I Should Be Dead Right Now

1Last night in our SOSA (Survivors of Sexual Abuse) meeting, we talked about shame.  I know I have blogged about shame before, but I was asked an interesting question: “How did I overcome my shame?”  It was a question I did not have an immediate answer for.  I said the typical Christian responses; with God, time, patience, prayer, but that wasn’t a complete answer for me. And as ridiculous as it seems to me at this moment, I really had to think about it.

Before I get into my answer, I’d like to spend a minute or two addressing the topic of shame. Especially for those of you who are not survivors, but are reading in order to help a survivor close to you.

Shame is an overwhelming, suffocating, life-debilitating condition. It encompasses the survivors heart, soul, spirit, and general well-being.  It is more often than not what causes depression and self-loathing.  It makes you feel unworthy to be in the presence of others, friends, loved one, and most devastatingly – God.  The worst part is that shame really isn’t ours.  We didn’t cause the abuse.  Our hearts aren’t the ones filled with evil.  We were the victims, yet we carry the burden of shame that is associated with childhood sexual abuse.

Many of us have made numerous mistakes… more than our fair share and more than we would like to admit. And there is definitely shame associated with that as well.  According to Committed to Freedom’s “The Way Forward” self-help workbook, there are scores of self-protective behaviors that victims routinely engage in.  This is a small sampling of the list:

  • I isolate myself from people.
  • I am hyper-vigilant.
  • I am always late.
  • I choose people I can control.joy
  • I often lie.
  • I depend on no one but myself.
  • I use sex to express power or rage.
  • I cut or burn myself.
  • I over/under eat.
  • I avoid sexual situations.
  • I often think about death.
  • I abuse others.
  • I use drugs/alcohol to numb or to feel better.
  • I attempted suicide.
  • I avoid people, places, or circumstances that I do not like.

There are 102 self-protective behaviors on the list.  This was just a sample of the first few or ones I thought to mention.  For me when I first read the list, I could check off 34 of the behaviors. 34! The good news is that these behaviors are considered a “normal” reaction to what happened to me. Normal! That was a crazy thought.

Now checking things off on that list made me quite aware of the shame I had because of those choices. My biggest, shameful choice was having sex with someone while my husband and I were separated… to me it was committing adultery.  It was a purposeful act, which would send me to hell.  A choice I literally made instead of killing myself.  Now finding out that I was “normal” helped relieve a little of that shame, along with praying, focusing on God, counseling, etc. But the thing that truly released me from the shame of what I had done was brought to my attention by a dear friend.  It is the FACT that if I did not commit adultery that night; I would be, without a doubt, dead.  I’d be dead.  I would have been dead for 8 years now.  My kids would have been without a mom for 8 years. That was powerful… the realization of a truth in my life.

I then took that to the cross and laid it at the feet of Jesus.  I repented for what I had done and the choice that I made. Then I saw the world with new eyes.  They were the eyes of a woman who should be dead, but is now thankful for the messed up alternative I choose.  The one that saved my life… and I am free, I have joy, I have a thankful spirit, and I will NEVER be ashamed of my choices again. I am forgiven.

Love this song: Shouting Grounds by Crowder

“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; But you will forget the shame of your youth, And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.” – Isaiah 54:4

 

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Questions

questionsOne of the best ways to heal is asking questions of other survivors.  It gives you a sense that you aren’t alone or crazy.  It is nice to hear that someone has or had the same issue and how they are dealing with it or overcame it.

So here is your opportunity to ask a survivor and have your identity safe.  At any time, please feel free to submit a question.  I can answer it privately through email or I have post a blog with the response to your question without ever using your name.

It will really help you continue in your journey.  Look forward to hearing from you. ❤

 

Voices

Today’s post is pretty short and simple.  It is about which “voice” you are listening to.

As you move on in this journey, you have a few choices as to who you want to listen to.  We have several options.  They include:

  • Yourself,landscape-1468840732-woman-holding-head
  • God,
  • a counselor,
  • fellow survivors,
  • friends and family, or
  • your abuser.

All of these voices will influence you and speak to you as you progress.  The importance in this is making the conscious choice to only listen to those who are positively speaking into your life.

Most, if not all, have an instantaneous recording that we can easily listen to from our abusers.  These messages are neither kind nor helpful.  They demean and demoralize us. They rock us to our core and leave us in a form of rubble.  These are the easiest to listen to as well, because they have been engrained in us for a long time and from an early age.  The messages of our lives not being important or that we were useless or worthless individuals.  Chances are these voices are the ones that have directed most of your lives.

But today and from this day forward, I want you to choose a different voice to listen to.  Listen, really listen, to God speak as you read His Word. Choose to speak with and internalize what your counselors and fellow survivors are saying.  Lastly, choose who you will share this journey with wisely as you involve friends and family.  Only include those who will empower you and lift you up as you need it.

This is so very important, but yet never really discussed. So ask yourself right now, who have you been listening to? Is this something you should change? And don’t just take a moment to address it now, but check yourself on a regular basis.  This is crucial for you to move forward from a victim to a survivor.  And have faith in the Lord that HE will heal you.

God Bless ❤

Song: Broken Girl by Matthew West

The people walking in darkness7b8078220e3a1c6bfad7ac84cb15bf87    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.” –  Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

 

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Heb 11:1 (NIV)

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I’m Alive and I have Grit!

images.jpgBefore starting my ministry at church a few years ago, I came across a website called STARR – Sexual Trauma and Abuse Recovery Resources, Inc.  I checked out their resources and information and signed up for either a daily or weekly email.  The emails were to help you heal, cheer you on, give you some direction, etc.

One day I received the most powerful email from them and it resonated with me.  It stuck with me for days and I printed it out, posted it, and bookmarked it…. And thankfully I copy and pasted it into an email to my husband, because I can no longer find it online.  But it said something remarkable.  Something I had never thought of before.  And it was POWERFUL!

It said I had GRIT just for being here… really?  It said they hadn’t won… I was hoping so, still.  It said I was amazing… me?  It said my very breathe was a declaration of independence…. get out of town!  It said I was a great hero… that is nuts, right? But the more times I read and thought about it… they were RIGHT.   I do have grit! YOU HAVE GRIT! Our presence is a testament to our strength.  I have strength.  It means I’ve won! I’m here! I’m okay! And so are you!

It literally brings tears to my eyes… Still, right now while I am typing this.  All those times when I felt powerless, weak, and unable to go on…  All those times that I barely made it through the day, ha, the second… All those times when I thought I needed someone else to make me worth something.  Those times were wrong.  I was strong.  I had power.  I had control.  I made it! I have grit! Hallelujah, I have grit! And so do you! Really, you do! You may not believe it now, but you do and WATCH OUT when you realize it! You may literally jump for joy, spin around, scream, cry, or laugh like a crazy person… but it will be GREAT!

I have shared this email with many people now.  Hoping it would do for them what it did for me.  Now I am going to share it with you.  Please read it… more than once.  Savor it.  Take it in.  Let it give you hope and strength as you realize you actually have those things already inside you because you made it this far.  You are ALIVE!

You’ve Got Grit!
If you’re a survivor of sexual trauma and abuse, you have grit. Despite all you’ve been through, you’re here. You made it. You’re strong, resourceful, and possess a depth of power few people will ever have to have. You’ve had to locate something amazing within you that has given you insight, understanding, and depth.
To possess grit doesn’t mean you haven’t been wounded. It doesn’t mean you aren’t still struggling or have complicated issues to resolve. To have grit means that your very presence is a testimony to the magnificent person that you are. It means that no matter what, you are getting back up and reclaiming your space – your right to be.
It would be easy to define yourself by what happened – by what you’ve been through, but that would be too simplistic. What you’ve been through is part of your story and part of what made you who you are, but that isn’t the whole story and it certainly isn’t how your story ends!
Every breath you take is a declaration of independence. Every resource you use, every conversation you have with counselors, friends, or support groups is an act of phenomenal courage that others will never know. The greatest hero in your life is you because you are getting back up, dusting yourself off, and proclaiming, “Not today!”
You possess the heart of a warrior, the mind of a wise sage, and the drive of a relentless activist.
Simply put, you are amazing. They haven’t won and they aren’t going to. You are here and you have grit.
Written by Sallie Culbreth and Anne Quinn
© 2016 STAARR – Sexual Trauma and Abuse Recovery Resources, Inc.

Song: I’m Alive by Kenny Chesney and David Matthews

So… YOU ARE ALIVE!

It doesn’t matter if you are conquering life,

or celebrating that you just woke up and are breathing.

It’s a VICTORY!

You are here!

You have GRIT! ❤

 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.” – 2 Tim 4:17

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Truth

Time to bring down the walls and be honest with someone. Pick your someone carefully – VERY carefully if this is the first person with whom you are sharing your story. It can be any part of your story that you care to share… it can be one small detail. It can be a great deal.

Have a small goal in mind. It could be as simple as saying three words. “I was molested.” See how it feels, try it out. I will warn you that the first time you open your mouth, it is scary as hell.

Also a word on expectations, try to go into it with very little. They can be a killer in relationships. Again I know this is hard, but it truly depends on who you are choosing to tell. If it’s a counselor, you can make a safe bet on the outcome. If it is someone who cares about you, expect anything… from rage to asking if you are sure. (Now personally that’s a response I love…. “no I’m not sure. Just thought I’d throw it out there to see what would happen! YES, I’m sure! Duh!”) but expect it. They will be shocked, maybe hurt, heartbroken, angry, etc. even though you are telling them because you need help. They need process time and who knows the first reaction you may get. This unfortunately is not a fairy tale or movie that’s wrapped up in an hour and a half with a nice neat bow… this is life and as real as it gets. So be prepared.

truthHowever, once you have said it out loud, it is SLOWLY liberating. Keep focused on that… the end goal – peace. Chances are it won’t bring peace at first. It may stir up emotions that you have successfully shoved into a tiny box in your soul. This is normal too and it’s OKAY. Survivors stifle the emotions that you are not allowed to feel or show during abuse. We become EXCELLENT fake smilers with all our emotions neatly packed away. But speaking your truth out loud, it does something to your box…. shall we say open it like Pandora did but shake it up first and then dump it out and then just to make sure… tap the bottom a bit to get out any crumbs. That my friend is what will probably happen.

I’ve been down this path and came bursting out the other side. My goal here isn’t to sugar coat anything. It’s to be honest and real and to support you and walk you through the process. So strap yourself in cause you are headed for a hell of a ride BUT it is so worth it. God will grant you a peace that you didn’t even know was possible… so remember eyes on the end game!

The context for this verse is different if you read the verses around it, but these words are perfect here. Because you are starting to open the door to your personal prison.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32

The truth… it WILL set you free and I wish I could give you just a small glimpse to see how wonderful it is, truly. ❤️

Song: If We’re Honest by Francesca Battistelli

Flashbacks

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So many survivors of sexual abuse suffer from flashbacks.  They can be a major disruption to life or they can be minor nagging memories that can be controlled.  Unfortunately, a lot of your life is determined from where you fall on that spectrum.  The good news is that they can slowly be controlled and managed over time, but it takes a lot of hard work, patience, and strength.  BUT don’t worry… you got strength covered.  You are still here!

I have mentioned the “small stuff” before.  For some reason, they seem to be the nagging memories for me.  I have come to the conclusion that is because they are just fragments of larger memories that my mind has protected me from. Because of that, they pop up from time to time when little things remind me.  Then I find myself stopped and thinking… trying to put some pieces together.  They never really fall into place for me, which I am THANKFUL for.  I know enough… no need to add to my collection of memories for me.

One instance of the pieces falling into place are the memory clips of the dread I would experience when my father bathed me from about 3 to 8 or 9 years old.  I remember the panic, the pain, the burning… just wanting bath-time to be over.  I have lots of puzzle pieces for that.  One weekend a few years ago those memories had me and wouldn’t let go.  I knew something big was coming… oh the dread of that weekend.

I remember bath-time with my father and dread; I could remember my mom smiling; I could remember my younger brother, who was about two, smiling, splashing, playing.  I would have been four.  Those were my pieces but they didn’t fit and I always put them in the “small stuff” category.  Well this fateful weekend, they fell into place.

My brother and I were sitting in the tub waiting to be bathed while my parents chatted and got things ready.  Then there was a conversation about who would bathe whom.  I remember sitting in the tub with my hair in a bun on top of my head praying for it not to be my dad.  Please let my mom choose me, please. But the decision was made. My dad got me.  Mom was in charge of my brother.  Oh the panic that fell over me like a wave.  I wanted to cry and say no please, but I didn’t. By four years old, I had learned better.

So I sat there… still. Completely still. I watched my mom and my brother.  My mom talking and smiling. I remember the sun shining in the bathroom window onto her red hair.  She was pretty.  I looked at my brother and he was sitting there splashing, laughing, being two in a tub. As I sat there without moving, in pain, burning, uncomfortable, I wondered why or how they could be so happy while I was in so much distress.  I never looked at my dad. His presence was palpable… no need to see his face.  I knew what it looked like… the smirk.

That was my last puzzle-piecing flashback.  It was enough.  My mom has asked me at least five times in my life if I was molested by “someone”.  While there it is, mom. Your answer that I will never tell you; yes, right in front of you.  That does something to a person that is so unbelievably unexplainable.  I was literally protected by no one and yet she had the nerve to ask me.  That is one of my deepest wounds.

But here is the thing with flashbacks for me… new flashbacks.  Once I had the “big one” in October 2009, it started a lovely trend in my life.  It went like this… remember something, grieve, mourn, collapse, fight to stay alive, start to recover, start to get strength back, BOOM and REPEAT!  I lived like that for about three or four years.

It got to the point where I just wanted to know everything and just get it over, so I went to a hypnotherapist. I had to sign a release form that if I underwent hypnotherapy I was aware that I could never be used to testify against my father, which meant he would never legally “pay” for what he did to me in the justice system.  I signed it.  To me it was worth making the flashbacks stop, so I could rest… Actually rest, have peace, and maybe get my life back.

Unfortunately (I guess… not sure), I did not remember anything.  My mind is a steel trap, apparently.  The hypnotherapist (A legit guy by the way. He was paid for by my insurance as a counselor.) said he had never come across anyone with their memories so guarded.  I couldn’t even remember the things my brother told me about being beaten.  The therapist stopped because I got such a terrible headache from it that I couldn’t go on.  He said I could come back, but he didn’t see me ever remembering anything taking this route.  I’d just have to wait it out and my mind would release each memory as I became strong enough for a new one…. YIPPIE!

It’s a horrible way to live.  It’s like you know something unbelievably tragic is going to happen any second, but you don’t know when and you can do nothing to stop it.  It affects EVERY part of your life. Fortunately for me, they stopped for a couple of years until the weekend of the bath-time puzzle.  That was almost as horrific as the first.  Something about your mother being in the same room and doing nothing really effects a kid… a little sarcasm folks.

I guess with time and healing.  I just became okay with what I knew and okay with what I didn’t know.  I don’t need to know anymore. I don’t need the holes filled in.  I don’t need any more questions answered.  I’m just okay.

There is something liberating about just being okay.  It’s peaceful.  I thank God for that every day, because it sure didn’t happen under my own power or understanding or dramatically becoming enlightened.  It’s God.

So much of my story is God.  I would never be here without Him.

Here is what I did that got me through:

  • I went to church every week no matter what.  It was my place of being recharged and having a little bit of peace. I cried there A LOT, but it helped.  It let some things be healed… just crying at church.
  • I prayed ALL the time.  During all my weak moments… driving over bridges, taking just one pill, when I got to work to make it to lunch, at lunch to make it the rest of the day, at the end of the day to make it home without driving into a tree or off a bridge, before I walked into my house that I’d have strength for my four children, when they went to bed and I cried, when I went to bed that I wouldn’t hurt myself and remember anything, and that I’d only take one pill.
  • I put bible verses everywhere to counteract my thoughts.
  • My third daughter slept with me quite a bit… not really recommending this, but I am being honest. Have to stay alive with your child next to you.
  • I tried to be as involved with my kids as possible.  They kept me alive.  Although, I’ll be honest I wasn’t always good at that. Thank God I’d been a great mom before that October night.

These are my things that helped.  I pray you can find your things.  I know how dreadful you feel when stuck in flashback mode.  This may sound contrite, but find God.  Truly find Him. He is waiting for you and He wants to help, but you have to go to Him. You have to want it with all of your being.  Healing is NOT easy and God is the only answer that I can give as to why I am okay now.

So please read these verses.  Post them where you will see them when you need them.  And find your own that speak to you.  I pray that you find and experience what they promise.

Dear Lord,  Please help these wonderful women as you have helped me.  Please help them to think of all things lovely in every situation and when they can’t that they will come to you to take their anxiety away.  Please let them know what it is like to have their hearts and minds guarded by You.  Let them experience the peace that I have now only through Your mighty power and help that truly surpasses all of my earthly understanding.  Let all of us have strength to get through this day and the next and choose to live.  We praise you Jesus.  I thank You and I love You.  Amen! ❤

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Phil 4:6-7 (NIV)

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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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” – Phil 4:8-9 (NIV)

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“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Phil 4:13 (NIV)

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Songs:

I have two for you today.  First one is my life theme at the time.  “What I wouldn’t give to just forget, so I could remember how to live.” What I Wouldn’t Give by Holly Brook Choose your life. ❤

Second is my God song to get through each moment.  It was a prayer and worship every time I listened to it.  The song says “every hour I need you” but it was more like every second and sometimes I’d actually substitute “second” for “hour”… lol. True story cause I’m a weirdo. Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher

Footnote: I live in the city with the second most bridges in the United States… bridges were a PROBLEM for me.  Can’t go anywhere without driving over a bridge.  Wish I had a head-shaking, eye-rolling emoji here.  God bless! ❤

update-12/12/18 Update: I must admit that this was a hard blog for me.  Definitely had trouble resting after typing it.  It seems the fear of a flashback never quite looses its grip.  But the good news is that I am still here… today. Pressing forward. Never stopping.  With God, I am going to win this fight. 

Spring Cleaning

blog-springcleaningYesterday, we talked about making the choice to become a survivor and not remain in “victim” status. Today, it’s time for spring cleaning. Yet another hard thing that you must do.

It’s time to look at the circle of people around you and start spring cleaning. It’s something you do every year to your house. Have you thought about doing it with your life?

You want to heal, right? Get better? Have peace? Well… some of the people around you and some of the activities that you may involve yourself in may hamper your healing. I’m sorry but it’s true.

So take an honest look now. Who in your life will help you and raise you up through this journey? Keep them. Who will make it hard? They need to go or at the very least distance until you are strong enough to handle them. But honestly, in my life some had to go… my mother. That was hard and took time but necessary. As well as a few others who thought using my abuse as a weapon against me…. and it was hard. I’m not going to lie.

Next, think about your activities. What do you watch on tv? Where do you go for fun? What movies do you watch? What music do you listen to? What I’m trying to say here is get rid of everything that has any evil or questionable morals. All of it! Your mind has enough evil stored up from your past to fill your lifetime… don’t voluntarily add to it. Believe it or not what you watch and hear messes with your head. Truly it does.

So now, sit down and make your list of the good and the ugly… people, things and all. Start putting space between you and the ugly today. NOW! And make a list of what you can replace it with. It’s like detoxing your brain…. so Pureflix instead of Netflix, KLOVE instead of rock, Hallmark channel or UP tv channel instead of the shows filled with sex, vulgarity, drugs, and crime. And go to church! Get out there and church shop if you don’t have one now.

This may seem drastic but please believe me when I say this… NOTHING you are about to do is easy. You need as much support and peace as possible in EVERYTHING you do.

So…. GO! Go make your list! Start now! Block some numbers, delete some apps, change the channel, and tomorrow’s Sunday so go to church! GO! Let me know how you do! ❤️

“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” – Isaiah 30:21 (ESV)

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Song: Need You Now by Plumb