I Will Never Be Normal: I have been Injured but Not Broken

My story begins in the most horrible way. I was the product of an unwanted pregnancy, a gunshot marriage, and a devastatingly abusive and neglectful childhood. My journey of recovery continues to this day. I am not giving up!


Zina Ortiz

8/30/20234 min read

EMDR Psychedelic Assisted Therapy Trauma Anxiety Denver Colorado
EMDR Psychedelic Assisted Therapy Trauma Anxiety Denver Colorado

The process of recovering from childhood neglect and abuse is deeply personal and transformative. It requires courage, vulnerability and a steadfast commitment, to healing the wounds that have shaped one's identity and understanding of the world. For me it has been a journey of recovery from chronic childhood neglect and abuse where my personal mantra becomes "I may never fit society's definition of normal but I am far from broken."

Embracing my unique story was not easy at first. One aspect of overcoming childhood neglect and abuse was acknowledging the uniqueness of my own story. My journey is like no other, my experiences have molded me into who I am today. As I began on this path to healing I learned to recognize that although my past did not define me entirely it has undeniably influenced how I perceived the world. Healing from these wounds has shaped these initial perceptions with a broader and stronger perspective. For example, the perception that I have not caused someone's anger, I do not have to engage. Someone else's emotional reaction is not my problem. It took me years to believe this statement. I no longer take situations, circumstances or other people's reactions personally. It truly is freeing!

Breaking the silence; the empowering act of speaking up was another challenge for me. I suffered from selective mutism the first few years of my life. Speaking or using words was punished by my parents. One initial step in this journey was breaking free from the silence that surrounded my childhood neglect and abuse. For years denying truths and suppressing emotions felt stifling. I felt like I needed to be a robot, dehumanizing myself was a way of surviving painful memories and strong emotions. However, the initial expression of emotions was extremely difficult at first. I felt that if I expressed these emotions that they would overwhelm, break or consume me. They were challenging to accept. During the course of therapy, support groups or even writing brought about a sense of empowerment. I was going to be ok. Sharing my experiences, with trusted psychotherapists who provided a space validated my emotions and experience. Reinforced the comforting notion that I was not alone on my personal journey. It was ok to speak my truth. Another way is to share it in these few paragraphs.

Navigating the roller coaster of emotions didn't follow a path; it was like a hike through the woods with hilly ups and downs. As I worked through the layers of pain, anger, sadness and even occasional moments of happiness I learned how to navigate these waves. There were times when past wounds unexpectedly resurfaced and triggered very strong emotions. However each time I weathered these storms they came out less intensely than before. My body adjusted and my resilience to tolerate strong emotions increased with time.

As a result I learned how to reframe the concept of normalcy. The idea of what's considered "normal" takes on a meaning when someone has experienced chronic neglect and abuse during childhood. Although the scars, from the past have never completely faded away they have become a part of my story, with different chapters. This chapter has a happy ending. I like it so far with my plan to expand my private practice into a group practice. My pursuit of being "normal" transformed my authenticity and I learned to recognized my strength and resilience that has been developed along my own hero's journey. I have come to understand that striving for a standard of normalcy is now replaced by celebrating my resilience and ability to rewrite my narrative.

Rediscovering my self worth and taking back power over my responses as opposed to having reactive functions has been hugely empowering. When someone has experienced neglect and abuse during childhood it can greatly impact their sense of self worth and ability to take control of their life. However the journey towards healing involves rediscovering ones worthiness and learning how to regain power over ones life. By challenging beliefs that were ingrained in me I replaced them with self compassion and a strong determination to create a life that aligns with my desires.

Building connections and establishing a support system was another challenge. Being alone was a protective mechanism. Yet, I knew recovery was not something that can be achieved alone. I needed connections with people who genuinely supported my growth. This involved finding a therapist specializing in trauma, joining groups or forming friendships with individuals who understood my journey. These connections became anchors of strength reminding me that I was not alone and provided a safe space for sharing experiences. I relearned how to connect with others. Due to my past and early childhood programming some of these friendships and relationships were not healthy, and I am still learning.

Celebrating achievements was also difficult at first. My achievements or successes did not count much for me. I had to review these from a third person perspective to learn to appreciate my hard work. Throughout the recovery process there were milestones that marked my progress. I had to learn how to to celebrate these milestones as they served as reminders of my resilience and the strides I had made towards healing. There has been many breakthroughs, in therapy and in the experiencing of these moments of self empowerment, each step forward, was evidence of my own strength and commitment to rewriting of my story.

I'll never be "normal " but I'm definitely not broken. I strive to be optimized, the best version of myself and it is better each healing time. My process of recovery from childhood neglect and abuse hasn't been about striving for normality but my own hero's journey, deeply healing and promoting of my personal growth. It involved acknowledging that I am not damaged beyond repair despite the wounds I have carried. The navigating of this path has taught me to embrace my story. I learned to accept my emotions and rebuild my sense of self worth. At 5 feet 2 inches I stand tall as a survivor shaping my future while drawing wisdom from the lessons of the past.

I remember that I am not defined by what has happened to me; instead it's my resilience, courage and unwavering spirit that drives me forward on the journey, towards healing and becoming whole again. The way I was meant to be, and on my own terms. I can say with confidence that I am deeply grateful for the challenging experiences I have had, because of these I have been able to have insights in to complex PTSD, on a very personal level, and consequently being able to help others like me.