My friend, Karen, would call what I’m about to do: dignity.
I’ve been working on this post for about 5 days now – such progress in my first week without cable TV – ha!
When was it worth it to me to risk of facing my demons?
When it helps me heal so that I can help others. In my humble opinion.
I’m feeling especially brave today.
And, almost 3 years ago today, this was my heart’s cry one weary night because abuse assaults your soul and you feel like a part of you died that day…
I heal a little more each time I can share openly. And, what I’m about to share is about me, but also to help bring awareness to those little ones still out there being hurt.
Also, to the little ones now big ones that may be your friend, co-worker, spouse, parent, relative…that may need just a little more compassion and patience.
And, because we all have a story or two. All of us. I am so encouraged when someone respects themselves enough to share their story – so here’s my effort at respecting myself.
I was abused at the age of 5 by the dirty hands of a neighbor, who happened to be a sheriff – oh, and his daughter was my best friend. I also remember him peeping in my bedroom window, scaring me any chance he could: when I was picking honeysuckle on our shared fence, he would hide on the other side and try to grab me. I never screamed, though.
Or when I’d go to his house to play with my best friend, he’d be hiding behind the door with pantyhose over his head and jump out and grab me. Why didn’t I scream?? I just was scared – and then he’d just laugh. A dark laugh. Really messed me up. This was all leading up to the actual abuse. I know now it’s called “grooming” – testing his boundaries with me and my reactions. Educating myself does help me take the power back. (Hero Project)
I lost my best friend after I told my parents he hurt me, just as he promised. I remember standing in our front yard crying because she was in her drive way and wouldn’t look at me after it happened. No telling what he was telling her. But, I had nightmares more about losing her at first.
I was pretty fortunate, though – my parents believed me. Called the police and had him charged. Then, got me the HECK out of that neighborhood.
The first trip to the police station, the office that “interviewed” me was horrible. I was alone in an office with him, and he starts raising his voice to me, telling me I’m a liar, no one will believe anything happened to me and that I was destroying a man’s life. Then, he tried to get me to physically REENACT what happened to me. I just started crying.
The lies I started believing were that my voice has no place and does not matter. No one will believe me. And, speaking up meant being scared and bad things happened when I did. I lose people. Beginning of people pleasing. When the shame of that evil was placed on me. Took me so long to distinguish between the shame of the evil and what was mine to carry: which was I was not shamed.
As in the Bible, anything done in the dark is brought into the light. Someone called my mom from the police station and told her this guy was the friend of my perpetrator’s son, also in the force. So, could I come back and give my statement to a female office with my parents listening in?
My mom filled in those blanks for me! Thankfully, I can talk about all this with her. And, my dad now, too. That’s part of healing – I don’t want to be shamed or silenced when I need to talk about it. It puts me backwards. I didn’t do anything wrong, so in talking about it openly confirms that.
In my speaking up, his wife and daughter finally left the bastard. GOOD!! I STILL think about his daughter, praying that if it’s good for her and me, one day we would reunite. I want to know she’s OK – because I’m confident he was abusing her. I pray for her regularly. And, I want her to see I’m OK.
But, my awareness of what that year of knowing him did to me didn’t start to be clear to me until after 1 failed marriage, a giant heap of debt I couldn’t even breath, a weight out of control in my mind, and relationships that just always wore me out. I was functioning in a level of depression/PTSD for so long, I just didn’t even know it.
What a gift when my counselor here in Texas named what I was showing symptoms of: you are not crazy, Melissa. You are functioning in crisis mode as things are triggering you. PTSD. It’s tricky, but manageable. And, she would say, Melissa, I feel like your journey is not just about you. You will impact others. Of course, I couldn’t see it yet. Too wrapped up in getting through it. And, frankly – I was jaded.
I think it surprises people when I share that. Not all people, just some. I wanted to seem like I was good. You know, normal? Not so sad, disconnected, confused, forgetful, checked out.
Most beautifully, the story of how I have come to face my past, began with awareness of others’ incredible tragedies. Hang with me here, it’s worth the read. I do apologize if it’s a big choppy:
I was cleaning out my bedside table just this week and ran across a c.d. I’d been looking for and some journal pages from years ago. As I read them, I started to remember myself back then. It’s funny, the issues I’ve spent the last 3 years facing and working through, I was unable to give words to in these pages. Yet, my struggles and confusion were very clearly connected to them.
I smiled and knew – I have healed.
I have come so so far. That’s when I popped that c.d. into the player to hear that one song on it – the only one I listened to. The c.d. is part of a Freedom campaign to raise awareness & fight against Human Trafficking. The band is called Over the Rhine, the song is called “
You see, that’s how God really reached inside my cloudy, hurting heart and helped me find my words. I know, it seems weird being a writer looking for my words. But, I guess, really it was my voice I had been looking for. I’m sure many can relate.
It started one night in Washington. I was working on an art project and a Lifetime movie came on about Human Trafficking. I sat there for 2 hours, crying, riveted, horrified. I couldn’t believe I had no idea of that kind of pain happening. But, it stirred my heart in a way that I was nauseous.
Fast forward, a couple of years, the movie is on again. A reminder. This time, I decided to look into it further.
I checked out a couple of books: one on a survivor from the Rwandan Genocide, Imaculee Ilibagiza called “Left to Tell” & one written by the President of the International Justice Mission, Gary Haugen, called “Terrify No More“
I was being changed from the first pages. Honestly, I couldn’t put them down – I switched back and forth between them reading them simultaneously. Then, I get to the part in Gary’s book where he details why he got into the Human Trafficking fight – he had made a trip to Rwanda after the Genocide. And, it broke him. He knew he had to be a part of fighting.
OK, hang with me a little longer – coffee break? I’m connecting stuff that was pretty powerful in my little life.
I sat there, rubbing my eyes, thinking – how in the world did I pick up two books where the author was inspired by the other’s history? Seems silly, but I felt compelled that something bigger was being taught to me. I did feel pretty small, like, what could I do about this hurting and horrifying reality?
Well, I was also training for a 18k Trail Run – so I was on the treadmill a lot back then (would do me good now!). As I was running one Sunday morning, a fantastic MercyMe song in my ears, I started praying. Asking God, why am I so unable to stop thinking about those children I’m reading out. Borderline obsessive. I even thought I could hear their names at night when I tried to go to sleep – I would cry and pray for these imaginary children.
Again, the word was compelled – I was drawn to this. I asked myself, how could I even begin to be a part of that fight and what was this undoing beginning deep within me?
I started having more symptoms of my own heart’s cry for attention: short – tempered, isolating myself, migraines, huge forgetfulness, unable to recall things, a deep pinching over my hurt – acute panic.
Well, at church that morning, we walk in and the lobby is plastered with Human Trafficking posters! As, they’d joined other churches in the area in a campaign against it. My husband started laughing because I’d shared with him. I was like, what?! Found out there was a free seminar that afternoon. So, I attended.
It was a very quiet meeting. Very respectful of what we were learning about. A grassroots musician played songs he’d written of specific girls he’d met that had been terrorized. The speaker, an author out of California, wrote a book called “Not for Sale.” I, of course, like all in the room, was just moved to tears.
I walked away stunned. Sick. Changed. Determined to fight with them.
But, my soul was crying out for me to pay attention to it FIRST.
Not in a selfish way, but in a: please help address your pain first.
My symptoms just continued. I switched careers thinking that would make me feel better. But, you can’t run from something inside of you. I still had not connected the dots. At this new job, I full on fell apart. Faced bullying at work, but was asked a life changing question from a dear, godly woman in the office: “Why can’t you speak up?” Then, she looked at me all soft as I just stared at her. I couldn’t even get a word to come out. She said, “Ah, it’s just not in you is it?”
I was like, what? WHY aren’t I able to speak up? What’s wrong with me? I could see I was contributing to the situation, but couldn’t, just couldn’t say anything.
So, the little blackouts started – all at work. When triggered in my cube, feeling so trapped, and surrounded by people that were not kind. I had no idea it was recreating the setting for when I was abused in my neighbor’s bathroom.
As things do, one day IT HIT ME. I was with a wonderful friend at her daughter’s dance practice. Her little girl had asked me to come – who could say no to her? ADORABLE. So, while we were there, my friend asked me if I’d ever taken dance when I was little? Yes, I said, I took a class or two of ballet and tap.
As I said this, like a flip book of memories rushed through my mind of myself at that age – the age the abuse happened. Same age as several of our friends little girls. And, that panic I’d been experiencing suddenly became clear: that’s where this was all coming from.
The body has a way of making you deal – but your mind has a way of making sure you’re ready to remember the worst first. So, body got my attention – my mind finally started releasing the memories. No wonder I was always just so tired.
I don’t know how long I stayed at the dance studio, but I went home all shaky. Crying. Of course, not saying anything to anyone at first.
And, that began the 3+ year journey of facing IT. Sometimes I’m really angry about it. Like, God, can’t I just have a chance at normal without some kind of reaction to a situation or person, or sound. I’m highly sensitive as it is.
But, I wonder: what I would be like if I hadn’t been abused? I have no idea.
All I know is, I’m healing. I’m stronger. I’m braver.
And, my heart knew even back then, part of the reason I wanted to recover was to HELP OTHERS. It wasn’t just for myself. But, I needed to give that little girl in me time to come out of the darkness into the Safe Arms. And, build up trust that even though life WILL continue to throw punches, reminders, evil deceit – what happened to me is OVER. Even if I relive the emotions when I’m triggered, the truth is it is OVER.
But, facing it was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And, it wasn’t pretty. The deep roots of lies planted in me were fierce.
Because facing it as an adult, I truly grasp all that happened to me, what was robbed from me, and the unjust damage done to my femininity and intimacy.
But, I believe in restoration.
So, I came back “home” to Texas. I just needed as much leverage in my brokenness as I could find. Something about being here, gave me a little more power in this. Hard to explain unless you’ve been there.
Without key people in my life I could not have come as far as I have.
So, the thing now is: remembering enough to keep fighting that evil. Because it is real. And, it is attacking people and their souls. And, when I get all mixed up, I know now I can work through it.
So, as I heal, and I share, I look to reaching out to those who are still in that dark place of facing IT.
And, now, it is my HONOR.
Thank you for listening.