I tried for a long time to twist my emotional reaction to my being sexually abused as a child into something positive, thinking, "I would never hurt anybody the way that I was hurt", "I am sexually experienced/desired/desirable" (eventhough, in the past I have typically avoided or felt conflicted about situations involving touch), "I won't put myself in a situation where I can get hurt--I'll just be really responsible" (aka--not drink/do drugs, not get too attached in relationships).
In my family, my siblings and I were encouraged to see the bright side of any situation. We didn't have a vocabulary to talk about negative feelings, and for me that meant the inability to deal with these feelings.
I am working with a counselor to help me as I try to identify, understand, and overcome the obstacles that I have faced in the past, and to some extent in the present. It has been difficult and necessary for me. It is difficult to identify needs that I feel have not been met, like support from my family (who didn't know that the abuse had occurred--but who I told over the past summer), like the need to experience physical touch, and the need to believe in myself and actions. It is painful to think that I haven't had these things for so long and have had to cope on my own. I feel that this process is simultaneously necessary because in the present and future I want to have these needs honored and met.
I'm also trying to reconnect with my body. I've had a good share of digestive issues in college, which are probably related to stress in school and in relationships. I have had a lot of internal conflict over the years--it's hard to believe that it has been over 16 years since I was abused--and I think that my body has been affected by all of my struggles. I have been doing some yoga and deep breathing which is helping me feel relaxed. I'm also trying to pay attention to how my body reacts in certain situations, like when I have doubts about a course of action that I plan on taking (like post-graduation plans). My counselor is encouraging me as I do this work, and has helped me reach out to my parents and other sources of support.
I'm putting a lot of energy and effort into myself at this stage of my life. I think that I should feel selfish for doing that. But the truth is, that I don't feel selfish and I don't feel that I'm some sort of evil unloving woman (like I once thought I was). To my surprise, my family and friends have been supportive of me and even re-affirm my needs to focus on myself and what I want to do. It's bizarre to me, because for so long I thought that the only way to "fix" myself was through service to others. Somedays I still find myself being attentive to the needs of those who I care about, and somedays I focus exclusively on myself.
I have a lot of work to do still, and it is the kind of work that I want to do for my own sake, primarily, and secondarily for those who care for me in the present and future (a grouping that also includes myself).