Updated: Jan 17
My father obviously had a lot of issues. He was a mentally sick man who also had a traumatizing childhood (background information I have gathered from family conversations.) In this case, my father never sought help for his trauma or addiction. Instead, he would self-medicate in the forms of alcohol and hard drugs. In return, his trauma created more trauma, and the cycle continued.
Everyone around my dad fell victim to him in some way. I have heard stories from multiple family members about how my dad would treat them and the chaos he brought to family events. Crazy how toxic people spread like wildfire. However, the worst of my dad came out behind closed doors.
My earliest memories of my dad started when I was only four years old. My father was mentally, physically, and sexually abusive to me while constantly calling me "his favorite child." Not only did he hurt me, but he allowed some of his friends to hurt me as well. These events lasted until I was in the first grade. That was when my dad was incarcerated (again), and my mom finally left him.
As a young child, I was unsure how to process the events of my past. I thought the abuse was "normal," and everyone's parents acted like that. However, my body felt otherwise. My body would tell me that it was painful and wrong. Yet when I confided in an adult, I was quickly told to "not make up stories or that I would be taken away from my parents." So honestly, I would just go numb. The numb feeling helped me process the painful memories. However, the memories would always pop up. They would appear in my nightmares, quiet rooms, dark streets at night, when I would dress "girly," when someone would compliment me, driving in certain parts of my hometown, showers, white brick buildings, trailer parks, blue street lights, counting to 10 to fast, doctors offices, and all of these aspects would trigger my worst memories causing me to feel the "bad feeling."
The bad feeling was a feeling that made me feel disgusting and dirty, and it would happen anytime a memory was triggered. The only way I could deal with the bad feeling was to go numb and push the feeling away. Sometimes I would scream "no" to make the feeling disappear quicker. I was able to drive away my memories with the numb feeling for years until one day after my 18th birthday, all of the memories came flooding back. I could no longer control my memories, and I started having physical flashbacks whenever I was triggered... and I was triggered a lot. My physical flashback resulted in me being hospitalized for a short time and receiving an official diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Only a few people knew about my trauma, mainly for two reasons. The first reason was that I was highly embarrassed by my past. The second reason was that as a young child, I was taught that "we don't share our family secrets with others." So even after receiving my diagnosis of PTSD, I convinced myself that talking about "it" was utterly wrong. However, my memories were haunting me, which heightened my paranoia. I was so scared that the events of my past would happen again that I would isolate myself in my dorm room. The isolation then caused me to become severely depressed, and I contemplated taking my own life. It was honestly the darkest time in my life. I never thought I would feel happy again, and I blamed God for not being there in my darkest time. I could not understand how God could allow something so terrible to happen to me and then how He could allow me to be haunted by the awful events. I was so angry with God and had no hope for the future. I found myself self-harming to punish myself for my past, and I was just acting in a way that I never thought I was capable of acting. Until one day in religion class, something happened that I will never forget!
I was in a religion class that my college required for graduation, and our teacher asked us to open up to the book of Matthew. I had read Matthew a thousand times in the Bible; therefore, I knew the exact spot to open my Bible to get to Matthew. Well, I open my Bible, and I can not find Matthew. I start flipping through every page in the Bible and still can not find it. So I just threw my Bible down on my desk, and as soon as the Bible hit the desk, the entire room became quiet... like you couldn't even hear the air-conditioning turn on in the room. Then I heard God speak to me, and He said, "Angel, if you do not stop hurting yourself, I will not let you do what I have planned for you." Then immediately, all sound returned to the room, and I looked down at my Bible, which was opened to Matthew at the exact verse my teacher was reading. Needless to say... I stopped hurting myself after that day. I also found a church and got baptized. Looking back at that dark time in my life, I can see now that God was always with me. Like Job or Joseph in the Bible, I was being tested, yet unlike Job or Joseph, I failed my test. However, after failing the first test, you always know what not to do on the makeup test.
Trusting God's Plan while Struggling with PTSD
Years passed, and I was still struggling with my PTSD... some days were better than others, but I trusted that God had a plan for my life and that one day He would use my story to help others. I worked on my mental health for God, knowing that He was my rock, and when the dark times returned, I would be more prepared to fight.
I had years of only dealing with flashbacks and trying to learn and manage my triggers. I had not been depressed since that dark period in my life. Until I became pregnant with my third baby. All of my pregnancies felt difficult, because I experienced Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which means that I would experience morning sickness my entire pregnancy. However, my third pregnancy was the first time I experienced how hormones affect your mental health.
I began having severe nightmares every night about my past, and the nightmares were so intense that I was scared to even sleep in my room. So for months, I would sleep on the couch in the living room. (My bed sometimes becomes a trigger, and even in middle and high school, I would sleep on the sofa to avoid my bed.) In addition to nightmares, my paranoia returned, and I was constantly fighting flashbacks. I had a little cross that I would
carry around and squeeze whenever I felt like I was going to flashback. Then obviously, depression followed. I started feeling depressed again, which made small tasks feel huge, and I slowly realized that I was isolating myself again. Honestly, after being severely depressed once I knew that I was going to fight to not allow myself to fail again. I made small tasks for myself, and I would tell myself to celebrate just getting small things done each day, which did help some. However, the biggest thing that helped me was talking about it!
Talking About Mental Health
Prior to my third pregnancy, I had felt God lead me to share my story on YouTube. So I listened. I thought that sharing my story would help someone else, and it did, but it also helped me. Sharing freed me from 27 years of secrecy and made it easy to talk to others about my mental health struggles. Shortly after sharing my story, I created Vocal Survivors, which initially served as a platform for people to share their mental health struggles and not feel alone. Therefore, I started utilizing the platform I created and shared my struggles from my third pregnancy on Vocal Survivors. I would write about how I was feeling in great detail sometimes, and then I honestly would feel relief knowing that I wasn't alone and didn't have to carry my pain alone. However, talking about my mental health wasn't enough... I needed to accept it.
Accepting My Past
My acceptance journey was a slow process. I could feel God leading me and wanting me to give more time to Him. So for a year and a half, I detoxed from social media providing more time to give to God. During my social media break, I could hear God's voice more clearly and feel Him guiding me into a new chapter. I also had more time to read my Bible and refocus on Him.
Through God's word, I found peace. I accepted that I could not control the past. The past happened, and without the past and the people in it, I wouldn't be who I am today.
I realized that I am a lot stronger than I give myself credit for. I also realized that fear is crippling, and through Jesus, I can live knowing that no matter what (good or bad), I am going to be ok.
I realized that I endured a lot of pain, but the suffering wasn't God's fault. God gives us all free will, and what people choose to do with that free will can either cause good or bad things.
I learned through Jesus that I am loved and that His love is the only love I need. I do not live for people; I live for Him. Loving Him helped me to love myself. I know that through God I can do all things, and without God, I am like a hamster on a wheel just running without a purpose.
I also learned that I do not have to be around toxic people (that includes family) and that I am no longer that little girl who was powerless. I have control over my life and my future.
Finally, I learned that you can forgive people from a distance. Forgiveness does not mean that I have to continue seeing toxic people who have not changed. Forgiveness is in your heart and through God. I know that I have forgiven everyone who hurt me, because I no longer feel the heaviness/anxiety in my heart when I think of them.
Talking about my past, trusting in God's plan for my future, accepting my past, and forgiveness is how I was able to start healing from my trauma! Most importantly healing is how the cycle of abuse ends!
Thank you for reading! Please visit www.vocalsurvivors.com to help other's survive their current circumstances.