“Unhealthy” Families

A few days ago in our survivors of sexual abuse group, we discussed “unhealthy” families in which sexual abuse occurs.  As you may know, there aren’t many signs or predictable qualities that warn people that a new family will be one where sexual abuse takes place.  Most perpetrators look relatively “normal” and fit into society.  But there is some interesting consistencies in the families in which abuse occurs and we found it fascinating how many of theses traits were in each of our families.

According to On the Threshold of Hope by Diane Mandt Langberg, abusive families “often have multiple problems, are rigid in their relational patterns, confused by individuals’ roles, and send destructive messages.”  As we went through these pages of her book, my family falls into each one.  (In the group, the average number was three.) Read the examples from my family and see where yours fits.

heart-broken-girl-tumblr-i12Multiple problems: My mom is bipolar and a mean person. (I’ll have to write about her one day.) There were definite boundary issues and tons of denial.

Rigid relational patterns:  By first grade, my brother and I were isolated from our extended family and punishment was severe.

Confused roles: In all ways, I was the surrogate wife for the father. For my brother who is nine years younger than me, I took care of him a lot. (But he is one of the reasons, I didn’t commit suicide at 14.  I was afraid no one would take care of him in a healthy way.)

Destructive messages: Always be smiling. You can NEVER have a problem.  You must be perfect. Always look like a close, loving family.  Stay out of mom’s way.

The saddest part for me was that each of our families had the last trait I listed.  This is unfortunate, because according to Langberg, “these children are deprived and desperate for attention… They have been taught to blame themselves. Self-hatred comes easily.  These children have learned how to numb their feelings and continue on as if nothing horrible is happening.”  Doesn’t that describe each and every one of us?

The question now is what do we do with this information? I can tell you that it helped us to just talk about this.  You know the adages: strength in numbers and you aren’t alone. As simplistic as this may sound, talking about this is what we do with this information.  The more our stories are shared, the less our burdens become.  And giving a face and a voice to this horrific form of childhood abuse will heal others and bring the end to someone’s suffering.

So will you take a stand with me and my group and bring a voice to this issue for all the other broken girls?  Remember: there is strength in numbers 😉

Song: Broken Girl by Matthew West

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
  Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.” – Proverbs 31:8-9

 

 

The Feeling

Some of you who have suppressed memories will unfortunately know what I am talking about… the feeling. It is the feeling you get when you start to get new puzzle pieces.  It is a feeling of anxiety, fear, apprehension, dread, and sadness all mixed together into one brilliant life shaking cocktail.

I am sure there are a lot of different ways that this feeling starts for survivors.  For me, it is usually when my mind is the quietest.  It could be a quick startle that wakes me from a sound sleep, while I am driving on auto-pilot coming home from work, or as I stare out the window while listening to the murmur of the television in the background.  It hits like a refrigerator dropped off a 30 story building.  It leaves you shaking, emotionally bruised, heart-racing, and gasping for breathe.  Then the fun begins.

You are left with puzzle pieces floating in your mind… none of which make sense.  But you know they will.  In the coming days or weeks, new pieces will appear.  Your brain will hurt.  You’re filled with dread.  Your heart aches.  But there is nothing you can do, but wait.

a0d1949d0e2c8131713b66a1d0686004I wish there was a remedy to stop this from reoccurring.  I wish there was a way to predict their arrival.  I wish there was a way to just scream, “I’ve had enough!”  But as I sit here, I have only one solution… I’m giving it to God.  I am going to trust that He will take these floating memories away.  And if He doesn’t, I am going to believe that He will use them for good and bring peace back to my soul.

This song is what is bringing me comfort today: Once and For All by Lauren Daigle

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” – Proverbs 3:5

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” – Hebrews 13:20-21

 

Fighting Night Terrors

imagesHave you noticed that night terrors are a part of your existence?  Do they creep into your peaceful slumber and then keep you up for hours?  Have you asked yourself if they ever go away?

Well the answer is yes… mostly.  Once you take control back of your life and start to make healthy decisions regarding what you let into your life, they start to subside.  The trick is becoming aware of your triggers and what you can and cannot handle.  For me, I do not watch anything that has a lot of sex and violence and has to do with mental illness.  I have found that even if these things do not cause me to think about my past while I am awake.  They do find their way into my dreams in some way at night, so it is best for me to just not allow them in my world.  And I don’t miss it… really I don’t.

The Bible even mentions guarding your heart and mind and to use discernment in what you allow yourself to watch, listen to, or be a part of.  For me, this has reached into a lot of my decisions regarding tv, music, movies, where I will hang out, friends, conversations I participate in or leave the room. It has truly helped.

The second thing I do to help fight this problem is to be mindful of what I do or think of right before I go to bed. The rule seems to be that whatever is on your mind as you fall asleep will continue to be on your mind as you rest.  In order to combat this, I do not fall asleep with the tv on.  I try to read my Bible or a devotion before I close my eyes.  This means going to bed 15 minutes early and reading and focusing on God’s word in some manner.

Now I must say that these are EXTREMELY helpful, but sometimes life is just too much.  At those times, you may have a crazy dream sneak in, but I largehave found that it is not as rattling as before.  It may leave me with an uneasy feeling for the morning or day, but it is no longer terror.

So today’s challenge: start monitoring your mental and emotional intake from the world around you.

Song: God Help Me by Plumb

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

“I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.” – Psalm 101:3

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[a] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[b] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” – Matthew 6:22-23

Is an Apple an Apple?

imagesLast week in SOSA, we had an interesting conversation that I thought I would share with you.  It is extremely basic, but at the same time, very profound and thought provoking. For those of us who were abused by a parent, close relative, or care-giver, this is tremendously important to explore.

As I have mentioned, my earliest clear memories of sexual abuse are starting at age four. If you read about the cognitive, social, and emotional development of preschoolers, you will find that children in this age range rely heavily on the adults around them.  This is probably not a shock to you or new information, but have you ever thought about it in the terms of your abuse?

Your caregivers at this time in your life are teaching you about everything in life and as a toddler/preschooler, you completely trust in these adults.  So if the adult in your life would have taught you that an apple was a banana, you would have believed them whole-heartedly, because you were not cognitively developed enough to believe anything else and trusted these individuals to help you navigate the world. So here in lies the problem… for many of us, our abuse also started in these formable years.

We were taught that wrong was right, that our pain must not be shown, that the gut feelings were mistaken, that our bodies were not our own, and so on.  We believed these things without much questioning throughout our childhood and into adolescences. The problems come as adults.  We then realize and are very aware of social norms and the “normal” behavior that is to take place between an adult and a child. Then as survivors, this is where the struggle begins… the guilt, the shame.  We begin to rationalize what we should have done from our now adult perspective.  The problem is…. we weren’t adults when it happened.  We handled the situation as a growing and developing child would, but we expect ourselves to have handled it as an adult.

kids-snow-600x300So here is the suggestion if this is something you are struggling with… do some research.  Read up on the cognitive, social, and emotional development of children, especially during the age range in which you were abused.  Seek out children who were your age at the time of your abuse… now I am not saying become a stalker. What I am saying is notice them in your environment… at the park, at the mall, at the grocery store, at church.  Watch their behavior and their interaction with their trusted adult and the IMPORTANT part… notice the dependency and trust the child has placed in that adult.  Realize that you were them! You were small, innocence, trusting, full of curiosity and life.  Then ask yourself: what would you expect from that child if she were in your abuse situation?  Is she to blame?  Should she feel guilty? Should someone be protecting her?

I know your answers. You know your answers. Now the challenge lies in using those answers and applying them to yourself.  If you can, you are on the right track and making progress.  If you can’t, I will pray for you right now.

Dear Heavenly Father, We come to you today asking for guidance and enlightenment for all of those who have suffered abuse as a child. Please lift this burden from their shoulders and let them see that they were just an innocence child.  Let their guilt and shame be no more.  I pray that this can be the first healing step toward the amazing life which you have planned and the beginning of comfort and peace.  I ask it all in your mighty, mighty name. Amen.

So get out there and stop blaming yourself that you believed an apple was a banana!

Song: Here For A Reason by Ashes Remain

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.” – 1 Cor 13:11a

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” – Isaiah 5:20 (ESV)

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 18:10 (ESV)

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” – Mark 9:42

Websites on child development:

 

 

Switching Focus

Written Sunday, March 18th

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 7.29.40 PMThe last week and a half I have taken a mental vacation from blogging and the world as much as I could.  I have had to deal with my heartache.  I have taken the time to talk to several individuals in order to help me sort things out and try to decide how to handle my current situation that will allow me to cling to my values and faith, but deal with this crushing blow, which has left me heartbroken.

This week has not been easy.  I have struggled to get out of bed each day and then muddled through the day just waiting for the opportunity to allow my head to hit the pillow once again.  This isn’t easy to write, because with what I have already been through in life, I feel like I should be able to take this in stride.  But I have not been able to do so.

My dilemma is this: how do you love someone with all of your heart, watch them suffer, and wait for a miracle without your heart breaking every day? My hands are tied.  There is nothing I can do, but sit back and wait for a literal miracle.  At the beginning of this weekend and even today, I thought I was no where near an answer.  But amazing things have happened, as well as a change in my heart.

Focus1This weekend God has spoken through many people in my life: counselors, pastors, friends, acquaintances.  And the plan is as simple as this: SWITCH MY FOCUS. Instead of dwelling on my heartache and my questionable future, I need to focus on God’s calling which is before me.  I am a lucky one.  I have a very clear vision and purpose that God has put in my life and it is ready to explode… all I need to do is follow and listen.  I must focus on the task before me and as I do that, I NEED TO TRUST GOD to handle the rest.

I have been through enough trials in my life to KNOW that God will provide for me.  He has healed me time and again, made me stronger than I could ever imagine, and He has laid a path for me to follow.  I am so humbled to walk by His grace and I’m amazed by His glory the entire time.  So why wouldn’t He handle this?  Why don’t I just lay it down at His feet and trust Him?  He has never let me down before. And well I wait, I know God has a miraculous journey waiting for me… all I need to do is FOCUS!

Is this what you need to do too?  Switch your focus?  Take this bold step with me today.  We can’t even begin to imagine the joy and riches that the Lord has waiting for us. For our God is a good, loving, and great God!

Songs: First by Lauren Daigle

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

Overwhelmed

This post was written March 8th, but not posted until March 19th.

As I sat here today trying to figure out what to write, it is dawning on me how much life is pressing in on me.  I think to say that I am depressed or overwhelmed may be an understatement. It seems that life is caving in on all sides.  I am always tired, but can’t sleep the whole night through.  I have a list of to-dos, but can only seem to get to a few.  I am confident that peace and healing will come, but I still struggle to fake a smile.  How can this be? Seriously, how can that be?  I was the fake smile pro.  I’m sure you know what I am referring to… the ever present smile even though your world is a lie.

Overwhelmed-art-300x223I saw this picture (Overwhelmed by Elena Covalciuc Vieriu http://leblow.co.uk/on-the-brink-of-burnout-do-you-need-a-digital-detox/overwhelmed-art/ ) as I was googling and thinking today.  It spoke to me.  It seemed to capture how I feel.  I wish I could go into details but I can’t… not yet.  But my world lately is an endless battlefield… divorce papers, a Facebook stalker, a spitting bandit, a pooping puppy, my dream home gone, living alone for the first time in my life… the list goes on. It feels crushing.

But yet I still have a flicker of a flame in me.  I can feel it. The sense of peace trying to break through. My prayer is that we all find our peace no matter what we are going through, because God can take what was meant for harm and turn it into good.  I am so thankful for that. I hope you can find a flicker of peace in that too.

Song: Even If by Mercy Me

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Why Me?

why-meNow this is the ultimate question for survivors of abuse?  A question for which we will never have an answer.  A question that haunts us.  A question that lingers in the air right above our heads… always in reach.  A question that we just have to find a peace with.

I have yet to meet the survivor that knows the answer to this question for herself.  And I have yet to meet the survivor who hasn’t struggled with this question.  I am not even sure that I can tell you my answer that finally gave me some peace.

I know I was a replacement wife for my dad since my mom is bipolar.  I know that my dad had a decent life growing up.  I’ve been told by my uncle that my dad was odd even when he was young… always a loner. But none of that answers the question of what would bring my dad to do such a thing and why me.

To be honest, I am not sure where my peace comes from… other than to say it is a blessing from God.  I don’t know when the switch flipped.  I don’t know what brought it about. I could help so many if I had those answers. But what I can say is pray.  Believe that God will bring you peace.  Ask for the strength to let it go.  It can and will happen.  I am proof and I thank God for that every day.

Song: “Fly” by Maddie and Tae

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Phil 4:7

Peace-Understanding-copy-1024x768

Why Don’t I Trust My Own Judgement?

woman-prayingAs a survivor, I now find myself in another situation in which I should have listened to my inter-voice and didn’t. I’m not sure why I keep putting myself in this situation.  I think I have changed and moved forward, but unfortunately when it comes to this, I haven’t.  So I am sitting here, staring at my computer screen, wondering what to write, and I keep asking myself “why don’t I trust my own judgement?”

Naturally, I googled and it is starting to make a little sense… at least for me.  Remember this blog is from the perspective of someone who was abused by her father from about 3 to 10ish.  I had a couple of years reprieve from around 10 to 14 for several reasons, but when I started changing physically, my father of course had to check that out. I remember it so clearly.  He actually had the nerve to come back in my room and apologize, because he didn’t want me to think he was perverted! LOL!  Sorry Dad, that ship sailed a long time ago!

So, why don’t I trust myself?  Why don’t I listen to that small voice in my head?  I think it goes back to the lies that so many of us carry around… “it wasn’t that bad.” OR this oldie but goodie, “am I exaggerating?” Those are my internal questions that pop up on a semi-regular basis.  I have spent so many years down-playing or questioning my abuse that I now doubt myself.

None of us want to accept the fact that our parents are monsters, who preyed on innocent children.  We look for answers or reasons as to why this happened.  We make excuses.  We overlook so many things.

One of my earliest memories, which I have shared before, was when I was four and getting a bath.  My brother, who was two, and I were in the tub and my parents were discussing who would wash whom.  I remember sitting there hoping my mom would pick me, but my dad said he would.  My heart sank. As I sat there in the tub, in pain, burning, I watched my brother, who was splashing away in the water, being two, smiling, and laughing.  I looked at my mom, who was talking to my brother and dad, and she was smiling.

Trust-pixMy gut told me that this had to be wrong and it didn’t feel right. I was so confused.  Why were my mom and brother happy?  Why didn’t they notice my pain?  Why didn’t they care about my pain? This was the beginning of me not trusting myself.  Surely if what was happening to me was bad and it was right in front of them, they would notice, right?

And there it begins, I must have been wrong.  It must not be that bad.  I must be exaggerating this pain. Now here we are 43 years later and I still don’t listen to my small voice.  Hopefully, this current experience will cure me of my self-doubt.  I pray that my eyes are finally open, but I guess only time will tell.

Song: “Need You Now” by Plumb

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

 

When the Night is Closing in

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 8.40.07 PM.pngIf you are like most survivors, your heart just dropped into your stomach when you read the title of today’s blog.  Nighttime is HORRIBLE! For a lot of us, closing our eyes and going to sleep just means flashbacks, night-terrors, and waking up in a cold sweat.  There is nothing refreshing about it and you would give your right arm if it would just stop rolling around every 18 hours or so.

For me, the feeling was overwhelming. I stayed up until all hours doing school work for my job as a teacher, I went back to school for my master’s, so I had that to do, I cleaned, I googled, anything to put off going to sleep.  When I finally did lie down to sleep, I was in immense panic.  I had taken my anxiety medicine, but I still laid there thinking that dying would be less painful.  All I can remember is the panic… the “I’m going to die” panic.  Too be honest, I’m not sure how I got through a lot of nights.

But in the light of brutal honesty, I will share this with you.  There were many nights that I had my youngest daughter sleep with me.  Not one of my greatest mother-of-the-year moments, seeing that she was in middle school… but it’s the truth.  She was my security blanket.  She was my “I can’t harm myself with my child next to me” savior. She was the reminder that I had a reason to live.  She was my face to look at to take the ugly thoughts away.  She was the reason I could finally close my eyes and get some sleep.  It sounds pitiful, I know. But she helped.  I thank God she was there, but I prayed to God that I didn’t screw her up.

One of the scariest things for me was when she went to college. Her presence under my roof at night became those things I needed after the first couple of years.  The knowing she was there and wouldn’t think I was a creeper if I went in her room, sat on the edge of her bed, and stared at her for a few minutes to calm my brain and remind myself what I had to live for in order to find the courage to go to bed.  She was my thing… that sounds absolutely awful… my thing, but she was the thing I needed to remind myself to fight.

But in all reality, at the point, it was a crutch. I didn’t need my daughter under my roof to help me fight my panic.  (By-the-way, panic is a terrible word.  It does NO justice to the absolutely, horrifying feeling that you are going to die.)  What I needed to fight my panic was Jesus. Jesus is the ONLY answer.  He is the ONLY answer to ongoing healing, wellness, and peace.

bible2-620x520So I challenge you, if you suffer from “I hate the night-itis,” get yourself some Jesus! Now here is what I mean by that. You need a Jesus arsenal.  I’m talking get cozy in your bed and whip out some Jesus! Devotionals, books, musics, the Bible, the Bible app, a podcast, anything to do with Jesus.  And as you lie there cozy in your bed, start reading or listening to whatever it is you choose.  As you drift off to la-la land, have your thoughts on Him… the One who saves and He WILL protect your mind.

So go… what are you waiting for?  Get your Jesus arsenal going and see what happens.  You’re going to be okay ❤

Song: You’re Gonna Be Ok – Brian & Jenn Johnson    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS SONG!

My go-to verses throughout my healing:

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Phil 4:7

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Phil 4:8

Let God’s word be your nightlight:

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” – Psalm 119:105

98150947

Where was God?

drowningIf I haven’t mentioned it, I am a lay-counselor at my church. Last week, a lady I’m counseling asked me where was God?  Why did He let this happen and why didn’t He stop it?

I’m going to warn you right now that my response maybe a little too much for some of you to take depending on where you are in your journey.  Believe me, I struggled with this question on my own years ago and it was not pretty. (see Spiritual Suicide) But I think it is an honest and fair question and one that every survivor asks at some point and NO one should ever make you feel bad for asking it.  NO ONE, you hear me?

Let’s start with the basics that all Christians know: God created man with free choice.  He did not want robots who followed Him automatically and fulfilled His every whim.  God wanted relationship with us.  He wanted us to be able to choose Him.  (Have you ever had someone befriend you cause their mom told them to or be nice to you because they have to?  Neither of those things are very fulfilling. In fact, they leave you quite empty and even a little sad.)  So God didn’t want that and who could blame Him.  I want true friends, don’t you?

The next part everyone can understand, but you will understand a little more if you are a parent.  We do our best to raise our kids.  We teach them right from wrong, morals, integrity, kindness, to be loving and helpful, and then we send them out into the world.  We, as parents, have to sit back as they make decisions… good and bad, ones we agree with, and ones we don’t.  They make some pretty stupid decisions too, but all we can do is give some advice and hope they take it.  We did our jobs as parents and now they have free will to do what they want.

So here is the hard part.  God taught my dad the best He could.  He gave my dad two loving parents, an extended family, he lived in a good neighborhood, had a Catholic upbringing, and a stable environment.  So God and my grandparents did the best they could and sent my dad out into the world.  The sad part is that my dad didn’t make good choices. He used his free will, ignored his upbringing, and chose to abuse his daughter physically, emotionally, and sexually.

3f8eccdc78293871885a80addebffc031Now this is what I believe from the bottom of my heart and any time I think about this I have a mental image that pops up into my head: God did not want this to happen to me.  He mourned just like we would if one of our children were hurt or if they hurt someone else.  Jesus was there with me.  He was kneeling on one knee beside me with an out-stretched arm, had my little hand in His, and was crying.  And for the longest time, I only thought about Jesus crying with me, because I was hurting and that brought me comfort and healing like you wouldn’t believe.

**********************WARNING…. PROCEED WITH CAUTION**********************

But here is the thing, Jesus was crying for my dad too.  My dad is His son, who committed a grievous crime, one that would leave ever-lasting scars and God mourned that too.  It broke God’s heart, just like it would break ours if it was our child committing a crime.

So God did not allow this to happen to me. He gave me dad as many tools and knowledge of right and wrong as He could… just like we do for our children.  But my DAD CHOSE to hurt me, my DAD CHOSE to commit crimes against humanity and God, my DAD CHOSE to do the unthinkable.

So this is how I deal with this question.  It may not work for you but I HOPE it does.  We have a loving, merciful, gracious, miraculous God.  And my prayer for you today as we discuss this really hard topic is that you get to know Him as I have.  He has taken this horrific experience, used it to heal me and others, and has given me more peace, love, and grace than I could have ever imagined and I wish the same for you.

imagesI picked this song because it was my song as I wrestled with this.  It pushed my faith. It felt like my feet were failing and fear surrounded me, but my answer was BLAST this song and trust in God to take me further than I could ever go alone… cause quite frankly, what else did I have?

Song: Oceans by Hillsong United

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  – Jeremiah 29:11