For many, finding and understanding their true identity may take time. Talking with a therapist or a trained counselor can often help relieve stress and anxiety, and even overcome tragic events that may have happened in our past. For Beth, years of counseling helped her to achieve new types of relationships, which helped her to accept her new identity, as well.
On November 4, 2004, I had my first therapy session for recovery from childhood sexual abuse.
Scratch that. I had had several sessions prior to that, starting at age 21 and continuing into my late 20’s trying to figure out WHY I had a constant feeling of dread and anxiety. Any time the therapist would start to challenge me to confront reality, however, I bolted. At some point, I made up my mind to forget the past and pretend that I hadn’t been sexually abused by my stepfather from age eight to fourteen, and emotionally and verbally abused much longer than that. I hid under layers of fat, self-hatred, and denial, until, quite simply, mental illness drove me to seek help again at age 38.
I was on an express train to Crazy Town, and I was taking my husband and three teen daughters with me. Walking into the psychologist’s office that day in 2004 was at once the most terrifying and most empowering thing I’ve ever done although I had no idea at the time that by ceasing to live a life of lies, I was freeing myself from the prison my stepfather put me in the first time he touched me inappropriately.
Prior to recovery, my mom and I were best friends. At least I thought we were. But when my husband told her that I had had a mental breakdown because of the abuse I suffered, he found out that in her eyes, it was all of my problem. Period.
Losing my relationship with her was devastating. I learned, over the course of six years of therapy, that it was only by pretending that nothing happened that I still had a mom. In those first dark days of recovery and especially when it became apparent that my mom had chosen to no longer be in my life. I teetered on suicide. It is only the love and support of my husband, daughters, and therapist that I am still here today.
I am thankful for my relationship with my husband we’ve been married for 26 years, but I was a good three years into therapy before I really BELIEVED that he loves me as much as he does.
I am blessed beyond description to be the mother of three beautiful, amazing daughters. My husband and I made a promise to each other that our children would be strong, independent people who had no doubt that they are loved and they ARE.
I am eternally grateful that I went through recovery with a skilled, experienced therapist who took the time to re-parent me.
I am thankful to have two jobs I love that I’m an elementary school teacher as well as a young adult fiction author. I’ve been teaching for twelve years, and it feeds my soul. I’ve had two books published so far and just finished the third in, The Patience Trilogy. I drew on my experiences as a teacher and as a person who has one through recovery from childhood sexual abuse to craft the story of a teen girl’s recovery with the biological father she’s never known.
See how Beth answers our Identity 5 Questions:
What have you accepted within yourself and/or within your life? Is there anything you are working on accepting?
I have accepted that I will not accept crumbs from people because I did that for so many years. I have learned how to have boundaries and to no longer give-give-give in the hopes that someone will throw me a crumb of love. I am working on accepting the limits that my body is beginning to have. I have developed arthritis and I miss the feeling of running, but my feet can’t do it anymore.
What do you appreciate about yourself or your life?
I appreciate being surrounded by people who love and accept me the way I am and I appreciate that I am incredibly blessed and lucky to have survived the journey through recovery.
What have you achieved, or what are you working to achieve personally, physically, or mentally?
I have achieved becoming a published author in a relatively short time and knowing that my books provide comfort and peace to people. They’re fiction not self-help, but a lot of people who have been abused find hope in reading Ashley’s story. (Ashley is the name of the protagonist in The Patience Trilogy).
What is your no-so-perfect way?
We are all unique with quirks and imperfections, so why not flaunt them and embrace them! I do so struggle with my weight. I have an eating disorder and body dysmorphia too, it’s like I see my body according to how well I’m managing my eating disorder. I struggle with feeling shame at having regained some of the weight I’d lost.
How would you complete this sentence, “I Love My…” This has to be about you, physically or mentally.
I love my creativity and ability to write! It’s really cool!
To find out more about Beth, please visit her website www.bethfehlbaumya.com.