Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here! ~ 2 Cor. 5:17
My story is one of redemption. This can be your story, too.
I was severely abused as a child — sexually, emotionally, and ritually. This abuse was ongoing for several years and shaped the adult I became.
God grants a wonderful gift to young children who are severely abused. This gift is called dissociation. Trying to describe this gift to someone who has not experienced it is like trying to describe a rainbow to someone born blind, but I’ll try. From a young age, I had the ability to compartmentalize my experiences and emotions so I could function as if I was not traumatized. I was able to interact with the world from the perspective of an innocent little girl because the pain, shame, bitterness, and self-loathing were compartmentalized in another part of my brain that only revealed its contents in my dreams.
The abuse ended when my family moved away around my 11th birthday. With the onset of puberty, the parts of my brain storing the pain from the sexual abuse had more to process as my awareness of what had been stolen from me deepened. This resulted in floods of deep shame and self-loathing that I “stuffed down” through a binge eating disorder, which is similar to bulimia but without the purging. I was flooded with anxiety and had panic attacks every few months. My entire body would shake violently for 5 to 15 minutes as my body released the adrenaline. Those were the only nights that I slept well.
While I had no conscious awareness of why I felt so sad, anxious, and lost, the truths of the abuse haunted my dreams. I wrestled with violent nightmares virtually every night. I knew something was terribly wrong with me, but I hid it from the world by making good grades and putting my energy into getting through each day.
The suicidal urges started in high school. It’s not that I wanted to die: I just didn’t want to live if it meant feeling as I did. I was willing to endure anything, even death, to be freed from the pain. I had become a Christian at age 8, so I knew that suicide was wrong, but I still fantasized about it.
I was active in my church’s Youth Group in my teen years, and I embraced my faith as my own. I read the entire Bible cover-to-cover between the ages of 14 and 16. When my father died unexpectedly a few weeks before my 17th birthday, I walked away from my faith. If this was how God treated his “friends,” I wanted nothing to do with Him.
The years following my father’s death were painful and confusing, and I tried to navigate them without God. I graduated magna cum laude from college and then earned my law degree from a highly-respected law school. I also got married but refused to kneel at the altar during my wedding.
My twenties were filled with confusion. I was a happy newlywed but continued to battle anxiety, suicidal urges, and self-loathing. I sought to control the pain through the eating disorder that I hid from my husband. I developed obsessive-compulsive symptoms, including hoarding and repetitive thoughts that plagued me. I also developed phobias.
Eleven years after I walked away from God, He wooed me back. Soon after, I learned that I was infertile. Our journey to parenthood through infertility treatments and then adoption took 4-1/2 years, and I held onto the little bit of faith I had throughout this season of life. My family joined our church, and I thought my happily ever after had finally arrived.
Instead, in my thirties, God led me through the excruciatingly painful, but necessary, process of healing my childhood wounds. God opened the compartments of my brain, and I started having flashbacks of the childhood abuse. I entered into therapy and was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a dissociative disorder.
The suicidal urges intensified, but I had a young child to live for, so I refused to give in to them. The eating disorder was no longer enough to “stuff down” the pain, so I started self-injuring through banging my head repeatedly. My life was consumed by the healing process, and I frequently wondered whether I would survive it.
Throughout this time, I was leading Bible studies through my church. I was in God’s Word daily as I sought answers from Him. I cried out to God in my anguish but saw no end in sight. My life experience was not aligning with what God’s Word said about what a believer’s life should be like, but I refused to give up.
My forties brought about the turning point. In March 2013, I attended a Beth Moore Living Proof Live event in Greensboro, NC, which was turned into her Sacred Secrets study. At that event, I made a commitment to God that I would spend the first hour of my day with Him every morning, no matter what. Within three months, the undercurrent of suicidal urges that had plagued me throughout my adult life vanished. I experienced a “God high” like never before: joy, peace, and a zest for life that I did not know was possible.
God led me to a healthy life one step at time, beginning with releasing my bitterness and forgiving my childhood abusers. He then led me away from selfishness in my marriage and taught me how to love my husband unconditionally. After moving those two mountains in my life, God led me to write this blog to tell others that God’s way actually works! (You can read more about this journey beginning here.)
Today, I am free from all of my childhood bondage. Binge eating and self-injury no longer have any power over me. I have not engaged in either behavior in years. I also no longer have an anxiety disorder. While I am tempted with anxious thoughts from time to time, I know how to manage them and refuse to give in to them. As the anxiety has lessened, so has the need for panic attacks.
I have pleasant dreams now, which was something I did not believe was possible for me. On the rare occasion that I have a nightmare, I know how to calm myself down, so it no longer keeps me anxious throughout the day.
I also no longer struggle with flashbacks. On rare occasions, I might feel “triggered” by something that reminds me of past abuse, but I know how to calm myself and am over it quickly. While I still have the memories of the childhood abuse, they no longer hold an emotional “punch.” I can talk about the child abuse without crying or becoming anxious.
I am a much more joyful, peaceful, and thankful person than I used to be. Like everyone, I can be thrown by bad news, but I am quick to pray to God for help and to thank Him for his faithfulness and goodness. He has been faithful numerous times before, so I know He will be faithful again.
The suicidal urges left me in June of 2013 and have not returned. While I have no fear of death, I am no longer anxiously awaiting it. I want to fulfill God’s purpose for me in this life and then return to Him in His timing, knowing that I was a good and faithful servant during my time on this earth.
God still has much to teach me, but I am not the person I used to be. When I think about how broken and emotionally damaged I was, it seems like a different lifetime. The way I think about myself, God, and others has changed so dramatically that I no longer identify with the person I used to be. I cringe at the thoughts I used to have and feel amazingly blessed to be freed from them.
I used to resent having been abused as a child, but I don’t anymore. While I wouldn’t wish child abuse on anyone, I am incredibly blessed because only someone who has been as broken as I was gets to experience the height, depth, width, and breadth of God’s healing power to the degree that I have.
If I could go back in time and change my past, I wouldn’t. I am grateful for the life that God has given me, including all of the pain that He allowed, because of the powerful testimony that resulted. If there was such a thing as a “lost cause,” I would have been it. My life is a living testimony to God’s healing power. No matter how broken you are, God’s healing power is strong enough to transform you into a beautiful diamond, just as He has for me.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. ~ John 8:36