Trauma Recovery - My Story

Friends, it’s taken me a long time to find the courage to share this story.  For a very long time I have wanted to find a way to give back to the people and communities that have given me so much support over the years.  It’s time for me to speak up.

This is a very personal story, I am sharing it to raise awareness for trauma recovery and to reach out to people who need help.
Please know that I am well and healthy now, however it has been a challenging journey to get to this point.

Let me start… As a young child I was sexually abused repeatedly by a man who lived in my neighbourhood.  I was five years old and at the time didn’t fully understand what had happened.  I’m sure I blocked out most of the memories of what happened, my vague recollections didn’t make much sense to me until I was a teenager.  I told my parents when I was 16.

I had a loving and safe home environment and we were an active part of all of our communities.  However I don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel self-conscious, confused and conflicted.  I was terrified of men, I never wanted to feel vulnerable and I didn’t know how to trust others or myself.  At my core I felt worthless.

To me, all of this was normal, I didn’t know that people could be happy. 

In hindsight I exhibited many of the behaviours of abuse survivors, including disliking everything about myself.

I successfully navigated my way through high school and into university, despite my many anxieties.  I attribute this to my stable home life and our large community of loving friends and family.

My parents separated when I was 19, this was a major turning point in my adult life.  I can only describe this as what felt like a ‘brain explosion’ at the time.  The intensity of emotions – fear, dread, anger, desperation was too much for my under-confident being to process and my life started to unravel.  I can’t remember much of what happened over the following 3 year period.  I drank a lot, I withdrew from the people that I loved, I sought solace in casual relationships, and I cried myself to sleep every night.  Nothing made sense anymore, my world was very dark.

I was terrified of getting close to anyone and ending up in a broken relationship like mum and dad.   I couldn’t bear the thought of experiencing the pain I saw them go through.  I no longer felt that I could look forward to always having a loving family around me and wasn’t sure what else I wanted to live for.

I had seen some counselors over the years and know now that none of it made a difference because I never trusted them enough to let my guard down.  I truly believed that nothing could make a difference to my life ever.

My story may come as a surprise for some people who know me well – I have travelled, worked in some great jobs, I have many amazing friends, I’ve lived a fortunate life.  However, when I look back on all of my early years I see and feel the pain and trauma that was just below the surface.  Internally I was in survival mode.

By my late twenties my life felt superficial and empty, I didn’t know there was any hope on the other side of my suffering, I felt depressed and anxious and I started having suicidal thoughts.

Over these years Dad had been on his own personal mission to get me into a life coaching program that had impacted him enormously.  I thought it was a load of rubbish and told him many times – quite aggressively, to leave me alone.  I genuinely believed nothing could help me.  I was broken.

He just didn’t go away though!  I eventually relented and discovered a program that showed me how to break the cycle of negativity that I had lived in since I was five.  Completely amazing and life changing.  It was very confronting taking myself on and discovering vulnerability BUT I got my life back at the age of 30.

I found light and hope and connection.  The following years were a process of untangling all the stories I had been telling myself for years.

This year I turn 43 and my life is incredible.  I am happy, healthy and strong and very grateful everyday for my precious life.  To feel happy is such an incredible gift.

I am humbled knowing that everything from my past has shaped me to be who I am today.

I am very passionate about reaching out to people in the same distress I was in.  Trauma can blacken your mind and prevent you from reaching out for help.  I’m hoping that by hearing my story, anyone suffering can know that there is hope for a happy and healthy life.  It is possible to get the right help.

This month, for the first time I am running a 50km ultra trail run with friends.  I am very proud of my healthy mind and body – this is a fitting way to celebrate who I am and the perfect opportunity to raise awareness for organisations that provide support to people who require the help I needed.

I am asking you to please make a donation to this cause, I am kicking off this campaign by raising $6000 for the Blue Knot Foundation.  This will cover the cost of running ONE Survivor Workshop to provide guidance and support for people who have experienced abuse or trauma in childhood.  To find out more about who they are and what they do – here is the link to their website:

Once I hit this target I will also make contributions to other fantastic organisations providing valuable support in the community.

Personally this is a huge, exciting step … thank you for your support and thank you for your friendship.  Please look after the people in your world, the difference that you make could save somebody’s life.

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Liz Dunn 
Maribyrnong, VIC
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