Stephanie Frisch, BA, BSN, MSN, PHC-NP
Fear was the most prominent emotion I recall from my childhood. At first the threats were outside of the home. My single mother and sister were my safe space. Poverty and violence in the community around us were scary things. Later, the threat became much closer as my mother married a man who sexually assaulted me. My family did not want to confront the reality of that situation and I became sacrificed for the economic security we had and stability my mother felt she had with this man.
I spent the first 20 years of my adulthood looking for peace, strength, stability. I did not trust, love or respect myself. Careers and education were started and then abandoned. I tried my hand at a degree in early childhood education. I opened a licensed home daycare, made money doing housekeeping, I became a certified doula and a natural childbirth teacher then a certified massage therapist. Trauma recovery also became part of my life and I was searching for healing in books, spirituality and therapy. Much of this felt good and like it was in the right direction but I was still lacking clarity and confidence.
My intimate relationships were the place where I put the most energy. Continually I placed my life in the hands of another and expected them to bend and change to fit the image I had for what our lives were to be together. As would be expected, I was repeatedly hurt and disappointed. I did not understand that trying to meet my lovers every need so they would love me enough to fill in my cracks was not the path to healing.
At age 38 I found myself in the bottom of a well. My partner of 5 years was very sick with alcoholism, my son had just been diagnosed with a chronic disease and was not doing well emotionally, my daughter had closed the door on me when I disappointed her one too many times, and I wasn’t really working toward anything that had real meaning. As I was driving in my car alone reflecting, I had an epiphany, or at least the glimmer of one. It was really as simple as stop asking yourself what you want to do and do something!
I had almost completed a degree in English Literature with a minor in Women’s Studies. That was on my plus side. However, I had no home or income if I left my current relationship and a kid who was in need of a lot of parenting. For several years I had contemplated different career paths as either an English teacher or a registered nurse. The decision I made at that time was completely economic. I was tired of being poor and unproductive. The state I lived in did not pay teachers well. Within a week I had a meeting with the academic counsellor of the nursing program, I had an educational plan and would be back in classes within weeks.
This moment of clarity and commitment to myself changed my thinking. My behaviours began to align with what I knew I needed. I ended my relationship, moved into an apartment, and became a nurse. I have continued to work on my personal healing through CBT and EMDR therapy, exercise and the use of prescription medication. I am now 12 years into my career as a nurse. I returned to school and became a nurse practitioner which expands my access to the tools available to guide healing.
The fear and sexual abuse which defined my childhood has become the fuel for my passionate desire to support others. I am energized when I can support women as they reconnect with themselves and overcome the distorted social lessons about the body and intimacy.