Friday, July 11, 2014

Skeletons in My Closet

Reading other bloggers has made me brave.

This post is going to be personal and probably shocking to many people who know me. First, here is non- shocking part. I am not a perfect person. I said it. It's true and I don't like it. If I were perfect I am positive my life would be different and my past would be too. We can't change the past now. However, I can use it to help others and strengthen me.

I'm here to tell you that there is life, love, and even forgiveness after sexual and emotional abuse. I wont go into great detail about the whys and hows of getting into this relationship, but I will give you an understanding. I never thought it could happen to me. I always said that if someone did "this" or "that" I'd be out so fast their head would spin. However, this is harder than you think when you are actually in an abusive relationship.

When I was in college an "old friend" found me via Myspace (whoa, no one uses that anymore). As children we had a bout of puppy love and I was excited to hear from him. We begin an internet friendship that led into disaster. I'm no longer ashamed to say I used to struggle greatly with self esteem. I have always been a bigger girl and the world was not always kind to me. I went to great lengths in college to hide my personal struggle, but abusers know what to look for.

This "friend" slowly worked his way into a lot aspects of my life. I didn't see him often, but he controlled what I wore, who I spoke with, if I slept, he even made great efforts to crush relationships with me and my family. I'm not really sure how I let it go on. It was a mix of compliments, put downs, and manipulation. I was scared. I wanted to be found attractive. I wanted to find worth. (Although I was and am a Christian, it was a time of weakness for me). I rarely slept. I obeyed his requests. I took from me anything he could  get. Its really frightening now when I think about it. Somewhere deep down I know I knew this was not a good thing.

As time went on, this internet relationship got real. We met up once or twice at school and public places. Those were awkward but fine and I convinced myself he was good to me. I convinced myself he cared about me. I'm telling you now, that if you have that weird feeling in your gut.... those are lies! From those awkward meetings he invited me to his home. He lived with his parents and the whole idea was supposed to be safe. I arrived, we went "hiking" and I was alone with him in the woods. Although he never took my most precious gifts during the several meetings we had like that, I was forever changed. What he did take can never be returned. My innocence was shattered. My trust in men was greatly damaged. He was abusive and aggressive. Slowly this relationship that I thought was like "love" was one more of fear. The moment he had me pinned to a wall, hand on my neck, body against mine, in my own home... I knew I had to get out.

I'd love to say I gave him "one for" and it was over that night. That is not the truth. He still controlled a lot of my life. When he saw me begin to push away, he would play games. He would make me have to beg and I was pulled in for more of a life I hated to live. I felt worried constantly. I was tired and my relationships with my family were strained. During this time I am ashamed to say that friends and family got pulled in to this terrible cycle too. I saw him begin to do what he was doing me, to them. I warned them. I pleaded with them. They were fragile like me and he took advantage. I can't say that they were able to keep him at bay as well as I did physically. I will never know.

The light at the end of the tunnel came when my now husband stepped into the picture. He treated me with respect. He never crossed boundaries and he started showing me what it was like to have the correct kind of attention from a man. I slowly and painfully pulled myself out of the relationship with that "man". It was an ugly event. As he lost control he began to get straight out mean. Finally admitting that he sought me out to take advantage of me. Although I did finally break free of the painful cycle, the damage had lasting effects.

Early in Andrew and I's relationship I struggled with physical touch. I would give mixed signals. At times I would shirk away from his embrace. For a long time it confused him. He didn't know my past and it was very difficult to tell him. Eventually I did tell him. I shared every painful detail. He understands me better now. It doesn't make the damage I have from it any easier for him to deal with. Even to this day I deal with emotions and struggles I shouldn't have. At times I find my emotions, and esteem greatly effected by things that shouldn't matter. There are I times where I required a lot of physical and emotional attention to feel worthy and loved. These times happen less now, but there was a time is was pretty constant.

It is a lie to say that life can go back to normal after abuse, rape, or trauma. It is never the same. However, I now see the strengths that have bloomed in me since. I am learning to find self worth outside of what others think. I have strong desire for my husband that is no longer held back by fear or past memories. I have even come to the point where I can forgive the man who created this past in me. There must be a lot of pain in his life/heart that created the monster he had become. I hope someday God finds him and he can find repentance and help dealing with the guilt he will surely have.

I'm by no means glad this happened to me. Still, its only a small sliver of the the life and testimony that creates the enigma that I am. God can use pain to create something beautiful and I know that is what he is trying to do with me.

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