There is a little girl that lives inside of me and when I least expect it she shows up to remind me that the world is a scary place. She reminds me that I ought to be wary and protective and that it might just be best to crawl in to bed and hide for a while.
When she comes I get frightened. Even though she is small and nobody else can see her, she reminds me of what it feels like to be powerless and alone. She tricks me in to believing that I can't trust anyone and that I need to be taken care of. Because she wants to be taken care of. Because she feels like she never was. And she feels like she never will be.
Over the years I've learned that the best thing I can do is comfort her and remind her that she is okay. In years past, I have alternately slammed the door in her face and become her - to the point where I did actually climb under the covers and retreat from the world for a bit. Unfortunately, denying her existence only makes her scream louder and look for more profound ways to grab my attention. Becoming her pushes me over the edge in to that deep, dark hole with no way out. And so when she shows up, I have to keep my wits about me and try to come from a place of love instead of a place of fear. That doesn't mean that I don't worry that she will get bigger if I 'feed' her. But if I can remember that I am not her and offer her love and understanding I feel safer.
Today, with the help of a good friend, I came to yet another plane from which to see her. As we talked about those parts of us that feel dark and scary, those parts that we don't show to the world, I mused aloud whether there was a way to acknowledge those pieces of us that are just as vital as the rest and see them for what they are. If I think about it that way, this little girl is amazing. Despite the sexual abuse and trauma she endured, she found a way to survive. Her protective instincts not only spared me the pain of living each and every moment of the abuse by walling it off in my brain until I was ready to remember it, but she set up a strict criteria by which to decide who could be trusted as I moved through life. True, she over-reacted in most cases, but with her 8-year-old intellect and intuition, she led me to a place of independence and strength I needed to deal with my parents' divorce and the loss of my foster brother and other difficult times in my life.
As I began to understand just how central a role this frightened little girl has played in my evolution, I was amazed at how much I owe her. And as I move away from defining myself as a sexual abuse survivor, her existence is threatened. As I begin to heal some of the deepest wounds I have, excising her from the essence of who I am is not an option. Instead, I must honor her for the role she played in protecting me and reminding me how important it is to tell the truth about my experiences in order to help others heal. That doesn't mean I need to allow her to have power over my life as an adult, but it does mean that she deserves to feel safe and validated. I hope that as I continue to process all of this I can finally give her the rest she has earned and neither of us has to be scared of those things that happened so many years ago.