me.
I wake up everyday and remind myself that I am strong, I am capable and I am a survivor. It’s okay to put yourself first, it’s okay to look after yourself and it is most definitely okay to LOVE yourself. Every day, I read a new story and every day I am reminded that it wasn’t my fault. I have witnessed the incredible, unshakable strength of survivors and I intend to continue my journey to loving myself because of that.