Saturday, September 22, was the 3 year anniversary of when I was raped… most recently. Let me explain. This was not the first time. I have a long history of surviving these experiences, starting as early as the ages of 3 and 5. And this is not uncommon. Many people, especially those who started their lives as victims, are victimized again. Predators have a keen sense of who would be a good victim, and those who were victimized in their formative years know no other way of being. It has taken nearly a decade of intense therapy to unlearn the things that I was taught as a child victim.
I hear a lot of people substitute the word “survivor” in place of “victim.” In the years that you are just surviving, this is very accurate. You’re a victim when it happens, and a survivor in whatever you do afterwards to keep yourself alive, moving forward. I developed addictions, an eating disorder, and other self destructive behaviors to survive. My brain could not cope with reality. How could it? Reality was a living nightmare. Pure hell. These are the things I did to survive. To kill this thing inside of me. To get by despite it all. I thought I was doing pretty well. I didn’t realize the extent to which these experiences were destroying my life, until my behaviors came to a head. It was life or death from there. Keep doing what I was doing and let it kill me, or fight and as a result, live. My problem was, I didn’t want to live. I had no interest in it whatsoever. Which is why I nearly died numerous times. But there was some sort of secret spark in me. It was the bane of my existence, and it wanted me alive, when every other part of me wanted to die. It was my incurable hope. And thus, this blog was born, to document it. To explore it.
Today, I don’t see myself as a survivor. I am beyond that. I use the terminology, because it is what people are familiar with. Today, I am a thriver. My life, my success, my flourishing, is my big “fuck you” to everyone who hurt me. Though, today, I’m not angry or bitter. I let that go. It was too heavy. I punished myself with it long enough, believing that I was somehow punishing them by doing it. All I knew was someone had to pay. But I forgive myself for that now. I didn’t understand. I forgive most people, but contrary to popular belief, forgiveness is not necessary for healing. Some things, only God can forgive. I am only human. Today, my heart hurts for that little girl, for every little girl still living and suffering. Not just those who are still being abused, but those who are now grown women, with little girls still trapped inside, reliving it daily. Punishing themselves for the acts of others.
Look, I’ve come a lot further than a lot of former victims ever do. I’ve been blessed. But I do know this: I am supposed to share my experience so that the others know it is possible to not just survive, but to thrive. To use the pain as fuel. To live your meaningful lives. These are things you CAN overcome. As a matter of fact, there’s now even a name for that: posttraumatic growth. And you can achieve it. I promise you, you can.
I don’t want to make it seem like these these things won’t affect you for the rest of your life. They never go away. They will always hurt. At times, they still haunt me. But it is possible to get to a place where they no longer control you. Where they do not shake you. Where you can observe them from a distance that will prevent you from broken by them every. single. time. You’re heart can hurt for the child within, but you will be equipped to comfort her with the compassion you never received. You. Can. Heal. And you can help others do the same. Once you find that love for yourself, you will want to share it with others. ALL of us who were victimized deserve that.
He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Luke 22:41-44 NIV
This is not only my favorite part of the Easter story, but quite possibly my favorite moment in the entire Bible. We know Jesus is God in human form, but this is his most human moment. I imagine the prayer/conversation going something like this (paraphrasing, of course): “So, God/father, I know I have to be crucified and all, but I was just wondering if there might be a way to get around that whole part of this? Its going to suck pretty badly, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask if there was any other way to do this? I mean, at the end of the day, its your will, not mine. Just wanted to check.”
Who of us would not feel like that with such a task at hand? Overwhelmed, scared, full of dread. And yet, who of us would have the strength to surrender to God’s will with such an impending fate? I love that God sent an angel to strengthen him. It shows the ability of God to strengthen us in times of desperate struggle. For us, the angels may be literal or figurative, referring to people that He sends. Either way, He strengthens us. He sends help. He listens to our anguish. Jesus knew the reason he came. He knew this event was unavoidable and would feel unbearable, and yet he asked God for a way out. And yet, he ultimately surrendered to God’s will. He knew his mission and the purpose, and knowing how it would feel, he ultimately agreed to it… For us.
He knew the purpose it would serve was too great.
How many times have I begged God for a way out?
How many times have I pleaded for another way?
And did he listen? Always.
And did he strengthen me to get me through? Absolutely.
And did my anguish end up serving some greater purpose, either for myself or others? Every. Single. Time.
Did my ultimate surrender to God’s will help me accept the task at hand? You bet.
God is faithful when our fears distract us. God is present in our struggle. He will give us the strength to get through and accomplish great things. He is there. He is there because He knows our anguish. He has felt it for himself. He knows our desperation and fear. He’s been there. Even when we feel like He has forsaken us, still, He remains at our side.
Seven years ago today, I sat in church pews long after the congregation had left. Tormented about making a decision to follow Christ or go home and die. I had questions, tons of them. And fears and doubt and hesitation and anger. One thing I did not have was anything left to lose. And that’s how this all began…
My parents like to frequent the same restaurants. They find one they like and go there loyally from that moment on. There was a tea room in a nearby town they discovered, and fell in love with. Once they became regulars, they got to know the family who owned it. The family had lost a son to suicide some years back, and they got to talking about me. I’m not sure exactly what those conversations looked like, but obviously my having lived a suicidal life arose at some point. When I moved back to the area, I became a pet project for that family. No one in the family was more relentless in this pursuit than Kathryn. Kathryn was obnoxiously enthusiastic about Jesus. Like… she REALLY effin loved Jesus. Her spunk drove me insane. I was low energy, grumpy, and wanted to be left alone. I’m not sure how I responded when she started inviting me to church. In my head I imagine smiling, nodding, and shrugging it off. She did not stop asking. Eventually, I decided I’d just shut her up by obliging. “Then,” I thought, “She’ll leave me alone.”
So, that Saturday night, I went. I was planted in my chair through the entirety of the ordeal. My arms were crossed. I had a scowl on my face. I did not sing. I did not stand. I said nothing. “I’ll go, but I don’t have to enjoy it.” I guess I thought if I was enough of a jerk, it’d scare them away. Or maybe I just assumed I knew how church went, and I thought it was all a crock of shit, and all Christians were the same, predictable. As I heard the pastor preach, though, something in my heart started to open. I was certain he’d say something to piss me off, but he did not. Everything he said, I could get behind. It was hopeful, and beautiful, and inspiring, and yet, I was dead set on never going back after that. Kathryn, on the other hand, had different plans. Kathryn kept inviting me back. So, eventually, I surrendered and kept going.
I’d heard the “altar calls” many times, before the night of March 27th rolled around. I don’t know if it had crossed my mind. It probably had. But I’ve always been one to question authority. If this Jesus had so much hope and love and forgiveness, why were Christians often the worst of the jerks? Is God a man? Why is God a man? Men had never done any favors for me. If EVERYONE has access to the forgiveness of Jesus, then that means that the people who abused me when I was a small, helpless child had access to that forgiveness. “Some things,” I believed, “are simply unforgivable.” Where was God in all of that? The altar call came and went that night, and I wanted to go up there, but I wanted answers to all these questions and more, first. As ridiculously impulsive as I’ve been all my life, I wanted to be certain before I committed to this nonsense. I let the call pass, and after service, I started assaulting the pastor with questions. Eventually, he had to go. I sat in the pew, the church now empty except for Kathryn, her sister, and myself. I looked at the clock, then the door, and thought to myself, “If I go home tonight, I’m going to kill myself.” I figured, that this decision could not hurt, so I was going to try it.
With Kathryn and Bekah by my side, I bowed my head and prayed out loud.
Someone recently asked me what exactly it means to “accept Christ.” Here’s the thing, I didn’t really know at the time either. Truth is, its pretty simple. All it takes is a prayer, you’re own version of, “God, I’m tired of doing this alone. I need your help, your forgiveness, and your love. I believe that Jesus did all these awesome things to offer me that, and I am accepting that gift now, and accepting you into my heart.” Feel free to paraphrase as your heart guides. You could do it right this second, if you want.
God is not imposing. He waits for us. A lot of non-believers wonder where God is. God will not interfere in your life if you do not wish to have him there. He’s just waiting for an invitation. After you’ve offered that, he will take care of the rest.
I’d never doubted God’s existence. That belief came naturally to me, although the Jesus thing seemed weird. I didn’t get the death and resurrection concept. Seemed odd, zombie-like, and also there’s the cannibalistic symbolism of the last supper. It was pretty far out to me. I had been told numerous times in high school that I couldn’t be Christian if I didn’t do X, Y, and Z, and I thought “guess I’m not Christian, then.” So, for years I had left it at that. “Guess I don’t qualify.”
What Kathryn, and others in that church taught me, is all the hope that is found in Jesus. I had heard all the zillion things Christians are against, but not once heard about all the hope Jesus had to offer. Hope was something I could get behind. Hope was something I needed desperately. And who doesn’t need unconditional love?
After that night, things did not change instantaneously. It was a process, but it changed my life forever. I still had struggles, and sometimes still do. But the ball was set into motion. That was March 27th, 2011. In July, I had a near death experience that opened my eyes to spiritual truths I had previously been uncertain of, which led to my sobriety. By November, I was off to residential treatment, for all of my issues. Five months of treatment was covered 100% by my insurance. There, my meds got straight, I let go of my addictions, and my eating disorder. I had a chance to process a lifetime of trauma and grief. I moved to California on my own after that (somewhere I’d always dreamt of living), and started my life in recovery. I met a wonderful sponsor with whom I am still very close. I became strong in my recovery, and built a community. In the years since, every time I think things could not possibly get any better, they do. They get better to a new extent to which I had previously thought impossible. I have an incredible life. I have everything I need, do all the things I love, and have accomplished new goals, and set my sights on new heights. It is unimaginably awesome, and it only gets better. God certainly had way more in store for me than I could’ve ever dreamt for myself. I had previously believed I’d just be suicidal until I eventually succeeded in that, and that would be my life.
I am a different person, inside and out.
In the past two years, I’ve lost 130 lbs. Thursday, I’ll celebrate one year of running. April 15th, I’ll be doing a TEN mile race!!! I’ve written this blog, and shared my triumphs and struggles, and helped numerous people. I have several sponsees, and find myself being told over and over that I’ve inspired someone in some way, or helped people out of ruts. All without even realizing I was doing it. And honestly, I feel like the wealthiest person in the world as a result. Sometimes, I pity the people who think they have it all, when all they really have is material wealth.
Did I know ANY of this was possible on March 27th, 2011? No. I had no clue. All knew was I had an option to go home and die, or try something new that could possibly help in some way. So, I took a leap. And this is where I’ve landed. It was literally the best decision of my life.
God has healed my heart of so much hurt. I was so relentlessly bitter back then. I was angry at God. I thought he was punishing me. I wanted nothing to do with a male God. I blamed him for it all. In the years since, I’ve recognized God’s presence in even my darkest moments. He never gave up on me. And I see it now. Little things I was blind to before. Look, I know people have hurt you. Maybe the church has hurt you. Your pain is very valid, but God is neither those people nor the church. Every time you were hurt, it hurt God’s heart as well. He hurts where we hurt. It pains him to see us mistreated and abused. I have learned this to be true. God is not angry at us for our mistakes. He sees us as beautiful works of art, and loves every little quirk about us. No, God is not a man, so don’t get it twisted. God is beyond our earthly limitations. These very concepts are boxes God cannot fit into. Many languages default to the masculine when referring to something ambiguous in that way. Is it right? No, but its easy. If you have a different pronoun you’d prefer, go for it. God does not want to punish us. God just wants to love unconditionally, and help us in this process we call life. God is always there. He is faithful and reliable. Does everyone have access to this forgiveness? Absolutely, but you should know that many people will not choose to pursue it.
I am a kinder, more compassionate person these days. I make healthier decisions. I am a septillion times happier, seriously. I will always be a work in progress, but how far I’ve come is nothing short of miraculous. Anyone who knew me before will wholeheartedly attest to that.
I’ve had all of my questions answered. If ever I have new ones arise, God answers those as well. My heart has been healed. I can attest to God’s faithfulness. I celebrate this anniversary more than any other and always will. It is the longest I’ve committed to anything. There is no turning back, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you have questions, feel free to reach out. There is so much more to say, but this is just a blog, not my memoir. Stay tuned for that. I’m just happy to share this hope wherever I can. It is too wonderful to keep it to myself.
Hmmmm….. Where do I start?
I’m a positive person… so let’s start there.
When I hear people’s stories I am amazed by the tapestry woven in this world by each of us. Our struggles, our triumphs, our pain, our joy, our grief, our growth, our journey. It is incredible. I’ve heard so many of them. Some quite tame. Some more harrowing than even I have ever ventured to fathom. Everyone has survived some hurdle of some sort. Everyone started at nothing and transformed into a unique creature. And no two stories are alike. There are similarities, sure. That’s how we relate. We all have regrets. We all have stories that pain us to recount. We all have something to be grateful for, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, there’s something to be valued there nonetheless. It is beautiful.
When I take a step back from the canvas to take a better look, I’m in awe of God’s handiwork. The detail is incredible. And the colors… my GOD, the colors. When I take it all in, I can’t help but be filled with gratitude, because I am a part of this work of art. This makes me a work of art. This makes each of us a work of art. And valuable beyond words and beyond our wildest dreams.
Honestly, this blog post has been on my mind since I started writing again. This subject matter is what brought me back to my writing. And it is one that is very close to my heart. I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not to disclose what I’m about to disclose. I know people are going to read this and honestly believe I’ve lost my fucking mind for sharing it. That’s fair, but can you lose something you never really had? That being said, this, like everything else I share here, and plan to share in my memoirs, affects me quite deeply. It is no different than my depression, or my eating disorder, or my addiction. I have a past that isn’t pretty, and its a mess, but it is a valuable mess. It has brought me to where I am, and despite the painful moments, life is so much better here and thus, I am infinitely grateful to have arrived where I am.
I think I’m going to start with the story, and tell what it is about at the end. Not to make you suffer for it (mostly heh heh), but because I’m reconsidering how I always deliver this information. And I don’t want you to get lost on the subject and either stop there, or not hear anything I have to say after that. I think that’s where most people get hung up. Or maybe I won’t tell you at all, we’ll see. My writing just writes itself sometimes, I’m just here to transcribe.
Let’s refer back to the fact that everyone has a past. I have shared far more of my struggles on this blog than I care to go back and read about. My archives are just that. You’re welcome to read, just don’t forget to focus on how the story ends. Because its a happy ending(ish). That being said, I have a trauma history that I am careful to disclose in little pieces when getting to know someone new. We typically don’t know each other long enough for them to know it all. They usually get halfway(ish) through. *Insert funny meme about depressing subject matter here, to soften the blow of this part,*
So… that’s about how that goes. (I’m trying to figure out how to follow that… positive… right) My life is the tapestry. Everyday there are many things to grateful for. I see on a daily basis how God works in my life. He reminds me constantly of how much He values me, and how GOOD He is. (I think I wrote that part for me.) And… then the past is dark. There’s the trauma, the destructive tendencies that came from them, and now… the medical ramifications of it all. This is where things start to come back to haunt me. I have an uncanny ability to forget the past. I forget the people who hurt me. I’ve forgotten most of my traumas. I forget guys most easily. I’ve had guys come back to me 10-15 years later telling me they’ve loved me all this time (super convenient for me, right?) and I have barely or not at all remembered who they were. Yesterday, I found a blocked voicemail on my phone from a “Mike” who proceeded to tell me that I was wicked and evil and to lose his number. It was weird because I have no recollection of who it is, and I had blocked and deleted him from my phone, so apparently I used to know. The funny part is that he told ME to lose his number. Oh the irony! Anywho, I am able to wipe my past away, and I believe God has blessed me with that. It is hard for me to beat myself up for anything when I can’t remember it anyway. When my eating disorder recovery caught up to me, my heart stopped working. I had medical ramifications. They were serious, but I overcame them. I am starting to have pretty serious side effects from years of taking the same meds. It is requiring me to address new medical issues brought on by that. Everything comes at a cost, right? But one thing I have because of my past that never lets me forget is herpes. It barely affects my life at all besides taking a medication for it daily. But I take like 13 medications, so what’s one more? I don’t ever have to think about it until I find myself starting a romantic relationship. Then it plagues me. When is the right time to say it? How do I say it? Should I say it? Should I even try relationships at all? Most of the people I’ve told up until 2018 have taken it quite well. It has never ended a relationship until now. Most people are ignorant on the matter, and I’ve memorized all the data to relay. I’d share it here, but I’m feeling real “who gives a fuck” at the moment now, so I don’t really care. I guess that part was redundant. Others know enough about it, to realize it shouldn’t be a concern with someone informed on the matter. My vision is starting to blur.
Allow me to refocus.
A lot of people get to my age and have shit. They have regrets, failed marriages, failed careers, kids to raise, they have a lot of stuff. Luckily for me, I have an advantage here, because I’ve worked diligently on overcoming my shit. I’m now doing better than the majority of normal people I meet. That aside, since 2018 began, this issue has come up for me. And it has been a hangup every time. I’m wondering what I’m doing wrong here. Like, have I suddenly lost value? Something about me just isn’t THAT wonderful now? Maybe I’m less interesting. Maybe people see my face and don’t really listen to a word I have to say anyway, so when they bail, they think “just another pretty face, the world is full of those.” Or maybe people have developed a superiority complex, or I’ve developed an inferiority complex. Maybe it is my delivery? Maybe it is my timing?
But the gist is that I walk away having taken a significant blow to my self worth. And I’m not sure I’m equipped to put myself in that situation again. So… I have two options in that case. Stop telling people, or stop being open to romantic relationships entirely. Obviously, I don’t consider the former a legitimate option.
Every time it happens, I recount every mistake I’ve ever made. It all comes back. Every choice. Every regret. “If I just hadn’t gone here.” Or “If I had never talked to that person.” And by the end of it, I am so daunted that I’m buried in everything I’ve ever done wrong. And it all looks like too much to ever escape it, Which is a really horrible place to be, because the truth is, I already HAVE escaped it. I’m on the other side. I am a new person. In these moments, I forget this. I forget my value. I forget my worth. I forget God’s grace, and the way God sees me. I forget that I deserve someone that sees me through THOSE eyes, and loves me in THAT way, and I really don’t need to waste my time on anything less anyway.
You know… I have these moments and I wonder what good God’s redemption is when I have to live out the rest of my life in a world full of people who only see what’s wrong with me, and with each other, really. If my mistakes will always define me, even though I’ve let them go. Again and again, I’ve let them go. What’s the point? Is there no escaping this? Will I be punished for my past forever? Should I just walk away from relationships entirely?
Luckily for me, I have my writing. Seriously, I realize I just poured my guts out, including a lot of TMI, but here’s the thing about my writing… People have ALWAYS read it and come to me and said “me too.” “You put into words what I’ve never been able to express.” They’ve related. I know from the research that I’ve done that this is an EXTREMELY common issue. And I know there are A LOT of people out there who suffer through this in silence. I seriously doubt there are many other people out there willing to share that. Since the beginning, one of my biggest frustrations about this is the fear surrounding it. It is shrouded in silence, and no one wants to say it, and so no one knows anything about it. And if people knew, it wouldn’t be nearly as scary.
So, this is where I come in. And my words. Because they are all I have, and that is where my power lies. So do with it all of it what you will.
God, I come to You humbled by the work You have done and are constantly doing in my life. I thank You.
God, I ask that You show me opportunities daily where I can glorify You and serve others. I ask that You give me the strength to serve You in every capacity, to step out of my comfort zone and work as Your disciple.
God, please stay always close in my mind, heart, and spirit. You are my everything. Help me live in such a way that my body becomes a tool to glorify and serve You.
Help me remember always that I am a new person in You, free from the bondage that used to dictate my life. Show me also, who I am capable of being in You, and don’t ever accept less from me. Guide me down the path that You designed for me, and help me fulfill my purpose in You.
Mold me daily into a better human being. Help me to see others through Your eyes, and treat others with the same respect, love, and forgiveness that You have for them.
Help me stay moment-by-moment in a state of gratitude for the miracles you have performed and are performing in my life.
Help to perfect me, and help me to mature. Give me the stability and determination it takes to accomplish even everyday, ordinary tasks consistently. Help me to put away selfishness, stubbornness, and hard-headedness to accomplish all these things for Your glory.
Driving home from a meeting tonight, I listened to my favorite group. They’re called All Sons & Daughters. This song came on: (close your eyes and listen)
This song brings me to tears.
Part of it is the way the describe the heart ache of watching Jesus on the cross, and the way the promise of His return is the only thing that kept them holding on. I totally understand this. It automatically sends me to a place where I think about that sacrifice that He made for me. For me! How totally absurd is that? I’m not even a smudge on the pages of history. I’m just one of billions of people walking this planet. But wow, He had me in mind while making that sacrifice. He wanted to set ME free. Of course, He wanted to set all of us free, but we weren’t just faces in a crowd to Him. We weren’t just another number among the billions. He had each of us in mind on that day. And there was this pain. Can you imagine what it was like to watch Him die? How it would make your heart ache to see someone you love go through that? But they held on, believing He would return. And here I am today, holding on with the same promise in mind. I never used to understand why people would look forward to the return of Christ, but I get it now. I would be so happy to get to be near Him.
By the time the song is over, I’m so aware of that sacrifice and what it meant for me. I am so humbled by Him making the choice to make such a sacrifice to set me free. I know that everything I have, I have because of God. All of it. All I want is to be the best person I can be, for God. I can never be worthy of what He did for me, but I want to be as close as I can possibly be. I want nothing more than to be a good person for the sake of trying with everything I have in me to repay this debt. I know I cannot repay, and He wouldn’t even want me to. He didn’t do it with our compensation in mind. He did it knowing that our freedom was the reward. Can you imagine how joyous it is to see someone you love set free from the bondage of this dark world?
I give you all the glory, God. I can never repay You, but I pray you see my heart and know how grateful I am to my very core. I’m nothing without You. Everything I have, I have because of You. Everything I have accomplished, is because of You alone. I want nothing more than to know You more and live a life that gives You glory. I want nothing more than to serve You. I am forever indebted to You, and forever grateful for You. I love You with everything I have, every fiber of my being. I am Yours.
I have this ache within me, knowing that I can never repay God for all that God has done for me. What a humbling feeling.