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Guilt isn’t the child of logic or reason. It’s not easily dislodged with information. This invasive adversary grew like a vine during my childhood sexual abuse and had a second spurt of growth in my active healing years.

As I did the courageous work of going back into my dissociated memories, guilt seemed to wait in the corner of nearly every experience. I found it tangled in misplaced shame. Not able to separate myself from violation at the hands of those I needed to trust, I accepted blame as though I were responsible for the betrayal. Unable to comprehend what was happening, I assumed I was partner in the crime against my body. Guilt was the slime that settled in because the alternative, knowing I was absolutely powerless, was unbearable.

In my healing journey, I felt like I was releasing layers upon layers of guilt. Retrieving memories gave me this opportunity, but I found myself visited by new guilt. These had to be recognized, acknowledged, and released too.

It was challenging to let go of the discomfort I felt about my healing disrupting my days as a mother and wife. It took a garden full of praise and encouragement from my kids, husband, sister, and therapist to pull one weed of guilt. And I had to face the guilt I felt for ‘not being who I thought I was’ when I married my husband. I felt less. He celebrated me for being more.

There was also the guilt of change. Healing transformed my world. Rather than trying to have a picnic in a dark, dense, forest with storm clouds in every direction, I had moved to a sunny meadow filled with wildflower possibilities. That meant leaving the activities, beliefs, and people who could only share the forest with me… those relationships that needed me to remain who I had become to survive.

In the many layers of guilt attached to my abuse and those layers I discovered in my healing, the remorse that brought me to my knees hit me as my first memory emerged: I hadn’t protected my sister. I know now I was powerless to do that, but healing has given me the opportunity to reach out to others and make a difference. Whether it’s the child within another adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse or a child I haven’t met, I can be a voice to stop the cycle of abuse that hides behind secrets and silence.