Hands up if you talked up therapy but never used it? Me too. My life was all set. I trained as a lawyer and used my legal skills as a business consultant. I also used them to deliver pro bono and community projects. I had my own home and a long-term relationship. Life was all wrapped up in a bow – go me! Or was it?

In 2018 my life fell apart. A tsunami of memories of childhood sexual assault (CSA) erupted in my head. I hated what I saw. I hated what I felt. I hated what I was. Then my relationship fell apart, and all of that on top of several years of continuous surgery. I needed help. Urgently.

And that is why I reached out for therapy. Did it change my life? Huh? It made me angry! I began treatment haunted by the horrors of CSA. Then, through conversations with my therapist, I found in my past emotional and physical abuse to add to the list. Even more hurt and harm. Could talking really help me?

You’ve probably seen TV programmes where the therapist says, ‘Tell me about your childhood.’ Well, my therapy is not like that. My therapist invites me to be curious about my childhood. So we explored and continue to explore my childhood. It is painful looking at the past. The idea that my life was wrapped up in a bow proved illusionary. Hindsight has 20/20 vision.

I started to understand how detached I was from the world – worse, from myself and my own feelings. I had few boundaries. Suffice it to say those that existed were loose and advantageous to others and any that did exist were at the expense of myself. One of the wounds of CSA is a lack of self-love. As wonderful as life appeared to be on the outside, the inside was hollow and filled with self-deprecation. I even believed that the evil of CSA visited on me was my own fault. I felt worthless, while life seemed hopeless. The pain and anguish were torture.

In December 2018, for the first time in my life, I contemplated suicide. It had to be easier than the pain, the war of self-loathing I was battling within myself. Yet it was at that exact moment of abject despair that therapy saved my life.

I had begun a series of exercises with my therapist in October 2018. We were on a mission to discover self-love and use it to replace self-loathing. It is not easy to find out that you don’t love yourself. It did explain why I never felt loved or trusted anybody. We talked, used tapping, and did exercises to unblock the trauma held in my body. I remember feeling filled with happiness after one session, a joy so bright that, on my self-high, I reversed my car (oh so lightly) into a wall. I knew self-love from that moment on, and have a dent that reminds me. I could even actually look at myself in the mirror. Therapy taught me self-love.

So, when the poisonous parrot of self-loathing doubled down during a visit in December 2018, I was able to win the battle with myself in the end. As strong as the poisonous parrot’s call of self-loathing and hopelessness was, my lessons in self-love had taken root.

CSA was only part of my story. It left behind a person who only partially existed. One who never trusted. With so much extra pain spilling over, it is difficult to open up to anybody. Then, dealing with the hurt that healing brings, it is necessary to have a therapist one can trust. I have been blessed with my therapist. I trust her.

Today, I am a public speaker, addressing audiences on trauma and healing, and a project manager for Little Ro, a not-for-profit community organisation that provides help, hope and healing to victim-survivors of CSA. I also provide and facilitate safe spaces for survivor support groups. I am aware of people, particularly in black communities, who are not ‘supporters’ of therapy. But it not only changed my life, it saved it. 

Listen to Therapy Today editor Sally Brown talking to Roz about how counselling changed her life