Thursday, April 12, 2012

knowing autumn. {on abuse and healing from it}



"A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too, have known autumn too long."


--E. E. Cummings



{image found here.}






i have thought and thought about writing this.  i started it two months ago, and i can't get the words in my head to go away, and new thoughts just keep coming.....


so, it is time.


i'm going to write this pretty straight-forward, because it's the only way i can about this particular subject.


i do not write this because i just love putting it all out there.  this is scary for me, and not comfortable in the least.  i do not write this to invoke pity from friends or strangers. {and to be honest, i'm not going to be putting it ALL out there.  it's not appropriate or necessary.}


i do write it for myself.  it's a journey i have been on for a long time now, i can remember one specific day over 9 years ago when something broke inside of me, and the reality of it slapped me in the face.  i was beginning to see it, for the first time, for what it really was.  and i was too young then, and it scared me to look at it, so i tucked it back down.  but if i have learned one thing in life, it's that you can't run from things like this.  you can sure try, and you can fool yourself into believing you've been successful, but then you open your eyes at what life is really like for you, and you realize.....in avoiding it, it has found you anyway.


i also write this for others out there who i know have felt what i feel.  i know it, because we've talked about it.  i've found them and they have found me.  sometimes it feels like a magnetic pull, to find someone in a crowd of people, who you would never imagine being friends with, and then suddenly you're there talking about similar experiences, common stories of surviving and struggles from surviving.  maybe it will help another put into words how they feel, or give another person who hasn't spoken yet, courage to face their own truth.


i write for ben, who i am open with about these things, but for him to be able to read it in one comprehensive thought, instead of the sporadic times it comes up out of nowhere.  for him to be able to read what goes on in my head on hard days.  when i say he is the best person for me, i truly mean it.  i would have never been able to come to these conclusions without his love, stability, patience and understanding.


and i also write this for my children.  i wish that blogs were around when i was growing up.  i know there were journals and photo books, but there's something about the writing and pictures together, to be able to read about and see who i was as a baby, and at 2, and then 5 and 15.  but not only to read about me, but to read about the thoughts my parents had about life, and what was meaningful to them.  their struggles, their happiness.  it's a way for my children to know a piece of me that they otherwise wouldn't have.


well, here we go.  {big breath in}



during my childhood,

i was abused.


i will not share details about the abuse, who it was, how long it went on, or what happened.  that's not the point of writing this.  to be honest, those details really aren't important.  there are a very, very small number of people who know this about me, and an even smaller number of people who know actual details.  i'm guessing this will surprise some, probably because i don't share it with almost anyone.  that doesn't mean that my happiness or friendliness, or outgoing-ness is fake; it is not.  but there are many parts of me, and this is just one that i keep mostly to myself.


it's funny, i have a hard time even saying that word, abused, out loud and about myself.  it was years after finally recognizing and admitting the abuse before the word would actually come out.  maybe because for so long i justified the actions of another, and lumped the word "abuse" into worn-down women with black eyes and broken jaws, or stories of kids like Antwone Fisher.  there are situations worse than mine, i know it.  there are several close to me with more severe degrees of abuse.  and yes, i do believe that there are degrees, but no, i don't believe it invalidates my own.


maybe, i can write about this because the degree of my own was not as extreme as some stories i've heard, and that i am freeing myself of it.  i can now see it for what it is, even though i don't share it often.  i keep it protected for reasons of my own.


the point of writing this, and being candid about the fact of it without the details, is to discuss what became of me because of the abuse i went through.  to try to help myself and others understand what happens to a person when they are put in a situation like this, and maybe to help figure out how to truly overcome it.


so, i'm going back to the beginning:






if you've ever been parent of a 2 year old, you'll recognize this picture.  i've watched this movie more times than i can count, it's been the frontrunner of favorites for leah for almost a year now. {finding nemo}


one time while watching the movie with leah, when i saw this picture of a baby fish egg with the small crack, something clicked.  it was an analogy i've felt and thought about for a long time now.


we all possess a spirit in our body,  a core that's formed from the day we are formed.  it is what is the foundation for a belief of who we, as individuals, truly are.  we are cared for, loved, and that core becomes stronger.  we are taught self-worth, and our divine nature.  we are taught Truth.


as positive things in our life happen, the outside of the core strengthens.  when we're young, if that core is strong, we have a foundation of self-worth that is laid and the belief that we deserve unconditional love is felt.  there are things we face in life that continually try to break that foundation, but i believe that if it's laid thick and strong in the beginning, we have more of an ability to fight the trials that constantly try to crack us.


but there are situations that break down this core, and abuse is one of them.  my belief is that if it happens during some point in childhood, abuse causes cracks that are deep, and difficult--extremely difficult-- to patch back together.


when i went through my abusive situations as a child, i felt like my core was cracked, broken.  it felt like there was something inside of me that was no longer right.  i felt different from my friends, i felt off.  but i also constantly justified my abusive situation, and refused for a long time to see it for what it was.  it scared me.


as the cracks of the abuse began to spread in my core, negative lies seeped into the cracks, telling me many untruths.  one crack, one untruth, was so deep that telling myself the actual truth in the beginning of therapy a couple of years ago felt like i was lying, pretending, faking it. that it was true for others, but just not for me.


it is probably the most important thing that one can believe about themselves:  to believe that one deserves unconditional love, regardless of who they are, mistakes they make, choices they make, or what has happened to them.


the belief that i deserved unconditional love was broken.  because of abuse, i believed....and up until about 2 years ago, still believed....that for me, love was only conditional.  not just in relationships, either.


i actually believed this un-truth also applied to God.  that i did not deserve His unconditional love.


as i've said before, life is a parallel.  there are certain relationships that are put here on earth to literally mirror how a Father in Heaven feels about us, because we are his children.  and when that parallel is not translated, for whatever reason, it can cause {in my opinion} the deepest, most painful un-truth to settle inside and take roots.


the funny thing is, i didn't even know that deep down i felt this way.  i just continued coping, thinking i was doing fine.  i was a survivor, i didn't let the abuse define me, i had risen above.


i didn't realize just how deeply i felt this untruth, and how i had connected it not only to all relationships in my life, but also to my relationship with God, until i was in therapy.


we were asked to do an assignment; it was called a Lost Poster.  we were instructed by my therapist to think of all of the things we had felt we had lost in our lives, starting from our childhood, and create some sort of poster representing them.  we could use pictures, or words, or abstract representations.  whatever we wanted to do, however we wanted to express it.


i went home that day, scared.  i knew that doing this assignment was going to open up some things for me that i had buried and wanted to forget.  a couple of weeks went by, and i didn't work on it.  i waited, and watched other members of my group as they presented theirs to the group.  then finally, i decided it was time, and began.


i chose to draw my entire poster with my left hand, my non-dominant hand, which is a technique that has been known to access other parts of your brain that aren't usually used on a daily basis.  i didn't know what i was going to draw, i had no ideas yet and just decided to start and see what happened.


in the middle of the poster, i drew a stick figure.  with blonde hair, green eyes, smiling.  the stick figure was holding a mirror, and the reflection that showed on the mirror was not smiling, but the opposite.  it was disfigured, a monster.  with angry eyes and sharp teeth and a pig nose.  the reflection was ugly.  and all over, the reflection was bleeding.  beneath that picture, i wrote:



I HAVE LOST MY SELF-WORTH.

then i started with the earliest memory of what i thought i had lost, and drew a picture, labeled it.  i drew smaller pictures clockwise around the stick figure, drawing and writing as each new memory and thought came to me.  some of the memories brought sadness, some anger, some excruciating pain.  when i had gone around the stick figure, i got to the top of the poster.  there i drew, as well as my left hand could, a sky, with clouds and rays of sun streaming down them.  on top of the clouds stood a figure, in white, floating, also surrounded by bright rays of sunshine.  below the picture, i wrote these words:



I HAVE LOST THE BELIEF THAT GOD LOVES ME.
I HAVE LOST THE BELIEF THAT I DESERVE HIS LOVE.

and that was when the tears came.  they streamed down my face as my now-trembling hands drew arrows from each of the drawings, all pointing up to this picture of God.  they all connected to this one thing, because of everything else that i had lost in my life, this was the one that mattered most. this loss was what had affected so many poor decisions in my life, so many mistakes, so much pain.  i sat and cried for a long time as i finished the poster.  i knew now what had been bothering me for so long, deep down.


and i realized i was broken.


the hardest part for me after realizing that, was not having any clue how to fix it.  i sighed and hoped that somehow through this digging, through therapy, i would find a way.


the next week in therapy, i felt like i was was jumping out of my skin.  i was on edge, nervous.  i absolutely dislike speaking in front of people, having them stare at me.  but at the same time, i felt like i wanted to stand up there, to talk about what i had finally realized.  i wanted to get it out.  i was so scared to admit some of the ugliest things about me that i had drawn and written on this poster, but i also had this feeling that maybe once it was out, it could be the beginning of starting to fix what had been broken so long ago.


i've written about this experience before, but i'll write about it again.


as i stood up in front of nearly-strangers {we had only known each other for a couple of months}, i could not make eye contact.  i started with my self-portrait, the view of what others saw vs. the view i saw as i looked in the mirror.  then i began going around the poster, clockwise, just as i had when i started drawing it.  as i got to a painful place while describing a memory, my voice cracked and my leg started shaking, bouncing.


"keep breathing, take a couple of deep breaths," my therapist said gently.


so i did, and then began again.


~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~

i know i'm repeating myself again, but i feel it's important.  i have heard several people in my life say that they think therapy is "crap." that it's just laying on a couch, talking about your childhood, digging up things that are over and "don't matter."


but i am here to say that actually that sort of thinking is what is crap, because it does matter, all of it.  the people that we are, the thoughts that we think, the emotions we feel, the reactions we produce, are all a compilation of experiences, memories, consequences, choices.  some are originally ours and some are not.  and how our foundation is formed in the beginning is what matters most, so the only way to change some of those things is by going back to where all of it began, finding out where and how things started, and change them if needed.  


~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~

the words did not come easily out of my mouth.  they were choked and sputtered through tears of sadness, regret, guilt, pain, shame.  i stared at my shoes as i talked.  then i looked up at the final picture, my child-like drawing of heaven and God.  and i explained why the arrows all pointed there, and how this belief that He doesn't love me, and the loss of that had leaked through to every one of my other losses.


when i was finally done speaking, the therapist asked if i was open to her doing an exercise.  i wanted to say "absolutely not" and just run out of the room, but found myself silently nodding my head.  she had me sit down in a chair, then asked the other girls in the group to surround me.  they each put a hand on me, and said something kind to me.  either what they had learned from my poster, or something they admired about me.  or just that they loved me.


the tears continued to fall down my face as they each took their turn.  and even though i wanted to dismiss their compliments, and combat them with why i actually wasn't so amazing or strong, or beautiful, i didn't.  i took deep breaths, and tried to let their words soak through the top layer of my skin, down to my tiny, cracked core.


that day, a piece that had been broken so long ago was patched up.


i came home, feeling a little bit lighter than i had been earlier.  i was relieved, and raw.  emotionally so tired and vulnerable.  but i also felt something else:


hope.  


i knew, after that day, that there actually is an ability to heal from your past.  that coping and surviving and closing up and shutting down no longer had to be the way i dealt with painful experiences and memories.


and as the months went on, and i continued to go back to the beginning to work my way forward, i continued to feel hopeful.  i was changing, really changing, for the first time in my life.  i no longer hurt the way i had for so long.  i no longer allowed others to hurt me the way i had.  i actually started believing that i am beautiful, regardless of size, shape, clear skin or not.  not just believing, but knowing.


i started developing the ability to take only what is mine in situations, and to allow others to take what is theirs, instead of carrying it for them.  and what developed from that was a deeper, more empathetic, more understanding version of myself.  i found a balance of being able to mourn with others without their pain knocking the wind out of me, or without taking it on as my own.  or for somehow feeling responsible for it, and like i could rescue them out of it.


i worked extremely hard on boundaries.  that was something that i hadn't realized was so twisted inside of me.  for most of my life, i had extremely firm boundaries with those that didn't necessarily need them, and then had extremely no-boundaries with those who could, and did, hurt me.  unhealthy walls came down, while other healthy walls were built up.  


and i began taking accountability.  sincerely apologizing for mistakes i have made.  some were from years and years ago, and i'm sure weren't as big of a deal to others as they were for me, but those apologies were just another way to lighten the burden of all that i had been carrying for so long.  and they also kept me humble, and out of a place of looking at my life as a victim.


anyone could be a victim.  everyone has a story.  trials and challenges, pain and heartaches.  and honestly?  being a victim can be an addicting place to sit.  wanting to stay hurt and angry for old wounds and new wounds.  feeling badly for yourself, having others feel badly for you.  feeling wronged so that you don't have to reach out.  protecting yourself so you don't get hurt.  


but the truth is, it is always a choice to be hurt, and to hold onto that hurt.  always.  i have seen so many overcome some of the most difficult challenges without remaining a victim.  but it's hard work to do it, when the place of victim has been comfortable for a long time.  


and being a victim for the rest of my life was not where i wanted to end up.  i had seen others ride the victim train, and i saw where that train had landed them.  so i had to make the choice to not stay there.   


as these changes took place, so did spiritual changes.  i separated my religion from finding God, because there were experiences i had gone through in my past that caused religion to confuse me.  i stripped down the reasons that i felt i was supposed to do things, so that i could begin to make choices because i knew i wanted to make them.  


i also made a conscious effort to be constantly aware of how close i felt to Him, daily.  how connected i was on a spiritual level rather than a religious one.  and as that spiritual depth grew, the religion part fell into place naturally instead of forced.  there is a balance between the two that needed to be found for me, and it has been.  


and this is how i began to see just how much He loves me, and how much He always has. His love was always there, all around me, i just hadn't known how to truly see it.  but it became clear when i finally sought it, with eyes that were open to focus on the good that was happening in life instead of the bad.


i could see His love for me in others, who said and did things just at the right time i needed them.  i was offered friendship, kindness, forgiveness, understanding, mercy; often times in places where it was  completely unexpected. i could see His love for me in my children, who were reflecting back His pure and unconditional love for me through them.


and i could see His love for me in the way that i loved my children.  the parallel of what life is really all about became so crystal clear during this time, and as my children have continued to grow.  their weaknesses and strengths, perfections and imperfections became more acute, and my heart was full of so much adoration for them, not in spite of their shortcomings, but because of them.  and in those moments of seeing them for who they really are, my spirit listened to the whisperings that said, "this is exactly how He feels about you."


slowly, my cracked core has begun to be filled.  it is a long process, especially when i look back on the first time i really recognized what was going on 9 years ago, and then when i actually started working 2 years ago.  it has come in steps and pieces.  at times it's felt like i am cutting off a limb, it is that painful.  there have been days when it is exhausting, and i take a break from pushing myself.  and there have been days when i wish that the fight wasn't so hard sometimes.  but there's nothing i can do to change events that actually happened to me, but i have changed how i feel about those events.


this journey has been so worth it.  now that my eyes have been opened to what is on the other side of all of this hard work, and the change that i have seen come over me, i am so grateful.  and like i mentioned before, going through those events in my past has brought about a depth in me that would otherwise not be there.  


i am grateful for that depth, it is one of the things i love most about me now.  


so for those reading who can relate in any way to what i have written, my intention for writing this is that you will be able to see my story as one that is a work in progress, but that is full of hope.  


cracks can be filled, hearts can love and allow love, and broken pieces can be put back together.  


the winds can stop, leaves can grow again, trees will stand.



{image found here}



and autumn will end.















19 comments:

Rachel Chick said...

this is so beautiful, Lynsey. I love you so much. The example that you have set for me in my life is immeasurable. You are so incredible and such a blessing to all who know you. Thank you for your strength and your faith. Thank you for being my friend.

Rachel Chick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel Chick said...

PS - do you mind if I share this - either on facebook or my blog? (and the reason I deleted this comment only to repost it is so that I could subscribe to your comments and I forgot to check the box both of the other times I commented. :)

lynsey said...

my sweet rachel friend,

thank you so much for your comments, they always mean so much to me!! this was really hard for me to write, and even more difficult to actually hit "publish" but i'm glad i did it.

and yes, you're welcome to share it with whoever you think might read it and get something out of it. love you!

Cami Epperson said...

Thank you for writing this, Lynsey. In whatever form, I know what you have gone/are going through. It is nice to know that others in a similar position have found ways to recover as I search for ways to heal(not to mention WHAT to heal). You are an amazingly strong, beautiful, fun and happy girl. The office lights up when you come in and I am so glad I get to see you on Mondays now! :)

MeggyT said...

Beautiful Lynsey,
What a wonderful gift God has given you; the gift of writing. Thank you for sharing your life experiences, and not just this post, but every one of them. You are amazing daughter of God, and I know He loves you, just as I do. :)

Your friend,
Meg

Toby and Tammy said...

You are an amazing woman who will forever influence all you meet. I hope one day I can meet you in person. I love your writing, your honesty and your ability to see good in all. You are wise beyond your years! Thank you for sharing.

Rachel Holloway said...

You are incredible. Thank you for putting this all out for others to see--to know that we aren't alone--and that healing is real and possible...
I needed to hear that.

ClancyPants said...

This was uncomfortable for me to read. I left it open on my reader so I could go back and not forget to finish it. I had to read it in three separate sittings.

This has nothing to do with you or the profound beauty of your words.

After I finished reading it, I looked at myself and asked why I resist it. I think, as I gently scratched the surface of my psyche with the inquiry, like a scratch and sniff sticker, that I have mostly resisted digging into myself like I've been so passionate about in the past. It's been several years since I really gave any serious efforts in this arena. This makes me sad. And weary. I want to want to dig. But somehow, I can't.

But I know there's something coming. Some trigger that will force the issue. I can feel it.

Hopefully I can open myself up again. I feel like my life is so much more clear when I live from that place. Unlike this place I'm in now, where it's like driving with Utah road salt on your windshield and you've run out of windshield washer fluid. Yuck.

Thanks for the surface-scratching, thought provoking post. It's priming my pump... maybe. I hope.

Love,
Clancy

Lauren Horsley said...

Lynz,

Your honesty and strength in writing this post are truly inspiring. As a veteran of the same war, I know more acutely than anyone the courage that it took to share this and I'm so proud of the brave, beautiful person that you are. You are a light to others, especially me. I feel very very lucky to call you sister.

All my love,

Lauren

alexkono said...

Lynsey, thank you. thank you thank you. both brian and i have felt that cracking of the soul caused by abuse, so i know what you mean. Everyone goes about dealing in their own way, and it takes some serious guts to lay it all out for others to see, and i admire you for your bravery. Like Clancy, this makes me a little uncomfortable, but mostly because even when you are at a healthy place, its difficult to know that the people you love are hurting from similar situations. As always, you are awesome, and i love you. thanks for being such an inspiration to me.

Love, Alex

The Foster Bunch said...

Lynsey,
Your words have just warmed my soul and touched my heart. Like others your writings have really made me look at the past, and the future. Especially when you wrote about your kids. I think there will be a saying going up in our house that reads. to believe that one deserves unconditional love, regardless of who they are, mistakes they make, choices they make, or what has happened to them. by Lynsey Strader. I love it! It is something I needed to hear. Thank you for putting yourself out there and helping each of us. You are a beautiful and wonderful person. Someone I truly miss!! Thank you again for writing this, I needed it more then you know.
Love,
Britt

Meggan Hayes said...

Thanks.

ohmylanta said...

I am so impressed with you Lynsey. You really are a beacon to many and an inspiration to all.

This was a very emotional post. Emotional for me, the reader too. What blows me away is the absolute clarity you have gained. Clarity in identifying the root of your dead ends, clarity in your healing approach and clarity in expressing your journey.

I can't imagine the relief you must feel in that state of clarity. I am so proud of you.

I learned so much from reading this. In fact, I can think of an individual in my social sphere that surely has experienced a very similar pain. The pain of believing that she doesn't deserve God's love. Thank you for helping me understand her better.

I love your comment about personal depth. I am glad that you recognize how much you have to offer because of your depth.

I also love your analogy. Beautiful. It does radiate hope.

hugs

ohmylanta said...

I am so impressed with you Lynsey. You really are a beacon to many and an inspiration to all.

This was a very emotional post. Emotional for me, the reader too. What blows me away is the absolute clarity you have gained. Clarity in identifying the root of your dead ends, clarity in your healing approach and clarity in expressing your journey.

I can't imagine the relief you must feel in that state of clarity. I am so proud of you.

I learned so much from reading this. In fact, I can think of an individual in my social sphere that surely has experienced a very similar pain. The pain of believing that she doesn't deserve God's love. Thank you for helping me understand her better.

I love your comment about personal depth. I am glad that you recognize how much you have to offer because of your depth.

I also love your analogy. Beautiful. It does radiate hope.

hugs

megan said...

Thank you for sharing! I found your post through Rachel Chick and I'm glad that I did. I haven't gone through anything as you have, but I think what you have said will help anyone to heal and move on from a trial or hardship or whatever it may be. Thanks again and good luck:)
Megan

Fawn said...

Lynsey Lou, you may be small but you are MIGHTY! I am always impressed with your bravery & willingness to share your feelings. I am so thankful that I can call you my friend.

Charlotte said...

Thank you for sharing.

janet said...

HI! i am not a regular reader of cjane, but I happened to read her birthday blog comments tonight. your comment gave me chills. then I realized you were the guest post. THEN I realized you are friends with my dear college roommate Kelly Orton. I love this girl and know a little about you through her posts about Andrea. Long story short, I've been reading some of your personal posts tonight.. It's 330 am and my husband is out of town and I LOVE this kind of raw writing. I just wanted to tell you that I love you. I don't even know you, but I think you are gorgeous and beautiful and amazing. And your writing is powerful. My blog too has become more of an emotional outlet and my facebook page is quick one liners. This totally spoke to me and I wish I had more time to read all of your stuff. Anyway, I will tell Kelly I came across your stuff. and I might friend you on facebook because I think you are awesome and I would love to read some of your funnies too :)

Keep on rocking, girl friend. I see your abuse as a gift. A difficult one to endure, but it has put you in a place to change lives and inspire others for good and to see God's love in their own life. a gift, if you can deal with it in a healthy way. Therapy needs to be required for everyone!