Danielle’s SHINE Story: Swimming to the other side

My healing began when I was 21 and started working with a therapist to dig deeper and learn more about myself. This involved a lot of discussion about the abuse that took place when I was a child, starting around age 5, and about the dysfunctional family systems that made the abuse possible. With the support of my therapist and some trusted friends, I started to confront my past head-on.

With the support of my therapist and some trusted friends, I started to confront my past head-on.

About a year later, I decided to report my abuse to the police, and as a result I was able to confront my abuser while wearing a wire. Thinking back to that moment, it seems surreal to me now—like, wow, that’s intense! But at the time, it was exactly what I needed to feel more in control of my journey. It took a lot of courage for me to disclose, but once law enforcement was involved a whole host of resources opened up. One of the most significant connections I made was to our local Children’s Advocacy Center, which provided a lot of support that my family and I would need for the long road ahead.

It was hard and really sad at times. In the beginning of my journey toward healing, I sometimes had panic attacks. Even once those subsided, I often felt like I was stuck in the middle of a deep lake, trying to swim but nearly drowning in sadness.

I often felt like I was stuck in the middle of a deep lake, trying to swim but nearly drowning in sadness.

A therapist encouraged me to “keep swimming” to get to the other side of that sadness. It felt enormously hard. I kept going to therapy, being gentle with myself, and seeking support from trusted loved ones. I began to notice opportunities to deepen my healing. Those moments would show up in different ways and I kept following the bread crumbs, doing what seemed like the next right thing. Without even realizing it, I did eventually get to the other side of that lake.

Today, I am a happy and (mostly) well-adjusted adult. I am so grateful for my supportive husband and our four wonderful children. I am a business owner in a career that I love and I am involved in my community. 

I know that I’m thriving despite the abuse because I have greater empathy for my fellow humans. Many people are on a healing journey of one kind or another. When I keep that in mind, I am a more supportive mother, partner, sister, and friend–supporting my loved ones wherever they are on their own path. The courage it took to confront the truth of my past gives me the strength to make the best decisions for my family now.

I want other survivors who are just starting their healing journey to know that it’s going to be okay.

I want other survivors who are just starting their healing journey to know that it’s going to be okay. What happened to you does not define you. You can get through this and have a full, happy life. In fact, doing this hard work is a crucial part of that. To anyone reading this who may be thinking about disclosing or is in the early, despair-filled days of facing what happened to you: I love you. I know you can make the journey to heal. Keep swimming. It’s worth it.

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