I met Kristina a few months ago on a social media platform. I checked out her website Ten Keys, A Holistic Approach to Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse. I was delighted with what I found. She brings together a concise and well organized resource for people who are on the journey of healing from childhood sexual abuse (CSA). When on the healing journey, life can take on a chaotic flavor as you move through the maze of what next, where to go, what to believe, and how to I find help. Sometimes, it feels as if the chaos of childhood revisits us again, and again. Kristina’s Ten Keys can help you navigate the journey with a one stop resource website. If you are walking with a survivor on their journey, Ten Keys is a great place to start to gather ways to support your loved one.
One in four women are sexually abused before the age of 18 and one in six men are sexually abused before the age of 18. There are a lot of survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the population and we do not hear the topic talked about openly. It is an uncomfortable topic that still remains in the shadows of conversations. I see the work of Kristina Cizmar giving a larger voice to the unheard need for more available resources for survivors.
Kristina’s courage is inspiring and her commitment to providing support to fellow survivors touches my heart with warmth and hope. Also, she is a epitome of resilience!
Guest blogger Kristina Cizmar shares her story of what led her to create a unique new resource for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Have you ever watched a movie and then later watched the prequel to it? And you learn things in the prequel that explain things that you didn’t even know needed explaining, and then suddenly everything in the sequel makes a lot more sense and has a greater depth of meaning?
That’s the story of my life. I grew up thinking I knew who I was, until out of the blue at age 35, I started having flashbacks, and realized I actually had no idea who I really was and what I had been through. I had spent my life up until that point in the dark about the childhood horrors that had silently influenced every aspect of my life. This trauma may not have been in my conscious awareness, but it was the reason for many of my likes and dislikes, my major life difficulties, my divorce, my chronic health problems, – the list goes on and on.
“I started having flashbacks.” It’s such a simple thing to say, so simple that it really does a disservice to what that experience is truly like. These are not mere memories calmly emerging. They are life-disrupting, reality-shattering, paralyzing regurgitations of trauma. I would think to myself ‘wow- I can barely handle this in my 30s – how on earth could I have possibly handled this as a child?!’ But really, during the flashbacks, I was that child again – complete with the limited mental resources of my child self.
And yet, I am grateful for all the missing links that were filled in for me by way of flashbacks. That’s why I had all those unexplained health problems! That’s why I ran away from home as a kid! That’s why I can’t stand when someone touches me like that! And, once again, the list goes on and on.
The whole experience of flashbacks was so outside of the realm of anything I’d ever experienced or even heard about, that it left me feeling as though I must be going crazy. And yet, some part of me knew that I wasn’t. So I learned as much as I could. During this time I happened to be managing editor at a publishing company that published trauma experts like Peter Levine, neuroscientists such as Dan Siegel, and other experts on subjects such as emotions and depression. I had a lot of resources at my fingertips. When I left the publishing company, it was to work at a university, where I took psychology and neuroscience classes on the side.
The more I learned, the more upset I became. This lack of understanding of what is a normal way of processing childhood trauma was making healing harder than it needed to be! The arc of healing is hard, don’t get me wrong – but there are things that make it so much harder than it has to be. And some of the most helpful information I found was only available in 500-page books in the midst of highly triggering stories of abuse, or was written in academic or technical language, or is found in newly emerging research that many therapists may not even be aware of, or is buried in material that was intended for other audiences but I found helpful – and I knew could be helpful to other survivors too.
Unfortunately, I’m not the only one to struggle with healing from childhood sexual abuse as an adult. Our journeys can look very different, but I found that elements of healing fall into a basic framework. If you are also a survivor, I can’t tell you exactly what your experience will be like. Healing doesn’t happen in a straight line. What I can do is share this framework for healing that comes out of my own experience, research, and interactions with other survivors. Healing can be overwhelming; I strongly believe that resources for healing shouldn’t also be overwhelming. That’s why the Ten Keys approach keeps things as simple as possible. Yet it’s also comprehensive – all other resources fit into one or more of these Ten Keys. I call this a holistic approach because it takes our whole selves into account. Trauma is primarily a non-cognitive process – meaning it’s not something that occurs because of our thinking or some other mental process – and therefore it takes more than just talk therapy to heal from trauma.
I wish someone had told me that about trauma when I was 35. I wish there were a lot of things that I had known early on. I wish I had known that the normal arc of trauma recovery includes getting worse before it gets better. I wish I had known that it’s normal not to remember traumatic events from childhood because the part of the brain that processes events into historical memory gets overwhelmed and shuts down. I wish I had known that the fields of psychology and neuroscience are in their infancy, and that we don’t yet fully understand the mechanisms of trauma and flashbacks. I wish someone would have shared with me the best ways of letting go of guilt (feeling that the abuse was somehow my fault) and shame (feeling bad about myself because of the abuse, and then because of the recovery too).
My website TenKeys.org grew out of this basic desire to share what I found to be most helpful, and the Ten Keys framework emerged organically as I was pulling it all together. I live in Boulder, Colorado – a place where there is a high value placed on caring for the land and open space. We have 145 miles of trails, with many more in the mountains nearby. There is a saying here that you should “leave a trail cleaner than you found it.” That was exactly my goal in creating TenKeys.org – to leave the trail cleaner than it was when I found it. I hope that it can be of service to you or someone you know.
With great care, Kristina
Shame Workshops: www.TheShameLady.com
For Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse: www.TenKeys.org
- Healing from Childhood Trauma
- Gifts to Yourself: Beyond Trauma
- Darker than a Steven King Novel: Shame
- Thrive Like Betty White: Become Self-Directed
Photo credit: Kenneth Justin, holyspiritrevolution.
(C) Copyright 2015 Brenda Bomgardner