Tag Archives: abuse

Silencing Voice

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I’ve felt different for some time.. the freedom I’ve found, my small voice, suffocating, being shoved down, shoved back. Clawing to survive, being forced inside, blanketed, weighted. Held down from all angles. Crying for oxygen, for some ounce of gentleness.

And then I am stuck. Inside the lies, inside the time of what was and what should have been, could have been. Replaying the words, spoken to me and over me. Might as well have been written in me, one me. It shaped me, made me, built me and broke me. Sharpie.

It burns in my stomach, pounds in my head, rips my defenses. Not this again.

The numbing spread wide, covering my inside. Just when I think I might break, rest.

The illusion of safety, was just that. Illusion. No weeping for now, no tissues needed. Too gone for that in this season.

I ask and I ask but I know, ” I’m too much”. Caught in the twist, no one to take responsibility for this. Left in the mess. Alone. Forgotten. Cries with no sound fall on deaf ears abound.

Quiet. The stillness. It lurks. Fear at each turn. They tell you to mourn. You want to do good, can’t seem to make it right.

You think and you think. Because there must be a link, that makes me different from them. How’d you turn out so far gone in the end?

This little girl trapped in a body much to old for her.

She looks around at her peers, her friends known as family. Most with spouses and kids on their way to owning houses. They got 9 to 5 while she sits alone dying inside. quiet inside not yearning one bit.

For she, she just wants to belong.

She holds a small candle, deep in her heart. No one sees it there. Sometimes she’s afraid it’s gone out. The black is so dark.

Ridicule she’ll receive, if they even know or see. So fragile. So small. Because she’s much to old to hold onto hope that long. So she can never admit her deepest sadness exists.

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You cannot have that

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To the Thief,

If we were to list what you stole from us, we would write forever.

We’ve heard other survivors say that their childhood was stolen. That’s close to being true for us. What you stole was the child within us. We were ancient ruins before we were 10.

When we look back at pictures of us from that time, they look like us…almost. It’s as though they are very realistic masks of the girls we used to be. But blank. Like a light went out. We turned the corners of our mouths up for the camera, because we were obedient girls and knew that’s what was expected—but there was no joy. We were guessing at normal.

We looked tired. We were tired. All the time. You stole our belief that we were safe in the world. Even in our little worlds. When someone who is supposed to love you, supposed to protect you, violates your trust and desecrates your body, you feel as though danger lurks everywhere. If you aren’t safe in the cocoon of your own family, you understand that you will never be safe anywhere.

You taught us to hate our bodies. We still have not entirely unlearned that lesson, even more than three decades later.

We know that if our focus is on the wounds of the past, we will miss out on the blessings of the future, and we are unwilling to allow that. In order to cast out that darkness, in order to banish that hatred, what we finally realize is that we need to forgive you.

We don’t want to carry these heavy things anymore. Without forgiveness, there is no freedom from this. From you. And we want to travel light.

We are going to do our best to let you go. To have this be one thing that happened, a long time ago. Not the defining thing. Not the totality of who we are. Just a chapter in the book of our lives—perhaps never completely closed, but a section we hope to revisit less and less. There is too much happiness ahead of us, too much goodness and grace in the world, to spend time reliving such pain.

We refuse to continue to be your host. We will not feed you anymore. You own a great deal of our past, but we will give you none of our future.

You cannot have that.

It’s time to sit in the sun.

Goodbye.

BostonMAG

Because Life is pretty mixed

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I always notice when the kids around me turn 10. I notice how different my life was than theirs and I remember what it felt like for me. Too often I wonder what it could have been like, what it could have felt like if God had rescued me, if He would have protected me more viscerally. No birthday is more pungent than my 10th.

It was my first sunrise, the first time I watched it that is. At this point in my life, my 10th birthday, I had seen many dawns (you know that point where the darkness breaks into the light). But I had never seen the sun actually rise.

It wasn’t glamorous. But it was beautiful, meaningful. Meaning is one of the most beautiful things to me. It leaves purpose, reminders, a marker as a way of processing and reframing difficulty with joy. That sun rise has stayed imprinted to my memory my entire life. I have not seen another since that day, that really difficult day.

I don’t recall my birthdays being special or well celebrated, but my mother tried. If anything, she tried hard with what she had and I am grateful to her for that. Each birthday she’d take me to get a cappuccino from the local gas station. She loved coffee, and of course, I admired her.

As a kid, it felt special to drink this sugary caffeinated beverage. IT. WAS. THE. BEST. And my mom would sit and drink it with me, just the two of us, on my birthday. Perhaps it was only 10 minutes, but for a shy, quiet, chronically sick child who felt like the center of every financial and marital problem, 10 minutes of time focused on me was a luxury. And I looked forward to it. It was the best gift.

It had been a hard night that eve of my 10th birthday. Our house became unsafe again. My mother gathered myself and one of my younger sisters into the car frantically. It was the dead of winter in New England, a snow storm. We didn’t have shoes on, not even pants. And our car had been the undesired benefactor of my mother’s husband’s anger: another smashed windshield and caved in roof.

But she drove us in that car anyways, frantic to get us somewhere safe. We slept on the side of the road. My mom, too afraid to draw attention to where we were, needed to keep the car off, and therefore the heat off. My little sister, 6 yrs old at the time whimpered in pain from the cold. We interlocked arms and I held her, trying to keep one another warm. I pulled her in under my big night shirt and we stayed like that, both unable to sleep in our pant-less, shoeless, painfully cold skins.

And as the light broke into the darkness that morning, I watched the sun rise from our smashed in car roof above my head, the bright pink and purple bursting through a light snow fall. I watched the dawn of my 10th birthday. And I made a mental note to never forget it. To never forget what it felt like. The bitterness and the beauty. The mixed.

As I sat up, I breathed in the terribly cold air as it stung my lungs, felt the snow that had slowly accumulated around us, the tender pain of freezing limbs, and I thought, “this is God’s gift to me. This is so beautiful.”

You see, I didn’t grow up being taught much about God or Jesus. Mostly they were only cuss words. But I hoped that there was a God and that He would save me, and help me, and cry for me.

And when my mother woke and brought us somewhere safe and warm, I could see it in her eyes that she forgot it was my birthday or perhaps it was too painful for her to acknowledge. There was a coldness in her, too, as if the winter night had seeped through her soul.

There were no cappuccinos that day, no gifts, no cake. No birthday.

My 10th year of life was one of the most challenging I can recall. But all these years I’ve held onto that sunrise, the only one I’ve ever seen, as one of the most beautiful pictures in my head. I felt as if it was God’s gift to me, a reminder to hold tight, He was coming. He would rescue me. The people around me hardly knew I existed, but God did.

As my ten year old self sat watching this sunrise, I had never been so excited for light in my life, so excited to see another day. warmth. hope. All of it. And I decided then that I refused to inflict the same pain I received on others. I wanted to be like the sunrise, not the cold, bitter, winter night.

My tenth birthday was a day I won’t forget. And I hope that someday I can watch the sunrise again and experience that hope and beauty once more, with someone in solidarity to share the meaningfulness of it with me.

We don’t always get the things we want and need in this life. We make it. We survive. We learn to thrive and get by at times. But then there are moments amidst the pain, shock, confusion, betrayal, whatever at may be, that God sends us reminders that He’s coming, that there’s hope, and that joy really will come in the morning. Sometimes we just have to hold tight and wait through the winter for it. Unfairly, unjustly so. Because life is pretty mixed. It’s both bitter and beautiful, empty and full, painful and passion filled. And I wanted to hold the meaning, this gift of imperfect beauty, in my mind forever.

FMF:TEN

It is my hearts cry that those outside of the Christian subculture that we’ve created might be able to ask, “Even me?” and be welcomed with, “of course you.”

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Father’s Day is coming. It’s a harder one for more people than I think we understand. We celebrate fathers, but Father’s Day is also tempered with pain. Joy and pain, they often seem to go together. We have David and Bathsheba and Absolom and Tamar. I bet there’s far more Tamar’s in our church pews than we are aware of. Abuse, abandonment, neglect, coldness, shame in places where warmth, light, solidarity, and compassion were needed by fathers.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy- the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light”- Brene Brown

The last few weeks have been filled with making choices that bring much fear. I have had appointments, visits, and engaged in conversations that flat out near terrified me. I’ve looked at systemic issues in my heart, made life altering decisions, and took steps to love, which riddled me with fear to points of being sick to my stomach. Just this morning, at an appointment a doctor asked me about a piece of my story, a painful hard piece, and I was reminded that fear can be good. It can protect us. It protected me. We SHOULD be afraid of some things. We OUGHT to have some fear in our lives, but sometimes fear gets distorted. Sometimes fear is misused. And too often, we carry the pain of that fear into our lives where it enmeshes into circumstances and relationships and inflicts pain and harm.

This morning I thought about Father’s Day and my step-father. He loved me, I think, in some way. But he did not really know how to love appropriately or well. He was hurting. He hurt so much that I can imagine he lived in a constant state of pain and agony. I do not know what caused him to be so calloused, so cold and angry that he would injure others, but he did. He had a history of rage and assault.

He abused many women. He abused many drugs. He created a small community of people who were terrified of him and his domineering authority over them. His crimes were horrendous. He was to be feared.

I want to care about this suffering world more than I care about my rights. It is my hearts cry that those outside of the Christian subculture that we’ve created might be able to ask, “Even me?” and be welcomed with, “of course you.”

And somewhere along the line all the avenues my step-father managed to cope with his rage caught up with him and he became ill. For 2 years he layed in a hospital bed, paralyzed on quadruple bypass. A couple weeks before Father’s Day I happened to have to spend the night in our van at the hospital overnight while my mother visited him for the night. I had not seen him at all since he first entered the hospital. No one ask if I wanted to see him. They just assumed it was clearly not a good idea. This was a fluke and I was not happy about having to spend the night at the hospital against my wishes. Mother didn’t have time to drop me off beforehand.

I used to see it in his eyes, the switch. Mostly he was cold, but sometimes the rage would be there. And those days and nights and weeks were the hardest. And every once in a while I’d see the sadness. And I hurt for my step-father in a very deep place inside of my little child heart. My little child heart knew his sadness as my own. In the midst of much chaos, neglect, and abuse, God created a gentle and compassionate heart inside of me.

Before I knew what I was doing, I was closing the van door. Walking into the hospital. I crept into the waiting room. No one was around. I turned the corner counting the room numbers. My heart was pounding. I was dizzy. I was afraid and fear gripped me, but I was also curious. I hardly knew what to expect. I glanced around his hospital room quickly to make sure no one was in there. I stepped into what I thought was an empty room, but as I got closer, there he was, my step-father, in his bed. Emaciated. Dozens of tubes coming out of him.

He looked at me, shocked. He couldn’t speak. He physically was unable. He couldn’t move. He was dying. And I looked into his eyes, such sadness. And I saw it, the lone tear fell from his eye as he looked at me.

Fear dissolved and my small teenage self filled with something I can only call the fullness of compassion. I whispered, “I forgive you. I’m okay. God loves me. He sees you. He loves you too. He wants you. He always has.”

And friends, his tears rolled down his sunken and bruised cheeks. I stood for a few more moments and walked back to the van, never to see my step-father again. You see, Jesus had gripped my heart a few weeks previously and a whole new world of faith existed for me, a world of  hope and possibility in a place that was once dead. I was more alive than I knew possible. And if we are only good news to each other, what good will that do for the Kingdom and our world? There’s real, living people in need of hope in their darkest and most painful moments.

Love conquers death. Love restores fear to it’s rightful place. Love corrects wrong, brings justice.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love conquerors a multitude of sin. Love never fails. Fathers may fail. Families may hurt us. The weight of life and living may fall very hard upon our tattering souls. But God, he takes the things that are little and weak, he takes the pieces of our fear filled lives that “ought not to have been that way”, and he breaths courage into them, life into them. He heals. He creates places where those outside can now enter in, as equals. And the lamb can rest with the lion.

Check it out:

FMF: Fear & TestimonyTuesday

On being an adult with sensory processing disorder

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Imagine if:

  • You could see obstacles in your way, but you could not make your body move the direction you wanted it to, to avoid them.
  • Your clothes felt like they were made of fiberglass.
  • You tried to drink a cup of water from a paper cup, only you couldn’t tell how hard to squeeze it to hold onto it. So, you squeezed it too hard and the water spilled all over you. The next time you didn’t squeeze it hard enough and it fell right through your hands and onto the floor.
  • Every time you tried to write with your pencil, it broke because you pushed too hard.
  • The different smells in this room made you utterly nauseous.
  • The humming of the lights sounded louder than my voice.
  • You couldn’t focus your eyes on me because everything and everyone in the room catches your attention and at the same rate
  • The lights are so bright you have to squint, then you get a pounding headache half way through the presentation
  • Sometimes when people touch you, you feel nothing at all. You itch, and your scratching leaves a bruise.
  • You could only sit here for 15 minutes and then you had to take a run around the building or do 20 jumping jacks so you could sit for another 10 minutes before your muscles felt like they were going to jump out of your skin.
  • People’s whispers sounded like they were yelling.
  • You wanted to write something down but it took you at least 5 seconds to form each letter. You can see the letter in your head, but your hand will not go in the right direction to write it. Or you read words, but you have to read it 5 times to get the meaning of the word and remember it every time.
  • You had to pull the car over 3 times on the ride somewhere because the motion makes you sick.

Sensory processing disorders affect children and adults differently. For some it affects maybe 1 or 2 senses. For others it affects them all. Some people are hypersensative (feel too much) and some are hyposensative (feel too little). If sensory processing disorders are found before the age of 7, they can be best treated because the nervous system is malleable. After that, the challenge increases greatly.

I’m not sure what causes SPD, but it has to do with neuropathways in the brain. People with SPD can not effectively process or interpret sensory input.The senses give information to the brain and the brain processes the information which tells us what’s going on around us so we can interact efficiently with others and our environment. With SPD, the information may not be accurate or reliable! As a person that has sensory processing issues, this creates a whole host of challenges, personally and socially.

Stanley Greenspan, the author of The Challenging Child: Understanding, Raising, and Enjoying the Five “Difficult” Types of Children has an insightful analogy to help us understand what people experience:

“Imagine driving a car that isn’t working well. When you step on the gas the car sometimes lurches forward and sometimes doesn’t respond. When you blow the horn it sounds blaring. The brakes sometimes slow the car, but not always. The blinkers work occasionally, the steering is erratic, and the speedometer is inaccurate. You are engaged in a constant struggle to keep the car on the road, and it is difficult to concentrate on anything else.” It’s no wonder people with sensory processing disorders feel out of control, exhibit a whole host of behaviors, and have difficulty concentrating and focusing.

I happen to be one of those lucky people to whom it SPD affects most every sense. As a kid, it wasn’t easy living with SPD, I didn’t know I had it, not until more recently.  I didn’t know I was different in a lot of ways earlier on. But I was a fearful and skittish child as a result of it, even before significant trauma was a part of my life. I went on to get two (almost 3) college degrees, participate in meaningful activity, sports, relationships, and community involvement. But I felt different. I worked harder at things that none of my peers needed to ( like reading and memorizing). I was good at almost everything from trying so hard to fit in, but never was great at anything. I was exhausted all the time. I would end up in the hospital every few months when typically others would have sensed how sick they were getting. I felt nothing when someone would hug me (I need pressured hugs) and I didn’t understand.

To sum it up, I have hypersensitivities regarding hearing, light, smell/taste/texture, and cold. On the other side, I’m overly tolerant to heat, pain, and touch.

This means that:

  • In a room filled with inconsistent noises I hear everything at the similar volume, which distorts my ability to focus and remember what’s being said to me. Sometimes if there’s too much noise going on I have to fight the urge not to crawl in a corner and curl up with my hands over my ears… this is NOT socially acceptable for an adult. But it physically hurts me. It’s hard for me to go to crowded and loud places. An unexpected noice can send me disproportionately jumping.
  • I have sensitivities to touch and texture, for example, I can’t wear jewelry that touches near my wrist (think Alex and Ani), or is around my neckline (I’ll gag). Nail polish on my finger nails or dirt under my nails irritates me. Certain foods I cannot stomach, because the texture of the food will make me sick immediately as I try to eat it politely (green beans, ground meat). Somedays I can tolerate more food textures than other days. Some textures I’ve never been able to eat. This has been really difficult for me, especially because there’s food allergies mixed in. I like to touch things a lot to remember them.
  • I’m very sensitive to light, especially flourescent light, and I can easily be blinded by the sun at the beach or over the snow. With light bulbs, they literally hurt my eyes and I see stars everyday. I can hear white noise of lights and other technologies long after others ears quickly adjust.
  • Highly sensitive to smell, good or bad. Either way it can affect me. Smell is my strongest sense. For better or worse. I’ve had to have distance in some relationships because certain smells of another person was so hard for me. I also remember a lot by smells and it affects my ability to eat. Sometimes the smell of certain foods is enough to make me throw up and other times I can’t think of anything else until I have that food.
  • I am hyposensitive to weather. I can wear sweaters and sweatshirts in the summer and flip flops during a snow storm. My body does eventually catch up and in nearly all “extreme” weather, I develop fevers that require a hot shower and rest to correct and “reboot” my system. My blood pressure is always low and wavers to dangerously low weekly. I have a terrible auto-body regulator.
  • Being hyposensitive to pain is terrible actually, since I have chronic pain conditions. When the doctor asks me to rate my scale of pain, I have to estimate going by what I think other people would say, because I have a tendency to ignore pain. This ignorance of pain has landed me in the hospital near dying before. Not a great thing overall and not a choice I make. And when my body does catch up to the pain, it is over the top, as if the pain came out of no where even though the condition has been going on for a while. So I try to say I am acutely sensitive to pain, with a high threshold.
  • Visually, I have what’s called double vision and I sense light through my closed eyelids acutely. It also takes me 3 times longer to read than others (which I’ve always known). I was taught how to predict words using the first 3 letters when I was younger by a teacher who felt bad for me. I know how to use words, but not what they mean often. I can see words in my head but not be able to get them out. Sometimes I can read a word and not be able to say it immediately, especially when overstimulated.

This whole Sensory Processing thing has been difficult for me. I have real neuro issues and this complicates it even more. It’s hard to separate out what caused it, trauma, genetics, upbringing, etc. I haven’t figured out how to explain it to others, so I haven’t mentioned it much. It’s hard to not feel understood. It’s harder when you’re not able to answer others questions or help them understand and know you. It’s hard because it fluctuates. When I’m overstimulated, even a trip to the grocery store is too much, and could be, for days.

Imagine being in constant fight or flight mode, as if you will be attacked. That’s what Sensory Processing Disorders do. Your brain literally can’t handle the sensory input. It’s overwhelmed. The neuro synapsis and pathways function differently. I understand why it’s happening now, why I want to have a fit and shut down often. But even now that I understand it some, it’s still frightening. And it’s another notch on my “I’m different” belt. My body literally shuts down when I’m over stimulated. Pain in my ears and pressure in my head forces me to lay down and shut my eyes. I become unable to hear much and my vision becomes very blurry.

So what are the solutions? Well, everyone is different. I need a lot of quiet time, but not silence. Silence=white noise and white noise is TERRIBLE. I use sunglasses for sensitivities to light. I wear them inside sometimes, in the grocery store, at church, and at night (headlights and snow blind me often). I stay away from mirrors and stagnant water. Reflecting light hurts. We try not to put on overhead lights in our house. I’ve found warm showers help to readjust my body temperature during changing seasons or a trip to the beach. I have ongoing nausea from other chronic health issues, so I’m on near constant nausea medicine which helps with motion and smell sensitivity, but strong scents still hurt my nose. I try not to go anywhere that has loud music and too many movements or moving people. My bible study group keeps the worship music low so I can participate. I don’t wear clothings that touches my neck line. I hope for strong hugs so I can feel them, and I try to pay attention to bruises and ANY skin markings or even subtle health changes daily. I take my temperature every couple of nights. All in all, I’ve just had to find solutions to minimize that flight or flight anxiety mode. I really thrive on close connection, a period of quality time with someone else, that’s slow and allows me to get out what I want to say and receive care and love and touch in such an environment that’s not overstimulating. It’s rare to have that, rare to find it. Rare to be given it.

I don’t like knowing I’m different. I don’t like that I have so many starkly different life experiences from others. I didn’t choose this, any of it, and that’s hard. It’s hard not having cut and clean diagnoses that are definitively from “this” or because of “that”. It’s probably likely trauma, genetics, and nurture played a role together. It’s hard because I can’t explain to others as I could explain how I received a broken leg. But I’m finding ways I fit in the world, even if it’s not the life I hoped for. I understand kids and adults with ADHD. I handle melt downs of kids far better than most of my friends. I’m able to hold it together until I am alone enough to cry. I perceive things in others. I notice a lot. I’m sensitive and compassionate.

I have no permanent solutions to resolve any of my medical issues yet. But I have a lot of partial solutions, and partial solutions are solutions I can work with!

 

When I was little, I was afraid. ALL. THE. TIME.

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“When I was little, I was afraid. ALL. THE. TIME. I rarely spoke. I preferred to play by myself than with other kids. I didn’t know how to engage people well. I was nearly held back a grade because socially I was very young.

My earliest memories are of hiding. Our house wasn’t safe. Some not so great people came through it and left physical and emotional scars that I’m not sure will ever go away. I became terrified of people. As a teenager, I was the quiet one in my group of girlfriends. Somehow I ended up with incredible friends who cared for me and about me, who’s families made sure I had somewhere to sleep, food, places to spend holidays. One thing remained true: they often commented on how quiet and hidden I remained. I never felt safe and I was used to remaining a shadow in life. I thought that was just who I was.

Recently, I was asked what was one way that Jesus redeemed something in my life. I sort of chuckled and said, “I don’t hide anymore.” He asked what I meant, “Some people have commented they don’t believe me, but I used to hide a lot. I was terrified of people. When I worked in youth ministry, I preferred to “disappear” during parent pick up time. Older adults scared me. I used to not be able to be in a room with an older adult or else I’d shut down.”

“Then in college I had a safe space, a place to engage the gifts and skills and bits of the story I had and use them. I saw good come from my grief. I was empowered to speak and share in a ministry regularly. I was even the lead speaker at a couple retreat weekends. I did some improv. I started a roller blading club. I began to mentor other students to grow, confess, and share the life and story God gave them.”

Slowly, all the little bits of me that were hiding came out, quirks, food preferences, needs, hopes. Not only did I talk and spend time with people and have meaningful relationships that exist to this day, but I felt I mattered in God’s kingdom. For the first time, someone chose me. No one had ever wanted me and I was made to know that. But God chose me and began restoring what I wasn’t even aware was there, the Image-Bearing stuff that had been beaten down deep inside me.

This friend was a little awed and in disbelief that I had ever been so hidden, afraid, and quiet. Most people are shocked. Some people don’t believe how I used to be since it’s so far from where I am now. That’s okay. The power of Christ is strong, taking what was hidden and beaten and restoring it beyond beauty, giving it worth it’s never known. And we are freed to come out of hiding.

FMF Prompt: HIDE

A Day in the Life: Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, & the Church

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Two dear friends were part of a bible theater project at a local college. The idea was to meet for 6 months and do a bible study of all the women mentioned in the bible. It would be called the Bible Women’s Project and they would create a way to unite and tell those women’s stories, mixed with their own, and make it applicable to today. Not just the Ruth and Naomi kind of stories, but the harder ones, the women who perhaps we’ve misunderstood and who made some grievous mistakes. People who are a lot more like you and me than we’d care to be reminded.

The results were astounding, thought provoking, and deeply affective. Later on, someone asked me what I thought of it. It was hard to take all in. It was personal. It was moving. It was painful. The topics that the play incorporated were hard: rape, murder, submission, genocide, shame, church responses, abandonment, neglect, prostitution, forgotten, unseen, not heard. I could only utter one more thing, “I don’t know how we create spaces where women can tell their story, where we can be heard and seen. I need that. I don’t think I’m alone.” But I feel alone. My safe spaces are gone. I don’t feel seen.

A blogging friend that I’ve recently connected to read some of my posts about Anxiety-Depression, abuse, and PTSD. She recommended a book that her friend’s had written that I have only recently begun reading. I feel compelled to share it with you. Parts particularly stand out to me as I am reading it. It’s a great resource for anyone who has been affected by trauma. I’d recommend it: Love Letters from the Edge. It’s so timely in my life. Particularly, I have found this bit to be helpful:

“The following blog post, adapted from a post from Jim Lapierre, is a vivd description of what it’s like to live with PTSD:”

Four a.m. is her witching hour. She wakes each morning with adrenaline coursing through her veins. Her heartbeat hammers, every muscle in her body tense. She’s in fight or flight mode, but there’s no one to fight and nowhere to run.

The first thirty seconds feels like half an hour. It’s the time in between sleep and waking. What’s real? What isn’t?

It’s much worse than a bad dream. It. Feels. Like. It. Just. Happened. Again.

The tears come, but she fights them. She checks the sheets, but they’re clean. She sits on the side of the bed, rocking back and forth, but it’s a little too fast to bring comfort.

Breath!” Can’t get enough oxygen. Hyperventilating is terrifying. Head pounding. Need light. Need air. Must get out of this room.

She starts the coffee. No chance of going back to sleep now. Go to the bathroom but turn away from the medicine cabinet mirror. Cold water on her face stings but feels real. Still avoiding the mirror, can’t stand the image there. She needs a shower but it doesn’t feel okay to do that yet.

Settle in with some reading-daily affirmations. Get centered. Prayers are sent but feel futile. She never got the hang of meditation. It just gets her stuck in her head. A song on Pandora grabs her attention: I’m still alive but I’m barely breathing. Just praying to a God that I don’t believe in. 

Make plans for the day. Staying busy helps. Make lists. Combine them with yesterday’s lists. Sun’s coming up. Therapy today. Have to take a shower. Fear. Self-loathing. Shame.

Scalding hot water. Pain. Scrubbing way to hard. Still can’t remove the feeling of being dirty. “You know that it’s not on your skin. It’s burned in your memory. It’s a feeling of shame based on what was done to you. It’s not your fault. Please cool off the water. It’s hurting you.”

She doesn’t know that others struggle with these feelings, too. I’ve tried to be gentle but direct with her in therapy. “You’re naked and wet in an enclosed area with nowhere to run or hide when you shower. You close your eyes to keep the shampoo out. You can’t hear what’s going on in the rest of the house. You feel physically vulnerable. It makes sense that you’re scared.”

I want to help her stop feeling like she’s crazy, like she’s the only one who struggles with these feelings.

We talk about how she copes, how she sees herself, how she struggles to have self-control. She confesses what she sees as sin.

“I feel like a little girl a lot of the time.” She finds it hard to believe that I have known a lot of adults who feel like children.

I ask her to recall how she described feeling broken when we first met. She nods. We’ve talked about defining moments in her life-the first at age eight. She was never free to be innocent and her emotional growth was arrested by ongoing sexual trauma and abuse.

She’s thirty-five. Physically she feels like eighty. In the outside world, her composure and behavior are that of a very successful professional. Emotionally/internally she’s somewhere between eight and sixteen, depending on her feelings, stress, and level of anxiety.

She lives with PTSD, an anxiety disorder. She experiences vivid nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts. She has co-occuring panic attacks and depression. Her prognosis is good and getting better, but the work ahead of her is hard. In truth, it’s one of the most difficult things a human being can do-but it’s not as bad as what she’s already been through and it’s not as bad as living this way indefinitely.

We’re working on strategies to promote a sense of safety. She’s implemented simple ways she can use her five senses to connect to her here and now. She is mindful that when she’s overwhelmed, she is not dealing with her current reality- she is somewhere in her past. She’s making changes to her physical enviroment. She realized that even some of her prized possessions are associated with past memories. They were in her bedroom when she was eight. They’re packed away now-not discarded-it’s just not time for those now.

We’re working on a very difficult piece. She’s begun journaling the content of her nightmares and we’re exploring the themes and memories. She’s accepted that the only way out of it is through it because there is no forgetting.

She’s accepted that it’s OK for a grown woman to leave her lights on at night, hug stuffed animals, and do anything that doesn’t hurt her to make the “shadows” go away. She ‘s getting better and through group therapy and self help she’s connecting to others with similar experiences. She knows now that she’s not alone.

Telling our stories connects us. The best we can be alone is lonely. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”-Maya Angelou

So friends, I want to both create and be a part of a community where it’s safe to share my story and hear other stories, where pain is lessened and agony feels less intense because we don’t have to bear our untold stories inside us. I don’t know how. It’s uncomfortable. It’s costly. But they will know we are Christians by our love for one another, albeit a messy, sometimes intense and crazy love.

And then those outside of the church, those of us who feel like fringed and forgotten people, marred by the world and carry hurt from the Church, unseen and unheard, find a place to rest, a place to share and receive and give. And that resting ground is leveled with Jesus. And there becomes nothing, I mean NOTHING that separates us from loving each other, because nothing could separate us from the love of God.

Perhaps that’s the gospel in the most simplest of ways: those outside have now been welcomed in lavishly. Behold, He is making all things new.