Gentle Recovery

Hope and Inspiration for Overcoming the Damaging Effects of Child Abuse and Rape

Archive for the ‘child abuse’ Category

Posted by A Write to my Voice on May 14, 2009

“Love is not a feeling. It’s a behaviour.” Oprah Winfrey

‘I love you,’ my father said. Then he beat me and called me filthy names. ‘I love you,’ my father said. Then he locked me alone in the car for hours in the worst part of town. ‘I love you,’ my father said. Then he shoved his fist in my face and forced me to eat even when I kept throwing up. ‘I love you,’ my father said. Then he held me down on the bed…….

‘I love you,’ the rapist said. Then he punched me so hard, my spleen ruptured. ‘I love you,’ the rapist said. Then he held me down and did what he wanted. ‘I love you,’ the rapist said. Then he locked me in a cold dark room and wouldn’t let me go.

‘I love you,’ God said. Then He patiently waited until I was ready to trust Him. ‘I love you,’ God said. Then He broke the hold of the drug addiction. ‘I love you,’ God said. Then He calmed my anger and hatred. ‘I love you,’ God said. Then He healed my heart with His gentle touch. ‘I love you,’ God said. Then He freed me from the shame and fear.

Just because someone claims they love you, doesn’t mean they really do. I think the wires in my head got all mixed up when I was a kid. I thought what happened was normal, that everyone lived on edge, fighting to avoid getting beaten, living like someone in a war zone, in chaos, tension and confusion. I believed whatever happened was because something was wrong with me. I didn’t know what was being done was wrong. I didn’t know they had no right to do what they did. All I knew was it made me crazy. It made me want to punish myself in ways that nearly killed me. It pushed me over the edge, making me act impulsively, full of anger and not caring what happened.

But then I learned love doesn’t hurt. I learned it’s patient, kind and forgiving. I learned it’s not jealous or full of pride or resentful or rude or demanding of its own way.

I never knew. No one had told me or showed me the truth about love. I figured it out as I went, but I had figured it out all wrong. Then God touched me and He showed me. He brought safe people into my life, but I resisted them, pushing them away, still needing to hide, afraid of getting hurt, not trusting. It took so long. But then I got it.

When love is real, not only does it not hurt, but it’s like a balm that feels soothing on the inside and brings amazing healing and relief. I learned love doesn’t keep a list of wrongs, so I chose to forgive and move forward. I want to shine so others can feel the touch of love from me. I want my life to reflect the truth of what love really is and find healing and freedom in their lives.

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Posted in child abuse, drugs, faith, freedom, God, healing, love, rape, recovery, truth, women | 4 Comments »

Comfortable With Yourself

Posted by A Write to my Voice on May 8, 2009

“The worse loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.” Mark Twain

For too long I walked around feeling as if I weren’t attached to myself, almost as if I was outside my body walking beside it rather then actually being in it. Being separate and not a part of who I was, was a totally weird sensation. It’s almost like floating through the world; – not being grounded.

My body wasn’t safe. I felt like it betrayed me. It allowed all the abuse, – the beatings, the kidnap and the rape to happen. In my mind, just being seen and having a female body caused the violence. It was my enemy. I fought with myself, trying to force the fear and terror to go away – I fought against myself to be strong, but I was afraid, so afraid I couldn’t stand it. The fear forced me to pull more and more into myself and away from reality.

As a kid, I willed myself to disappear until I couldn’t feel anything. I lived in my head, in fantasies that took me to another place, a safe place. A place where no one could hurt me. But even that stopped working at some point. I needed to find something stronger, more effective that lifted me out of the pain and shame and fear. So I cut myself, ripped open my skin, injected my body full of dope and forced myself to throw up even if I ate one small bite of something. I told myself, I wasn’t allowed to exist. I had been told over and over I deserved nothing, I was garbage, worthless, ungrateful. I believed it. Words are so powerful. I lived on those words, falling deeper and deeper into a dark hole that became harder and harder to get out of.

And then, He touched me. He pulled me up and out of that pit of hell. In a hospital emergency room, where I lay under oxygen – the damage I had done to my body extensive – He touched me. He redeemed me. He breathed life into me. I felt it. I knew something supernatural had happened. It was powerful. So powerful I stopped using the drugs. Right from that moment. Fourteen years of shooting up, three and four times a day,- Gone – Over – because of His touch.

I don’t know why He chose to free me. Why me? I’m no more special than anyone else. I thought of friends who died, friends who took their own lives or accidentally overdosed, – why me? Why did He let me live? I don’t understand but I am determined now to to look back, as painful as it is, for one purpose, – to reach out and help someone else caught in their own cycle of torment. There is hope. There is freedom – For me, I found it in Him. When nothing else worked, He did. He touched me. He changed me. He turned the light of His love on. The darkness left. The fear went. Now I live with tremendous joy and gratitude.

Posted in child abuse, depression, fear, lonliness, mental health, self-esteem, violence | 2 Comments »

Overcoming Hatred

Posted by A Write to my Voice on May 1, 2009

“Hatred can be overcome only by love.” Mahatma Ghandi

For years I walked around with so much hate and anger in me. I hated what my parents did to me. I hated the way they shamed me, beat me, made me feel less than human. And I hated the system that claimed they could help me. They were like my parents,- shaming, punishing, bullying.

I was arrested for drug possession. My social worker convinced the judge to let me do the time on a locked pysch ward instead of prison. Being on that ward,- that place of misery pushed me further into myself and broke me even more. Their methods of forcing me to conform were brutal. The chemical and physical restrains took away any shred of dignity I may have had. My brain became dull from the medications, the fight in me subdued, but the hatred grew. Hatred for them, for me, and for everyone who had hurt me.

One time they strapped me to a bed by my arms and legs for some minor infraction. They kept me there for two days like a chained animal, allowing me up only to go to the washroom. At mealtimes, they wouldn’t untie my arms. A staff came in to feed me. Humiliated; I refused to eat. I hated them. I despised them. My anger grew. I wanted to hurt them, punish them in some way like they were doing to me.

Instead, I cut into my flesh, trying to rip myself apart, desperate to pull out the bad, the part of me everyone kept telling me was horrible and wrong. Scars formed on my body, but I didn’t care, because they were already in my heart and soul and mind.

Hatred and anger became a way of life. It drove me. It fueled the fight in me. I turned on myself with a vengeance. My arms were full of bruises and marks from biting myself and cutting my skin open. The blood oozing out was my salvation, the thing that released the building tension inside me. My blood, a proof of life, that I was still alive.

Blood? That’s what finally turned my life around. The blood. His blood. The blood He shed for me so I wouldn’t have to hurt myself anymore. Like me, He too was beaten, shamed, ridiculed. He never opened his mouth. He never fought back. That amazed me. How could He not? They laughed at Him, mocked Him, and He said nothing, nothing except, “Father, forgive them….”

Hearing that, my anger began to subside. Thoughts of revenge slowly became thoughts of forgiveness. It’s hard to forgive, to let go of the brutality of what some people did – but to not forgive is worse.

I want my life to reflect His love. He loved me when I couldn’t love myself. He loved me when I was wild, out of control and bent on self-destruction. I don’t fully get how He did that, but I am so grateful for the gentleness of His love that broke the chains that kept me stuck.

Posted in anger, child abuse, christian, cutting, faith, God, hatred, healing, Jesus, mental health, rage, rape, recovery, self-injury, shame | 10 Comments »

Friends

Posted by A Write to my Voice on April 26, 2009

“If I don’t have friends, I ain’t got nothing.” Billi Holiday

I’m overwhelmed. Tonight my friend, Debbie called. Her voice in a panic. Begged me to come over and to hurry. I went. I wasn’t prepared for the surprise party she had thrown for me. Even my sister and her husband drove the eight hours to come. They all chipped in and bought me the mountain bike I wanted. It had all the bells and whistles.

I wanted to run. I wanted to hide. I didn’t want the attention. I didn’t want the focus on me. I, who have spent a lifetime hiding, not wanting to be seen. Here were about thirty of my friends focusing on me. My first thought – I don’t deserve this.

Later that night, after everyone left, Debbie told me, ‘I would do anything for you. God brought me into your life because He wants to heal you completely.’

I met Debbie online. In a writers critique group. She read an excerpt of my book. I didn’t tell her my real name. She emailed me and said she lives twenty minutes away. She wanted to talk. I panicked. I gave her my number. She called. I told her my real name. She wanted to meet. I couldn’t. She knew too much. We emailed. We talked on the phone. She asked if I would ever meet her. Three months later, we finally met – In the park. Over the next few months she read more of my story. She wanted to know details. I couldn’t talk. I hesitated. My words faltered. I started a sentence, then stopped. She encouraged me. Then begged me to come over to her place. We sat opposite each other, I unable to have her look at me. The shame was too great. She respected my need and talked with her face turned away from me. Over the next few months, we got close. Really close. We talked everyday. I told her things I had never told anyone. Things that happened. Horrible things. She said it made her care about me even more. She said our friendship to her is like David and Jonathon in the Bible.

My daughter told me on the drive home from the party, “Mom, you have some great friends.” I do. I really do. I have been afraid of letting them get too close, afraid they would see the shame, afraid they would know my past and hate me. So I kept them at a distance.

My friends are awesome people. Each one of them. I still don’t know how God did it. Took me out of a lifestyle of hopelessness and misery and brought me into one of love, friendship and family. The Bible says God came to set the captives free. It’s true. He really did.

Posted in child abuse, faith, freedom, friends, God, shame | 9 Comments »

Telling the Truth

Posted by A Write to my Voice on April 15, 2009

“We know the truth, not only by the reason, but by the heart.” Blasie Pascal

For years, I refused to tell the truth of what happened, even to myself. For some reason, I was afraid to admit it, to believe it took place. My body knew though. The shame and fear lived inside me. It made me sick. It made me want to hurt myself, throw up, hide. And my body hurt in weird ways. I walked around feeling like puking all the time. My head itched from a rash that refused to go away and I had terrible migraines that forced me to spend even more time alone in darkness.

Truth – how could I not know or admit the awfulness of what took place? I minimized, I said it wasn’t so bad. I said the abusers were only doing the best they could, that they didn’t mean to do what they did. But I couldn’t look anyone in their eyes. I knew if they saw into mine, they would see how bad and awful I was. They would hate me and be disgusted, so I hid. The shame tormented me. For years I tried to dance around it. I pretended what happened didn’t really take place or it wasn’t that bad.

Then someone told me the rapist’s son killed himself. I learned of the brutality of what was done to him. It reminded me of what had been done to me, how I fought to get away from him with no one to help me. I survived. That boy didn’t. And something in me knew I needed to tell. No one protected that boy. No one helped him. My sister returned from overseas. She called me everyday telling me the abuse was horrific that we suffered as children.

It felt like God was giving my head a good shake. When I was a child being beaten and bullied, I lived in a make believe world. I told myself if I were good, very good, my parents would stop hurting me. I told myself if I helped them, they would love me. I tried really hard to be what they wanted, to give them whatever they needed. I became really good at reading them, focusing all my attention on being there for them. The problem, – in doing that, I cut myself off from me. I became lost and it took years to find my way back.

Every time they punched or slapped me, threw something at me that left my body in pain and with big black bruises, every verbal assault that told me how bad, stupid and wrong I was, every fist in my face forcing me to eat even while I threw up,-in my child’s mind, I believed they were good people. It was me. I was bad, wrong, undeserving. I defended them, stood up for them if anyone said bad things against them.

God waited until I could talk. He waited until I was strong enough. He waited until He knew I would tell. Last year, when that boy committed suicide and I knew no one had helped him, I promised God I would tell the truth. If telling what I went through can help someone so they don’t have to live years lost in darkness, – then I want to do that.

At first telling the truth hurt. I felt like I was falling apart. I retreated into the woods. I spent most of my time running through the forest, hiding in its safety. There God comforted me. He told me its ok now to tell the truth. It’s ok to admit what happened. I felt His presence. I heard the gentle whisper of His love. I came home after running and wrote. I struggling in writing. I didn’t want to say everything. God nudged me. I saw that boy in my mind taking his life. I wrote the truth.

Funny thing about speaking the truth. My body felt better. The migraines have gone. That rash on my head, isn’t there anymore. I feel lighter, better, freer. Someone once said, if we don’t scream, our bodies will. Someone else said, “and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Posted in abuse, child abuse, faith, God, shame, truth | 14 Comments »

The Art of Breathing

Posted by A Write to my Voice on April 6, 2009

“Breathe DEEP!” The Snuggly Fabric Softener Bear

For years I walked around holding my breath. I was pertrified of being hurt so I learned to hold myself rigid, on guard, on edge… waiting.

I spent hours hiding – crouching in the dark, in a corner in the basement, under the balcony, in the closet – staying very still, quiet – not breathing…. I needed to hear, to be aware of every sound, to be ready. If I was ready, I could take it, I could handle whatever happened. I waited for hours like an animal being stalked by its prey. The waiting made me sick. My head hurt, I threw up. I bit my arms until they bled… to force myself to stay vigilant, to stay strong.

I grew up and continued to hold my breath. I lived on the edge. Reckless, wild. Life hurt. It hurt really bad.

A few years after God touched me, I went to see a Christian counselor. She looked at me and said, “you’re not breathing. You’re holding your breath. Breathe! Let go!” Her words made me afraid. To let go meant to trust that I would be safe. I went home after seeing her and threw up and cut my arms. I couldn’t let go. I couldn’t trust. Experience taught me the world was not safe. To let my guard down meant I might not survive.

Time passed. I continued to see that counselor. She kept telling me it’s ok now to breathe. In the quietness of my house, in the darkness, alone – I let go. I let myself breathe. I survived. I went back to see her and told her. She asked me to show her, right there in her office – to breathe with her. To trust. I did.

I know God led me to that counselor. He used her to bring me out of a place that I had gotten lost in. She taught me to trust. She helped me feel safe, something I had never known before…. Safety. Feeling safe… helped me to breathe again.

From the moment God touched me, I trusted Him. How could I not? He cut the chains that wrapped around me, choking the life from me. He freed me. He took away the drug addiction. He took away the needles, the dope …the highs that made me crazy and the lows that made me suicidal. They held me a prisoner for fourteen years, shooting up three and four times a day. He broke their hold over me so I trusted Him. He led me to others like that counselor. He wanted to help me learn to feel safe in the world. He wanted to help me learn to breathe again.

I was 12 when I started the drugs. By 14 I was shooting up. Life was dark. Ugly. The police, the courts, social workers sent me to jail, to hospitals, to rehab. Nothing worked. Only God. He did what nothing else could. He broke the hold of darkness and taught me to breathe, taught me to feel safe, helped me connect first to Him, then to myself, then to others.

Posted in breathing, child abuse, Christianity, faith, fear, God, trauma, women | 2 Comments »

Opening Your Heart To Others

Posted by A Write to my Voice on March 25, 2009

“The less you open your heart to others, the more your heart suffers.” Deepak Chopra

For years I lived with the fear of being seen. Having been beaten and bullied as a child by both my parents and later held in a cult for six months and raped, I lived in fear, trusting nobody. In my mind, people were to be avoided. I saw everyone as an enemy that wanted to hurt me. I hated them and I hated me. The people in my world taught me, – I was bad, wrong, good only to be used, abused, hurt. I became angry, very angry, a fighter. Having nowhere to put that rage, I turned it on myself.

My body became the battleground for my self-loathing. I tried to make myself disappear by becoming so thin I could hardly stand without feeling dizzy. I was freezing all the time. I dressed in black, covering my entire body even in the warmest summer weather. I cut my arms and legs until I couldn’t stand the pain. It was a way to numb out and not feel, except then, I cut myself again to feel, to know I was still alive. I felt nothing. Only anger. Only fear.

Then something happened. One day, God broke the chains that held me so tight in their grip. I don’t know why He chose me. Some of my friends died by their own hand or by accident. I lived on the edge like them. Their fate should have been mine. But He touched me. Freed me. Poured out His grace, His favor in such a gentle way – I was no more deserving than they. Sometimes I wonder, why me? Mostly now, I’m just grateful.

God showed me I need people. Safe people. I need them to heal. They mirror who I really am. They help me grow in self-confidence and freedom. They reflect the healing power of His love to me. All the abuse took place in relation to others. In the same way, I have learned healing comes in relation to others.

From the moment He touched me, I felt safe in His love, His presence. I opened up to God. I trusted Him. Then He asked me to open my heart to another, and then another and then another…….

Opening my heart to others wasn’t easy. I resisted. I struggled. I felt His patience, His gentleness, the warmth of His love prompting me, reminding me I wasn’t alone.

Sometimes I still experience the fear of being seen and the need to hide. I get ansy being with people too long, especially when I’m tired.

I will keep opening my heart to others. Something magical happens everytime I do. The fear of being seen diminshes a bit more. The need to hide isn’t as great.

Posted in child abuse, fear, God | 4 Comments »