More Than A Survivor: Moving Beyond Abuse


This is dedicated to all the mothers who are giving your children a better childhood than the one you had. To all the parents who’ve experienced trauma, either in your adult life or as children (possibly at the hands of your parents or caregivers), this post is for you and the positive change you are here to make in the world. Change rooted in getting back your gifts. As a child abuse survivor myself, here’s what I’ve learned along my path of healing.

Moving beyond abuse survivor1. Celebrate all the little victories

For in reality, they are H-U-G-E. Here are my little-big victories:

I’m alive today.

I don’t live in a half-way house or mental institution, like my dad did by the time he was my age—nor do I ever plan on living in one.

I don’t have a diagnosis, and I’m highly functioning both in cognition and empathy.

I get to help people, every day.

I’m raising my son with a positive foundation to thrive.

My faith is strong.

I believe in the goodness in myself, and humanity.

What are your little-HUGE victories you can celebrate?

2. There’s a time to get real.

Stuff was so crazy when I was a kid, I don’t even remember it. Sometimes I try to intellectualize what I experienced, like “it was what it was” or “that’s not me, it’s just what happened to me a long time ago.” And my mind gets it in theory, but in reality, I have my moments when I’m still reeling. So if I have a bad day, a day I feel full of anxiety or depression, I remember hey, I went through a lot.  For real. And the aftermath is still with me. That’s only natural. Same goes for you.

Give yourself a break, and permission to have a rough day.

3. More on emotional aftermath.

The vast majority of child abuse survivors who are parenting today are amazing. We have ended the cycle of abuse in our families, and the intergenerational transmission of trauma. Yet instead of celebrating, life may feel like an emotional battle or roller coaster, sometimes resulting in physical illness, high stress, yelling at our children, or all of the above. 

The emotional aftermath of trauma is depressing, and can take you from the beauty of the present moment and your life today. 

4. Get those gifts back…This is about you.

If I focused too much on how bad things were when I was a kid, my life would be a serious bummer. I acknowledge that I experienced hard things, like many people in the world. But I try to keep my sights on all the wonderful things in my life today. And where there’s room for improvement, I set my sights on getting back the goodness and gifts that I sacrificed in order to stay alive in an abusive, chaotic home. “However bad it was, you have that much goodness coming back to you,” someone once told me. And it’s true.

If life feels depressing today, give yourself permission to have a better tomorrow. Open up to the goodness returning to you. See it? It’s right there. Receive your gifts—they’re the essence of you.

5. You have more compassion than the average individual… Focus on the big picture.

When you’ve experienced some of the depth of human pain, it’s too easy to either drown in emotions or to shut down emotionally. Your compassion is deeper than your pain. Focusing on the big picture, which I see as the upliftment of humanity and my spiritual life, has brought me peace and a connection to what is larger than the abuse I experienced.

What is your big picture and how can you keep it alive, in small and big ways, every day?

6. What about brain patterns and neural plasticity?

Brain science confirms that the human brain is pattern-orientated and that the human brain can change throughout the life-span (neural plasticity). Trauma can set a brain pattern for various forms of dysfunction and stress in life, and you can always change your brain through creating a new pattern.

Brain change and creating the life you want to live are both a practical skill and art form, but are totally, 100% possible.

7. Feeling good inside is your birthright.

The world can be a crazy place. But inside you should feel good, and golden. Your inner world is your safe haven, your sanctuary. This inner peace, and feeling good inside, is your birth right. Reclaiming your good life waiting for you, just on the horizon, begins within you.

You can create your life of gold, from the inside out. And there is support for you.

Headshot on logMegan Barella is a mom, educator, writer, and speaker who lives in Scappoose, OR. Dedicated to changing the world one family at a time, Megan loves to spend time in the woods with family & friends, cook for loved ones, dance, shop, paint, and support parents through her classes and coaching programs.