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One of the hardest things about processing childhood sexual trauma, for me, has been the loss of Who I Was Before.

In group therapy, some of the other women talk about wishing they could go back to “the way it used to be.”

Before the “incident.”

Before the trauma rocked their world.

But I really struggle with this, because I was just four when I was abused.

Some of my very first memories are of the abuse and the time around it.

In my memory, there is no “before.”

Sometimes, the most crushing feelings of grief come from not knowing who I was before these things happened to me.

How much of me now, 27 years later, is truly me, who I was supposed to be, and how much has been shaped by my trauma?

I expressed these thoughts to my therapist, and I told her that I think I only remember one big thing from before my trauma. A trip my mom and I took to Germany when I was just three.

It was a magical trip, full of idyllic moments drenched in golden sunshine. It was full of adventure and new experiences and fairy-tale whimsy. I’ve always been amazed that I remember so much of it, since I was so young when we went.

Then my therapist asked me a big question: what has changed about me since that magical time? The time before?

And when I got really, really honest with myself, I was stunned to realize this: in so many ways, I’m still that girl.

She’s still here.

That tiny little girl with wispy curls, joyously riding a big-wheel through sun-dappled countryside and over ancient stone bridges.

She’s still here.

The child who stole about a hundred tiny Pan Am bars of soap from the airplane bathroom just for the fun of it.

She’s still here.

The girl who stared in wonder at false caves built just to bring a smile to a mad king. Who giggled and gasped as she slid down an underground slide and held on for dear life as she rode a rickety train through glittering tunnels of salt.

She’s still here.

That small person who stared in awe at snow-capped mountains, the first she’d ever seen, and ate Rolos in the rain on a riverboat.

She is still here, and her wonder has not faded. Her joy has not been extinguished.

She is safe.

Damage was done, but it was not irreparable.

It did not destroy her.

She is still here. And she’s not going anywhere.

Kimberly Poovey

Kimberly Poovey is a writer, speaker, wife, and over-caffeinated new(ish) mom. She runs a teen pregnancy prevention program for a nonprofit and is a founder of Pearls, an organization that serves women in the sex industry and fights human trafficking. You can find her over on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Mighty, https://kimberlypoovey.wordpress.com/ and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kimberlysandelpoovey

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