If you have been abused, you may feel like your heart and soul have been put in a cage. You might feel like you will never be normal again. But I’m here to tell you that you can heal, you can move forward and there is hope.

Here are some things you can do if you’ve been abused.

1. Find Someone to Talk To

Try your best to explain what is happening to someone you trust, like a pastor, a counselor at school, a doctor, a therapist, or perhaps even your best friend. One young woman told me how she survived her abusive home life: “The most important thing you can do is let out your feelings before you explode and do something irrational like commit suicide or cut, which I did a lot of. If you keep the hate inside, it only multiplies by 10 and leads to disaster.”

2. Do Whatever it Takes to Protect Yourself

If you are living in an abusive situation, get out! It’s not enough just to run away from destructive people in your life. You must choose to run to a safe place or a person who can protect, counsel, and help you. If you’re under 18 and living in the US, the people at National Safe Place can help you find a safe place near you. If you’re over 18, contacting The National Domestic Violence Hotline will help you get out and stay safe.

3. Let Go of the Guilt

It’s not your fault you have been abused. And it’s never OK for someone to abuse you. You should never blame yourself, or bog yourself down with unnecessary guilt. Some victims of sexual abuse actually feel guilty about experiencing pleasure during what happened. This is a normal physical reaction. It doesn’t make the abuse right or acceptable. If you wish you hadn’t done some of the things you’ve done in the past, you need to forgive yourself. Don’t get stuck feeling guilty and miserable for past mistakes that were forced upon you.

4. Think Positively About Yourself and Your Life

While your abuser may have physical control over you, he or she does not have to control your emotions. You still have the ability to be in charge of how you feel about yourself. Begin to put positive thoughts into your mind about yourself. Flush out the lies you’ve been told and replace them with the truth. For example, you might want to repeat to yourself, “I am a beautiful person. I am a kind person. I am loved. I have a bright future. Every day and in every way my life is getting better.” Put these thoughts on cards and go over them again and again. Don’t try to cover your pain with destructive behaviors like smoking, drinking, swearing, having sex, or fighting. Instead, learn how to be alone — spend time in nature. This will give you a sense of peace and inner strength.

4. Allow Your Story to Help Others

Allow the pain and hardship you’ve experienced to turn you into a compassionate, caring person who can help other people going through their own difficulties. You might be stuck wishing you could just feel normal. For most people, normal means skating through life, driven by pleasure and comfort, unaware of life’s deeper issues. You are much more awake and alive to the reality of life’s beauty and complexities. If this makes you a deeper, more loving person, then use that to help others.

5. Forgive Your Abuser

This might be the most difficult thing you ever have to do, but it will also be the most freeing experience possible. Jonathan, an abuse survivor, said, “One of the biggest things someone who lives in an abusive home needs to do is to learn how to forgive. It’s not easy, but building up hostility towards the abuser(s) will not help anything.” Forgive your abuser, and then find others who have been able to forgive their abusers, as well.

Your life does not have to be ruined because you have been abused. You can be a survivor. In fact, you can be an overcomer! Hang on to the confidence that you are still here and willing to deal with it.

If you want to talk with someone about this issue, you can always connect with one of our free, confidential online mentors. Just click on the “Connect with a Mentor” button below and fill out the form to get started.

Original article found at https://www.thehopeline.com/78-hope-for-the-abused

This article was written by: Dawson McAllister

Photo Credit: Joshua Rawson-Harris