Tag: pain

Thanksgiving in a Desperate World

Giving Thanks When Your Heart is Breaking

Today in the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving. For so many, this year has been nothing but heartbreak, disappointment, pain, and fear. Many people have chosen not to travel. They have decided not to be with family. Untold numbers are forced to be alone, isolated. Because of the fear of a virus. Numerous states have even decided to attempt to fine or jail those who choose differently. Choosing to embrace life and gather to give thanks anyway.

Regardless of where you find yourself on the spectrum of fear and life there will be those who are alone and hurting. The holiday season tends to remind us of everything that we have lost. We see commercials, social media, and others tell us that we should all ignore the pain and be happy. Yet they remind us that we have lost loved ones. That we have lost our identities. That we have lost our freedom.

External reminders are nothing, however, compared to what we do to ourselves. Our minds are constantly looking to remind us of the pain. This is its desperate attempt to keep us from feeling that trauma again. We mourn and grieve the life we should have had, the life we were meant to live. And this year, many people will again navigate those emotional, physical, and spiritual reminders of what’s been lost or taken from them. They may also have to navigate the mental game of “well someone else has it worse…” A game that has devastating consequences.

This is a year when we have seen a sharp increase in suicides and additions. One with untold numbers of children and women being battered and abused. A year when it’s hard to even think about trying to find things to be thankful for. It seems that for so many, the demons of despair and fear are taking their toll. After all, you can only be exposed to despair and fear for so long before it starts to eat away at you.

Finding the Way

So how do we step forward today and for every day after that, choosing to turn away from the darkness that threatens to engulf us? We look at truth rather than lies. Choosing to hold onto evidence and hope, rather than give into panic and paranoia. Leaning into God, holding tight to His word. Which will always guide us home.

Truth is not fluid. Evidence is not subjective. These are two things which have absolutes and are irrefutable. It doesn’t matter what others think or believe if they are in contradiction to truth and evidence. This is where you find the hope to keep moving forward. The strength to offer us thanksgiving.

Evidence is only valid in one way. When coming from a source that does not have a vested interest in swaying your mind one way or the other. This kind of evidence is hard to come by this year. Everyone seems to want you to believe only one train of thought. The one that leads to compliance. One that silences the unafraid.

You cannot have a thankful perspective when you are unable to find truth and evidence. If all you hear are words of despair, then thankfulness cannot exist. Choosing to close your eyes to truth will not allow you to experience true thankfulness and life.

Truth

We are conditioned to think that we should be thankful for things as they are. That if we lament or grieve, then we are not “real” Christians. This often coming from people who wouldn’t know Christ if he was right in front of their faces, btw. But if that is true, why is there an ENTIRE chapter of the Bible called Lamentations? Oh and have you ever heard of the Prophet Jeremiah? Yeah, he’s called the weeping prophet for a reason!

No. We are allowed to lament, to grieve. What we are called to do, however, is follow that with thanksgiving. Not for how miserable our circumstances are, but for how good and faithful God is. We are not offering thanks for the pain, but for the promises and truth of who God says we are and who He is. Yes, you can find joy even in sorrow. In fact, you can both cry and laugh at the same times. When you seek to understand what in your world you can even begin to be thankful for this year, realize that you’re not supposed to necessarily be thankful for anything but God.

Those who tell us to thank God we’re alive today because so many people didn’t wake up, or to be thankful that it was ONLY one child we lost because so-and-so lost their whole family, or that your trauma ended long ago and so many people are still suffering so be thankful you’re out of it…yeah, those people have no idea what being thankful means. When you are still grieving the demons and ghosts in your life, sometimes the only thing you can cling to is the truth of God.

The Heartcry of Pain

And if you’re like me, and your traumas’ consequences involve a disconnect and anger with God at times, then you can be thankful that you have a God who can handle your anger and pain. Because I promise you, He can. If you ever doubt whether God can handle your heart cries of pain, then read the Psalms. David was a “man after God’s own heart,” yet the entire book of Psalms is filled with his heart cries. Just don’t stay there. Yes, we can cry out, but like David, we also need to speak out the truth of who God is.

Because God doesn’t change. He is the same, regardless of what our lives are like. His promises are good today like they were yesterday. So today when you are feeling alone, afraid, broken, and hurt, when you are trying desperately to find a single moment to be thankful for, remember who God is. Speak out the truth of God’s word and give thanks for the fact that, even when it doesn’t feel like it, God has and will always be by your side. That He will never leave you alone. That God will always remain, even when everything else fades away.

And remember. That truth of who God is, was the whole reason the pilgrims left England and came to what became the United States. They knew who God was, what He promised, and they refused to allow any government to tell them they couldn’t worship and give thanks to the true God who saves.

Where Have I Been?

As you may have noticed, I’ve been absent for about a month. It has been a month that has challenged me and caused immense pain and frustration. In July, I had knee surgery hoping to fix the growing pain in my right knee. It turns out that my knee was beyond simple repair and I unexpectedly needed a total knee replacement.

On October 5th, I underwent the procedure for a total knee replacement. Very unusual at my age, but a combination of factors had rendered this surgery necessary. My trauma history and the development of fibromyalgia at age 18 as well as my recent gastric bypass, created a unique situation for me. Unfortunately, I had a surgeon that dismissed my concerns about the pain management issues my circumstances brought to the surgery. This resulted in 8 days of extreme pain, beyond a level 10, an unexpected hospitalization to attempt to control the pain, and numerous other extremely difficult circumstances.

After an extreme migraine that seemed to reset my pain, in combination with numerous prayers and finally finding a successful combination of medications, I began to make progress and heal.

At this point, I continue to make daily progress forward, thought the pain returns with a vengeance at night. As I continue to heal from this surgery, especially now that I am able to make it through the day without the pain meds, I will be able to begin creating healing and inspirational content here and in my newsletter.

Thank you for remaining with me during this challenge and as I focus on my physical healing as well as the emotional toil this has taken on myself and my family.

Healing through Forgiveness

Taking back your life from those who sought to destroy it

To a trauma survivor, forgiveness can seem like a dirty word. Like something another person, maybe even their perpetrator, throws in their face to invalidate what they are experiencing. It is often used by well-meaning or ignorant people or churches, to “fix” the relationship instead of addressing the sin. It is often used by perpetrators to attempt to control their victims as well.

These immoral and traumatizing lies and behaviors from those who should know better, can create an intense resistance to forgiveness. Extending forgiveness to the people who have hurt us deeply is rarely something we want to do. There is a part of our minds that can convince us that forgiveness means that our pain will be forgotten. That if we forgive, we are letting those that hurt us “off the hook.” We can believe that if we choose to forgive, those that caused us pain won’t get what they deserve.

The Lies

The sheer number of lies that are associated with the concept of forgiveness keeps many survivors in chains. I first want to address what forgiveness is NOT.

  1. Forgiveness is not a feeling. If you are waiting until you feel like forgiving someone, you will be waiting forever. Feelings are fleeting, unreliable, and are not facts. You can feel one way and think and respond in another. Our feelings can and will change in a moment, so relying on your emotions to tell you when you are “ready” to forgive someone, will keep you holding on to unforgiveness.
  2. Forgiveness is not excusing the perpetrator or relieving them of the responsibility and consequences for their behavior. There are always natural consequences for the things we choose to do or not do. Your decision to forgive someone that hurt you, does not mean they can or should escape the consequences of their behavior.
  3. Forgiveness does not mean you can or should trust the person again. Trust is something that is earned based on another’s ability to demonstrate that they are safe. You can forgive another completely and also never trust them again. You can forgive them completely and still withhold your trust until they have earned it again. Choosing to automatically trust someone that has hurt you, can also have very devastating consequences to you.
  4. Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation. Forgiving a person for causing you pain does not also require you to reconcile that relationship. In fact, believing that you have to stay in relationship with the person who has harmed you, can keep you from forgiving them. Toxic people, those who are unrepentant and continually dangerous for you, are not people you have to be around. You can forgive your parent and still not have to ever have contact with them again. You can forgive someone who hurt you and not also have to visit them in prison as they serve out one of their consequences. You can forgive your spouse and still choose to divorce them because that is the healthy and safe thing for you to do. You can forgive and not have anything to do with that person again.
  5. Forgiveness is not tolerating the behavior that caused the pain. You can forgive your abuser and also leave the relationship. You can forgive them and also set strict boundaries within that relationship that will have consequences should they violate those boundaries.
  6. Forgiveness does not mean you have to be ok. Is is possible to forgive someone and still struggle with the pain and trauma that they’ve caused. Forgiving does not mean you have to pretend that you are ok, that you are no longer bleeding from the wound they’ve caused, or that you have to be ok when they want you to be.
  7. Forgiveness does not mean that you or your pain are forgotten. It does not mean that your suffering, your pain, is not valid. You and the consequences in your life because of their actions, will not disappear or become meaningless because you choose to let them go.

The Truth

Now I want to help you understand what forgiveness is. This is where you can find true healing. For me, I was not able to start healing from Columbine until I chose to forgive those people who created the pain. Today, choosing to forgive those who are hurting me, allows me to be who I need to be.

  1. Forgiveness is a choice you make every day to consciously let go of punishing those who have hurt you. When you are in the process of forgiving someone who has caused immeasurable pain and suffering in your life, this is something that you have to chose repeatedly until it no longer infiltrates your mind.
  2. Forgiveness is letting go of the person or persons who have hurt you. It is releasing them to God and allowing Him to deal with them. It is saying, I no longer choose to allow you to take up space in my mind, body, and soul.
  3. Forgiveness is freeing up space in your mind that those who have hurt you have been controlling since the trauma. I often think of it as evicting squatters. Evicting the people, thoughts, and behaviors that are involved in the trauma, so that you can have your whole self back again.
  4. Forgiveness is giving yourself permission to heal and leave them behind. It is saying that those people no longer get to have any part of your life, that they are not longer welcome in your existence.
  5. Forgiveness gives you peace, clarity, and hope. When you remove those people and the negative thoughts and beliefs they’ve forced on you, you are able to fully experience life again.
  6. Forgiveness is saying that you will no longer harbor bitterness and resentment towards that person or people. That you will no longer think of them, allow them to control you present. You are saying to yourself and to them, that they no longer matter to you and that you are going to live your life fully without the poison of their existence running through your veins.
  7. Forgiveness sets you free.

Living without the toxicity of bitterness

Holding on to unforgiveness, harboring anger, resentment, bitterness, and a desire for revenge, does nothing to your perpetrator. Let me say that again. Choosing not to forgive someone and holding onto the pain, does not hurt the ones who hurt you. The truth is that they rarely care about how you feel. It never crosses their minds. That is why they were able to cause so much pain in the first place. Thinking that if you just stay mad then they will see the damage they’ve done, is a lie. It does nothing for them.

The only one that is wounded when you hold on to unforgiveness, is you. You are allowing the poison from their actions to consume your life. You are living in the past, in the present. They will never feel your pain just because you keep living in that pain. Your anger and hurt is absolutely justified. However, choosing to stay there instead of moving forward in forgiveness and healing, will keep you bound to those people.

The unholy bondage of trauma

When someone perpetrates evil, a spiritual, emotional, and physical bond is created. Those who have caused harm have linked themselves to their victims in many ways. This is one of the reasons why people who have been hurt, continue to return to the person that hurt them, or why children do not tell someone what is happening. This bond is forged through the trauma and reinforced through the threats, lies, and relationship between the perpetrator and their victim.

Regardless of where the perpetrator is now, choosing to hold on to unforgiveness, reinforces the bondage, the chains, they forced on you. It keeps you silent. It makes you question your own memories of what happened. It makes you think you’re the crazy one, the one who is wrong. The more you choose to stay angry, hateful, bitter, and vengeful, the stronger you are making those chains.

Breaking free

If you truly want to break free, to remove them from your life, you have to choose forgiveness. Your life will continue regardless of what you choose, but your choice to forgive or not, will determine HOW your life moves forward. Those who have chosen not to forgive and let go, suffer more than they need to. They have chosen to allow the full impact of their trauma to dictate their life. They have chosen to remain stuck.

When you choose forgiveness, you are choosing to live. You are allowing the pain from your past to remain in your past. You are choosing daily to walk in your life without allowing those things to control your present or your future. Forgiving those who have hurt you, will let you breathe free for the first time since the trauma. It will allow you to embrace your life with the truth of your pain, the person you are now, without being overwhelmed by your past.

Forgiveness is a process that you move towards. It is a conscious decision to let go. One that you may have to make daily, sometimes hourly, when you first make that step towards freedom. You may not even feel like you want to let go, but choosing to forgive anyway, will sever the hold they have on you. Choosing freedom, choosing to permanently sever the trauma bonds that have been formed, will never make things worse than they have been.

If you want to forgive and be free, then begin to ask God to help you. Begin to speak out loud, “I don’t feel like forgiving (that person), but I am choosing to do so anyway.” The more you practice forgiving that person, the more you’ll realize that you are forgiving them. You are able to see what life can be like without them in your consciousness. When you can see what freedom looks like, then forgiveness becomes easier.

Choose freedom today. Let the past stay in the past. Take back your life and live in defiant abundance and freedom.

The Poison that Destroys

Harboring the chains of our hurt

When we have been wronged we rightly feel pain. The damage inflicted on us by the evil and selfish behaviors of others is real. It’s palpable and raw. Confusing and disorienting. This is how we are supposed to respond instinctively when we have been threatened and hurt. Our minds, bodies, and souls were created with the ability to respond to pain, emotional or physical, in a way that allows us to process and heal as quickly as possible. This system is often hijacked by a lack of support, validation, and numerous other external and internal factors. But the fact remains, that we are still programmed to respond and move on, not get stuck. But so often, we come out of trauma stuck as a victim and not living as a conqueror.

Stuck

One of the things that keeps us from being able to move forward in our lives, is how we tend to hold on to the hurt. I’m not talking about the expected scars and other damage that comes from surviving trauma, but of the way our minds adapt in an effort to “protect” us. When we have been hurt in such a way that the damage goes deeper than we can imagine, our minds want to do whatever it can to keep us alert so that we don’t ever experience that pain again. Unimaginable and gut-wrenching pain is not so easily processed and healed. But we can add layers to that already difficult process by choosing to identify with or replay the trauma, and holding on to the past.

I think that in part, we do this because we want justice. We want to see that the person that has hurt us will eventually feel the same pain that they have caused. In short, we want revenge on those who have destroyed our lives as we knew them. In the same way that we have been forced to reconcile who we were before to who we are now, we want them to suffer so it’s not just us. It is incredibly unfair that the people that cause us the most pain, often never experience the reality of that pain themselves. That we are the ones left picking up the pieces of our lives trying to heal, while they move on, in most cases, completely unaffected by their sin. In that accurate sense of it being unfair, we naturally want to right that wrong done to us. The problem is we go about doing that in a way that causes no damage to the perpetrators but immense damage to ourselves.

The Poison of Holding On

Romans 14:12 tells us, on the day of judgement, we will ALL have to give an account of ourselves to God. What does this mean for survivors of trauma? It means that we are responsible for our own actions, not those of others. We will never be held accountable before God because of what others did to us. That those who have hurt us will ALL have to come before God and try and explain the pain they’ve caused to us. But further, they will also be judged and punished for the evil that was done. I don’t know about you, but the idea of standing before the God of the universe, the sovereign over all, and trying to rationalize why they hurt us, kind of makes me feel better. However, in the same way, so will we have to explain our choices and responses to the evils we experience.

When we have been wronged, no matter how horrific the trauma and pain is, we all have to choose what to do with that pain. We have basically two choices in this. We can choose to forgive and let them go, or we can choose to obsess over them and the damage they’ve done. Let me explain.

One of the most deadly chains that keep us bound, is the powerful chain that weaves unforgiveness, hatred, bitterness, and resentment together. While we are absolutely justified in feeling anger, betrayal, and hurt when we are traumatized, we don’t need to stay there. The reason anger is part of grief, is because it’s a step, not an encampment. When we choose to harbor and cling to our “right” to feel that way, we are doing nothing to the person who caused the harm. They don’t care, usually. While we can be angry and hurt by what happened, we shouldn’t stay that way. The poison of harboring these destructive emotions causes immense damage to our own mind, body, and soul. In addition to what was done to us.

Alternately, we can choose to be free. Choosing forgiveness, allowing ourselves to let go of the anger and pain we rightly feel in response, cleanses us from that poison. Here is where most people get stuck. In the misguided belief that to forgive those who have hurt us means that they “got away” with whatever they did. We can convince ourselves that if we aren’t angry or hurt all the time, then we and everyone else will forget the harm that was done to us. That if we just hold onto the anger, hatred, bitterness, and resentment, then we are somehow holding them accountable for their sin.

But this isn’t what forgiveness is. At all. Forgiveness is letting yourself let them go. Meaning that, when you choose to forgive, you are no longer letting them control you today. You are not allowing your past hurts to dictate how you live in the present. You are taking away the valuable space in your mind, body, and soul, from the evil that shattered you, and giving it back to yourself to fill up with life again. When we hold on and refuse to forgive those who have hurt us to the depths of our souls, we are giving them permission to stay in our lives. Forgiveness kicks them out of our lives, and allows us to be free from their strangle hold.

Freedom or Control

Ultimately, we have to decide how we want to live our lives. Do we want to be chained to the people and events that traumatized us, or do we want to be free from them? Do we allow these people, their evil choices, and the destruction they caused to take up residence in our lives, or do we evict them permanently? We aren’t always meant to completely remove from our lives those who have hurt us (family, friends, relationships, etc.). But sometimes we are. The only way we can get to the place where we are making choices that will lead us to freedom and the life we are supposed to live, is to forgive those who have hurt us and let God deal with them. This frees our minds to move us to where we need to be, instead of keeping us tethered to a past we were never meant to live.

Will you choose the courage to forgive those who have hurt you and break free from their control over you? Or will you choose to harbor the “right” to feel angry, bitter, hate, and resentment because of what they’ve done to you? The choice is yours, but personally, I prefer life to death. I choose to remove their control over my life today so that I can be who I want and who I am meant to be. This is a daily, sometimes hourly if I’m honest, decision to consciously forgive. It doesn’t mean that what happened isn’t important and that you are not still struggling to heal from the wounds they’ve inflicted. But it does mean that when you pursue true healing, you will find yourself able to live without them being in your mind turning you back to the darkness.

The Heart’s Cry

Releasing Yourself From the Burden of Silence

We Have Permission to Lose Control

Lamentations 2:19 tells us to “Arise, cry out in the night…pour out our hearts like water before the presence of the Lord.”

We are literally told to cry out in anguish, to scream and shout as if an intruder is invading our camp in the night. There is such power and truth in those moments of raw pain and anger. Releasing all the barriers we’ve put up to keep those emotions hidden, releases us. Yet we resist. We allow society, religion, and others around us, to tell us how to handle our grief and suffering, instead of seeking God’s truth.

How many of us have been told that we can’t be angry with God? That we can’t scream and question and yell at the one who created us? That we should be content and have joy in our suffering, every time? Often the scripture that talks about the clay challenging the potter is a favorite quote. I’ve repeatedly been told, or it’s been insinuated, that my anger, my grief, my pain, is wrong. That expressing grief and hurt like I do is too much. That if I just “gain perspective” about my suffering I will be able to just move on. In reality, the deepest pain that we can endure, the brokenness that shatters our soul, can’t be kept silent without causing us harm.

The people who say these things, often, do not mean to hurt us. People who are regurgitating what they’ve been told or are genuinely afraid of their own extreme emotions, are rarely trying to hurt us. When someone is afraid of dealing with their own pain, they tend to shame those who aren’t and attempt to shut down others’ expressions of pain as well. These are people we love, or that we look to for guidance and help. Reaching out for help and being are shut down and shamed for our pain stops the grieving process that sets us free!

No, we are not meant to hold in and silence our pain. The Bible literally gives us permission to come before God in anguish. With screams and hurt that can only be verbalized in groans. We have God’s permission to come before Him no matter where we are in our mind, body, soul, and spirit. So why would anyone else’s opinions on this matter? If God says come, shouldn’t we come? Ask yourself if you are free to cry out to God. If not, ask yourself why.

Why Should I Stay Silent When All I Want Is to Scream?

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve been hurt beyond my ability to “handle it,” it’s almost as if the pain takes on a life of its own. Being still and quiet is not the way my mind, body, and soul express pain. I was created to be animated, passionate, and unwavering in how I pursue my life. In my pain and suffering, that doesn’t change. The idea that I am required to go against my nature, to violate the way God created me to express myself, is actually an invitation into sin. When we go against who we are meant to be, we are saying God made a mistake, and we “shouldn’t” be this way. And usually, if I’ve gone silent, it’s not a good thing for anyone, especially if you’re the one who has caused the pain…

Why, if we are supposed to be silent in our pain, does God tell us that “when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit cries out in groans that we cannot understand?” If the Holy Spirit cries out in groans, I’m pretty sure that we should be able to do the same thing. We are, after all, made in the image of the Triune God. The Bible is full of examples of individuals (Jeremiah the weeping prophet and King David anyone?), including Christ Himself, pouring out their tears before the altar of God’s throne.

Beyond that, why would anyone demand that we not express our pain and hurt before God? We are supposed to bring our anxieties, cares, and hurts before the loving God who is the only One who will ever truly know us. Relationships require us to interact with God, it’s one of the reasons we exist in the first place. How will we ever allow God to meet our needs and bring us comfort and peace beyond our ability, if we never release all the hurt and pain that is creating the walls around our heart? As believers, we have to begin questioning the intention and scriptural validity of what we are being told to do. We have the Holy Spirit for a reason. Part of the reason is so that we can hear that “still small voice” telling us something isn’t in line with God.

What is Really Happening When Silence is Demanded

Forcing someone to stay silent when their physical body cannot hold in the sounds of pain, is a form of torture and control. It’s what predators do to their victims…force them to stay silent. If we look at the way pain and suffering is handled within this society and within the churches, we see this same systematic silencing of victims, especially women and children. Women and children who take a chance to go to church leadership, law enforcement, or anyone who is in a position to help them, are often left shamed and re-victimized. And men are rarely allowed to experience suffering beyond expressions of anger. No wonder our society is full of suffering and pain! Imagine what would happen if everyone was able to feel what they need to feel without shame?

When you are not allowed to speak about and confess your pain and hurt, when you are forced to stay silent, the pain of that makes whatever you are going through exponentially worse. While not everyone tries to silence you out of a desire to hurt you, the end purpose is always to control you. To change what you need, to match what they want or believe. All the more why we should allow ourselves permission to come before the throne of God and be as loud as needed to release the pain inside us.

God did not create us to remain silent in our pain. There are numerous examples in scripture where Holy men and women, the disciples, and Jesus Himself, cry out in anguish over what is happening. When we learn that Jesus is in such anguish over what He has to do that He is literally sweating blood, how can anyone tell us that we can’t feel the same intense pain? Christ was called a “man of sorrows” for a reason. While He did not STAY crying out in pain and suffering, He absolutely grieved when it was needed to cleanse and refocus. He regularly withdrew to pray and commune with God. It is ridiculous to believe that Jesus did not include cries of His heart in his communion with His Father.

Freedom Comes When We Honor That Part of Us Hurting and Needing Release

Often times we get stuck in a cycle of grieving because we don’t allow ourselves to grieve as we need to. We look to the advice of others because we do not believe what we know we need to do. Many times, we are so afraid that if we open the door to truly pour out every ounce of anguish and bitterness in our soul, we will stay there. When in truth, refusing to release the pain you are feeling, internalizing it and silencing your heart’s cry, is the thing that keeps you where you don’t want to be. Repeating lessons and pain in different areas of your life, is God’s call to you to fully open yourself up to Him. God is calling to you from the depths of your pain and hurt, waiting for you to turn to Him and let Him comfort and redeem your pain.

Jesus is the Great Comforter and our Healer. He redeems what has been taken from our lives in ways we can’t possibly imagine. But we have to let Him in so that He can move in our lives. Trying to control your pain, to “stay strong” or comparing your suffering to others, prevents God from being able to move. God will never force Himself or His will upon us. He offers what He has promised, and we get to choose to let Him in.

If you are in physical, emotional, and spiritual pain as a result of trauma and the things of this broken world, why are you holding on to it? Instead of begging God to change whatever it is or getting angry when He doesn’t do want you want Him to, why not try a true heart cry? Give yourself permission to say whatever you need to, in whatever way you want, to the God who sees you. Give God everything that hurts then be still and let Him fill you and comfort you!

Some of the biggest turning points in my own healing have come from these gut-wrenching, guttural cries from the depths of my wounded heart. God is waiting for you to let Him in. Cry out to Him today, and release the “control” you have created to not feel the pain. When you pour yourself out before God, I promise you He won’t let you stay there, and He will fill you up in ways you never knew you needed.

Finding Myself Again

As I am sitting here writing this blog, I realize that the reason it has taken me so long to finish this topic is because I do not really have the final answer to this question of finding yourself again after enduring trauma. I have been in this journey for a long time and to be honest, some days I still really believe that I have no idea who I truly am. I do realize, however, that if I had not survived the things that have tried to destroy me, I would have absolutely no idea about who I am or who I am meant to be. The person I was before and during the traumas, was only a shadow, a fragment, of the person that I was meant to become. For that reason, I think one of the hardest things about going through this life is that you really never know who you are until face the worst things that life throws at you. We all grow up with hopes and dreams, thoughts about who we are, how our lives should run, and who we want to eventually become. Many people are fortunate enough to finish this life without having to reevaluate any of these thoughts or beliefs. However, for the majority of people, tragedy and incomprehensible heartbreak intrude into our existence and we are then forced with a decision about who we really are. When the unspeakable occurs, when the darkness covers our eyes, we are forced to move forward and reevaluate our lives or eventually fall to the inevitably destructive fate of untreated pain. Trauma forces us into action, it forces us to choose to live our lives as they were truly meant to be, or to give up and succumb to the darkness.

At least that’s how it was for me. I had grand ideas, hopes, dreams, and everything else that a person is supposed to have…I was also miserable in my life. I had these passions, but no direction and no real belief that I was ever going to be able to accomplish the things that haunted my soul. The strange thing is that it was not until I experienced one of the worst times in my life, that I began to realize that there were other things that I was good at, other things I wanted to pursue. I began to rethink the aspects of myself that had governed me to that point and begin to let in the hope that I could accomplish something more than what I was. Ironically, the result of surviving and enduring was not a complete change in my hopes and dreams, but a realization that there were many different ways of living them out. The pain and trauma that I have experienced has morphed and reshaped the passions in my soul so that I was able to understand and finally accept my true calling and how I was going to live that out from that point forward. I feel that if I had not suffered the things that sought to destroy me, I never would have been able to truly uncover what God is calling me to do. I would not have been able to see past my singular focus and seek a life and purposed outside of the box I had nicely folded my dreams into.

One of the important things I have learned over this process of rediscovering who I am and what I am truly called to do in life, is that no matter how insightful you are, you will grow and change everyday and will probably discover many other things you like and do not like about yourself. Because my view of the world and other people has been so shaped and occasionally warped by the pain I have endured, I became stagnant in my identity and my pursuit of my true purpose. Really, I had given up on ever achieving those things that burned deep in my heart and had replaced those desires with something that would be “good enough.”  But the truth is that everyday life experiences, more trauma, more pain, more exposure to the things in this world that are evil and heartbreaking, reshape that identity daily. I know who I am at the core, and I believe that I have finally begun to understand my true purpose and identity in this life, but each day someone or something shows me another part of that identity that I can choose to incorporate into what is already present, something that I can learn from. I think this is one of the blessings of enduring pain, suffering, and trials that push us far beyond our capacity. These experiences allow us to be malleable, to adapt to different situations and people that are placed in our lives. Experiencing horror and the process of healing from those unimaginable things, rather than keeping us stuck in dysfunction, actually lead us to a more enlightened version of ourselves. The healing process opens up the door to infinite possibilities in discovering everything you can be, and gives you the push you need to live life more intentionally than you were previous to your trauma.

I would have much preferred to go through this life with no personal idea of the horrific tragedies and evils that other people can and will perpetrate against you and those you love, but that was not the path my life took. For reasons that may never be clear to me this side of Heaven, I was tasked with enduring unspeakable pain regularly. Beginning to let go of the resentment that my life “should” have been different allows me to embrace the new skills and strengths that resulted from surviving. I am being molded into who I am supposed to be on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. I can choose to view the things that happened to me as something to be feared, resented, and defeating, or I can look for the growth, the positive changes, and the new opportunities that come my way. Because finding yourself is painful. Becoming who you were meant to be is not possible without discomfort, confusion, pain, and trials. I am not thankful for what I have endured, but I am thankful that God has taken what the enemy meant for destruction and turned it into something, turned me into someone, who has a purpose and who can channel the trauma into a passion that will bring hope and healing to others. That was my original idea, hope, and passion…it just turned out differently than I had planned.

find-yourself

Sometimes Life Sucks…and That's OK

When I first began writing this blog, my purpose was to inspire others and to bring hope that there can be healing, freedom, and peace after pain and trauma. That it what I strive to do with each word that I write. I recently realized though, that there is one area that I rarely talk about. I don’t often talk about life in general and how trauma and healing intersect with everyday life. See, as a Christian, there is a myth perpetuated through churches that says that if you are diligent enough, if you pray enough, if you’re holy enough, then there is no reason for you to feel bad or to struggle. The lie is that if there is something wrong in your life it is because you don’t have enough faith or, my favorite, are being punished by God for some sin that you have yet to confess. I believe that Christ has come to set us free from our past and to heal us in our struggles and pain…but that doesn’t mean that I am any less saved if I am struggling in my life and can’t seem to find that peace and contentment.
What I’ve learned is that no matter how hard you work at healing from the trauma and pain in your life, those invisible wounds still exist. So there are times in your life, sometimes there are long seasons in your life after you thought everything was better and you were healing, where life just sucks. There are times when you realize that your hopes and dreams, everything that you begged, prayed, and cried for, are never going to happen. When you realize that the life you need, the life you want, won’t ever exist and that is really sucks. There are so many things in this world that are pressing in on us from every angle that the natural response is to fall apart. I have been in my healing journey for a very long time, and every time I think that I am doing good,  God reminds me that I’m not in control and there are still areas of my life that are effected by my past. He gently reminds me in the midst of the suffering that I cannot control other peoples’ choices and responses, that I cannot change their hearts, and I cannot convince them of the truth, because their life is not mine to change, that is for God. There have been seasons in my life, and I am currently in one again, where no matter what I do or how hard I try everything falls apart and I am left broken and barely breathing…again.
What I want to say to everyone who is like me and struggles in ways they don’t think they “should” anymore, is that when life sucks, it’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to be sad, and to feel betrayed and hurt and scared. All of that is a normal reaction when things happen that are out of your control and break you. There is no shame in falling to pieces and feeling so broken you don’t know how you will ever be whole again. It’s OK to say life sucks right now and I’m not good with the way things are going. Society has taught so many people that it’s not OK to be broken, that it’s a sign of weakness if you have to stop for awhile until you can put yourself back together again. That is such a huge part of why there are so many sick and suffering people…they’re fighting between what they are feeling and what they think they should be feeling. That is a fight that has no winner, but draws you deeper and deeper into the abyss.
With all that being said, what’s no OK, is letting this life defeat you. Life will destroy you but only if you let it. Sometimes things happen that seem significantly harder to rebound from than others, and that’s probably true. Sometimes you have experienced significant pain in your past and are also experiencing what feels like a never ending torrent of hell that is raining down on you. In those moments, you don’t have to be strong, you don’t have to pretend that everything is good when you are being ripped apart at the seams. Where people tend to get stuck, and where the majority of suffering continues, is when they give up the fight and just let the chaos and pain consume them. Everyone, no matter how much time and effort they spend in healing and moving on from their past traumas, will continue to experience pain and suffering in this life at the hands of others and from things completely out of their control. That is the nature of living in a fallen world where narcissism and entitlement are the reigning personality characteristics. People will hurt you, they will betray you, they will cause you to doubt everything you believed, but they don’t have to win. When wars rage, waters rise, and people set out to destroy you, it’s OK to let that knock you down…But you have to keep getting up.

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