Trigger Warning: This blog discusses sexual violence, rape and self-harm, which some readers may find distressing.
My name is Lindsay and I am from Los Angeles, California. I am a third year Marriage, Family, and Couples Therapy Trainee. I sought my own therapy when I was 18 years old as a result of a sexual assault that I experienced in high school. I turned to disordered eating and self-harming behaviors to cope with the trauma after the rape. I am writing this blog to share my journey from a small, scared, and dark-minded teenager to now a successful therapist in training. I like to believe that I made it.
When you are a teenager and already struggling with self-esteem and creating an identity, experiencing a trauma is the last thing an adolescent girl wants to face.
Unfortunately, I turned my anger, my guilt, and my shame internally rather than coping with the distress in a healthy way.
I began restricting my calories as a defence mechanism against the trauma and horror that I experienced during the rape.
At that time, I believed that if I was small enough no guy would ever come close to me. As a young girl, I felt my innocence was taken away from me. I began asking myself, “What is the point?” “What do I do from here?” I wish that I reached out to my mom and siblings, but I knew that I couldn’t. I had so much shame and guilt that the idea of talking about it made my blood boil.
I used my eating disordered thoughts and behaviors as a mechanism to control my reality when I felt powerless and out of control. In fact, research shows that these behaviours that I was exhibiting may be connected to the experience of sexual violence.
Because I was an adult, I decided to take control of the betterment of my own mental health.
I am not going to say that therapy is easy. It’s not! Therapy is multifaceted and requires hard work and dedication from an individual. Some sessions were great and I felt empowered, and other sessions were rough. I believe that is the entirety of the therapeutic experience.
I think I was lucky because I got sick when I was 17 years old and sought therapy at age 18. I already had adult responsibilities and roles that I had to fulfil. The idea of neglecting my mental health was not an option.
I am also not going to say that following the sexual assault I only battled an eating disorder. Absolutely not! It is typical for sexual assault survivors to struggle with other comorbidities, and believe me, I did.
Although the thought of giving up my defences and surrendering to therapy was scary, I was tired of being tired.
After many sessions of being resistant, I just wanted to go back to my old ways because I felt stripped away of my power and control. My therapist asked me, “What do you want to do in your life?” I replied, “Well I want to help teenagers who are struggling with this ugly disease.”
That was the moment I knew that I found my purpose in life.
The healthy relationship that I cultivated with my therapist was the ultimate game changer in my recovery. Sure, I had my ups and downs over the years. I mean, who wouldn’t? Recovery is not a linear process.
As a therapist in training, I do not believe that the process of therapy determines success. I believe that the collaboration and therapeutic alliance between the client and therapist is the key factor in rebuilding a life worth living.
Today, I work in a hospital setting helping teenagers who are struggling with the dark and eerie disease of Anorexia.
If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual violence or sexual harassment, help is available.
Feel free to reach out to Rape Crisis at 0808 802 9999 to receive help from a licensed professional. You may also use the online chat at https://rapecrisis.org.uk/get-help/want-to-talk/.