I keep telling you on here and various forms of social media that this year was hard and all the things have happened. This past year has been very difficult and now I’m ready to tell you a bit of the story.
Here we go.
I told you the story of how I got accepted into the London College of Fashion and that I won’t be attending because of the tuition.
What I didn’t tell you is how hard it was to remain excited and hopeful about an opportunity of a lifetime without feeling like you had the full support and excitement from your family. How hard it was to constantly feel like I was so close to a dream and trying to hold on to it with any ounce of hope I had, or how hard it was to try and save money (doesn’t sound like a challenge but it is, especially when your car decides to break down multiple times), how hard it was to look for any glimmer of affirmation and instead see doubt in your people’s eyes despite their good intentions and words of encouragement, or how excruciatingly painful it is to bury your dream and mourn over what you wanted and what could have been.
Speaking of mourning…
It’s very fitting that this post is this month, I could lie and say I waited intentionally to post this but really it has just taken me this long to get the words out. A year ago this past Friday, two of my dear friends spoke on the topic of sexual abuse. One shared her own story of abuse through spoken word, the other read a letter on behalf of the collective church apologizing to those who have been abused. Going into that night I was in full support mode, my best friend was about to do something very brave for the first time and I was ready to be her emotional support, biggest cheerleader, or whatever else she needed. All my efforts were being diverted to her, because that’s how I cope. I put all my energy into others so I won’t focus on what I need to deal with.
I was sexually abused in high school. I had prided myself on “dealing” with it. I told everyone I was fine because for the longest time I had “made peace with the idea that it was my fault and that I was forgiven and forgave myself.” But deep down I knew it wasn’t my fault but it was just easier to not think about it and push it away. I hate pain, I hate crying, I hate conflict, so I avoid it and put it in a box. Not a literal box but a metaphorical one that I “give to Jesus and not worry about.” (By the way not addressing the pain and conflict is not trusting Jesus with it.)
But I couldn’t do that anymore. Not when I heard the words, “it’s okay to mourn what you’ve lost.” There were more words that affected me but it was those words that kept ringing in my head after that night. “It’s okay to mourn what you lost.” Mourned what I lost. What had I lost? What hadn’t I come to terms with when it came to be sexually abused? A lot.
When something traumatic happens to you and you don’t seek healing in a healthy way, your mental and emotional state remains unhealthy, which inevitably causes unhealthy patterns. For years after the abuse I was around boys who didn’t respect me, who didn’t care about me, and kept me around for their own selfish gain. This hardened my heart and my attitude. I became bitter and resentful, I always assumed the worst about guys intentions, I didn’t show grace, basically I became Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, except without a Mr. Darcy. I wrote a letter to my abusers telling them what I had lost because of them, as the first step of mourning, which my best friend kindly published on her blog the day I went to counseling for the first time.
It was another one of my friends who suggested counseling to help me heal correctly and for my anxiety. Because I’m living proof that time doesn’t heal, it numbs. In case you were wondering, that’s not healing and it’s not mentally healthy. So I took the first step and met with a counselor, who told me I showed signs of PTSD and helped me realize anxiety has always been a part of my life. We met a couple times and I felt a little better because by going to counseling I was acknowledging that there was a problem and I wasn’t okay. I needed to learn how to cope in a healthy and sustainable way rather than just running from it. In efforts to change, I became more vocal and told others when I was upset rather than just going silent.
Where I got to practice this for the first time was on my best friend who was now dating someone, who deep down I knew was going to be her husband and I didn’t know what to do. It had been so long with just me and her, she was a part of my everyday life and now everything was changing. I wasn’t angry about it or intentionally resentful, I felt sort of helpless because I just didn’t know what my role looked like as her best friend in this new season. It was all new to me, and I had to mourn the loss of how our friendship used to be. Then my other best friend started dating someone who is now her fiancé, and I had to do the same thing all over again. In a season where I already felt like I was losing so much, it’s not the best feeling to feel like you’re going in it alone, no matter how incredibly happy and excited you are for them.
Seasons of life are different for each person and it doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate those you love during a tough one for you. Neither one invalidates the other. It also means that it won’t stay the same forever. Another season will come and things will eventually get better.
You can’t heal if you don’t grieve. Pain lets us know that something is wrong, then we make the choice to do something about it or to ignore it and make it worse. Even though at times I’ve felt as if I was drowning in waves of pain, loneliness, insecurities, and anxiousness, I have seen even more growth and healing than I ever have in my entire life.
I am not the same woman I was a year ago.
God was gracious enough to show me the beauty of redemption in ways I never dreamed.
My view of men has changed. I have seen men of character love the women in their lives with the selfless and pursuing love of Jesus. I have learned to gradually open up and to offer grace when expectations aren’t met. A guy accidentally touched my hand in church and I didn’t freak out. I went on dates! My anxiety did get worse in the meantime but I did it and I had a lovely time despite the anxiety. I learned more about myself and about dating in general. I have pushed myself to try new things and make more time for myself. I have developed new friendships because of it and grown in current ones. One of the best results is I have grown deeper in my relationship with Jesus. I have experienced his reckless and consuming love more than ever and because of it have learned to love others better.
My life feels as if it’s in pieces a lot of the time, but those pieces fit together to make a beautiful picture that I can’t fully see yet.