“Nothing in life so isolates us from healthy human relationships and from a relationship with God as does sexual abuse. Any experience of sexual abuse – but especially child sexual abuse – violates our boundaries and our trust.”
-Shelter from the Storm
It was a very rough week following my first blog post. I wrote through tears and all week the tears just kept coming. Not in a hopeless way, more of thawing and releasing. The experience of my adopted father, Don, choking me unconscious was frozen in time, locked deep-freeze within me.
It’s strange how you can retell and think about all the stories with no problem. It’s feeling about them – the lack of feeling about them that gets you stopped up. I was happy to not feel about them. Frozen is good. But how many of us know what frostbite looks like? What does it feel like? How does it taste? I’m unpacking the frozen parts, to thaw and slack off their ice so they can heal.
I didn’t want to be put up for adoption…
Somehow, even at the young age of seven/eight, I knew finding a new home wasn’t a sure thing. I loved my mom, my soul felt deeply connected to her. I held great doubt I would find somewhere else I wanted to be. Shipped from relative to relative for several months, I already knew what living in someone else’s house [life] feels like; nothing replaced my mom.
I didn’t want Bill to…
I was 5. I didn’t want Bill to take me into the dark, room where he stuffed my little mouth with something a grown man never should. After doing it, he told me how much worse he’d hurt me if I told. I knew telling my mom would shatter her world forever. It would shatter mine too. She saved me and was so comforting when I confided in her what my stepfather made me do to him. I think it broke her though. she had such high hopes for the life she was building with Bill. I guess I did too. I trusted in it.
I didn’t want to be alone…
My mom sunk deeper than I’d ever seen her, heavy drugs and partying, angry with me and abusive. She left me alone for days at a time. Sometimes with my younger half brothers, sometimes with just myself.
I didn’t want the nightmares…
Nightmares I was being sharply pinched and poked all over my body. The atmosphere felt dark and evil, it felt like many demons pinching me everywhere. It burned and it hurt. In my dreams, everything I touched felt fleshy and rounded and hard.
I didn’t want mom to hate me and abuse me…
The school teacher saw marks on my legs. They questioned me. I told the truth. I’m pretty sure they gave mom an ultimatum, “get help or give her up”. After that, I was shipped around from place to place for a while, until mom decided to put me up for adoption.
I didn’t want to be left alone with any man…
My six years of life left me petrified of them. By petrified, I mean horrified and unable to be alone with any man.
I was in fourth grade when I left the foster home with my adoptive family; a new life, a fresh start. My new brother (also adopted) was 2 years younger than me. I liked being an older sister and I didn’t want to be alone with adults, so having Dean there was a comfort. He was sweet and helped me feel less lonely. Don and Anita knew my background. They knew I could not tolerate being alone with men.
I wonder what I looked like from other people’s perspectives. Did I look as terrified as I felt? Did it appear I was cowering, and shrinking in fear?
Pretty early on, after moving in with them, I got sick and had to stay home from school. I begged Anita to stay home with me but she said she couldn’t take time from work (she was a 1st-grade teacher). Don had to stay with me. I cried and I cried. I don’t even know how I made it through that day but it was excruciating! Every minute crept by so slowly. To this day, I think it was the longest day of my life. As I write this, the tears and fears from back then fill me. I haven’t felt about this since that time, but the emotions are still here. Writing to you reveals the frozen, for the thaw.
I didn’t really want to say yes…
Adoption (court) day came and I didn’t really want to say yes but I did anyway. There was nowhere else to go. I was ten, the same age my daughter is right now. I had the same tiny little frame and thin bones, soft heart, and good smarts, as she has. Now that the adoption was final, Anita and Don were going to fix my fear of men, my fear of Don. They would manufacture and produce my trust for him. They would prove he wouldn’t hurt me.
I wonder which one of them came up with the idea?
I didn’t want to bathe with him…
At the end of dinner, they announced, “You’re going to take a bath with dad tonight.” Seeing the horror in my eyes they assured, “You’ll both have on underwear.”
I choked back tears and begged, “I don’t want to. Please don’t make me do this!”
“You’ll see it’s safe. He won’t do anything to you, he won’t hurt you.”
I couldn’t move from my chair at the table. I wouldn’t move.
They stood up from their seats and approached me slowly as if attempting to trap an animal. I stood up to run but they caught my leg and I tripped to the floor. The leg of the table was within my grasp so wrapped my tiny little arms around it. I’ll hold on so tight, I’ll become part of this leg and they won’t be able to move me. I let out the constant screams of my terror and tears as they both yanked and pulled at me, trying to pry my arms off that leg. They eventually unlatched my arms and carried me up to the bathroom as I scrambled and screamed and wailed and begged for my life, “Noooooo! Please! NOOOOOO! Don’t make me do this! Dean, help me! Someone heeeeeelp me. Noooooo, mom pleassssse, noooooo!”
Eventually my little girl strength gave way to their “adultness” and I was placed in the bath with him, alone.
I didn’t want this life…
I had hoped for so much more when I chose this family. I know that was the first of several clothed baths and showers with him. I guess it did make me trust him(?). I don’t remember a lot after that.
I had some great times with my little brother and our neighborhood friends. I remember the final months of his and her abuse of me. She advanced to pulling out my hair in clumps, pounding my head into the floor again and again, and giving me bloody lips by her backhand. He advanced to acting like I was his girlfriend, asking me about my friends, “Do you think Heidi would ‘do it’ with us?” He stalked me and followed me. I remember being fed up. I remember telling him “no” and him choking me to unconsciousness. I remember losing my want of anything more than getting out and surviving. I lost the fearful thought, “What will happen to me and where will I go if I tell?” I was fourteen. I had to get out and I had to survive.
I saw my counselor for our second visit. I let loose my tears, my feelings of these memories. At the closing of our session, as I felt a break in the emotion, I asked,
“Is it okay for me to not make myself do things? I don’t make myself do things or go anywhere. And I don’t want to do anything.”
The flood gates opened wide again and the tears poured in sheets, unencumbered as I realized what I was saying. I cried and repeated, “I just don’t want to. I just don’t want. I just. Don’t. Want.”
I lost my want. I don’t want to want, and that hurts. But those frozen places are thawing with each step in.
Make me want again. Reveal to me my wants. I know you are not like my earthly fathers. I know I can trust you to tell me who I truly am and to reveal what I truly want. I have spent my life not wanting this and not wanting that. It chased me into a hole of not wanting anything. I want you to restore me. Thank you for healing me and walking with me through the pain, for standing by me my entire life. I entrust you with my entire self. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Garrisann asked me a question this week. “Mom, when Jesus was dying on the cross, why did he ask, ‘God, why have you forsaken me?’, did God leave him?”
“That’s a really good question, Garrisann! I’ve asked that too. I don’t believe God left Jesus and I don’t believe he turned his back. It is not in God’s nature to leave us.
Jesus was in tremendous pain. He was in the worst physical pain you can imagine. He was in mental and emotional anguish because of his own pain and the pain of those he loves. He was in spiritual anguish because at that moment he was bearing the weight of all the sins of the world upon himself, past sin, present sin, and all future sin. He was in deep agony because his heart was and is completely open to give love and to receive into himself our pain.
Often when we are suffering, we perceive nothing more than our pain. In those moments we don’t feel God because our own struggle is so overwhelming. We are easily tricked that if we can’t feel Him, He isn’t there. But really, He is always there. Jesus knew this. He felt the absence of God, not because God left him but because the pain of the moment overwhelmed him. He asked God why he was forsaken but then, in trust, He commended his spirit unto God’s care, and it was finished. And we are saved because of our trust in Him.”
You can trust that God is there for you too. He helps you through. Commend your soul and your life to Him, in trust, and you get wonderful seasons of relief when you can feel him and sense Him and hear him and experience Him at deeper levels all the time.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:11-14
How many know that you can only seek with the unfrozen parts of your heart? We can only love from the unfrozen parts of ourselves. Thawing is good. The hands of God are safe and warm.
“Shelter from the Storm will help you to understand yourself. You will begin to identify destructive patterns that the abuse began. As you identify these harmful patterns, you will be able to make Christ-honoring and life-enhancing changes. It will help you learn how you can experience God’s love, forgiveness, and power in all of life’s circumstances. You can move from victim to survivor to thriver.” -Shelter From The Storm