Some people wonder why as a professional Counsellor and Consultant I am so open about my lived experiences of childhood sexual abuse, anorexia and other things.

I know and have known why for some time and I think it is important to share. This is why I do it.

It is a way to try and cut through the shame and guilt and despair that those things add to people’s lives.
It is a different type of ‘knowing’.

 

It is a way to show that people going through these experiences do not suffer alone and that there are helping people out there who ‘get’ it,
like REALLY get it.
Not exactly
or in the same way,
but closer.

 

It is a way to show people in very tangible ways that people can approach recovery, healing and living well despite in ways where they can live a good life anyway.
No matter what.
That lives can derail 
and be hard 
but still be good overall.

It is a way for me to say ‘fuck you’ to those that harmed me and to take my own power and choice back.
They have no right,
no right at all,
to influence who and what I am.
No way!

 

It is a way to honour all of my experiences,
and thus all of myself,
in a way that is no longer afraid of what kept me small and silent
for so long.

 

The anorexia, whilst destructive,
also saved me,
for a time,
… until it didn’t.
The PTSD has been so difficult and painful,
not only for myself but for my husband too.
Yet without it,
I wouldn’t be who and where I am.
All of this is important in the narrative of my life.

 

It is my way of signalling to people there is hope and that what we do to cope makes sense in the context of everything.

 

It is my way of broadening the conversation around mental health and social justice and rights and community supports that too frequently devalue people’s experiences and what we do to cope.
I am not weak
and I do not have an illness
because I coped in the only way I could
at that time.
How do our systems not see this?
How did they not see me?

And I absolutely believe that it is critically important that there are people in therapeutic roles that are open about these things.
It changes the relationship 
and it changes the vulnerability that can be created between people. 
(Which I know matters more to some people than others and that some people actively avoid this and do not want it which is totally a-ok).
Along my path though
it was a big factor in getting me to where I am.

 

Knowing the person I was raw and bare with had been through crap themselves
– though a different kind of crap –
mattered.

 

I write the above now in response to a lot of the #metoo stuff that has been going on lately and also because a week ago the earth lost someone – Dolores O’Riorden from the Cranberries – whose life was devastatingly affected by these things.

I nearly didn’t make it. 
And so many others haven’t.
Too many lives are in the balance for what is not their fault.

I am glad I am here.

I am not ashamed to stand up
and say
those experiences are a part of me.
But they 
are not me.

This is how we challenge stigma
and
shame.
This is how we can collectively make a difference 
and put responsibility 
where it lies.

 

It was not mine to bear
and it is not
the burden of the people I support either.

 

This is why I share
and it is what I offer.

 

… with heart,

Ellie.

This article about Dolores O’Riordan was in my thoughts as I wrote this post.