This past weekend was Easter Sunday. I didn’t make it to church. I wanted so badly to be able to go to church and not be filled with anxiety and literally break out in hives. To have a “normal” church experience where I don’t need to find a seat on the end of the row and a direct escape route with nothing between myself and my exit.
As a child, my basic needs were not met. Food was scarce, and what there was, was seldom prepared or served to me. The private Christian school did not offer breakfast and lunch, so I learned I needed to steal or horde food to quell the familiar hunger pangs. As mentioned before there was a pizza shop near the farm. The stop owner had pity on me, and would “treat” me to a pizza and soda. His gentle smile and kind words are one of the few positive memories from that time.
Clothes were old and worn. In anticipation of the regular spring and fall shopping sprees someone would give me black trash bags with second-hand clothes. The were a few times when I actually found an outfit I thought pretty enough to feel pleased about but my hopes were ruined by the glances of the girls in school who stared knowingly at my cast-off dresses. The humiliation caused a flush to spread on my cheeks..
My body was sold to child molesters. When I was very young one of them used to tell me that God had created me to be his concubine. The way he presented this I believed this man was talking about a princess. When I was old enough to learn what a concubine was, my response was to feel deeply ashamed.
Both the Christian school and church were harsh places too. Punishment was quick, sure and harsh
As a result I began developing an anxiety disorder. I became paranoid of breaking even the smallest rule. I worked harder and harder to be good enough, but never could seem to meet it, no matter how hard I tried.
Although in some ways I grew up very quickly, understanding early on that I had to fend for myself, a part of me remained frightened even when I couldn’t show it. This has extended into my adult life too.
Success was because I am too darn stubborn for my own good. I wasn’t going to quit and be the miserable failure some people had informed me I was destined to become. I’d show them!
After an assault in my early 20’s, I pressed charges and saw a successful prosecution for the crime committed against me. Shortly after all of it was over my life began to unravel. I couldn’t keep it together like I had once been able to do. All of the pain came to the surface. I mentioned before I was hemorrhaging emotional pain from years of abuse, just as if I would have hemorrhaged literal blood if I had severed my femoral artery. I was a suffering mess. The abysmal Christian counseling I received made my suffering worse. Fortunately, I began seeing an exceptional licensed therapist and we began unpacking all the pain in a safe environment. I still remember staring at her business card the first time I anxiously dialed her number.
The compassionate voice on the other end answered and within a few days I was sitting in her office where the dam broke of my emotions, and I sobbed out my story to her. The next few months are a blur, as I treated with professionalism and compassion. She has never broken my confidence.
After a several months had gone by my therapist recommended that I attend a support group for survivors of human trafficking. Sharing my innermost thoughts and feelings in a group setting was something I did not believe I would ever be able to do. However, after listening to the members tell their stories, I realized that my deepest secrets had been experienced by others. Though some of the details were different, the underlying issues were amazingly similar. The looks of understanding that passed between us gave us all strength to move forward as we were restructuring our lives.
My coping skills were weak, but as usual, my stubborn streak was a mile long. I devoured the information from the human trafficking support group and completed my writing assignments assigned by my therapist with zeal — much to my therapists delight.
But, my therapist continued to point out that the little girl inside of myself also needed tender loving care.
Gradually I learned how I could stop being a doormat. Slowly, I began to make decisions which reflected my own strengths and desires instead of worrying so much about what others thought of me. I stopped worrying so much about the future. I took it one day at a time.
I am still a care-taker. Often still tend to second and third guess myself. I remain somewhat of a people-pleaser at heart but I now realize that the difficulties which I endured have enabled me to see past the mundane chores of daily life, and to appreciate the need to also care for myself.
The thing I lack and desire with all my heart is to feel secure in the knowledge that God really does love me even as a result of my many physical and also emotional scars. Since God is perfect, I was left with believing that I am not worthy of being loved and protected by Him. I want to rest and be able to truly believe He’s not disappointed nor mad at me. That I can come to Him just as I am with all of my shameful scars. With the pain I still hold in my heart….