For much of my teenage years, I was anxious. Tense. Afraid. I first dated my abuser when we were both in 7th grade, then again right when I turned 15 at the end of 9th grade. At first, I was enamoured. Love bombed and showered with affection, he roped me in deep. My whole world glowed: finally, someone to love.
I was recently asked if teenagers are capable of feeling love and should they date? Such a loaded question. I know without a doubt that teenagers are capable of feeling love. But does the world set them up to know what real love actually is?
For me, “love” turned into coercion, manipulation, fear, and abuse. But I didn’t have that language yet. All I knew is when I stepped a toe out of line, when I wasn’t completely available to him, when I slipped up and revealed something vulnerable, I would pay for it with ridicule, humiliation, guilt tripping, silent treatment. Eventually, threats, stalking, and never escaping surveillance.
I learned that sex was something you owed your boyfriend, and the consequences of keeping it from them were dire. I learned that anyone can be called a whore, even if they barely spoke to any other guys. I learned that my interests and talents were weapons to use against me. I slowly learned that safety was never guaranteed.
To tell my whole story would fill a book. So for the purpose of this article I will focus on my transformation from traumatized victim to empowered survivor.
The genesis of my healing was when I finally left. After months of constant debilitating anxiety & depression, substance abuse & suicide ideation, I cut the cord and left. I didn’t know what would happen to me, but I couldn’t live any longer as a part of a relationship that was killing me. I took off and took flight.
I think so many people want trauma survivors’ healing stories to end there. The victim leaves, rejoices in the glory of freedom, and has a beautiful life. How simple and wonderful. But trauma doesn’t work that way.
It took years for me to realize, but the second huge wave of my healing journey was when I uncovered what had happened to me on a neurological level: I had developed complex PTSD. And suddenly everything made sense.
Flashbacks, nightmares, paranoia, and so much fear ruled my world. Everything I had come to know and believe about myself- that I was “over my past”, that I was extroverted and a “positive person” - started falling apart. It was hard to function. And the worst part was realizing that no one knew. No one saw my silent struggle. I was too ashamed to let them.
Thus began my quest towards healing. Armed with a new mission: trauma recovery, I set out to finally heal and stop ignoring my past.
For a long time I thought there must be a magical cure you learn in therapy or on a spiritual retreat. There must be a destination. I wanted everything about me to turn inside out. I didn’t understand that me, who I really am, a survivor with complex PTSD, is someone who is already worthy of love and respect. Period. Even while being deep in the process. I didn’t understand that I would never make it to any destination without accepting the journey.
I remade my lifestyle. I made boundaries for the first time in my life; I also learned that I deserved them. I researched trauma every day. I tried mindfulness, acupuncture, EMDR therapy, books, podcasts, talk therapy, massage, anything I could get my hands on. Trauma recovery was the goal and I would stop at nothing to get there.
All of this was noble and necessary. But in the midst of reclaiming my power I had forgotten something: by hiding my truth from those around me, I reaffirmed the voice of shame that taught me to hide. I discovered the concept of radical acceptance and realized that turning towards my emotions, thoughts, and symptoms instead of away is the embodied practice of self love. And it is the antidote for shame.
The abuser/oppressor wants us to play small. Wants us to hide. Wants us to settle. Not dream. Not create. Not be unapologetically US. So even though I was doing all the right things, I was doing them from a place of shame. It would never take me to where I needed to go.
Years down the line I have learned that trauma recovery is a difficult, exhausting, and often thankless process. But it is beautiful. I’ve learned that I’m not “normal” - I’m neurodivergent & living with a chronic autoimmune disease. But I don’t have to be normal or the same as everyone else. There’s a reason so many people relate to my message on my platform Blooming Forward: because I’m not and never will be the same as everyone else.
I’m here to shake up the status quo that keeps oppressors and abusers in power, that keeps rape culture alive and well. I’m here to affirm that I am worthy and valuable not because I’ve “overcame” my trauma, but because I am good enough as I am. I empower other trauma survivors to do the same, knowing that the more of us who are able to reclaim our power and accept who we are fully, the more we can be a part of making the world a better place.
Through my Instagram and blog I share lessons I’ve learned on my path of healing from abuse, as well as healing resources to help others who need it. I also do 1:1 trauma-informed coaching to provide the high level support survivors need to make changes in their lives. Helping others is my passion (I’m an enneagram 2) and my experience as a survivor makes me uniquely equipped to understand the struggle that my fellow survivors face. I am committed to being present, never stop learning, and always showing up for what I believe in. I believe that healing is possible, and we are all worthy of accessing all the potential within us. Survivors are the most powerful people I know, and it is my highest honor to serve them.
Thank you Emmy for sharing your beautiful story. You are so brave and strong and you're an inspiration for many women out there. We are so happy to welcome you in to our community as one of our expert coaches.
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