Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Strategy

Holidays can be fun, but they also generate stress with the extra activities, the entertaining, and the extra expenses. For victims of domestic violence of any kind (verbal, emotional, physical or sexual) the holidays can be extra tough.

What does one do with bad holiday memories in the season that suggests that everyone should be happy and share in joyful family events? How do you handle it? What can you do when you feel more like crying than celebrating?

These are real and painful questions. There is pressure to have a Rockwell image Christmas with lots of warm family togetherness—but it isn’t always the way things really are. Sometimes old memories blot out the present.

I believe we can improve our holidays even while we are engaged in the process of healing from abuse. We can take actions, such as any of the following suggestions:
1. Take a Break
If you can, give yourself the gift of a break from counseling until after the holidays. If you are in crisis, then keep on going and reward yourself for attending. Go to a park or take a hike or visit an art museum. Do whichever calms you.
2. Get your Heart Pumping
Include a time most days to exercise. It will release endorphins that will lift your mood. Plus, as an added bonus, it will help your body burn those calories from holiday sweets.
3. Write Freely
Use your journal when old memories come up. Honor your feelings by recording them. Let your writing be uncensored. Journaling can help your process your thoughts and release your emotions all at the same time.
4. Find Fellowship
Share with a trusted person what you are going through. Let another see your pain. It really will help. Absorb the kindness, understanding, and caring that you receive. Let it sink in. Allow yourself to be comforted in your pain, knowing that talking and being heard will bring you further along in your healing.
5. Create Fun
Make time for your hobby or watch comedy movies. Doing something you enjoy will refresh and strengthen you. Do not consider this a waste of time—it isn’t. Don’t save it for last all the time—sometimes play first makes work happen at a more efficient pace.

May your holidays include restorative moments. May God help you to feel His presence during the season of celebrating the good news that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose up to live again so that we might be reconciled to God. Hallelujah!

Do healthy things, dear Reader, it will reap so many benefits that will reap so many benefits that will encourage your heart. Let’s give Jesus our hearts and our healing process this holiday season.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Giving a Priceless and Pleasing Gift

Years ago I wrapped an empty shoebox in birthday paper and cut a slit opening on the top. Its tag read: To Jesus Christ.

My idea was twofold. The box under our Christmas tree would help our children grasp that it was the coming of Christ as a baby that we were celebrating. And the slit on the top would be for index cards. Each family member has written a phrase on the card each Christmas about what they'd like to give to their Lord during the following year and put it into the box.

I already know what I will write on this year's card. I will give my Lord my willingness to continue to do whatever it takes to further my healing from childhood incest. The work is painful and sometimes I feel like calling it quits. But I will press on knowing that it is the right time-- the God-blessed time for me to heal.

I look forward to when my memories won't haunt me. When I won't feel shame at being noticed in any public setting. When I won't crave and then push away from deeper connection with people due to trust and shame issues. It will be so good to look at others without shame and to trust the trustworthy people with confidence.

How about you? What would you like to give to Jesus Christ in 2010? Is it going to be a year of continued healing from abuse?

Whatever season you are in remember that Immanuel (meaning God with us) is with you. He knows. He cares. He can help you. He can empower you by the Holy Spirit to do healing things that may seem impossible to you. He can do more than we even dare to imagine.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Can We Do?

We all agree that domestic violence is wrong. It is a tragedy that effects way too many homes. But what can any one of us do about it?

I think we can do more than we might guess. Those of us who have been there are positioned better than anyone else to offer understanding and encouragement to women and men who are still trapped in homes that are ongoing nightmares of verbal, emotional, or physical abuse. Acknowledging our own past abuse story is painful, but it may be just what another needs to hear.

Here is a list of ideas on how any one of us might be able to make a difference:
--Call 9-1-1 if we hear a domestic violence situation at a neighbor's home
--Invite another out for a cup of coffee or a lunch, if they have indicated that they are having marital problems. Listen. Share honestly from your own experiences.
--Encourage your pastor to address domestic violence in a sermon.
--Share your testimony of your past and how God helped you--it is a story that glorifies God and may help another to seek help.
--Donate money &/or time at a domestic violence shelter.
--Post a shelter magnet on your refrigerator.
--Keep shelter information in your wallet so that you can pass it on when an opportunity presents itself
--Pray for those who are feeling fear in their own home.
--Pray for children who are witnessing abuse or being abused themselves.
--Hold a fund raising project for your local shelter.
--Speak up when you hear someone verbally bashing another.
--Write a letter to your editor when there is a news story about another victim of spousal homicide.
--Ask direct questions when another hints about abuse.
--Teach your children how to live Jesus' way.
--Don't allow sexist jokes in your home.
--Teach your children to respect other people's boundaries.
--Never pass up a chance to pray for someone who is hurting.
--Join a national abuse prevention organization.
--Respond with warmth and sensitivity any time someone shares about abuse.
--Pray asking God to use you however He wants to, and see what happens.

Loving lives lived authentically and transparently make a mighty difference in this world. Jesus said that we are shining lights. So let's do some shining, right where we are.

List Making

Whenever I talk to someone who has recently separated from an abusive partner, I encourage them to make lists as soon as possible. Having thoughts written down while they are fresh can be a powerful motivator. Just the act of recording information onto paper can clarify our thinking and solidify our resolve.

First, list all of the reasons why you decided it was time to separate. Write down specific incidents and specific feelings. Write down the specifics about things your spouse has said and done. Write down your fears about what might happen if you were ever to return. Write down why this is a positive move for your children (or future children). Write down what hurts about the relationship.

Second, list all the fears you have about leaving, and then write down why you are moving forward despite your fears.

Third, list all your desires for the future. Write what changes you would need to ever return to your spouse.

Finally, list who you want to be, regardless of the outcome with your marriage.

These writing exercises will help you to clarify things. In the future, when you may be tempted to return to the abuser prematurely, re-reading the list can strengthen you.

For those readers who ended abuse a long time ago, allowing yourself to remember why you took action when you did is sure to fill you with gratitude for all that the Lord has done in your life since that time. Little did you know at the time that one of the my most painful decisions in your life would lead to a fulfilling life. Joy and peace seemed impossible then, but now that you are free from abuse and walking in freedom with your Savior--joy and peace are welcome gifts that grace your life in a way that just wasn't possible when you were oppressed by domestic violence.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankful for You

Abuse is horrid. Period. But thinking of my thanksgivings, I am grateful for the beautiful people who emerge from the healing process. I am grateful for their strength and their compassion for others. They are people anyone would want to be friends with--loving people who walk closely with their deliverer. They are beacons of hope.

Abuse attempts to destroy, but God redeems and restores.

Shine brightly, sisters and brothers. Today is a new day with our Lord who is good and wise. Our healing journey is in His capable hands.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


With God involved even the darkest season can be punctuated with praise. He is with us and it makes all the difference.


Sing a song of praise, O my soul,
Sing to your deliverer
who has rescued you
from hurtful abuse
and undeserved shame

Sing a song of thankfulness, O my heart,
to your God who sees and understands,
whose goodness is present
intertwining itself in today

Sing a song of hope, o my mind,
your healing is secure
in your Heavenly Father's hand
forever etched upon His heart

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rejoice? Are you Kidding?

When you're ankle deep in the junk of abuse, you don't feel like rejoicing. Looking at the evil things in this life is painful. It can feel awful if someone who doesn't understand gives you a cheer up, it's not so bad type of talk. Sometimes it feels like others think you should get over abuse violations in about a week. Which is totally unrealistic.

So please note, I am not telling you in this post to "get over it" or to paste a fake smile on your face.

Addressing memories of abuse is important for good mental and physical health. It is not fun, but it is important. However, past abuse does not need to be a twenty-four hours a day preoccupation. One good way to maintain balance while working through bad memories and difficult counseling sessions is to make an extra effort to practice gratitude.

Look for positive moments in your day. Take the time to notice how God is blessing you and tell him a quick thanks. Simple things like sparkling snow covered bushes, an encouraging phone call, or laughter with one of your children counts. Be on the look out, I know you'll find things.

Create positive moments. Intentionally give a smile, a friendly wave or a hug as a way to express gratitude to the people in your life. Say thank you to anyone who serves you in any way today.

As you attend to your emotional and physical needs, thank your Creator for your emotions and your body. As you eat, say thank you for the provision of food. As you drive, thank God for your vehicle or as you ride the bus thank Him for public transportation.

If you're blue about your past, try grounding yourself in the present by saying thank you for each person in your life whom you love. If it's a really bad day, try just saying thank you for the mundane things you take for granted like your hairbrush, your ability to walk, or the way clouds look in the sky.

Please notice, that I am not telling you to say thank you for abuse. Sometimes Christians think they have to. I think this is a misunderstanding of an important verses in which Paul encourages believers to rejoice in all things(Phillipians 4:4). He could rejoice that he escaped after being left for dead at his stoning, he could rejoice about having a relationship with Christ Jesus while he was in prison, and he could rejoice when his plans were thwarted because he knew the Holy Spirit was in charge. He didn't rejoice because he was a masochist, but because He fully trusted in God, he knew that no matter what happened next God would be with Him. And we can do the same.

At this time, I'm thanking God for fall sunshine, a quiet house, and my comfortable office chair. And I am thanking Him for the healing work that He is doing in your life and in mine.

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's Not About You

Abuse is not about you. You did not deserve it or cause it.

If you've been recovering from abuse for any length of time you know this. At least you know it in your head. You've been in the healing process for awhile if you know it deep in your heart.

Unfortunately, society doesn't help you get these truths. People say things like, "You seem like a nice person, so what did you do to get him so upset?" or "You're pretty and smart, it is hard to understand why he did that!" As if women who aren't as sweet, pretty or smart deserve to be abused physically, sexually, or emotionally. And, as if men or children would never abused by women.

Once I was in a restaurant on Christmas Eve. A dishevled woman came in and frantically fumbled with the pay phone on the wall (this was prior to cell phones). She started putting coins in and then frantically called out, "Does anyone have a dime? I've got to make this call! My husband's going to kill me!"

She had everyone's attention. No one was eating or talking anymore.

I searched my purse and then nudged my husband.

He made no move.

I hissed, "I know you've got change. Please, give it to her." I had to nudge him again, then my husband who was big boned and a full 8 inches taller than most men got up and gave her change.

Just as he was returning to our table, a man came in and grabbed the woman by her hair and slammed her head against the wall, saying, "Enough, B-----. You're coming home where you belong." He looked at my husband in challenge.

It shocked me that no one else was doing anything. I stood with my cheeks flaming. I was so embarrassed that their were at least ten able-bodied men who were not moving and three other women who weren't responding outwardly.

My husband said, "Hey, man. Take it outside. You shouldn't be doing that here."

As if doing it elsewhere was fine.

In hindsight, I wish I had done more. I wish I had passionately implored that shocked, passive people get up and restrain the man until the police came. I wish I had tried to interfere physically if necessary. I wish I had said something to the woman that would help her battered spirit.

There was so much I did not yet understand about abuse.

Today, I want to urge all abused women to get help. Pray to God and then talk to people. There is hope. There is help. You do not earn or deserve the abuse, no matter what your abuser has told you. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1−800−799−SAFE(7233)) for help from people who can listen and direct you to local help.

Today, I want to urge all those who are recovering from abuse to reject the lies your abuser(s) told you. Reject the false accusations, the name calling, and the devaluing words. Refuse to accept the insidious implications, the condescending looks, and the sarcastic evaluations. Recite to yourself important, true words. You are valuable. You do have a purpose. You are lovable. You are precious to the Creator of the Universe. You did not cause abuse. You did not deserve the torture you survived. If your mind is arguing against such truths, keep persevering in healthy, healing activities--better tomorrows are ahead.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Do You Believe?

Feelings can be so overwhelming. They can engulf thinking and feel too big, much too big. Too big to survive even, like a raging flood that destroys all in its path.

I have come such a long way in accepting feelings. I don’t live each day in a dark cloud of denial. I no longer keep lots of secrets from others and from myself.

I name feelings now and take a look at them. I can say that I feel confused, angry, disappointed, joyful, etc. I can acknowledge the emotions and allow myself to feel. I can decide what I want to do as a result such as celebrate the joy or cry the grief. I remember when I was totally numb for years and feel no desire to return there.

And yet, there are still days when I don’t want to feel. I have been working through long denied feelings surrounding the incest I suffered as a young child. I don’t like recalling the terror I felt. It feels huge. I don’t like remembering how I feared I might die. I don’t like thinking about how much I hated my dad when he was hurting me and using me. I don’t like remembering how I crawled under my bed or hid in a closet to hide from him. It is so uncomfortable to think back. There is a reason that I pushed all those memories down for so many years! I didn’t want to drown in the raging flood of emotions that felt way too big for a little girl and still hurt as a grown up woman.

I am looking at the feelings, knowing that it is part of a healing process. I’ve walked this same road with other issues from my childhood and my young adult years. I know that the fruit of facing the old shame is new life. I know that I will enjoy life more and live more freely after I face my pile of uncomfortable feelings.

But some days, it still feels almost impossible. The pain feels bigger than me. On those days, I tend to overeat or to eat forbidden allergy foods. I eat and feel a little better. Some endorphins bring temporary relief to the pain. I don’t like it for long though. It feels like I am copping out by hiding behind food and I don’t like how it causing me to gain weight.

I have been assured by other incest survivors that such pain is normal and that overeating is one of the typical coping behaviors. It helps to hear it.

And yet, I wonder if I would overeat if I did a better job at trusting God completely through this healing process. If I totally believed that He could carry me through this healing process would I seek comfort from a chocolate bar or a fudge sundae? What would happen if I asked God to comfort me and help me each time I feared drowning in tears? What if I were that trusting, knowing that He would comfort me and understand me? What if I believed enough to rely only on him? What if?

I want to grow into a woman of ever deeper faith and trust. God has been so good to me, over and over again. I know that he is compassionate and loving. I want to seek his mercy when I am in need of healing like the two blind men in the Bible who followed Jesus “calling out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" "Yes, Lord," they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith will it be done to you"; and their sight was restored” Matthew 9:27-29.

God is able. Healing is easy for Him. He cares about each person’s problems.

I believe he can help me with the flooding emotions of old trauma. I am going to practice turning to Him more regularly and celebrate the times that I do it.

If you are a reader who has gone through this journey of facing difficult memories too, God bless you for your courage and perseverance. It is a long journey of healing--but a rewarding one.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Unconscious Manipulation

One of the problems I've encountered as I reclaim life after abuse is unconscious manipulation. I learned some bad habits while living in dysfunction and abuse. Bad? Well, at the very least, they are habits that served a purpose formerly but now they interfere with intimacy in my most cherished relationships.

In an abusive situation, the person who wields power almost always gets his/her own way. We know that. We lived it. The bully got his/her way. Period. Or so it seemed.

In reality, the victim also got her/his way sometimes. Not with demands. Not with threats. Not with compromising or bartering.

Someone who has no visible power in a relationship has to use indirect and passive things to influence outcomes. She lies or omits information to influence the abuser's perceptions. He works slowly and poorly to urge the abuser to do something herself. She suggests a particular action, coating it in flattery or in self-belittling terms, so the abuser can easily claim the palatable idea as his own. She asks a question, not because she doesn't know the answer, but so the abuser can realize something. He agrees to do something and then "accidentally" breaks the tools or cannot begin because he "cannot find" what is needed.

We all want our way sometimes. It is human to want what we want. But I don't want to be manipulative. I want to continue learning the tools of equality. I want to believe, really believe, that I have the power to ask for my needs directly. I want to show my intelligence, without feeling that I must tone it down or hide it. I want to tell an important fact in a way that alerts the other that I am saying something true and important. I want make requests, without battling false guilt and shame-ruled embarrassment. I want to honestly state wants as well as needs.

I want to shed being a martyr or manipulator forever. The effort continues. It isn't easy to change lifetime habits, but change I must, for I deeply want the end result. But I am recognizing more quickly the times when I slip into indirect terminology or manipulative language. I am acknowledging why I do it. I am practicing saying things that are revolutionary for me. Things like, "Would you...", "I want...", "I need...", and "I like..."

If you can relate, I'd love to read your comments.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Traveling Together

I was totally numb and shut down the day I was raped as a teenager. I couldn't think clearly. I could barely function. I went as usual to my water safety instructor class as usual--but got sent home as "ill" because I was not present mentally and had merely said I don't feel well when questioned.

By the next evening at bedtime, however, my emotions were screaming inside my head. I felt frantic one moment and then angry, despairing, and overwhelmed in other moments. I desperately prayed to God, asking him desperate things. I wanted God to turn back the clock and rescue me, I wanted Him to just take me up to heaven, I wanted Him to show me what to do next.

God didn't say yes to any of those requests. But He brought to mind a poem I had only read one time in a gift shop, the Footprints in the Sand poem:

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from anguish,
sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints,
so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there has only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied,
“The years when you have seen only one set of footprints,
my child, is when I carried you.”

Copyright © 1984 Mary Stevenson

The authorship of the poem has been contested by several people, but I think this is the version I saw. At the time, it was printed as an anonymous author. But regardless of who wrote it, God used it powerfully. I don't memorize things easily, and yet, the poem came to my mind almost word for word perfect that night when I was seventeen.

I heard God reassuring me with the words and then the Holy Spirit reminded me of Jesus' words in Matthew 28:20: "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Then I felt God's presence holding me until I finally feel asleep exhausted. From that day on, I've known deep in my soul that Jesus is faithful to His Promise. He is with us always. No matter how confused, stressed, or abandoned we might feel in crisis. He is Immanuel, God with us. We have a loving, eternal traveling companion who carries us whenever needed.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Who Are You Blaming?

We human beings are pros at blaming. It comes easy. Adam and Eve blamed one another without hesitation. So who do we blame?

Whose fault is it that we have been mistreated, harmed, and abused? Who do we blame for the emotional, physical, and spiritual damage? Who do we blame for the fear that choked us and the helplessness that overpowered us?

Many of us who are survivors of abuse blame ourselves and/or God much more quickly than we think to blame the person who perpetrated the crimes against us. Strange, isn't it. But, nonetheless, many of us walk around with shame or bitterness tattooed on our foreheads. Not concretely, but oh so present.

If shame owns us, we are always blaming ourselves for everything. We feel inadequate, never enough. We are surprised if anyone seems to like us. We hide. We isolate. We try to disappear or miss being noticed. We are embarrassed when we are noticed, sure there has been a mistake and that we will be found out. We struggle to believe that we have any worth, any value, and lovableness.

If bitterness owns us, we are antagonistic toward God, and often toward people as well. We are suspicious, sure that there is always a catch, always a punishment coming, always a let down around the corner. We are cynical. We sneer, even if only in our minds. We distrust. We count on problems, and plenty come our way. We struggle to pray. Sometimes anger just pours out of us in a gush. We don't understand why and we dismiss it as irrelevant or justified. We struggle to believe that we really have any of the worth or value or lovableness that we battle for.

If both own us, we are hurting horribly in a way that no one gets. No one is there for us, not really. No one understands. We are drowning.

All three ways are no fun. Blame boomerangs with a loud whack. It beats at us. It hurts us more than the party we want to blame.

Blame demands that the terrible results are someone's fault. Pain must be someone's fault. Staying stuck on pinning blame is easier than feeling the pain itself and easier than consciously living through the terrible results that exist, and easier than processing the losses. But easier isn't always better, is it.

Let's try something different. Let's seek God's help to face our pain, to name our losses, to see who we've blamed, to engage in the healing process, and to move on. Let's not allow abuse to define who we are. Let's grow and overcome!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Home is
supposed to be loving,
with wise counsel,
gentle hands and good correction,
accepting laughter,
and understanding.

We know it,
in our core,
from birth it seems--
so babies die from
emotional neglect,
toddlers become withdrawn,
preschoolers hide,
adolescents aim to please,
teens shut down or rebel,
and adults walk around numb.

What do we do if our family
was harsh and unsafe
a place of secrets and threats
of punishment about wrath
of boundaries squashed
and of rights nonexistent?
What do we do with our memories of
a cold place in which we survived,
clinging as best we could
to life, while dying inside?

There is no easy answer
no pain-free solution
We must remember and grieve
the should ofs that weren't
the losses that we suffered
the pain that we carried.
We can heal, step by difficult step,
growing along the way,
re-learning how
to live,
to feel joy and to laugh freely,
with no fear entangling our feet!
Free to make mistakes--without
being crushed by shame
or to try new things without
his or her voice dragging us down.

It's not the easy road,
but it leads to riches for our spirit
It leads to making a new home,
planted in love and sustained by
God's grace,
mutual acceptance,
gentleness and kindness,
tenderness and forgiveness,
consistency and flexibility;
a new home,
that grows toward
what home should be, and can be today,
step by step.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Truly Loving Our Children

Stressful! There is no better word for describing how it feels to parent a child in a violence -effected home.

What is the best way to be a good parent when your spouse is spinning out of control, doing and saying things that are not good parenting? What do you do when your child behaves violently and justifies, "But Daddy/Mommy does it"? The other parent does do it, but you don't want your child to grow up like that other parent. You don't want domestic violence perpetuated down into the next generation.

I remember feeling so confused, once I realized that the children were being negatively impacted by my spouses' tantrums. I wanted my children being nurtured in a loving environment. I wanted them corrected in a wise and loving manner. I wanted our home to be a safe place. I did not want them being abused!

At the same time, I felt the pressure of conventional wisdom that good Christians never divorce. I believed that keeping the family together was of paramount importance, no matter what.

I spent years convinced that my husband and I must work through "our problems" and victoriously build a godly home, no matter what my spouse's problems were. Over and over I heard in my head "for better or worse" and "in sickness or in health." I reached the point of knowing I was experiencing the worst part as emotional abuse became daily and physical abuse was peppered in here and there. So how was I supposed to fulfill my marriage vows and be a good parent? Due to domestic violence, the two goals were not compatible. They simply were not.

It's a difficult place to be in. Between a rock and a hard place doesn't do justice. It feels like being crushed between a mountain and a huge bulldozer. My heart goes out to anyone who is currently wrestling with the painful pressure. I urge anyone who is currently being abused (regardless of whether or not she/he believes the children are also being abused) to seek help from a domestic violence organization ( National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 ). Children cannot rescue themselves from abuse or from the negative effects of witnessing abuse--they need adult help.

For those of us who have been there but now live abuse-free lives-- we have guilt issues to deal with, don't we! No matter how we resolved the conflict, we struggle with or have struggled with self-incrimination.

I realized that the most loving thing I could do for my spouse was to confront all the abuse with a non-verbal ultimatum, moving away from our home with the children. It was also the most loving thing I could figure out to do for my children. I left with the children to keep them safe and filed for a separation, and then later filed for divorce. I did it all hoping with all my might that my husband would get the help he needed--so we, eventually, could be a family under one roof again. The doors to reuniting, however, repeatedly closed and we divorced. The marriage was not saved, but I created a non-abusive home for my children and a permanent restraining order worked to keep my former spouse from continuing to abuse the children on his parenting visits.

I am glad that I made those decisions. But when guilt attacks I feel regretful that I didn't take action sooner:

  • I regret that I didn't leave the abusive environment in the six years before we had children. If I had only know how things would just keep on getting worse...
  • I regret that one of my children had her arm injured by her raging father and that during the divorce process I learned that it had happened more than once. I felt horrible when I found out that she had silently witnessed spousal abuse while hiding behind a living room chair.
  • I regret that another child was choked by his father, and again I learned that it happened more than once.
  • I feel guilt that I suspected that someone at the daycare was mistreating him, when it was actually my spouse.
  • I feel guilt that I tried to never leave my children alone with their father, but I did not succeed. Sometimes, my need to refresh overrode my protective instincts and other times they were alone with him during daily life when I was in the bathroom, when my back was turned at the stove, etc.

Reader, I'm guessing that you have your own list. I have shared mine not to air dirty laundry, but to help us all know that this is a normal part of recovery. Some of our guilt is because we did something wrong, but much of our guilt is about condemning ourselves for not knowing then what we know now.

Here are some ideas that help me sort through the piles of guilt I am capable of burying myself under:
  1. Whose voice am I listening to? Is it a former abuser or my conscience?
  2. What did I actually do? What did I believe or think?
  3. Did I know that it was wrong when I did it or believed it?
  4. If I did wrong and I have confessed it to God, then I am forgiven. I merely need to remind myself that I am forgiven and move on.
  5. If I did wrong, and just now realize it. I can confess it--and know God forgives me.
  6. If it was really someone else who did the wrong thing in the past, I cannot change what was done. I can give a child a healthy explanation of the truth when they bring it up. I can seek counseling if a child is haunted by past trauma.
  7. If I did wrong, but I was doing the best I could with what I understood at the time, then I need to forgive myself. I am a fallible human who makes mistakes and sins, just like everyone else. I must forgive myself so that I can graciously forgive other as well.
Don't drag around guilt continually. It won't help you or your children!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Satanic Abuse

With Halloween approaching and Domestic Violence Awareness Month drawing toward its close, I want to address Satanic Ritual Abuse. I have had the privilege of knowing several courageous survivors through the years and am aware that October is an especially difficult month. So to those of you who have survived Satanic abuse, here is a poem that I hope will bring some of the peace of Christ Jesus to your wounded heart and soul:

It wasn't you
who stirred up evil
in parents who deprived you
and abused you

No child
asks for deprivation,
no newborn
was created for sacrifice,
no teenage girl
was destined for caging and
public raping.

You were told horrible lies
you were subjected
to unspeakable miseries
Your brokenness is understandable

You, dear one,
were created to love
and to be loved,
in pure and wholesome ways

You were born to people who had
sold their hearts and souls to the evil one
or to parents who were captured
and ensnared by his trickery.

Satan's power is real, as you well know,
but there is One who is more powerful,
who chooses to walk in love,
who treats his children with dignity,
respect, and patience in great abundance.
One who is Love and Light and Life loves you
and His grace can redeem even the most wretched
He is compassionate

He's outraged at what happened to you!
He is a safe refuge and a caring friend,
who will never betray you
and never abandon you.

The One who Christians call God
Is good,
Totally and irrevocably good,
No matter what Satan may imply.

He cares about you,
His love is deep and sure.
Pray to God and see what happens;
Read His Bible to know him better.

Flee from Satan--
Resist His lies,
and ask God for help;
Jesus Christ will not let you down

Long Awaited

Tears well up
deep under
the surface of me,

They swell
but I stare at
something, anything--

No tears allowed!
Big girls don't
cry over secret hurts

Abuse happened,
but must be buried
to protect well
the abuser.

Let go tired body,
release the old pain
acknowledge losses,

Cry healing tears;
it's right and healing,
so it's really more than

No one will be hurt;
the former terrorizing threats
will fall to the ground,

Let tears, long needed,
water my shriveled hopes
and cleanse shame away,

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Going to Bat for Victims of Violent Crimes

Times Up! is a brand new blog (http://timesupblog.blogspot.com/) I'd like to bring to your attention. I love that it will be focusing on solutions for victims of violent crime, with contributors being knowledgeable in different aspects of violent crime. What a needed site. It is my prayer that those who are suffering under an abusers control and those who are recovering from abuse will find comfort and solid help from the site. It is also my prayer that those working to help victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes will sharpen one another as they read each others' posts and visit each others' websites. I also pray that those who have power to make policies and laws will read the blog entries and be moved to improve the help that victims can receive.

I am honored to be one of the bloggers for Times Up! My "expertise" comes from my life experience, as you know if you are a regular reader of my blog. My solutions will be focused on how individuals can heal and create non-abusive homes.

My basic premise is that for every woman or man who frees her/him self from abuse and then heals from that abuse there is a whole web of other potential victims (children, grandchildren, cousins, friends, etc.) who learn an abuse-free lifestyle. Statistics show that typical victims enter more abusive relationships and expose their whole web of family and friends to more abuse. Healed and in-the-process-of-healing former victims, however, spread non-abuse in a powerful way and end up positively impacting not only their own circle, but also acquaintances and even strangers. The light that shines from a life that was held captive and is now free is attractive, and encourages hope and courage in others!

If any of you have ideas on things that you'd like to read about and know more about, please email me at TanyaTWarrington@gmail.com, your suggestions will remain anonymous.

My first post on Times Up! (http://timesupblog.blogspot.com/) will be posted on Thursday, October 22, 2009. I hope you'll take a look at what others and myself have to say in an attempt to help with solutions.

What is God's Role in the Story of Abuse?

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" Romans 8:28-29 (NIV).

God promises that he will work all things to good for Believers in Romans 8:28-29. This is quite different than saying that everything (including abuse) is good for us or happens to us for a good reason. Our society urges us to believe that everything happens "for a reason," a true but vague statement meant to reassure us in bad circumstances. I urge you to think about the reasons.

Sometimes natural nature events take place, like a flood or volcano erupting, but by far the majority of happenings in our daily life happen because people do "things."Most "things" happen because people make decisions and take actions. These actions are motivated by love or kindness and sometimes by greed or lust, or any other motives that we humans are capable of conceiving. Abuse "happens" when a human being decides to feed their lust or greed with perpetrating sinful acts against an innocent person(s).

God doesn't make sinful things "happen." The God of Christianity is not a puppetmaster who continually arranges each thing that happens to us for his own mysterious reasons. He occasionally directly intervenes in the events of history [such as when he made Balaam's donkey talk (Numbers 22:5-7) or when He parted the Red Sea for the trapped Israelites (Exodus 14:15-31)]. But for the most part, God's interventions are about transforming individual believers more into the likeness of Jesus Christ. His gentle whisper is heard. His leading as a trustworthy Shepherd is followed. His commands are obeyed. His Word is kept close in the heart. His grace is received. His love is cherished. And a life is transformed into a shining light that can influence others positively.

God is promising in Romans 8 that when we are ravaged by another person's sinful choices, he will work future good out of today's tragedy. For a believer, God is present in it all, transforming the pain into a series of opportunities to know Him better and become more like Him. He comforts us in our loss. He strengthens us to recover. He leads us into a better life. He uses our past pain as a way to give us ministry opportunities, because we can comfort others with the comfort that God himself has given us.

God is love. The Bible says it clearly from beginning to end. God's purpose isn't hidden. It is clearly stated over and over. He loves His people and wants to be in eternal loving relationship with them. God can, and sometimes does intervene in history, but it is not what he does most of the time. Most of the time, He courts us, urging us to allow Him into our hearts, in good times and in tragedy. Throughout our walk with Him he works through the positive and negative experiences we have, always coaxing us to become more like our Savior in our innermost being.

If we're not sure if we are His people and can rightfully claim this promise, we are only a prayer away. God's arms are wide open in welcome and he joyfully knocks at the door of our hearts. All we need to do is pray and ask Him to enter in and become the Lord of our lives, believing that He is God and that He sent His son to die for our sins so that we could be close to God and talk to Him whenever we want. God's kingdom is good and all are welcome, if only they will humbly ask.

Look for God's comforting presence. He didn't perpetrate abuse against you for unfathomable good reasons. Granted, He decided not to intervene, but it was because He knew He could redeem the situation with your willing cooperation. He knows He can help you and heal you. He knows that what the enemy meant for evil, our loving Lord will transform into something good, something redeemed, something that will reflect the glory of His Son.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" Romans 8:28-29 (NIV).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Healing Blues

Today, I tripped over a memory of former abuse. My heart picked up pace as I remembered and a surge of anger came with it. How much longer I wondered. I have not lived under abuse for the last decade and yet today I felt pain over a memory from twenty-five years ago.

I have had someone tell me that they think you can never heal from abuse. I immediately disagreed. God has healed me in many ways from abuse. I am not the same person that I used to be.

I just wish sometimes that the healing were quicker and that it did not involve pain along the way. I wish I could be healed without having to remember the emotions I stuffed away. I wish I could be healed without working out new behaviors with practice that involves failures as well as success. I wish that I could be healed without my involvement. I wish God would just touch me and it would be a done deal.

I've got the healing blues, full of wishes that don't match my reality. Full of woe.

So I'll work on singing on hope next to lift my mood, just like King David did in some of his psalms. It only takes a second to see the miracles that God has already done. I am free from abuse now after years of bondage! I am free! I'll begin there and remember what my life used to be and how much better it is now. I will be thankful for the many blessings I have now. I will remember how the previous tough situation was resolved--yes there was pain--but by walking through that valley, I reached a new pasture of plentiful provisions from God. My life improved. With hope restored, I will find the courage to move on.

I'll allow myself to feel my pain over the memory. I will feel. I will take those feelings to God and I will see what healing will unfold. It won't happen as quick as I'd like, but healing will grow and I will grow.

A new song is being written on the pages of my life. Some blue notes are there, but overall the tune is one full of divine glory revealed. It is a most excellent tune composed by God himself.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Assuming the worst and trying to prepare for it is a natural reaction to living with the constant stress and chaos of an abusive environment. But what about after you are away from abuse? How does such thinking affect us when we are building an abuse-free life?

Do you ever see yourself assuming the worst, projecting the worst possible scenario for a relationship or for tomorrow? Do you catch yourself setting your expectations really low about how others see you or how others will behave toward you? Do you try to protect your heart by always preparing for the worst?

When you don't understand someone's behavior do you assume the worst? Or do you tell yourself the worst about people who keep showing themselves to be trustworthy? Do you find yourself doing the opposite with people who behave in non-trustworthy ways, telling yourself that their intentions must be good or that you must be misunderstanding the situation in some way?

Welcome, once again, to the crazy world of carrying the scars of abuse. The great news is that we can grow out of this behavior. Here are the things that I am finding helpful in this process:
  1. Ask God for His help. Ask Him to help you see things from His perspective, with His eyes.
  2. Start spending most of your time with people who are habitually cheerful and positive.
  3. Put your negative diatribe on a timer. Give yourself five minutes to dwell on the negative. Then intentionally switch to thinking about the positive possibilities, the noble things, the things worth giving thanks for, and the blessings you can see.
  4. Write down in a journal what you will do if the worst turns out to happen and then consider the case closed, reminding yourself that in the non-abusive environment the worst rarely happens. But if it should, you've got it covered! It will free you to live in the present. Any time your mind wonders back to "what if...", you can remind yourself that you've already handled it--and return to living the present moment. It's a tough discipline, but it will repay you in pure gold.
  5. Recognize who the people are in your life that encourage your negative spiral. These are relationships to eliminate or to limit contact with. If you must interact daily (such as in your employment), then focus on taking good care of yourself. Change the subject when possible. Do kind acts for others to cheer yourself up. Surround yourself with messages of cheer and of truth (Bible quotations are great). Intentionally do things that re-fill your emotional tank.
  6. Exercise regularly. The endorphins released during a workout are proven to improve one's disposition.
  7. Post Bible verses that speak to you where you will see them regularly (bathroom mirror, closet door, by your kitchen sink, on your coffee mug, in your car).
  8. Journal five things you are grateful for each day.
Good luck, Reader! This journey can be bumpy, but if you try these things I feel confident you will find yourself spending less time negatively projecting into the future. You will be too busy living fully in the present.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Piles of Shame

Piles of Shame

By Tanya T. Warrington

Shame on you
the refrain repeated
on you, on you, on you
shame's heavy burden
for things I didn't do

shame landed on me
whole truckloads full
piling up and suffocating
burrying me alive

Had the story ended there
what a complete tragedy
it would have been
to smother so

But God had a different ending
He scooped away the lies
He shone his light of hope
He sought me and found me
He held me close in a loving hug

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bringing You Back to the Present

It sounded weird, even silly, when my counselor suggested it. How could it help? She told me it was a tool that had helped her more than once when she was triggered and experiencing PTSD symptoms. She thought it would help me too.

The exercise is very simplistic. But it truly does help; I know that now. All you have to do is list five things you see, then five things you hear, and then five things you feel. You repeat this exercise listing four, three, two, and one thing(s) respectively. It is fine to repeat items. This exercise re-grounds you in the present moment, lessening the hold of the past event that is holding you hostage. It works! Give it a try.

For me, I forgot to try it the first few times. So come back and reread this post when you need the reminder again of what to do.

My prayer is that you will find relief with this simple tool and that you'll be able to then pray in the present for God's help in dealing with past crude and in processing the memories to the level that they can remain in the past as facts, not crushing emotional triggers.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mind Control

Mind Control

I was cold;
You said I was not.
I was frightened;
You said I couldn't be.
I was angry;
You said I must be tired.

My emotions had no room,
No floor.
They were wrong,
Always wrong

I learned to doubt myself,
to assume I must be mistaken.
Feelings were wrong and so were banished,
Shoved into an invisible box, hidden deep inside

I walked in numbness
Wasting years
Before God awakened me,
Helping me to new life

But learning to trust myself
is a slow journey,
believing in myself a lofty pinnacle,
accepting what my senses tell me,
another slow lesson

I walk in life,
trying and failing,
experiencing and shutting down,
rejoicing at freedom,
chaffing at old habits,
and fighting old thoughts

You, you'd say I was crazy
that I made up my past,
But I know better now.
You're in denial and I won't join you--
Not any more,
Not ever again!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Abused Wife

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I'd like to focus on domestic violence issues this month.

Abused Wife

by Tanya T. Warrington

I wasn't afraid,
He couldn't make me cry,
I'd never let him make me cry;
I was a survivor.

I didn't feel fear,
I felt okay and fine,
Other feelings were gone
Or strangely muted.

I was dead really,
Numb and removed,
Hiding myself from the trauma,
Forgetting whatever I could.

A brittle branch
Weighed down by heavy snow
Bending, always bending,
Waiting for the day I'd snap.

Little did I know that the snap
would not be the end of me,
but rather a tough re-birth
that would free me from Fear's grip

I was terrified it turns out;
believing his evil threats,
and cowed by his displays of violence,
until I separated myself and the children.
I just didn't know it with my mind,
But with distance could see my lifestyle of fearfulness--
Fear had been my master for fourteen long years.
All my tiptoeing over invisible shattered glass,
Trying to please him above all else,
Doing almost anything to try to advert his "anger problem"
Had been a sign of my bondage to cruel Fear.

I want to shout from the rooftops now,
To all who still serve Fear as they try to appease
An irrate partner who will not be pleased
No matter what they do to serve.
This lifestyle isn't marriage--it is bondage;
it isn't the way its supposed to be.
No one is perfect; it is true.
But there are many who would never, not once,
Threaten to harm you or intentionally wound you.
Most spouses want to love and be loved
with someone they cherish and adore;
Not someone they set out to dismantle and degrade.

Love has four letters but it is freeing, not condemning;
It builds up both partners over time,
amazing each with the growth they see
in themselves and in their beloved.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This Little Light of Mine

"Shine brightly with the light of Christ Jesus, be all that I created you to be" says the voice of God, but another voice urges me to distrust, to hide, to be frightened, to be shy--to do everything opposite of letting my light shine fully. It is a battleground. A war between good and evil.

I suppose I am the princess of this fairy tale. I have been helpless and trapped, praying for rescue. I have met my hero, my Savior. I have been carried away from the dungeon of abuse and live freely now. And yet, I still am on a journey, looking forward to Heaven in the future but walking onward in the here and now.

I want to shine brightly. When I succeed in shining in and for the Lord, it feels wonderful and right. I feel more myself than ever before and it seems so attainable to continue there forever. Alive and vibrant, using the gifts God has given me.

But then there are the other times. Times when old habits of self-protection loom up and block my light for awhile. Times when I hide by isolating, times when I blame myself or others without mercy, and times when I try not to be noticed. When I examine those times, I see chains and ropes going back to the past, to abuse. It is unpleasant and hurts.

I don't want to live in darkness, so once again, I choose the Light. I will walk with my Lord no matter what I remember or feel. I will trust Him who has always been my comforter and my strength.

I have experienced so much healing in so many areas, but the process is not complete yet. I wonder if it ever will be completed.

Can you relate, Reader? Do you have a battleground between good and evil inside you. Does the abuse of the past still have a way of showing up in your behavior? Do not grow weary! We are overcomers every time we choose good and say no to the bad. We shine even when we don't realize it.

This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine,

This little light of mine,

I'm gonna let it shine,

Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

To Whom Do You Belong?

I refused his school jacket; his reasons were clear. He was jealous, saying that other males were taking too much interest in me and I was too friendly. He wanted to let others know that I was his. He came across as owning me. I knew about being owned and I wanted no part of it. I already had a parent who felt fully entitled to behave however he chose. My high school boyfriend tried to force me to take his jacket, shoving it into my hands. I shoved it right back. I never did wear it, but after 11 months of dating, he raped me. He had decided by then that he owned me anyway. A couple of years later, another man, my husband, treated me as property too.

Being owned by another is a horrible experience of oppression. I'm talking about the bondage of another person saying with their behavior (and sometimes direct words) that he or she owns you--and therefore he/she can do anything to you that he/she wants. Forget about personal boundaries concerning privacy or safety or anything else. It gives the abuser the justification to do anything.

Many of you reading this blog have experienced this nightmare, too. You know how wrong it feels, how humiliating, confusing, and angering. You've felt trapped and utterly helpless.

Part of healing from abuse requires recognizing this slavery of the soul and doing something about it. Initially, that means separating from the abuser permanently or until he or she changes (which is a rare occurrence because abusers find abuse very rewarding). Later on, ending the slavery that Satan has introduced into our lives with abuse requires us to confront the lies that hang out in our hearts, minds, and guts, blocking us from truly experiencing the freedom that God says is ours.

Are we willing to see and confront lies? Are we willing to say, "No, I am not a worthless possession that deserves to be treated shamefully or neglectfully. I am going to believe that I am valuable because Jesus Christ was willing to die for me. I am going to make choices that reflect that I know my Heavenly Father has created me with a special plan and good purpose"?

At some point, we need to take ownership of ourselves. Will we acknowledge and take care of our own needs in appropriate ways? Will we say no to unhealthy relationships? Will we say no to destructive habits? Will we believe that we are free and responsible for our own lives, rejecting the comfortable old rags of the victim mentality that says we have no power or control over anything that happens to us? We will never be able to control life or other people--but we have many liberating choices we can make about how we spend our time, when we seek help, how much we practice new, healthier behavior.

It's a process, just like every other part of healing from abuse. We can know in our heads that we are not slaves, but knowing it in our wounded hearts is a different matter. It takes repetition of truth and practice. It takes kindness. It takes time. In our soul we can experience our freedom with great joy during a worship service at church and then find ourselves weighed down during the week by heavy chains of old beliefs. Again it takes truth, practice, kindness, and time to allow truth to permeate all of our being. But, thankfully, we have time to practice and to rejoice in the progress that is made. We can begin anew each day. We are free in Christ Jesus, sisters and brothers. Let's keep living it out!

I am reminding myself again as I write this post. I am free, I am valuable, I am loved by the Lord Almighty. So are you! I hope you "take it to heart" this week and practice living as one who is significant and worth treating with respect, gentleness, and love--because you really, really are!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Who Can We Trust?

Betrayed! Unsafe! Dangerous! Abuse hammers into us the lesson that we cannot trust people. Almost all abuse happens at the hands of people whom we thought loved us, people whom we thought we could trust. Until they showed us otherwise.

Even those who are abused by a stranger still struggle with trust issues. Someone, who might have been anyone, stripped away their feelings of security. Suddenly humanity did not seem safe or trustworthy any longer. A member of society felt free to attack.

So what do we do? How do we heal? How do we learn to trust again? Can we ever regain our innocent trust? Is it even wise to trust?

Trust is a foundation stone in every relationship. So if we want to have relationships, we have to learn to trust again. But how?

I turned to God, and he has enabled me to trust again. It has been a learning process with my Good Shepherd right there with me. I don't know how others learn to trust without His help. I feel sure that I would have turned into a bitter, distrusting woman if God hadn't answered my cries for healing and help.

I am blessed beyond measure by the healing that has taken place. I have female friends, I have a non-abusive husband who cherishes me, I have relationships with my children that exceed anything I ever dared to hope for. Trusting is growing in relationships with small risks and new behaviors tried. God empowers me to try, despite my fears. Courage in small bite size pieces slowly builds healthy behaviors and relationships.

I've also made more mistakes of extending too much of myself to folks who aren't trustworthy--but I've learned more with each error. I've learned that some people are just too wounded or messed up to function in a healthy way.

I've learned to focus the majority of my energy and time on the relationships that are healthy or are growing healthier. I am learning to trust myself again--to value my gut feelings and my perseptions. I can relax with trustworthy people and enjoy the gift of friendship and healthy love.

Trusting isn't easy after abuse--but it is possible, and rather lovely.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Abuse is stressful for the whole body.

I have been struggling with much more illness this year. Since I have also been dealing with abuse memories and processing this year, I googled "abuse and illness" on the Internet to see if there is any possible connection. If you try it too, you will find articles on the physical and psychological conditions that are more common among abuse survivors. I found studies on the prevalence of gastrointestinal issues and migraines among us--both of which apply for me. I also read about depression and anxiety being a common problems for survivors, problems I have heard about from other survivors I have known.

So what do we do with the information? Afterall, we cannot undo the abuse we've experienced.

After giving it some thought, my response is to do my best to understand and truly accept that abuse was stressful for my body. Stress hormones surely flowed through my body regularly for years! The trauma is over now. But the consequences are still being worked out. I am on a wonderful healing journey with the Lord and I trust that my body will be healed in God's perfect timing.

His goodness is the rock upon which I will continue to stand. I need to take good care of my physical needs--now that I am free from abuse I can attend to those needs, indeed, my body is letting me know that I must.

Healing has so many layers, doesn't it? Feel free to post a reply (you can do so anonymously if you wish) or send me an email sharing your experience with the physical part of healing from abuse. Thanks in advance!

Published on 9/10/09
Physical illness
reflecting long-pent stress
abuses' secrets held in tissues
unshed tears deep in the heart
fears of death bound in the gut

Releasing the captive memories
Shedding tears for the past abuses
grieving for the way things were
physical pain rearing back up
cells screaming their rage
at wrong deeds done long ago

Come, dear Savior,
slice the chains away
open the cell doors
free my body from the past
cleanse me anew
strengthen me
restore my health

Published on 9/10/09

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Getting in touch with anger is an inevitable part of healing from abuse. It's not fun, but it is necessary.

I've known for years that some day I'd have to recognize the anger that automatically fills a soul when one is mistreated. I was frightened by the thought. Anger frightens me. I am typical of many victims of domestic violence. I associate anger with abusers and the horrible harm they do. I've never wanted to be anything like them--so my anger was stuffed and rejected as unacceptable.

Some of you readers can fully identify with the above paragraph. You are normal. Others of you can't relate at all. You have been very in touch with your anger. You are furious at what happened to you and you use your anger to try to protect yourself from any further abuse. You'd rather hold power than to ever feel powerless again. Guess what. You are normal too. Both responses are typical. Both are a result of abuse.

Either way, anger must be dealt with. Anger itself isn't bad. It's just another emotion. But when anger is suppressed or when it is held on to it grows bigger and it harms us by creating excess stress. It is natural to feel the anger--it needs to be felt, and then let go. We can honor the emotion with acknowledgement and then allowing our emotions to move on, ending the feeling of being stuck in past abuse.

Last week, I finally recognized my anger and worked on releasing it. I hit a pillow with a child's bat many times with a friend near by for support. I was shocked by how hard I hit and how many times I hit the pillow, but it felt right. I thought about past abuse as I worked out the anger. I thought about all my mixed feelings over being a victim. I thought about the people who had done such wrong things to me. I thought about how I'd wanted to protect myself, but had been unable to stop the abuse for years. It was all ugly, yucky stuff but it felt right to admit my reality fully and to let the suppressed emotions out in a harmless way.

Afterward, I felt peace and new energy to keep claiming the abuse-free life that I want to live. I felt more energy to focus on loving others and to work on building healthy relationships with others. Something about acknowledging the anger is freeing me up to break out of the isolation that has haunted me since I was first abused.

How about you? Do you suppress anger? Or do you burn with anger? Have you honored your feelings of anger at being mistreated with abuse? Are you at a point where you can let your emotions move on? If so, try doing some harmless movement to release the anger--go for a long run or swim, visit a batting cage, hit a pillow with a childs padded bat, tear up lots of paper...

If you're not ready to look at your anger yet, don't worry. The time will come. God will help you know when it is time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Strands of Trust

Strands of Trust

stretched and stretched
until it snaps
leaving dangling ends
broken and useless

fragile at best
a thin thread
unable to stretch
anticipating failure

a fishing line
stronger now
hoping just a little
for something better

a retractable cable
able to withstand
jolts and loads
able to extend, or not

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Choice to Make

Growing up in an abusive home has a tremendous effect on how one views the world. I've known this for years, but recognizing warped places in my thinking is a process that takes time. Periodically, an awareness would surface that I did not love myself, and I didn'tt see how that was going to change. It was just the way it was.

I was trained to ignore my wants and needs. As a child, I often felt like I was being bad if I dared to have any needs. There just wasn't time, emotional energy, or empathy available to address a child's emotional needs.

For example, when I was eight years old I became terribly ill. I instinctively knew that something very serious was wrong. I was told that I was fine and to stop being a baby. When a doctor confirmed three days later that I was very ill and needed my appendix out as an emergency surgery, I was left at the hospital without any parental comfort. The nurse explained to my parent that young children often benefited from a parent staying in the room even during the nights, but I stayed in the room alone. I remember trying not to fall asleep too deeply so I could push the nurse call button if I became worse in the night. My surgery was scheduled for first thing in the morning, but the nurse said a doctor would do the operation in the middle of the night if I couldn't make it until then. The nurse was kind. She came to my room a couple of times. She patted my hand, wiped the bangs out of my eyes, spoke about my surgery and comforted me more than my absent parents had ever done.

I buried the intense feelings of loneliness and abandonment with many other buried feelings of fear, worry, and anger that there was never room for in my home. I apologized the next day to my parents for being sick and I entered surgery without a parent kissing me, hugging me or reassuring me. They came and I appreciated that. They waited and they were there when I exited surgery. They stayed a little longer before they said they needed to go. They gave what they had--but comfort, emotional sensitivity, or emotional support weren't part of the package.

As I've processed many such memories and other darker memories of blatant sexual abuse, I've been able to experience some of those long repressed feelings, I've been able to feel compassion for my parents and their struggles with addictions, I've been able to feel sympathy for my younger self. I've had greater understanding about my internal motivations.

And then, last week, a moment of decision was suddenly and clearly upon me. Was I going to continue hoping for the day when my parents would understand me, accept me and cherish me? Was I going to continue choosing to squash self-care and self-love in order to live by my parents' rules? Or was I going to choose to fully commit myself to being responsible for my needs in a loving, nurturing way? Was I going to start treating myself with the full measure of love and respect that I lavish on my children and step-children? Was I?

I discovered in that moment that I am ready. I am again at another new and exciting place of healing thanks to God's leading. I can now accept and embrace giving myself loving, respectful care for both physical and emotional needs.

The work of facing more painful memories and repressed feelings was worth it. With Him, we can reach levels of healing that seemed too far out of reach. With God, all things are possible.

Reader, where are you today with your healing process? Do you believe yet that you are lovable and that it is more than okay to take care of yourself physically and emotionally?

Wherever you are on the journey, keep on looking to God with trust. He can and will help you. He'll help you find and unfurl your own set of dazzling wings of grace, hope, and love.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Thank You

Thank you to those readers who prayed concerning my computer problems and health. It took awhile to recover from the flu followed by a sinus infection but I am back to being well.

Thank you also to those who posted comments and wished me well.

You are great readers!

But I Love Him/Her!

Your reaction to today's post title will vary tremendously depending on how long you've been away from abuse and how much recovery work you've done so far. When someone is in abuse she or he feels an extremely strong (super glued to the max) connection to her or his abuser. Sometimes this emotion is labeled hate, but in the vast majority of cases it is called "love."

How does one recover from being betrayed by someone that says "I love you" before and after abuse? How does one heal a broken heart that gave love freely and received back love tainted by abuse in one or more forms? How does one ever learn to trust or love any other after the shame and treachery of abuse has ripped one's soul to shreds?

Some of you who are well down the road of recovery have answers now to these questions. Others of you near the beginning of the journey can hardly imagine or hope that there is any life worth living after being abused.

Psychologists and sociologists have studied the bond that occurs between an abuse victim and the abuser. They don't call it love, but rather it is named the Stockholm Syndrome. It is a condition in which the person being held captive by a controller ends up feeling strong positive, protective feelings toward their captor. It is a situation that abusers foster with small acts of kindness mixed with threats and abuses. Isolation, sleep deprivation and control of finances can be used by abusers to heighten the abused person's sense that their whole well-being, or total lack thereof, is completely within the control of the abuser. The Stockholm Syndrome that leads to us believing that we love our abuser too much to leave him or her is a testimony to the survival instinct. It serves a purpose while we are trapped and feeling threatened. It is our best attempt to stay safe--or as safe as we can in a horrible situation.

But once we are contemplating leaving an abusive relationship or a relationship has ended and we are needing to heal, we will be much healthier after we recognize that the powerful emotions that we felt and the intense relationship we participated in wasn't about love. It is essential that we be able to sort out the differences between love and the psychological trauma that we've endured. If we don't do the hard work of untangling the experiences we thought were love, we are prone to become another statistic. Many abused people enter multiple abusive relationships because they don't know what love is. Too many abused people die every year before they can figure it out. And countless others suffer daily indignities and never reach anything close to their potential because they are trapped under mounds of emotional and/or verbal abuse that they have been taught by circumstance to believe is love.

When I first learned about the Stockholm Syndrome, I didn't know whether to be even more ashamed or whether to be relieved. Relief won out. There was a name and descriptions that matched the intense, crazy, all-consuming relationship that had held me captive for so long. Other men and women had done some of the same "crazy" things that I'd done, too. I didn't like remembering how I'd worked so hard to please someone who was intentionally abusing me, it felt degrading--but it is the reality of how I worked to survive. I sort of liked remembering how intense things felt at times, how flowery some of the compliments were in the beginning and how "sweet" some of the early gifts seemed, but I hated remembering how frightened I felt at times, how helpless I felt for years, how small and dumb I felt on a daily basis. There are many tangled chains in the "love" an abuser chokes his/her "beloved" with.

God's love is radically different and freely available. God doesn't offer love with heavy hidden chains. God can help each of us with love that refreshes our souls, binds our wounds, and heals our brokeness. I am sure about it. He did it for me and he's helped many other abuse victims. He cares. His love is real--it is not an illusion used to control us. Try to trust God even just a little and see what good things will happen. You have an eternal friend who loves you in a way that is healthy and wonderful.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sorry about Interruption

Between lightening zapping my computer ethernet card and flu zapping my body, I haven't been able to blog this week.

I'll hopefully be well and back to blogging next week.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Love is a word misused by those who abuse. Love shouldn't be used to describe continual control or forced coercion. Friendship isn't even a good word for a relationship where one person uses another and regularly utilizes manipulation, lies, and trickery. It isn't loving when someone steals another's dignity, tramples another's boundaries, or slams another's esteem to the ground with cruelty, harshness, and force. No one shows caring by hitting, or threatening, or raping.

So, how amazing it is after leaving abuse to discover that love can really be about respect and care. It can be characterized by gentleness, humbleness, and kindness. Loving relationship it turns out involves two people who want what is best for each other. Love between humans isn't perfect all the time, but it isn't abusive even on its worst day.

And love sublime--isn't found in marriage or in a romance novel. It is found in relationship with God, who is always loving, without fail. We can count on him to care at all times and in all situations.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Running from Pain

Why do we try to avoid facing the pain of abuse? How does denial serve us?

I think that we fear the pain. We're afraid that if we face the pain it will destroy us or destroy our world as we know it. I can remember fearing that if I stepped out of denial I would never stop crying or I might get so angry I might do something crazy. I feared I could not handle the truth. I feared that I could not survive what the truth would do to my primary relationships.

Fear was my captor. I was its slave. I didn't directly face my pain, but my pain leaked out anyway. I lived in a fuzzy fog. I did and said strange things to try to maintain the lies. I was rarely aware of sadness, but I was just as muted with happiness. I rarely laughed with true joy or happiness. I rarely cried. I was mostly numb. I told others and myself that I was "fine" or "okay." I survived. I was a bound prisoner of fear, stumbling along without hope in my eyes, dragging my chains of fear along. Not a good way to live.

Have you been there? Are you in that place of mere survival right now?

There is a better way. Facing the pain of abuse does not destroy us. The enemy of our souls reinforces this fear--but it is a lie. Facing our pain ultimately strengthens and frees us. Abuse cannot freely continue in the face of truth. Abuse ends when the light is shone on it or when victims get help and leave the abusive situation. Abuse derives power from instilling and reinforcing fear; abusers lose power when the victim's desire for freedom becomes greater than her or his fear.

And this better way is not a journey we must do alone. God can strengthen us beyond our wildest imaginings. God can help us to face truth and find hope. God can lead us out of abuse. God can use other people to help us first climb out of abuse and then recover from abuse. God can heal us over time--transforming us into joyous people of strength and hope who walk in Him through all the trials of life.

Recommended Books

  • 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by Karla Downing
  • A Way of Hope by Leslie J. Barner
  • Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom
  • Battered But Not Broken by Patricia Riddle Gaddis
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw
  • Caring Enough to Forgive/Not Forgive by David Augsburger
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
  • Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
  • Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden
  • Safe People by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Slay Your Own Dragons by Nancy Good
  • The Cinderella Syndrome by Lee Ezell
  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
  • The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee
  • Turning Fear to Hope by Holly Wagner Green
  • When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft