Life Lived in the Shadows isn’t Fully Lived
I am proud to be a survivor because that means I survived.
Regardless of the past, or the present, we have the ability to survive and even thrive. Healing from the wounds life deals you isn’t easy. For some, the scars will fade with time. For others, the scars will always be there and will forever remind you of the wound.
Scar tissue isn’t pretty, but it doesn’t hurt any longer.
Healing is a journey, and we have to take it one step at a time. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One minute at a time. Maybe, even one breath at a time.
Beyond Bound and Broken is “the rest of the story,” sharing the lessons I learned about how to start to heal and how to truly live life.
After Ria’s Story was published, I felt like I was finished writing for a long time, perhaps forever. But, less than six months later, I realized there is so much more to be said about learning to live life “after.” I had no idea just how many others would share with me a similar story of brokenness, abuse, or of being a victim. I had no idea how many would share how they found encouragement, hope, healing, and inspiration in my story. I also had no idea so many who were not victims of abuse but had experienced something painful, terrible, or traumatic would find encouragement, hope, healing, and inspiration in my story.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Ria’s Story was a first attempt at baring my soul, but even a year later, I realize how much I left out because I simply didn’t have the strength to be vulnerable. At 110 pages, it was all I could do to write that much, and I had nothing left to say beyond those pages. I didn’t have the courage to show you all my scars.
Perhaps I still don’t, but I have a new confidence in my God-given purpose, and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) I am not a counselor, a psychiatrist, a doctor of anything, or a therapist. My claim to expertise is having lived what you read about in my books and blogs, and then, making it my life’s work to share with others how to be resilient.
Is there fear? Yes. Anytime we are vulnerable, there is fear. When we are open and transparent, when we expose our soft side, when we open our heart and soul, we always do so with some level of fear. Fear that being truly honest about whom and what we are will cause others to reject us. Fear that some people can’t, or won’t, accept our honesty. Fear that if we tell the world we aren’t perfect, we won’t be loved.
Is there shame? Yes. I struggle even today with a sense of shame, and perhaps, I always will. One of my biggest challenges is releasing that to God’s grace and accepting His love.
Is there doubt? Yes. I know there is a temptation to question or doubt God and His plan – I’ve done it myself. Sometimes, it felt like God was so far away. I questioned if He really existed. But, through it all, God was there, and He has redeemed me. He has used the pain in my life to temper me and prepare me for a purpose. I am now beyond bound and broken.
The worst years of my life became a good thing when I realized I could use them for good. I can use them to bring hope to someone else. I am fulfilling my purpose when I help someone else realize, that no matter how bad life gets, we always get to choose how we respond.
I won’t pretend my story is the worst thing that could have happened to me. Certainly, it left me scarred in many ways. It also shaped me, defined me, and then, refined me.
It breaks my heart to know so many others have suffered as I did or even worse.
My heart breaks for those who have suffered in other ways, like the mother who has lost a child to cancer. My heart breaks for the husband who lost his wife in a car wreck and must raise their three children as a single father. My heart breaks for the young boy who is bullied in school until he takes his own life.
I don’t know what plan God has for bringing you through the darkness to the light, but I do know He has a plan. I do know God has brought healing to me, and He can and will bring healing to you. You only have to accept it.
Some wounds in life heal quickly and easily, but others scar the soul forever. Any kind of trauma – emotional or physical trauma, physical or sexual abuse, losing a loved one, losing a job, losing a limb, losing yourself, just a few examples I could name – can leave us with scars from the wounds. Sometimes, the scars are physical, visible, and tangible; sometimes, the scars are emotional, mental, and psychological.
Sometimes, the bad times can be forgotten, as can the good. Often, there are memories you can’t walk away from and can’t forget. It doesn’t matter how big or how deep they go. Healing doesn’t mean there was never a wound there. Healing means the wound has closed over, and there is no festering infection. While there is a scar, it will fade with time. What matters is how we heal from the damage. We have to learn to be resilient, to rebound, and spring back. Lou Holtz said, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.”
I realize more each day how incredibly blessed I am to be traveling this life journey with my husband Mack. Without him, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. He is, and has always been, incredibly supportive of me, encouraging me to find my way forward.
It can’t be easy, being the spouse of an abuse victim. Actually, it’s probably not easy to be a spouse at all! But, being the spouse, parent, or even the child of an abuse victim brings a few more challenges.
There are times I simply need space, room to breathe, time to think, and a little extra grace in our relationship. Too often, I don’t share what I’m thinking or feeling because it feels safer. These are the times I am so fragile that to touch me would shatter me. The only way I know how to protect myself is to pull back into my shell.
For years, even after we were married, I wasn’t secure in our relationship because I wasn’t secure in myself. I thought sharing my pain or my struggles would drive him away. I thought no one could love me broken, so I pretended to be whole. How beautiful it is now to realize I don’t have to pretend to be perfect. I don’t believe in “soul mates” because I believe God is my soul’s companion, but I do believe my life’s companion should, and will, love and accept me for who I am. Sometimes, my steps forward are only inches, and yet, I need him to applaud each one as though it were a giant leap. And, he does. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without him.
I’m a survivor, and I learned how to survive. I would have gone on surviving, somehow, someway, even if God had not sent me a knight in a shiny Camaro. But, would I have learned to thrive?
I believe God places people in our lives. Sometimes, it’s for them to help us. Sometimes, it’s for us to help them. Maybe, it’s both. We all touch the lives of the people around us, even though we don’t always know it.
I pray that through my words I touch your life for the better. I pray that I touch everyone for the better. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to know that you have succeeded.”
“How did you do it?” is a question I get asked often. As in, “How did you manage to move on and live life after years of being abused sexually and emotionally?” My first attempts at blogging and writing tried to answer that until I realized I really didn’t have a pat and perfect answer.
I don’t believe in a miracle cure or a one-size-fits-all plan to move from surviving to thriving in three or twelve steps. We all have a different path to walk on our journey, and we must walk it, just like everyone else, one step at a time. I can only share my journey with you and pray you find inspiration and courage for your own.
Your pain may be different from mine. Your journey almost certainly has been. Or perhaps, it’s not your journey. Perhaps, you are a spouse, loved one, parent or friend who needs to read a true, no holds barred account of some of the things your loved one is going through or has been through, an account of the things he/she wants and needs to say but can’t. Everything they wish you knew but can’t tell you.
Like any daunting task, sharing my journey with you and writing this book seems overwhelming, and at times, much bigger than I am. There are some days it would be so much easier to go back to a regular job with a steady paycheck that doesn’t require me to be more. A job that doesn’t require me to be strong yet vulnerable.
I refuse to turn back because I’m in the HOPE (Helping Others through Positive Encouragement) business. I won’t give up on the thousands and thousands of people out there who need hope to start the healing journey, to break free of their own bonds, and to live life beyond broken, one day at a time. I refuse to turn back because a life lived in the shadows of the past is a life not fully lived. I know because I’ve been there.