Journey to Forgiveness, Hope, and Healing

by: Renee B.

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I’ve decided after thirty years of suppressing my feelings of shame, guilt and being afraid, that it was time to break the silence of my abuse. I am sharing my story as a healing process for myself, but to give other survivors a hope for recovery.

If I had a chance to go back in time and redo any part of my life, would I? Or If I only knew back then what I know now would I change any part of my past? My answer would be no. Although I would never willingly put myself through the pain and trials again, I wouldn’t change the outcome. If I wouldn’t have gone through these times, I would have never become the stronger person I am today. My wounds have healed, but the scars remain as a simple reminder that something good can emerge from painful situations. I could never have envisioned that my life would be forever changed by various experiences.

At the age of nine my parents divorced. A girlfriend of mine, thinking she was being comforting, molested me. This happened on several occasions and deep inside I knew it was wrong. I did not understand the complexity of the issue, so it was easier to stop being friends with her. If we were not friends, than it would stop and go away. I was confused and ashamed, so I told nobody. I wanted to forget, so I buried those feelings deep inside. At this point, I was forced to grow up at the age of nine.

Not only was I sexually abused, I was also emotionally and physically abused by my family members. Because of the abuse, I had low self-esteem, which led to having trouble fitting in at school, and I eventually became rebellious. I began using alcohol to cover up the pain. My life continued to spin out of control, and at one point I had thoughts of suicide, even threatening to kill myself. I was crying out and thought my actions showed all my pain. But because I was so good at hiding my feelings everyone thought I was fine.

My abuse did not stop, but continued into my adulthood. A month after graduating from high school I attended a party with a friend of mine and was raped. What was left of my spirit died that night, along with all of my dreams. To make matters worse, when I got home my mom yelled at me because I got back late. I cried for months afterwards. At this point I decided that no one cared and that no guy would ever want someone like me. The one thing that made me special was now gone. I felt abandoned by everyone. For the next six years I functioned in the world, but mostly without feeling; merely surviving. I relied only on myself and I trusted no one.

At the age of 23 I married my first husband and soon afterwards he began being abusive. My self-esteem was so low that I stopped caring about myself and others. Now at another low point in my life, I contemplated suicide. But somehow, I dug deep down and found the courage to pick myself up. We tried counseling with no results, so after two years of marriage it ended in divorce. I decided to try counseling again, this time with a woman who was a Christian. Not only did she help me see all the things I needed to work on, but most importantly was a great witness to me. For the first time, I saw that I blamed God for letting all these things happen to me. Why would a loving God let these horrible things happen to such a good person?

I knew my built up anger and resentment was from never dealing with all the pain from my experiences. I went through a period where I wanted vengeance on all the people who had hurt me. It was their fault and I wanted them to pay for what they had done. As I grew from my experiences, I decided that it was my choice to be the victim or I could be victorious over my trials. I finally decided that in order for me to ever be happy I needed to let go and forgive the people who had let me down and hurt me so tremendously.

Forgiving them seemed easy, because I knew they would eventually have to go before God and be judged for their wrongdoings. But the hardest part was forgiving myself. I still harbored some self-blame and anger for putting myself in those situations. But I finally realized that no one has complete control over every circumstance, and that it was not my fault for the other person’s bad behavior.

In the last ten years I have made a lot of progress, but I am far from perfect. I struggle from time to time remembering my experiences. As a result, I suffer from depression and anxiety, and it has taken a long time to trust and love again. And though I have dealt with a lot of my pain, the scars remain and are a reminder of the past. Because of my experiences I find it hard to make friends, as my basic response when someone gets too close to me is to push them away.

I have learned that with God all things are possible. Without my faith, I would probably not be here today. I now understand that bad things happen to good people, and it is not as a punishment from God. I feel that it’s not what happens to you, but how you react and deal with the trials in your life. You can let them consume you, or you can decide to overcome the adversity.

Writing this has been the hardest thing I have had to do in my life. I have known for years God has wanted me to use my experiences to inspire others. Doing this has given me a great amount of healing. Just recently, God is teaching me that my experience was not just about me. It was so much bigger than my pain and hurt. It made me see that I needed to make a stand for all the people who can’t speak out. I know there are many people out there who need to know that they are not alone and that there is hope for recovery. My heart hopes that from sharing my experiences I may inspire someone else. For if I help just one person then everything I’ve been through has not been in vain. My heart feels such sadness and passion for people who have been affected by such horrible injustices of the world. There are a lot of people who have been sexually abused that you may know, but they are so ashamed, powerless, and damaged from the experience that they are unable to share what happened. In a sense, my healing process has just begun. I’ve had to look back on my past and see how my experiences have effected me and my relationships. And I realized that I became this unlovable person to protect my heart from letting anything hurt me again.

I am also learning what the true meaning of love is. Now I understand that love isn’t so much a feeling, but a choice. The perfect example is how God loves us even when we are undeserving of his love. This means loving other people unconditionally.

Though I’ve made much progress I still have a ways to go in my journey to heal. I don’t know how long it will take, and I might not ever fully get over the tragic experiences. My goal is to continue sharing my story giving all the glory to God. I believe He will give me the strength to stand up and speak for survivors of abuse so they can see there is hope for the future.