I Choose…

I have spoken briefly from time to time on my inability to make choices as others seem more freely able to do. I believe this to be a difficult concept for the average person to understand. It appears to me that for most of the individuals in my life they grew up and pretty much followed their heart (desire, yearning, thoughts, wishes and/or expectations) to the next phase of their lives. When I think back to my teenage years and those in my peer group and my older sisters, it appeared to me that everyone had a goal in mind and whether it was to marry their “high school sweetheart” or go to college or get a job or whatever, they appeared to have the ability to create the vision that they had for themselves. Along with this ability most seemed capable of changing those goals mid- stream and moving toward a different, but equally clear path if a change became necessary.

I had the ability to set some goals and to work toward the success of them, but my goals were more geared toward what I did not want in life rather than what I did want. This is where I think the breakdown was for me in choice making. I was focused on safety and living in fear which drastically limited my range of choices. I could not choose whether or not I wanted to get married nor have children because I knew that this was not possible for me. I could not trust men, I could not bear to have sex, I could not imagine going through the terror of just having the normal female exams. And because there existed so many things that I could not do those things were no longer choices.

I became a person who had no ability to achieve the choice therefore the choice could not be made. When I was a junior or senior in high school people began to question us on “what we want to be when we grow up”. I could never tell anyone that my honest answer was “I grew up long ago, but I have no plans to have a future”. I never expected to live long and I saw no reason to set forth goals that I knew were not achievable. But at the same time I had to appear to go along with the peer group.

So much of this type of existence has changed for me. I am no longer this person and yet I have not fully developed into who the Lord intends me to be either. I am in flux and enjoying now what I would have been able to enjoy long ago if not for the actions of another. Some choices for me are gone forever. I will never have a child as I am past the age of conceiving and so I continue to tell myself that I never wanted a child, but I’m not so sure that is true. I don’t think about it too often because it again feels pointless to put energy into something that I cannot make a different choice about. Recently someone asked me if I now have a goal of getting married someday. I told them no and tried to explain to them that for me I am working always not to achieve what I think or someone else thinks I should but instead what the Lord wants for me. I told this person that I have changed  in this manner: I no longer have the goal of never getting married and that if someday the Lord has someone for me then I want to be open to that and able to accept the gift.

Today I am making choices that until recently I would never have even thought about. A few years ago I didn’t know that I had an ability to write and express my thoughts and feelings. I could never have stood in front of a group of people for any reason as I would have been so scared that they would somehow know that I had been sexually abused just by looking at me. I could not have prayed out loud and felt so comfortable talking to my Lord. I was UNABLE to share in any way with anyone. And I could not imagine just 3 years ago that I would one day be sharing my innermost thoughts with whoever wished to read them.

Today I am excited about what my life and future holds for me. I am feeling so ready to reach out to you all and touch your lives in some meaningful way. I am thrilled with the prospect of sharing the Lord and his wonderful healing work. I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death and I have joyfully come out of the darkness with the Lord by my side. I am prayerfully seeking his wisdom and will at this time. I have learned so much about myself and how I have processed my trauma, but I know I have much to learn about how to assist you with your hurt. I pray that the Lord will teach me how best to help others. I pray that this coming New Year will bring me full circle and that I will be prepared to accomplish all that he wants for me. I pray. God Bless.

 

What if?

I’m not sure when I understood the meaning of hyper vigilance but once I did I knew I had been living this way for as long as I can remember. This state of being is more intense than just being observant. In fact most of the time I could not tell you what color the carpet is in my office or my mother’s house. I don’t know what color the walls are or if the pictures have always been there. I may not even remember later what you were wearing when we spoke. My brain does not seem to find this type of information important and it therefore does not store it for later recall.

When I am in most any situation what my brain is taking in is the potential for danger. I am observing the general surroundings and those who are in my space. I am watching you for signs of aggression or anger and I am storing where all of the exits are and how I may go about getting to one if needed. For as long as I can remember I never went anywhere, even out on my own porch without thinking “What if someone tries to attack me? What will I do, where is the safest place to be?” I have done this for so long that I don’t really have to think through each step I am just scanning and automatically doing it.

My mom is often concerned about my health and she tries to encourage me to sit outside in the sun. She does not understand that there is nothing relaxing about that proposition. I sit there with a steady conversation going on inside my brain. It generally goes something like this. “What if a man comes around the corner of the house and I can’t hear him approaching? What should I do if he rushes me? If this happens I will stand up and grab the chair I am sitting in and attempt to hit him. Okay, that might work but then what? I don’t know if I could get inside the house and lock it before he would recover. I don’t want to be at his mercy inside my house, out of the sight of possible help. I might be able to get around him and down the stairs but I am not certain and I know that I cannot out run him. I could always yell really loud. Yes I would do that for sure. I wonder if anyone would help me if I yelled? Look behind you. The attack could come from that direction so be aware. Turn the chair around and sit with your back to the house so you can see all sides. Yes that is better. At least if he comes from the backside I have more time to get inside and call the police. Did I put that number in my phone? I’m sure that I did, but I need to check that to be certain. I think I will go inside and do that now.” By this time I have sat outside in the sun for maybe 4 minutes then gone back inside and locked the deadbolt.

I at times go places alone. I have always done this as I have spent the vast majority of my adulthood alone. I have to go alone to buy groceries and supplies, but I really almost never go out to eat or do any serious shopping or see a movie alone. For one thing I find these events to be very depressing to do alone and I would rather be at home if I am going to be alone anyway. But for those very few times that I have eaten out by myself here is an example of what is happening in my mind. “I don’t know why I came in here. I should have just gone home and eaten there. I am the only person in here by myself, no wait there is one old man in the corner looking lonely. What should I eat? Maybe just something quick, no need to linger in here. A group of laughing people just came in, they look like they are having fun. Maybe I should just order this to go and eat it in my car on the way home. I hope I parked in a safe place. It is getting dark sooner than I expected it to. I don’t remember if I parked under a light. I don’t want to wait too long to go outside, I may not be able to see if some man comes at me from behind the other cars. I should have just drove on home. I’m not really hungry anyway. I will just get a sandwich to go and head on home where I am safe.”

When I was much younger and in much better physical health I often had thoughts of actual physical violence against an attacker, but as I aged and after I hurt my back I realized that I was so much more vulnerable to being hurt if someone wanted to hurt me. I felt helpless and powerless to protect myself so I think I just became more isolated from the world. If I could not protect myself then I had no desire to even risk it. If I had not had to work to live I could have easily become afraid to leave my house and eventually I would have stayed completely away from other humans. I think I am one of those individuals that projects strength to others but the reality is that I was frightened all time. I think I just got really good at hiding this fear because showing that would have raised the question of “why” and I never wanted anyone to ever know what had happened to me.

If no one ever asked me “did someone hurt you” or “did something bad happen to you” I felt like I was successful in life. Everything I did or did not do was based on keeping this secret. When I was young I got invited to go to the abuser’s house to spend the night. This was because at that time I was friends with his sister who was my age. I was ALWAYS afraid to go there after the day of the rape, but I went to cover up the events that had taken place there. I thought if I didn’t go then I would be questioned as to why by my friend first and maybe my mother eventually. I thought it was a sure way to be found out. I went but I was extremely watchful of him and I did everything I could think of as a very young child to keep safe while I was in the lion’s den. I remember I spent time just sitting with my friends mother at her kitchen table. I made sure to never be alone and if my friend went to the bathroom I went with her or I went to talk to her mother. I was also very scared of this man’s dad and other brothers, but not because of anything they had done. They were now guilty by just being men in my mind. All men were dangerous and scary and I didn’t want to be around any of them ever!

I began at a very young age asking myself “what if” and I always answered the questions. I thought out every scenario I could imagine might happen to me and exactly what I was going to do to prevent a future rape. That was my only goal in life. Period. I didn’t care about anything else but safety and I knew that safety did not exist for me. I was broken by the events in that cornfield and it would be decades before there was healing for that young child who was left there. Going through the “what if’s” in my mind helped me to begin to learn to problem solve and eventually I became very good at moving all of the pieces around to find a solution that would keep me safe for another day, another night.

The one thing that I knew deep in my soul was that I could not bear to be raped again. I just couldn’t live through that again. I guess that on some level all women face being physically scared in some way during their lives. If they are not actually harmed they may be more cautious and aware of the dangers after that, but for adults of childhood rape there is no safety anywhere. We know the horror that others just suspect and we know that we have no control in a dangerous world. It is not easy to have that knowledge and not allow it to adversely affect you.

The only hope we have for healing is through Christ Jesus our Lord. I can now go long periods of time and not be so focused on just the painful possibilities in life. I could go out to eat alone, although I will always park where I think I will be the most safe and I will always pay close attention when I am in parking lots and getting in my car. Do I do this because I am living in fear? No I do this now because I am living in reality and our reality is that  we live in a very dangerous world. I pray that someday the women and girls of this world can walk free from fear but I don’t think this will happen before our Lord comes again. I guess until then I will continue to be self-protective and I will try to find ways to not allow this situation to isolate me from others as much. I pray that someday I will have a chance to meet other women who speak my language. But until that time, I will continue to speak to myself. God Bless.

 

 

Getting Through It -vs- Getting Over It

Getting over it: just three words that can hurt so much. Why? Why does it hurt me when you say this to me? Mostly it is because it indicates that you do not understand my pain. I think that I just feel even more alone when it is obvious that people in my life have no idea why I can’t just “get over it”.

A few days ago someone close to me said that “at some point you just have to get over it and move on”. This is not the first time I have had this sentiment mentioned to me and I am sure it will not be the last. A few years ago I would have been very hurt and angry by someone making this suggestion to me. It would have offended me greatly and I would probably have cried more tears. It was a bit of a surprise to realize that these words did not have the power to hurt me as they once had. I think it is because I don’t have any expectations for others behavior or words towards me as I once did. For a long time it was really upsetting to be told to ‘get over it’ when this was something I could not achieve. I would think “do you believe that I don’t want to feel any differently? Do you think that if I could I would never think about these past events again? Do you really believe that the answer is so simple as just ‘moving on’?”

My time in therapy has helped me realize that others who have not experienced sexual abuse just cannot imagine the horror that it was and therefore cannot understand that to say ‘get over it and move on’ is not a choice. This type of hurt, pain and damage requires a specialist just a surely as a serious medical issue does. But it is of course easier for others to empathize with those who have physical pain and illness. Most of us have experienced physical pain and/or illness to some extent. Our experience is what enables us to empathize with those who are seriously ill. We have enough personal understanding to feel sympathy for an illness greater than we have experienced. But because most people have not experienced a “little” sexual abuse they cannot image the pain of it. Sexual abuse is like having brain surgery – either you know what that is like or you don’t and there is no middle ground.

I do not know if it is possible to ‘get over’ sexual abuse. I think that the people who say this to me and others have a thought of the event and its consequences being done, completed, and of no more effect. In some way, because the abuse changed who I was, the child who the event happened to is gone and this damaged person is left behind to struggle through.

I think when you suffer abuse you cannot ‘get over’ the abuse, but I think it is possible to ‘get through’ it. This may seem like a subtle difference or just semantic but what happened to me is always going to be a part of what made me who I am. Through therapy I have been able to work through things, to see truths and to let go of lies and pain. But no amount of time or talk will ever change what occurred or cause me to have amnesia about the details. Even after 5 years of therapy there are still times when certain memories rear up and a darkness envelopes me for a time. The good news is that over time these incidents are fewer and less intense and generally last a few days then I begin to feel better. I have hope now when none existed before.

The way I see it forgetting the bad thing happened, never speaking of it or how I feel about it is not a healthy solution. This seems to me to be what you expect of me when you tell me to “get over it”. I have no problems “getting over it” when you hurt my feelings. I can let it go and I will not spend anymore time or thought on the situation because it is now a moot point. This is not possible with abuse, at least I have not found it to be possible. By the same token I am not saying that I should wallow in pain and fear nor should I dwell unnecessarily on the bad memories. This too would not be healthy. What I cannot understand is why you are taking this position when I am working so hard at healing the hurt. I am actively seeking help through on going therapy and I work at it. I am doing all that I know to do to hopefully one day be ready to speak to others with the confidence that only an emotionally healthy person can.

If your “get over it” is just code for “isn’t it time to stop going to therapy” then I will be disappointing you once again. I have worked too hard for too many hours and cried too many tears to stop now. I have more work to do and if you don’t wish to be a part of the healing that is fine, but don’t stand in my way either. I don’t back down to others wishes anymore. I think for myself now. I take responsibility for my life and all of my decisions now. There is no one to blame any more. If my life is not what I would like it to be it will not be because of some ghost from my past.

I, through my Lord, am making decisions based on truth and I have no reason to stop now. Reading back over this blog makes me realize that I am feeling some strong emotions about this subject. This will likely be a conversation with Ruth.

Oh well, more work to be done…God Bless.

 

 

 

Pleasure within the Pain

This seems like a good time for me to stop the ongoing narrative that follows my healing process to speak to you about something that I feel needs to be understood for you to truly understand the blessings of this healing and the very difficult work that had to be done. In order to tell this part of my story I will need to be a bit more specific about some things but I do not intend to be graphic. So please decide for yourself if you are ready to read this post.

I have spoken to Ruth a few times about not “seeing” my story out there. So many of the abuse stories you hear about deal with incest or abduction. The general story line is that the child was completely innocent and all touching was against the child’s will. It is easy to be sympathetic to these children. But a whole other category of abused children exists; the ones who were groomed. Part of the grooming process involves the abuser convincing the child that the child wants what is happening to their person. In most cases the groomer will work very slowly with the child to gain trust. My abuser was in his teen years, about 15 years old I think. His behavior with me indicates that I was not his first victim and I think it likely that he had experience with grooming victims before.

The first day of abuse was not dark and rainy but sunny and cool, sometime in early April I think. I believe that I am 8 years old and a couple of my siblings and myself are at the neighbor’s house playing Kick the Can. I am hiding behind a grain bin, peeking out at the person who is “it” when I turn around and the abuser is right behind me. I never knew where he came from as I never saw him approach. He smiles, says “shh” and winks at me. And just like that we are connected in this game, on the same side, sharing a moment of fun. I am completely relaxed as I know this person from many other visits and he is a my friend’s brother. He is near the age of my oldest sister and he seems very grown up to me. He peeks around the corner, seeing where everyone is located then he turns back to me. He begins to speak to me about us being friends and not just friends but “special friends”. He says he likes me and that I am special. He wants to be “special friends” with me. Do I want to be his special friend? I remember feeling really good that someone liked me, I immediately felt special and it was a good feeling. I never questioned then as an 8-year-old all the things that make no sense to an adult; like why this 15-year-old would even want to be friends with an 8 year old? What could these two possibly have in common? It was enough for me that he liked me and was showing me some positive attention.

My mind is still on the game going on and I am going back to peek around the corner again. It takes a moment or two for me to realize that he is speaking quietly to me still about being friends. He is telling me that there is special things that happen between these “special friends”. He says that special friends kiss, do I know how to kiss? I am thinking about kissing my parents when I go to bed. I kiss them on the cheek. I think this is what he is referring to. He tells me that if I want to be his friend then we should kiss to show that we like each other. This seems harmless enough so I pucker up but he kisses me on the lips. This is strange to me, I am not sure about this but he immediately is telling me that friends kiss; don’t I know how to kiss a friend? I no longer feel like such a big girl as I understand that there are things that I just don’t know. He tells me that friends kiss to show that they like each other, but that “special friends” french kiss. Do I know what french kissing is? I do not and I tell him so. He tells me that it is open mouth kissing. I don’t understand what he means and that seems kinda yucky. He pulls me towards him and I stiffen up. He says it doesn’t hurt or anything, but if you don’t want to be special friends we won’t do it. Before I can figure that out he is kissing me and it does not hurt although it feels funny to me. He then begins to instruct me on the proper placement of my mouth, “open your mouth a little wider. kissing… good. that’s better. This is nice. kissing…” Then he put his tongue in my mouth. That was a real shock for me. I pulled back but he held my head to him with one hand while he put slight pressure on my back to keep me there. When he was done he began to praise me for how I did. Tell me that it felt good. He used the word “good” over and over while convincing me that what had just occurred was “normal for special friends”. He next began to speak to me about keeping this encounter a secret from everyone else. He told me that if I told anyone that we could not be special friends anymore. He said that the others would want to be a part of this also and he just liked me. It didn’t take long for him to have convinced me that I wanted to kiss, that I wanted to kiss him again, that I was his special friend, and that this behavior was completely normal and going on everywhere between special friends.

The molestation portion of my abuse took place over about 6 months with 60-100 separate incidents of abuse. These abuse sessions moved indoors to a loft and during those times the abuser taught me everything I know about the act of sex. There is nothing that I know that I did not experience with him. As each progression in the abuse took place he seemed kind, patient and loving. And as this person used me for his pleasure I absolutely believed that what we were doing was normal. I never questioned anything that the abuser told me. If he said it was true then I believed it with never a second thought. As he touched me and taught me more and more I physically felt the pleasure that people feel during sexual relations. Even though I was very young I did experience orgasm and this was just one of numerous issues of shame that I have dealt with over my lifetime. In the last few weeks of abuse the abuser begin to use the F word with me. He began to tell me that he was going to F___ me and that I was going to really enjoy it. I had no idea what this was but I trusted my special friend and I never felt that he had hurt me or lied to me before. He continued to speak of it, to get me used to the word even though I had no idea what this would entail. I couldn’t imagine what would come next in this progression of physical and emotional connection, but I knew that it was going to be wonderful because my special friend had told me so.

Every abuse took place on his home turf. He would tell me to come over on certain days and to meet him in the loft. He was always careful to remind me not to be seen and to not tell anyone what was going on. He continued to use the same reasoning with me that he started with, that we could not be friends anymore if I told. He told me often that the other children would be jealous if they found out and they would want to be a part of our time together. He was preparing me physically for the day of rape. Every touch was calculated to elicit a particular response and to get me used to his touching me in all kinds of ways.

After the rape occurred I was completely and utterly devastated. I was physically in horrible pain, I was terrified of the abuser and of anyone finding out what had happened, and I was emotionally broken. I wanted to die but I had no idea how to go about this. The person who I had come to trust more than anyone else in my small world had hurt me, yelled at me, accused me of wanting to be raped, blamed me, and betrayed me. My mind was fractured and it would take nearly 4 decades to put the pieces back together again. I was both terrified of this person and I missed my friend. When I thought of the abuser many years later he became like two different people in my mind. First there was the molester, who cared for me and was my friend and then there was the rapist that hated me and hurt me. I had a really difficult time meshing these two individuals into the one horrible monster that he is.

It required quite a lot of EMDR therapy and talk therapy in order for me to not feel good, warm feelings when I thought of the abuser. I had over the years convinced myself that the molester was the real person and he cared about me and that it was somehow my fault that this person raped me. Even after  more than 5 years of therapy I struggle with feeling angry with this person. Every time I begin to allow myself to feel angry with him I seem to shut it down and refuse to feel it. I don’t understand this yet, I just know it to be true.  The grooming process is an effective tool in trapping young children in abusive situations. It is a horrible thing to trap a child in a place where they have pleasure within the pain. It creates conflict within and confusion.

If you are still reading I thank you for sticking with me. I know it is not easy to hear such things and while I have no desire to be graphic for shock value, I felt it was important for you to understand where I come from in order to understand what occurred during my journey. If you have been groomed, if you felt pleasure please understand that you do not walk alone. Many of us have felt the pleasures of the body while being hurt. Ruth explained it this way to me: “God gave us the ability to feel sexual pleasure, but he never intended for this to be forced upon anyone. To sexualize a child is an evil thing as children are not ready to handle the consequences nor to understand what is occurring.” God intends good for his people but man takes that good and uses and it for evil. Another thing that Ruth would tell me nearly every day that I saw her in the first few years is “God will redeem that”. Whatever your pain, whatever your memory or whatever your sorrow, God will redeem it. God Bless.

 

 

My Story, My Threshold

Within the first few sessions with Ruth she told me she wanted me to get a book for us to work with. On The Threshold of Hope by Diane Langberg, PhD was to be the book that validated so much of what I had felt all my life and helped me to understand not only how I felt, but why I felt some of the things that I did. The title is taken from a biblical event as recorded in Judges 19. When a mob sought to rape a man who was traveling he instead threw his woman out the door for them to abuse. The bible says that they raped this woman all night long then let her go. She crawled back to the house and died on the threshold. This woman had no hope, she died on the doorway of despair and hopelessness.

Ms. Langberg says the following:

“I long for this book, and the voices it contains, to change the picture on the threshold. It is my desire that you who hang on, dead inside, will hear in these pages the sound of the door being opened. The voices at the door will not say, ‘Let’s get going.’ Instead they will say, ‘Let me help. There is hope. I know. I have been on that threshold.

The survivors whose voices you will hear in this book know that you cannot get up. They know what it is like to be dying on the threshold. It is my prayer that the understanding and the comfort you will hear in these pages will begin to transform the threshold of death into the threshold of hope.”

On The Threshold of Hope/Page 12

I first read this book in early 2012 then again in July 2013. After months of therapy I would come back to this book and find more understanding and enlightenment as I had healed enough to have a better understanding of finer points. The above quote I marked in my book and then wrote some thoughts down as follows:

July 30, 2013

“I read this book about 16 months ago. I don’t think I took it all in that first time. Reading these last two paragraphs made me cry. It took a lot of therapy to really understand that I had died on the threshold. And having now accepted the redemption, I can more clearly hear these words and my soul weeps with sorrow and with joy.”

 

April 4 & 5, 2012

My story had to be told. That is why I had come to this place, to find a listening ear, for the pain that I had stored up, hidden away and denied was overflowing inside of me and I felt like a pressure cooker that was not being properly attended to.

On the 4th of April I met with Ruth and we began the many hours of EMDR therapy that would assist me with telling my story. I was only to be with Ruth that day for 1 hour, but she spent 1 1/2 hours with me then I came back later and spent another 3 hours in the telling of this story. After this very long day, which did not end until 9:00pm, I went home and tried to sleep. The next day I spent several hours writing down some of my thoughts on this very important day. When we began Ruth told me that I was in complete charge to stop any time I needed to. She said we could take a break if needed and that we could end anywhere I needed to end. She said it was important for me to be in complete control of how I told my story and I was.

Journal Entry: April 5, 2012

“I am so tired. I didn’t sleep well last night…Each time I woke up I was thinking about the therapy session.

I’m so relieved to have gotten through the entire story in one day. If Ruth had not stayed with me all evening it would have taken a month to tell this story. I don’t think I could have gotten through another month of such sadness and depression that was being caused by the resurgence of memories.

I felt the need to write down some of the thoughts and feelings that I’m having about the therapy session. My hope is that once I work it out in my mind and get it on paper that I can let it be for now so that my mind will allow my body to get some much-needed rest.

Now that I have allowed myself to know the truth of the abuse from beginning to end, I’m a bit overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings. I feel proud of that little girl who was left battered and broken, naked and scarred and all alone in the middle of that corn field. I’m proud of her for getting up, getting dressed and taking that long, lonely walk back home to safety. I’m awed by her courage. The ability to keep living, to get up every day knowing that this would be another day of pain, pretense and dark secrets is awe-inspiring. And as that little girl, I can say that there was never any thought, belief or even hope that one day that pain, pretense and all of the secrets would be gone.

When the abuser left me in the cornfield I was a broken child. He had corrupted my mind, my heart, my spirit, my body, my entire being. But this corruption took place during the many months of abuse. While he was raping my body, he was also crushing my spirit, emotions and he left me heartbroken. At some point, I’m not sure when, I had to try to forget. I suspect that some memories were lost soon after the rape and that others diminished as time went by. Ruth said that I had to relive the memories and in giving voice to them they would lose their power over me. She was certainly right about this. I don’t feel that they have the power over me that they had just one day ago. I don’t know if it was the EMDR therapy, Ruth’s prayers, God making me ready or a combination of all three, but I really did “relive” those days. As I recalled particularly painful memories I could feel Ruth’s touch on the backs of my hands and although I couldn’t understand the words, I could hear the quiet, calmness of her voice while she prayed for me. These two things touch and hearing helped me feel safe. They were a constant reminder that I was not actually there with the abuser, that I was not alone this time, and most importantly it gave me a tangible link to the present. I didn’t have to fear being trapped in the past…”

end of entry…

Over the next few years we would go back to those memories when necessary. It was not unusual for us to use many different books and talk therapy to process the damage that was done and work on healing those specific areas. But at times something would come up for me that Ruth would say “we need to go back to the cornfield or the loft…you need to get a hold of it so you can see it for what it is and let it go…” She was always right in her timing of these things, but that is mostly because she is very good at letting the Lord lead the healing. When he would show us that it was time to work on something specific we stopped whatever we were doing and worked on that subject.

Some of the times that we went back was when I was feeling a dark presence of the abuser in my mind. We used some therapy to banish him from me and I was free of him for the first time in more than 38 years. We went back several times to speak to this small child inside of me that had been so hurt. I told Ruth that I had grown up, but that she had gotten left behind and because of that and the abuse she had never left the cornfield. We went back to help her leave that field, at times we went there so I could tell her that she was safe because I somehow knew that I at times had anxiety because “she” was the one who was scared. I was fractured during the abuse and I knew it for such a long time, I just didn’t know how to be whole again.

As we continue on this journey I may share with you some of my journal entries that cover these times of healing for this small 8-year-old child who still lives inside of me and some of the things that I had to become aware of in order to help her to heal too.

I pray that my story, my time on the threshold, will bring you some hope. As Diane Langberg did, I would also like to say to you, “Let me help. There is hope. I know. I have been on that threshold.” God Bless.

EMDR Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psycho therapeutic technique used in the treatment of trauma as well as other conditions. You can look this up if you would like a more precise explanation. Ruth would “tap” on the backs of my hands while we went through difficult memories. She also used this therapy to reprogram my brain that had been filled with lies by the abuser and had over time become my 14+ negative thoughts.

For example, I would sit in a chair with Ruth sitting knee to knee with me. She put a board on my knees and I would rest my hands, palm side down, on this board. When we began Ruth would “tap” on first one hand than the other in a back and forth rhythm that would change from a faster pace than would become slower and lighter than more forceful; this is the “eye movement” portion of the therapy. This is to engage both sides of the brain at the same time. As I spoke about specific memories I was somehow becoming desensitized to the trauma of it so that I was more able to see it clearly for what it was. The brain then seems to have an ability to reprocess this information with the help of the specially trained therapist. Ruth, as a trained trauma therapist and Christian, would always call upon Christ which in my opinion is what made this such a powerful healing tool for me.

During some sessions of this therapy Ruth would say truth statements and I would repeat them back. I sat with my eyes closed, take a few cleansing breathes then she would begin to tap. Ruth told me to not worry if I did not believe the statement to just repeat it. To help you understand better I have decided to share with you my journal entry that I wrote after my second session of EMDR.

Journal Entry: March 19, 2012

“I had a session with Ruth today; the second session of EMDR therapy. The fist session I talked about how the abuse began. I was expecting to continue describing the abuse, but because of the heavy emotions that I was feeling we began with work on reprocessing positive and /or true statements. Much to my surprise this became a very emotional event. I wasn’t expecting to feel so emotional and cry so much over statements like “He lied to me”, “I was a child, I am not responsible for his behavior”, “He manipulated me”, etc. Ruth would say these phrases, tap on the backs of my hands then I would repeat them after her. We would do this for a time, then she would stop, sit back and give me some time to wipe away the tears and to breathe. I felt overwhelmed with emotions that I couldn’t name and my chest felt like there was a lot of pressure – like someone was pushing down on my chest. After several times of speaking then resting, I sat forward and put my head in my hands. I was trying to breathe and release some of the pressure in my back and chest. Ruth put her hand on my left shoulder, rubbing it a bit. This was very comforting. After a few moments I felt the emotions receding, but then they began to build quickly. I said “Ruth” through my tears, she said “Yes?” and I said “Let’s Pray”. She said “yes” and after a moment she began praying for me. During this prayer an amazing thing began to happen. As she was asking God to be with me, to take this burden from me, telling me to give it to God, that He was with me now, that He had been with me when the abuse occurred…I felt a releasing of emotions from so deep within my soul that I don’t even know if I was aware that they had been there. I began to cry more and Ruth was praying saying “yes, let it go. Give it to God” I cried harder and harder. It is difficult to explain, but I felt an actual physical lifting of the pain inside of me. And after a short time I felt a calming feeling overtake me. The pressure in my chest was gone, my breathing began to return to normal and I felt more at peace than I have felt in a long time.”

end of entry…

That day as I sat back in the chair and looked at Ruth I was feeling overwhelmed emotionally, exhausted, peaceful and stunned. I could not form any words or thoughts to describe how I was feeling. I looked at Ruth and just said “Wow”. She smiled and said “yes, wow”. This would become our word during these moments that God’s hand touched us so powerfully and there would be many more of these moments over the next several years. A few years later Ruth had a wooden plaque made for me that says “Wow”. Every time I look at it I think of the powerful, gracious work of the Lord in my life.

Throughout my life I really resented it when I would hear others talk about “letting go of your pain or giving your problems to the Lord”. I never thought this was possible and honestly I always thought that it seemed more like a platitude than something that could actually be accomplished. No one said this to me because of what I had been through as no one knew anything about my pain. But whenever I would hear this biblical idea spoken of I was always thinking “how come you never tell me how to do that?” People say “give it to God” like this is an easy thing to do and honestly this attitude just makes the rest of us feel like failures in this area. One day I spoke to Ruth about this and I told her that now that others know that I was hurt as a child they will tell me to ‘give it to God’ and I know they are trying to be helpful but I just end up feeling like a terrible Christian. Ruth had these wise words for me that really helped, “There are everyday type hurts and offenses that we can and should ‘let go’ of. We are to forgive those who hurt our feelings, are unkind toward us, cut us off in traffic, but there are hurts in life that go so deep and are so large that it requires God “taking the pain” from us.” Ruth was so right! I can lay down those hurts that occur from day-to-day but when you are touched by evil you need God to come inside and take away the poison that infects you.

You will never hear me say that I gave my pain to God. For in truth, I had little to do with it. Ruth would tell me that I am part of the team and that I accepted his gift and didn’t try to take it back and I will concede she is correct in that, but it is important to me that you understand that you don’t have to be on your own in this. God can and does work in us to remove the pains that we cannot get rid of ourselves. Thank you for being a part of this journey and I pray that you will find some comfort in the hope of healing. God Bless.

 

Negative Beliefs

Journal Entry: February 14, 2012

“I have been thinking a lot about these ‘negative’ things I believe about myself. It is a hard thing to decipher the things that you don’t know you told yourself, they just feel like they have always been a part of you.”

end of entry…

Early on in the process Ruth had me write down all of the negative things that I believed to be true about myself. This was not an easy homework assignment, but I was always a good student so I dutifully sat down and searched for the truth. This was the beginning of what I would come to call the “hard truths” that were just a part of my life. There were a lot of these truths that I would have to know before I could heal.

I began to just write whatever was coming to me with no judgement about it. When I was done I had 14 ‘truths’ that I would come to understand were actual lies. I am sharing this list with you for the purpose of validation. I believe what I thought to be true was not so different from many abuse victims, but I remember how I felt so alone in those feelings. If you have ever felt this way just know that you are not alone.

  1. The abuse was my fault
  2. By returning to the abuser time and time again I got what I deserved. I asked for it.
  3. Because of the above 2 points, I am not deserving of happiness
  4. I’m not normal
  5. I’m the black sheep of my family
  6. It is dangerous to be female
  7. It is dangerous to appear feminine or pretty
  8. Men can’t be trusted
  9. I can’t trust my own judgement about men
  10. Sex is painful, both physically and emotionally
  11. Don’t trust the pleasure because pain is sure to follow
  12. If people found out what I’ve done they would see me differently; lose respect for me, blame me
  13. I will always be alone
  14. I will die alone

The next time I saw Ruth she asked me to find 14 positive ways to rephrase my negative thoughts. I remember she said to me that it didn’t matter if I believed it to be true, just to find the truth. I really struggled with this exercise. I told Ruth that I needed her help. I told her I want to know what the truth is, but I just don’t know what that is. She then went through each point with me and made suggestions and asked me how I felt about each one. I think that I was trying to imagine what the truth might be for the average person because I knew that my truth were in the 14 original points.

During this 2 hour session we found 14 positive points that I could accept as being true (at least for others). We also would discuss some specifics of the abuse but no real detail yet. After I was done this evening I went home and wrote in my journal:

Journal Entry: February 20, 2012

“It’s been a long day, but a good one…

I’m feeling emotional tonight. It is difficult to identify each one as I am feeling so many different emotions and all of them at once.

  1. Thankful: I’m thankful for my time today with Ruth
  2. Sadness: I am on the verge of tears and I haven’t quite brought into focus yet just why that is
  3. Insecure: I am a little insecure with sharing so much of myself. I think mostly this is because I have to hear myself say things that I don’t want to acknowledge as true
  4. Vulnerable: I feel exposed. I have held tightly to this secret for so long that finally saying the words aloud is a bit like undressing in front of a stranger”

end of entry…

The groundwork was now laid. The next time I would see Ruth we would begin EMDR therapy. This therapy would be so instrumental in removing the lies that lived as a part of me and inputting the truth. Next blog I will explain this therapy, how it worked and the impact that it had on my life. Until then, thank you for taking this journey with me. God Bless.