Years ago, I was at a place that every survivor inevitably comes to when they decide to reach out for help and begin healing from a childhood that involved trauma. That place where you ask yourself, “am I ready to share my story?”
Now, to be clear, not every survivor chooses to share their story, and in fact often times one chooses not too, because of fear of retaliation, alienation by family and loved ones, or a multitude of other reasons. Unfortunately, many survivors never get the opportunity to come to a place of making that decision on their own because they aren’t able to reach out for help, or help isn’t readily available to them.
It takes time and, I believe working with a professional to fully comprehend what happened and unlock the memories in a way that is not re-traumatizing and in a way that allows the survivor to work through those memories in their own time, and learn from them so they can work towards a life that allows them to live free from their past.
The work I do now in overcoming anxiety and working with survivors, ultimately began in a therapists office and coming to the realization that I was a survivor, and what that meant was a revelation that has changed my life in countless ways. It took that first step though, of asking for help, which is at the heart of the conversation with my guest on this episode of the podcast, Emily Samuelson, Ph.D.
Emily is an author, and passionate activist on behalf of sexually abused children and adult survivors. Based on her experience as a psychologist and a survivor, she knows it is possible to heal. With over 35 years of experience, Emily specializes in the treatment of trauma. While living in Philadelphia, she was on the faculties of Temple University, Thomas Jefferson University and Hahnemann Medical College.
She has served on the Board of Stop the Silence and was a member of the Baltimore City Health Commissioner’s Sexual Abuse Task Force. Emily has been a consultant to the Ms. Foundation and RAINN, and has been a guest on numerous radio shows. She also wrote a chapter for the book, Celebrating the Wounded Healer Psychotherapist: Pain, Post-Traumatic Growth and Self-Disclosure, edited by Sharon Farber, PhD.
As it turned out, her practice is not far from where I live, so we decided that it might be a great idea to do my very first in person podcast. Everything went great, and it was an honor to chat with Emily and hang out with her awesome dog, Sam, while we recorded some thoughts about her book, “Soaring Above the Ashes, Thriving Beyond Childhood Sexual Abuse”:
- Emily shares how she became inspired to undertake this project, which involved years of interviewing of interviewing survivors across the country; giving them the opportunity to break their silence and inspire others.
- How she continued to work through her own healing journey as she spoke with the survivors, and through their insight, learned so much more about herself.
- You’ll learn how her abuser was her father; yet her family never believed her and threatened to alienate her if she wrote about her experiences. Ultimately she did lose much of her family because she refused to be silent and came to the conclusion that her healing journey was more important.
- We discuss the struggles of shame and blame, and how carrying that on your shoulders as a child is so difficult. The ability to put the blame on yourself as a child allows you to feel some control in the wake of events that were anything but in your control.
- Emily shares the importance of working towards a place of placing the blame and shame where it truly belongs, at the feet of those who were the abusers, or enabled those acts.
- We also talk about the struggles of reaching out and talking with someone, when staying silent seems like the safer move.
- The survival skills that served you for a time; such as dissociation and hypervigilance, should be acknowledged and appreciated for how they helped you.
- How can you take the positive aspects of dissociation and hypervigilance, and allow them to serve you and others.
- On that note, actually understanding that there are positive aspects of those struggles in the first place.
- We share more about the survivor community, and how much healing is out there when you simply look for it.
All this and much more during my powerful conversation with author, advocate, survivor, and Psychologist, Emily Samuelson.
If you are a survivor, at any stage of your healing journey, and even if you haven’t started it yet, the insight that Emily shares will surely speak to you and inspire you. Please consider this important chat with someone who may need it, and consider checking out “Soaring Above the Ashes, Thriving Beyond Childhood Sexual Abuse” on her website or on Amazon.
-Matthew Pappas, CLC, MPNLP
All conversation and information exchanged during participation on the Beyond Your Past Podcast, on BeyondYourPast.com, and BeyondYourPastRadio.com is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing on these podcasts or posted on the above mentioned websites are supplements for or supersedes the relationship and direction of your medical or mental health providers.