As I sit in church Sunday after Sunday mornings, I often leave discouraged and jealous. Surrounded by a thousand perfectly dressed, smiling, loudly singing, and actively listening to the sermon people causes me to feel unworthy. Unloved. Not good enough for God.
Over and over I ponder the same confusing thought: If God truly loved me, He surely wouldn’t have let the abuse get so bad, right? If He really loved me, then the horrors of the night my abuser held me in a chokehold with my feet dangling inches off the ground wouldn’t have happened, right? If God truly loved me, I wouldn’t be feeling so alone and isolated.
Last week I left work at noon; barely able to get to the car without the waterfall of tears starting. The tears overtook me quickly. Looking back, I probably had less than two minutes from being into anxiety mode to full melt down mode.
The tears flowed and my body quivered as I drove myself home. I had been three years since my body gave into my PTSD so strongly. Curling up in the fetal position in my chair, it didn’t take me long to figure out what was happening. My coping skills weren’t working and my PTSD was once again controlling my reactions to my world.
Another 4th of July. Another painful weekend. For me, in addition to July 4th, I find Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons painful.
It's been 12 years since I separated from my abuser. It occurs to me that he's not bothered by the painful memories at all. Nope. Chances are if he does think about July 4th holidays that we were together, he probably remembers them as great times. It's truly shocking that the pain my abuser put me through can still impact my world so many years later.
My journey from domestic violence victim to survivor is in its twelfth year. I’ve made huge strides in my recovery over the past five years (aka nervous breakdown year), yet the anxiety within my head has never completely calmed down. But this past weekend, for one of the few times in my life, I felt totally connected to my world for a beautiful five minutes.
One of the goals in my recovery has always been to obtain the calmness and peace God offers to his children. Psalm 29:11: “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.”
Late last month I spent a weekend with an awesome group of domestic violence survivors; we were getting away at an extremely powerful retreat put together by Called to Peace Ministries. What a lovely group of women!
During the weekend, while I was talking to a small group of women, I mentioned I was a retired Lieutenant Colonel who spent 21 years on active duty. Having left active duty 12 years ago, my hair is now considerably longer and my frame has added a few extra pounds. I am definitely softly spoken now and prefer to stay in the back ground.
So many non-victims that I share my abusive background with can’t believe the horrific things my abuser did to me. But what I don’t believe I do a good job at describing is that my life continued on as I was being victimized.
During the five years we were challenged with our daughter’s cancer, and subsequent bone marrow transplant, the abuse increased 100%. Literally, I remained bruised from her diagnosis at two years old until I separated from my abuser five years later. My abuser couldn’t handle the pain, suffering, and possible loss of our daughter so he took it all out on me. Deep down, not unlike the increased abuse I suffered with the birth of our first child, my abuser definitely didn’t like my being distracted and not completely focused on his wants and needs. I specifically remember one extremely painful beating I received due to my being more focused on our daughter and ignoring his needs. Those of us who suffer abuse know exactly what I am talking about.
As I mentioned in my first blog post on tackling depression after abuse, in order for me to overcome the deep dark depression that overcame me as I ventured out into the world without my abuser telling me what to do, I found reaching out to professionals extremely helpful. I’ll be the first to admit, for the first few years of my recovery, I thought time alone was going to heal the horrors of my past. But, time along proved to be an insufficient way for me to destroy the emotional turmoil my abuser had caused in my thoughts.
I am the first to admit I have double standards on my anxiety level when I am late leaving the house. If being late is due to my kids (rarely my husband) not being on time, my internal anxiety meter goes from 1 – 10 within two minutes. After two minutes being late from my designated departure time, I am huffy and feeling disrespected. Rarely do I care about my children’s “excuses”.
Flowers are blooming. Baby birds are chirping. Weeds are making yards look like full blown flower gardens. Pollen is making people who have allergies miserable. All indications in my world that spring is here.
I am fortunate to be able to feel the breeze as I walk outside. For so many years I never realized the wind blowing around was even a thing. But, being able to stop, face the sun and feel the wind blowing against my face, awakens a sense within me that laid sleeping for so many years.
Last night I landed at a strange airport, lost my cell phone connection, and, while I was panicking I picked up the wrong suitcase off the conveyor belt. Twelve hours later, the person who probably mistakenly took my suitcase, hasn’t returned it to the airport.
So, here I sit without a toothbrush, still wearing last night’s clothes.
Hi, I'm Sue
Welcome to my blog! I served twenty-one honorable years on active duty, living a double life of capability and accomplishment in the service while enduring brutality and abusiveness in my twenty-one year oppressive marriage. Today I'm happily married and have three children who are my inspiration and motivation.
My goal is to help combat the lies of abusers with the truth of God. I hope you find my words to be healing and helpful through your own life experiences.
Being separated from my abusive husband didn't make me a domestic violence survivor. It surely didn't release me from the grip of his brainwashing control and the innate power he had on me.
Read the full raw story in my new book, Rock Bottom and Faithless.