Keep On Keeping On

“Someone once asked me how I hold my head up so high after all I’ve been through.  I said, it’s because no matter what I am a survivor – NOT A VICTIM.”

There are many traits about myself that I am not crazy about.  I am exactly five feet tall – no more, no less.  I have the shortest legs of anyone I know.  I cannot run to save my life, literally.  My heart physically fails me many times.  I have physical scars and bruises that aren’t that attractive.  My posture is atrocious.  My mouth gets me into trouble more than I’d care to share.  My upper body strength is shameful.  But all of these pale in comparison to this undeniable, unfathomable fact: I am a childhood trauma victim.

For the longest time I thought this label – this yoke around my neck – was nothing more than a delineation between me and other kids growing up.  Heck, I didn’t even think that for years.  I honestly believed that my life was a variant of normal – that all the girls experienced what I did; this was how Daddys showed their daughters love, and I was so very special and so very loved.

In my teen years, I didn’t want to be different, special in any way.  I wanted to be loved the right way, by the right guy…but at that point I was simply powerless to stop the momentum that had existed for so long.  So instead I made a decision:  I wasn’t special; I wasn’t different; and I certainly wasn’t a victim.

Once everything was exposed, and the ugliness began – the circles of blame and hurt feelings and raw emotions and bitterness – I sealed off that section of myself; blow-torched the edges and didn’t look back.  And it was settled…there was no damage, there was no problem, and there was no discussion necessary, period.  But I was so very wrong, for just because I had issued forgiveness for my Father, I had never ever forgiven myself, and it never once occurred to me that I was in far more need than he would ever be.

Since I had sealed off that portion of my life, I had never truly walked through how that experience changed me, formed me into the adult I became.  I entered a marriage still broken but functioning, in complete denial that the events of my trauma would ever touch another relationship.  In the early years of our marriage, my husband did make a valiant attempt to reach me, but he never possessed that capacity to fix what I had no cognitive knowledge was so vastly distorted – no one man could have taken on that task without my support and professional assistance – of this I am now keenly aware.

Also, because I had not examined how I was impacted by my trauma, my choices of relationships continued to be impacted, as our marriage stumbled and ultimately faltered, from a combination of both of our shortcomings.  I sincerely believe it took this event – the destruction of my marriage – to bring me to my knees, emotionally, spiritually, physically – before God and finally seek the answers within myself that had always been there, but that I had not been prepared before then to reveal.

As I’ve spoken of before, this heart work is the hardest work I’ve ever done, but it is the most critical work I will ever do – for the health of myself and those around me.  I cannot be the best me I can be without finding the cause of my pain, identified or not, and choosing to walk through that.  Simply identifying the issues, past and present, but refusing to make the necessary changes is not going to bring about the healthiest version of you.  It is in the walking it out that you find who you really are, who you were meant to be, and the you that God desired for you to become.  This is the critical piece.

I also believe I’ve discovered there is no completion to this work; it is a process we must continue daily.  Though I have come a long way in deciphering why I make the choices I make, and where some of those bad choices have taken me, there are still choices to be made – each and every day.  Though I can now recognize behaviors that seem familiar and safe and remember that those aren’t working for me any longer that takes a conscious decision each and every time, choosing the better path laid out before me.

I would still contend that I am not a victim, but rather a survivor.  In fact, I loathe the word ‘victim.’  The implication is helplessness, hopelessness, and weakness.  I am certainly none of these things.  I am strong, wise, and loved.  I have a pep in my step that has been missing probably forever.  I walk with my head up instead of looking down because of unworthiness.  I am a Princess, and I won’t be diminished by titles lobbed at me by this world.  And while I can’t grow any taller, I can lengthen my gait by keeping on this new path, this healthy path, and realizing that when I stumble, I can reflect on where I’ve come from to get me on track again.

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Fatally Attracted

“The moment you feel like you have to prove your worth to someone is the moment to absolutely and utterly walk away.”

I have been manipulated by people my entire life.  To even make this statement out loud strikes at the core of what I value most about myself – my intelligence.  How could someone so smart be so stupid and allow herself to be used and abused so intimately by so many? My greatest relationships have been the most disappointing – the most manipulative.  I thought this cycle of behavior began with my marriage, but in a revelation last week, I discovered this disturbing pattern began much earlier in my life – with my father.  And this new discovery sent me into a tailspin that revealed a level of myself I had not yet seen, and one I wasn’t certain I was ready to look at up close and personal.

They say, “Hindsight is 20/20.”  How many times do we hear this statement and never really stop to think what these words mean?  My observation has been that people peering into your life from the outside – the ‘cheap seats’ as I like to call them – always have the best vantage point.  It’s just so seemingly easy for them to speak volumes into your life:  you should choose this relationship; you shouldn’t buy that house; no, don’t have children now; oh gosh, you bought that dress?  But many times I find the ‘cheap seat’ advice is guised as judgment, even by the best meaning people.  Even with a pretty spin, judgment still stings, especially when some of the words ring true.

Over time I’ve learned to listen first, reflect on the person’s heart who’s laying down their pearls of wisdom, and respond less.  Oh, it’s not been an easy lesson by any means – I will be the first to tell you.  That sting is still there – maybe just not as painful as it once was.  But when you can trust the one who speaks into your life, trust that their heart is not intentionally trying to hurt yours, the pain is short-lived and you’re left with the nuggets of truth to take away.

So this is what happened for me last week.  A painful, but heart-full exchange, truthful nuggets, and reflection.  It was in that reflection time I found my brain spiraling out of control, and I needed to put those thoughts to paper before I simply lost my mind.  That exercise – release of my thoughts and feelings on a blank paper – proved to be so powerful and freeing…I’m not sure I can completely put into words what all I accomplished with that simple act.

I have shared my childhood experience here before.  I am a steadfast believer in the fact that there are no accidents – all things happen as they are meant to.  And while we may or may not receive answers for the tragedies we experience here on this earth, they all absolutely serve a purpose.  I don’t know why I was molested as a child, and quite frankly, I don’t need to know now.  I am, however, learning over time how even though I had thought I was not impacted beyond the end of that event by what happened, that is not exactly true.

As I sat with my therapist this week, recapping what I had discovered in solo work, questioning how I could have been so foolish to allow myself to be continually manipulated, she stopped me and posed several questions to help me work through my harsh conclusion.  Who was the parent and who was the child in the relationship with my Father?  Obvious answer there.  In my marriage, why did I choose my husband?  That he lived 1000 miles away and I was looking to escape, and his family seems so welcoming and I desperately wanted to belong to someone’s family.  In my friendship with X., what did she bring to the table?  Strength when I was at my weakest and availability when my other friends were busy with their families.  So with this information, was I ‘dumb or stupid’ in making the choice to be with them when I made my original choices?  No.  I made good choices at the time.  However, I am drawn to this type of personality – a controlling, manipulative, overbearing person.  Each and every relationship I have had has revealed this trait.  And I bounce from one relationship to the next to the next.  And if I don’t identify why I make this choice each time – I will continue to make this bad choice for myself again and again.

So what we decided together is that I need to trust ME more, pay attention to the red flags that I see coming up instead of avoiding them, and take my time, allowing people to earn my trust, instead of giving it away too freely.  Wow…that seems like it would be so simple, but believe me, it is not!  Doubt is sneaky, creaping in to every little crack and crevice you have, and seriously…I have too many!  But I am wicked proud of the work I continue to do, and I am thankful for the people I have who speak into my life from their heart.  I love them more than they know…and they know who they are.