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The Transformative Powers of Pain: Healing from Abuse

“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.” ~Jean Paul Sartre

We all have our stories of how people have wronged us and caused pain. Allow me to tell you mine.

I’m a survivor of abuse: mental, emotional, physical, and sexual. I was born into a family of abusers and witnessed it from the day I was born until age 16.

As a child, I thought my family was perfect. However, when I was 12 years old, I realized just how truly dysfunctional my family was. It was as if a light bulb went off and the image of my “perfect family” was crushed.

This realization led me into a deep spiral of depression and rebellion which entailed running away from home, hanging out with the wrong crowd, and experimenting with drugs.

Needless to say, my future was looking bleak and my behavior was worsening.

I had no one to turn to, and my home life was only getting worse. As I developed more into a woman, my father started to make sexual advances at me, and when I was 15, openly admitted that he was in love with me.

My mother was another other story. She disconnected and completely isolated herself from communicating with anyone in the house, including my brother, father, and me.

While my parents’ relationship completely fell apart, the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in the house became more frequent. I witnessed my mother stabbing my father, and constant fistfights happened between them.

The police were constantly being called and one if not both of my parents were arrested for domestic violence numerous times.

It wasn’t easy growing up in an abusive home but eventually I found new ways to cope and deal with the circumstances I was born in. I realized that if I couldn’t change my home life that at least I could work on my life outside of it.

Tenth grade was the year that changed my life forever.

I signed up for many after-school clubs and programs, joined the soccer team, and started to focus more on my studies. I tried to fill my schedule up as much as possible to avoid going home.

One day I came home to find my parents arguing, which eventually turned into a fistfight; and my brother and I got the brunt of it. I remember my father punching me straight in the face and me yelling at my brother to call the police.

The experience was unlike all the other fights. This time it felt like something was going to change. Sure enough, police came and arrested my parents.

That day led to a year of social services involved in my home life. My father was forced to go to anger management classes mandated by the state and my entire family had to be in therapy.

A part of me felt truly relieved that this had happened. My parents weren’t so happy with the results but for me it finally felt as though something was being done to change my living circumstances.

Eventually, I moved out of my parents’ home. At age 16, I was emancipated and lived with my friend’s family until I was 18, when I then joined the military and later moved to New York.

I’m 25 now and still maintain communication with my parents. My relationship with them will never be amazing, but I am learning on how to accept them for who they are rather than wish they were different people.

The painful memories and experiences of growing up in an abusive home will never be erased. At one point in my life, I wished that I could. However, I couldn’t be more grateful that I had the opportunity to experience this way of life.

I allowed my pain to teach me something rather than blame someone or something for it happening to me.

I realized that regardless of what has been done to you, it’s up to you to decide what to do with it.

I have found gifts in my traumatic experience of abuse. It has taught me how to be humble, compassionate, and most of all empathetic to other people. If anything, I have learned more on how to truly connect with the human species.

Pain can have a strong transformative power and way of leading people in the right directions. It definitely has for me. Allow it to be your compass to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

I know it’s easier said than done. In the midst of a painful experience such one can often feel as though there isn’t a way out. I know for years I felt as though I was helpless and scared of what would happen if I spoke up about the abuse.

I was concerned about what people would say, if they would judge me or think I deserved it. These types of doubts and fears can stop a person from moving forward and believing in possibilities.

These fears definitely kept me from speaking up for 16 years. However, I realized that my happiness and overall well-being were more important than anything, and that it was time to start believing in myself and who I was.

Here are few lessons I learned from my experience of abuse:

Don’t blame yourself for what has happened.

When being abused, we can often ignore what the person has done to us and think we are the fault. This is not the case at all. No one deserves to be abused.

Remember, it’s not you; it’s them.

Recognize your worth and value yourself.

Think about all of the things that make you great and use those characteristics to give you strength and motivation. If this is difficult, seek out support from a close friend, confidant, or someone who knows you well and can help you believe in yourself again.

Friends and close loved ones may be your saving grace and strongest form of support, especially if you are in need of encouragement or motivation to push forward.

Remember you are a human being who is worthy of being loved in a healthy way. Abuse is not love.

Challenge fears, negative self-talk, and doubts.

Fear is going to be your #1 enemy in trying to change anything in your life. Surround yourself with positive quotes, books, inspirational messages, and people who love you to get through.

Believe.

Believe in yourself and trust that you have a life purpose here. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Be aware of who you fall in love and become friends with.

As a survivor of abuse, I found that I would attract people who had qualities similar to my parents. It’s easy to fall for and attract people who will be or feel familiar to the past.

After getting out of an abusive situation, the last thing you would think to happen or want is another abusive experience. However, this is common and happens often.

I found that intense and frequent therapy sessions helped me to identify key beliefs about myself linked to being abused. These beliefs were things such as fear of being judged, low self-esteem, and not knowing what a healthy relationship should be like.

The first step in changing anything in your life is always the hardest. My life is still a work in progress but I am so happy with my decision to change it.

It all starts with one step and a little courage. As the wise Buddha once said, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Trust that you deserve it and don’t look back.

Photo by Public Domain Photos

Avatar of Emily Stroia

About Emily Stroia

Emily is a Certified Intuitive Consultant and professional medium. She holds a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and continues to pursue her interests in the spiritual and holistic field. She lives in the greater New York City area. Learn more about Emily at www.emilystroia.com or www.emilystroia.wordpress.com.

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  • Learning2Live

    Healing from any kind of pain (especially physical abuse) is probably the most powerful transformation that one can experience, because one can overcome such immense hurt/anger/resentment and rise above it to still lead a very full, happy and grateful life. Thank you for sharing your story. Although I have never suffered physical abuse, I most definitely have been on the receiving end of emotional and mental abuse, and your steps will be most helpful in healing myself further.

  • lv2terp

    You are truly inspiring!!! Thank you for sharing your story and being vulnerable for others to learn and know they aren’t alone and change can happen! Great advice! :)

  • Lashpal

    Thank you for sharing this article. I also lost my self worth for many years but i am healing myself knowing that i deserve all love . I get more inspired by reading it.

  • http://optimalternative.com/ Mark B Hoover

    Hiya Emily,

    Abuse comes in so many colors, it should wave the rainbow banner. I don’t know if I can rightly say there was *abuse* in my family until I know what the qualifiers are in any given discussion. My butt was the only object of my father’s belt when he reached his limit of tolerance. Other than that, it was an atmosphere of repression and tension with chance of scattered outbursts. So many years ago. Yet I still feel the sting of subdued hostility, of walking on eggshells, of air so full of tension it obscured daylight. It permeates one’s being. It seems to last forever. Life, with its complexities, tends to perpetuate a cycle that should be long ago and far away.

    Am I a survivor? Perhaps…back to the definition of abuse. I don’t like the word “survivor”. It implies something horrendous happened to me, making me a
    victim. I don’t care much for victimhood either. I have grown to become defiantly independent. I feel implicitly that I am the “master of my fate.” Yet, there’s this…wall.

    I can imagine, only briefly, the pain and suffering you had gone through. I have been very close to ladies who were abused, and it is gut-wrenching to hear their stories. My past pales in comparison, and I feel briefly, selfishly, grateful. If there was a dysfunction in my family it was the repression of love. Mom was full of love but it fell on unreceptive souls as we were more indoctrinated toward blocking the feeling than revealing it. Must have been a “male thing.”

    That caused me to wander through most of my life alone. There are rewards and pitfalls on this path, as you have allowed. I attracted more “fixers” than clones of my parents. Enablers were plentiful, as well. The detour into co-dependency was followed to its end…each time. In lieu of “intense and frequent therapy sessions” I keep swinging the blade, hacking a way through the thicket looking for my own path. My greatest comfort lies in the words of two authors, Castaneda: “Look at every path closely and deliberately, then ask this crucial question: Does this path have a heart? If it does, then the path is good. If it doesn’t, it is of no use.” and Camus: “A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.” And there I travel, looking, learning, growing.

    Thank you for your words.

    ~ Mark

  • Stephen

    Excellent message…my brother used to say: “walk funny for along time when you come from this” we had similar upbringings, mixed with alcoholism and fundamentalist Christianity…not pretty.. Today, into my 60′s you’d have to look close to notice the limp…for me the blessing has become empathy and compassion for others…and for myself..

  • a_distorted_reality

    Thank you for sharing, Emily. I too come from an abusive family, and at 34 years of age I finally feel that I can let go of it and move on with my life. The one thing I’m still struggling with, however, is actually forgiving my parents. I still hold a lot of anger towards them, and I know that’s not healthy! But I just don’t know how to let go of it!

  • Emily Stroia

    Hi! I totally understand how you feel! It can be extremely difficult actually forgiving anyone who has hurt you so badly. I remember reading on tinybuddha actually that forgiveness can often be thought of as tolerance meaning that if you forgive you may think that you are giving the person the impression that it’s okay for what they did to you. As far of as letting go, I still struggle with my own issues in regards to my father never apologizing to me for everything that happened. It’s a process but therapy helped a lot in learning on how to move forward and not stay stuck there in the past. I hope this helps and thank you for commenting!

  • Emily Stroia

    Yes, I have also found that these experiences really do teach you how to be empathic and compassionate towards people. I sometimes forget to be that way towards myself so I highly admire you remembering to give yourself a break and to be compassionate. Thank you for commenting and reading my post!

  • Emily Stroia

    Thank you! I greatly appreciate you reading and commenting! It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to share it.

  • Emily Stroia

    You are most welcome! Thank you for reading and commenting. There is a lot of release and liberation that comes with sharing any story that can be so painful. I am happy Tinybuddha gives us the opportunity to connect and share our experiences! :)

  • Anna

    Dear Emily,
    Thank you so much for sharing. For the first time in many years I feel I am not alone. I am 25 and even if I moved away from home 6 years ago, the physical and mental abuse still is following me. This is why I always felt like going as far as possible from home.
    Lately I started therapy also, I am happy it helped you because it gives me courage to continue and never give up. I hope one day I will let go of fear and resentment, and be able to forgive my parents. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing, and for your courage you are a really example to me ! I will not let go. I don’t want this fear and all the bad memories to destroy my life. Thank you for your courage and I wish I could give you a big hug.

  • Beth

    I have read your story with tears for what you endured. I am glad you have communication with your parents with boundries. I am a mother of an abusive child and struggle daily. My fault is not giving my daughter boundries, for that I had property damaged, verbal abuse, psychological abuse and physical abuse at the hand of my adoptive daughter. I am not an abuser, not an alcoholic, nor a drug abuser, just a mom who saw a chance to love a girl and give her a chance at a good life with a nice home, 2 brothers and all the extras to help her feel better.

    I do have a personality defect that I like to help and fix things. Therefore I guess I asked too many questions and helped her every day of her life. I have been told by my daughter that she hopes I get cancer, I am bipolar, I have no friends, I want to be her, she has no respect for me, she takes advantage of me because I let her. I was hit in the face by her at age 15. With physical injuries she was arrested and spent over a week in juvenile jail, probation for 10 months and in home therapy. It was a roller coaster ride everyday of my life. The last time she loved in my house she pushed me into a wall, I retaliated by try ing to stop her bt throwing my water on her, she stood on her bed and tackled me to the floor, again with visible bruises the police would have has to arrest both of us due to me throwing water on her.

  • Beth

    To continue and sorry this is long. She left my home and moved into a friends home who totally supports her actions. This father has taken total responsability for her, she is 18, and belittles us as often as possible. She refuses to acknowledge me in any way. The father called the police who sent me a letter, explaining that if I contact anyone in that house I will be charged with harrasement. My heart and spirit is broken. I miss her terribly and hope some day that she will accept what she has done and miss our family. This is why I am glad you could on any level keep the connection with your parents. I am sorry they abused you for I know that pain. There are some days there is only a thread that keeps me going. I am amazed how little support I find from friends, the authorities etc. it seems to be the norm to think something is wrong with me that a child wants to abandon her mother. My wish is to someday wake up from this pain. Not sure I will ever wake up. I wish my daughter had your compassion and heart. Bless you.
    Beth

  • karalee99

    Emily, your compassionate response to what could have been *understandably* devastating for a lifetime is inspiring. I am so thankful to know that you exist because you can truly teach others how to overcome adversity with courage and empathy. Thank you for sharing!

  • kk

    Thank you so much for this article and sharing your story! As a survivor of an emotionally abusive relationship, I constantly need to remind myself that I am worthy of love, especially from myself! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

  • joanna

    I found your web site how you have healed. Here is my web site http://www.healing-from-child-abuse. Thank you
    Joanna

  • Rainbowbow

    I cried while reading this post. Your story is so eerily similar to mine. I also moved out when I was 16 and I blamed myself for not being good enough, not perfect, constantly letting fear and anxiety of things beyond my control rule my life. I am starting to challenge my fears head on, focus on the positives, love myself, and accept that I cannot change the past (I would relive these experiences over and over trying to see how things “could be different”) and understanding that I cannot control the future or other people’s actions. Thank you so much for posting your story, with love and positivity and compassion this very moment is all that really matters.

  • Marcel Barros

    Hi Emily
    I’m a man (44) and had a sad childhood. My mother used to beat me, my brother and sister with a garden hose, electric cable or a fan belt so that we got red swollen marks on the butt. She still suffers on depression since young age and grew up in a orphanage in Mozambique; so she never got any love from the franciscan nons. Many times i thought about suicide since very young age. 20 years ago, my parents left the country and went back to Portugal. That was in one way a liberation, but also a disaster because i was not able to direct my life by my own, so i started drinking, smoking weed…and 20 years of my life went by-me being lost. I have a daughter which is 18 now and who lives with her mother.
    I live with a woman who has 2 daughters from an earlier marriage and it’s quite challanging for not falling in the bad behaviours from my childhoud. They are gorgeous and give me a lot of love. That helps the emotional wounds to heal. I thank you so much for your post, Emily. It helps reminding many people that their history of mistreatment is not an unique case. It’s by aknowledging and sharing the hurts that the pain can be treated.
    I had a problem for speaking as a child. I used to stutter, so i avoided to speak with my friends, but at school i was always afraid to be asked to read. So i was in constant alarm when we were reading. Fear was a big ennemy.
    Today i can speak fluidely, it was a lot of work to overcome that handicap of speaking.
    Life wasn’t always nice to me but it’s always worth fighting for better conditions and most of all: NEVER GIVE UP!!!

  • Lily

    Both my parents were mentally, emotionally and physically abusive and I left home at age 18 and am now living in a different country with my boyfriend who is mentally, emotionally, sexually and physically abusive.
    Abuse is not love, it is learned behaviour. But abusers can still love their victims right?
    I don’t feel more connected with others or empathetic, I feel isolated and unable to get close to people.