Sometimes we just feel like garbage. I’m not talking about when we are ill, and our bodies feel like trash. I mean when someone degrades us, or we can’t accomplish something we have worked really hard at. Or when we realize that we have screwed up big time. Or we disappoint someone whom we love deeply. Everyone feels this way at some time(s) in their life.
However, when abuse has been a building block of a person’s life, like mine, “feeling like trash” persistently winds its way through our lives, intertwining our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and affecting our quality of life.
Abuse can tear away at our spirit, making us vulnerable to lies. It can crumble and deteriorate self-confidence. It can take away our sense of worth and purpose. Basically, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse will change our quality of life. Forever.
My sexual abuse happened when I was very young. Like many, I showed the classic signs of being abused, but didn’t realize it until I was in my forties. It became known that a member of our church had abused some of our pre-teen girls, and literally “all hell broke loose”, as you can imagine. This happened in the early 1990s before we became aware of statistics revealing that one in four girls will suffer abuse by their eighteenth birthday. This was before the internet explosion, the daily reminder that abuse is a cancer that is spreading and permeating at an ever-increasing rate. Many of our church members had been living in denial of their own abuse–or ignorance, like me.
Because our congregation was totally unprepared to deal with the chaos and ravaged emotions this knowledge caused, we hosted an all-day seminar to educate us on how to work through it. During this seminar I began to realize I had shown behaviors indicating abuse in my own life, as often happens to those victims who have suppressed memories when they begin to learn about sexual abuse. I remembered some rather disturbing interactions with family members. I acknowledged my promiscuity, and the careless attitude toward sex. I realized that my need for attention and the feelings of never being enough could be rooted in sexual abuse, as could my low self-esteem and dislike of myself. Like I said, abuse will intertwine all aspects of our lives. And quite honestly, I fell apart. My tightly-held-together-world began crumbling.
The good news? (Yes there is good news.) It’s possible to find hope and healing. Not in a day or two. Maybe not in a year or two. It’s been a process (how I came to hate that word), removing the effects of abuse layer by layer. I needed to completely reprogram my brain to stop believing the lies (I’m worthless, used up, can’t be good enough, no one will want me like this, I’m garbage, I’m ugly) and believe truth instead (I’m created for a purpose, full of worth, I’m a priceless treasure, I’m more than enough just like I am, I’m beautiful and intelligent and amazing).
The process involved teaming up with a woman of great wisdom who could direct me to God’s truth and identify the lies I believed. I began to read books on the subject of abuse, co-dependency, and emotional healing. I read over and over how God could and would “make me new” (“The former things have passed away… behold, I make all things new.” Rev. 21:5). I chose to renew my mind, rather than dwell on what had happened, because I wanted to change. (Not nearly as easy as I make it sound!) I did not want the abuse to have power over me any more and control my behaviors and thoughts. I realize my abuse was relatively mild (if that’s possible) compared to others I’ve come to know or have read about. However the root of it still caused damage in my emotions and spirit and shows how even the smallest offense of sexual abuse can wreak havoc in a life. It was as if my emotional DNA had been changed.
One garbage collection day, while I was picking up the recycle bin and looking at all the ”throw away” bottles and boxes, I immediately pictured my life and those of others like me whose life-scripts had been altered by abuse. We often feel like a throw away–used up, soiled goods that nobody would want. But immediately my mind raced to the finish, or rather, what is being completed in me. I am NO LONGER a throwaway. I never really was, though I was sure of it.
And God has, indeed, done a new thing in my life. I am a totally different person! Visions of the many wonderful recycled products we can see–that look nothing like their item of origin–came dancing through my mind. Those items have been completely “made new”! And that is exactly how I feel. I am just a shadow of the person I was.
I realize that living this many years has given me a wealth of experience to fuel my self-confidence. However, it wasn’t until four years ago that I really began to blossom into this crazy, passionate, outspoken, fun-loving and confident woman. (Unfortunately I had to leave an emotionally abusive relationship before I could fully bloom, but that’s a story for another time).
If you have encountered abuse, my heart goes out to you. With everything in me, I hope you will take steps toward healing and hope.
*I encourage you to find someone you can talk with, someone who will love you honestly and help you see truth. Identify the lies you have believed.
*Begin to reprogram your brain with new words and ideas (new scripts to play) that speak the truth about you. You have such power! Speak who you want to be and your mind and emotions will follow. I’m proof of that.
“I am loved.” “I can heal.” “I am worthy.” “I am strong.”
“I deserve a life free from the effects of abuse.” “I am more than enough.”
*Find something you enjoy doing and do it! Try many things and experiences until you find your niche. Doing this has helped me tremendously!
*Help someone else. I cannot emphasize this enough! There is such healing that happens when we begin to focus on helping someone. There are people around you who would benefit from your smile, touch, note of encouragement, listening ear, help with housework, yard work, babysitting, groceries, a ride somewhere, reading out loud to a child. Kindness warms our hearts whether we are giving or receiving it. And, I always say that “good multiplies good” in our lives.
Once again this has become a very wordy blog post. To those of you who stayed to the end–BIG hugs!! I hope something I’ve said will help you or enable you to help someone you love. Abuse is horribly prevalent, and our society has become one of broken, “walking wounded”. Let me know if there is any way I can help you. Peace, love, and blessings.
OH, and hey, if you like what you read, why not share the love and click, pin, like, etc.? I’d give you an extra big hug. Thanks!