Why I Started Praying For My Abuser

Recently, I found my thoughts slipping back to the “what-ifs.” What if we had chosen to go to trial instead of accepting a plea deal? Maybe he would have received a heftier sentence. What if I could have told the investigators EVERYTHING my abuser did to me instead of the things that brought slightly less shame? The charges would have been greater. What if my abuser’s punishment had been more severe? Maybe he would still be on the sex offender registry. These what-if questions stemmed from my rational fear that my abuser will abuse again.

I struggled with feeling like I had not done enough to protect other children from my abuser. In reality, I have done everything I can possibly do to protect others from my abuser- disclosed the abuse, appeared in court, stayed up to date on everything sex offender registry related, and raised awareness through my blog. I may not be able to do anything physically to protect children from my abuser, but there is one powerful way I can take action.

Prayer.

I used to hate my abuser and I would wish for him to spend eternity in hell. Even that would not protect little girls from my abuser during his time on earth though. Thankfully, God has done a lot of work in my heart as well.

God is the only one who can truly change my abuser’s heart. My abuser’s repentance is the only way he can “not abuse.” If I want little girls to be protected from my abuser, then I must pray for my abuser. Ya’ll, that is no easy task.

I am not at the point where I can pray for his repentance on my own. Right now, it looks like this: “God, I know that you can change the heart of even the most hardened. I know that you can change my abuser’s heart and open his eyes to the destruction he causes when he abuses. Praying for him is not easy, but I know the only way little girls can be safe from him is through you. Please change his heart and lead him to repentance and redemption…”

God has helped me realize that there is no punishment he could have received here on earth that would have changed him. I absolutely believe that punishment and consequences for crimes are necessary. I believe that right now, punishment for abusing a child is not severe enough. But earthly punishment will not end child abuse. However, a repentant heart and a redeemed soul might keep one child safe.

This insight has granted me freedom from feeling responsible and peace in knowing that I am still taking action to keep others safe from my abuser every single time I pray for him. It’s not a prayer I excitedly pray, but I am trusting that God will continue molding me through this process and I trust that God will hear my prayers and work according to His will.

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I am praying for the protection of little girls like her.

A Roller Coaster Year- 2018

2018- where do I even begin?! This year I have felt like I was riding one of the fastest, scariest, most exhilarating, and most breath-taking roller coasters ever invented. It has been filled with twists, turns, ups, and downs. But as this year comes to an end, I am left with excitement about the future. I am walking into 2019 with the “feel goods.” It is not because I anticipate great things happening in 2019; instead, it is because of who I have grown to be in 2018. My spirit is stronger, and my hope is greater. I have seen God’s promises fulfilled. I have experienced the renewal of strength that comes only through Him. I have rested in His comfort and goodness.

At the beginning of 2018, I found out I would become an aunt for the first time. Pure elation is the only way I can describe my feelings following that phone call. My excitement grew each month we got closer to welcoming my sweet nephew into the world. Though Emerson’s arrival was a whirlwind, he has brought nothing but sweetness and joy to my life. I take the role of aunt very seriously and I am grateful that in 2018 it became a part of my identity.

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Early in 2018, I started playing volleyball for a club in the city. It has been the best form of self-care I have afforded myself in many years. I am so thankful for the friendships that have formed on the court. Being back on the court allows me to connect with some of the best memories of my teenage years. Though I can’t jump as high or dig as quickly as I could at 16, playing volleyball again has been so much fun.

After 5 years of balancing graduate school and full-time employment, I finally graduated with my MA in Counseling in May. There is no feeling like graduating with a degree that will enable you to do exactly what you are called to do. Getting to walk across the stage with friends by my side and in front of family and professors who supported me through this journey was certainly one of the biggest moments of 2018. While I have definitely enjoyed my last 6 months of “no school work” and I will certainly enjoy the next 8 months of “no school work,” I am eager to begin the next phase of my education and hope to begin working on my Ph.D. in August.

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In late 2017, I took a leap of faith and submitted my first abstract to present at a national conference. In June 2018, I had the honor of presenting at the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children 25th Annual National Colloquium in New Orleans. It was an incredible opportunity which allowed me to connect with people who are devoted to protecting children from abuse.

July is the month that still feels like it’s a puzzle piece that doesn’t belong. But, it does belong and the events of July are a major component of what made me stronger this year. At the start of 2018, I had finally found rest and comfort in the belief that maybe my abuser simply was not going to petition for removal from the sex offender registry. It had been nearly 2 years since he became eligible so there was evidence to support my belief. In July, I got the phone call that crushed that belief. Over two days, I walked in and out of a courtroom multiple times. I spoke the truth of what happened and the ways the abuse impacted me. I was able to do exactly what my blog title encourages, “Brave Girl, Speak.” It was traumatic to go through the “courtroom scene” again. There was no outcome that could be in my “favor.” Either way the judge ruled, there would be pain. Had the law prevented my abuser from being removed from the registry, I would have had 365 days of respite before potentially reliving the scene again. The pain of hearing the judge grant my abuser’s petition for removal was indescribable. I am finding greater freedom in the judge’s ruling than I ever believed possible. I have now gone through the legal proceedings I desire to change. Though I never wanted to face my abuser in court again or experience that type of hearing, I needed to so that I would know what HAS to change. In 2019, I am determined to make progress towards seeing that change happen.

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During the fall months, I was privileged to focus fully on working and healing. I needed the time to heal the wounds that had been reopened in court and to rediscover my identity after it felt so lost following court. In November, I submitted my application for a provisional license as a professional counselor. In December, I received my approval and will now begin the journey towards being a Licensed Professional Counselor. I am excited to resume something I love and to continue growing in my counseling skills.

2019 will be here in just a few hours. I want to thank each of you who have followed my blog this year and who have supported me through the year’s ups and downs. I am excited for the journey that will continue in this new year.

God is Faithful

Before the start of each semester as a counselor intern, I was asked whether there was anything I anticipated occurring that would impact my ability to work with clients. Multiple times I explained how there was a possibility that my abuser would petition for removal from the sex offender registry and if that occurred, I would be traveling to North Carolina with little-advanced notice for an indefinite period of time. Talk about an awkward answer to a question! I felt like I would be viewed as paranoid, but this was my reality. For over two years, I lived on edge, wondering when I would get that phone call to tell me the petition had been filed.

God is faithful. He is true. He is working even when we cannot see it.

There were days when anxiety and fear of that one phone call consumed me. I questioned how the petitioning process could ever be a part of God’s plan for my life. I felt anger that the chapter of my life I so eagerly wanted to close remained open.

In a way that only God can orchestrate, I received the phone call during an “in-between” time; a time when I was enjoying a break from all things school related after having recently graduated. It was a time when I was not counseling, as I worked on my application to apply for provisional licensure. If I was going to receive the phone call, it rang in God’s perfect timing.

I was also fortunate to have time and space to heal from the impacts of the petition hearing. Having experienced the process, I can attest that it certainly would have impacted my ability to counsel clients during my internships. I believe that God protected me and my clients from the derailment that would occur if I had received that phone call during grad school. There is no other explanation I can conjure for why the petition was not filed for over 2 years during a time of eligibility to file. God has been so faithful during this process. I was not able to see the intricate details He was working out at the time. But now, I get to celebrate and proclaim Gods faithfulness. The chapter of my life involving my abuser is closed. I do not have to wonder when my phone will ring from the DA’s office. I do not have to face my abuser in court ever again. I get to return to counseling, now as a Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor. Because the chapter where I was identified by the court as “victim” is now closed, I can begin the chapter as“advocate,” and fight for reform of the sex offender petition for removal from the registry process. And I know that I will be able to celebrate His faithfulness in this chapter too. I challenge myself, and you too, to celebrate and trust in God’s faithfulness not just when you see the results, but every single day.

Living the Serenity Prayer

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Over the last few months, I have been learning what it means to live in acceptance of things that can’t be changed. I don’t like not being able to change things. I don’t like that my abuser is no longer a registered sex offender. But, I have to accept it. So, what does that mean? What does that look like?

Most of us are familiar with the Serenity Prayer- whether you have heard it in some form of media or at a recovery support group. You can find it plastered on magnets for a refrigerator or on paperweights for an office desk. I can recall my first time hearing the Serenity Prayer recited when I was a very young girl attending one of my Papa’s anniversary chip meetings/celebrations for his recovery from alcoholism.

“God, grant me the serenity to

accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Merriam-Webster’s definition for accept: to endure without protest or reaction; to give acceptance or approval to.

“To endure without protest or reaction.”

Living in acceptance of the court’s decision to remove my abuser from the sex offender registry has involved choosing not to protest or react. The idea of appealing the court’s decision was incredibly tempting at some points in this healing process. However, it became unmistakably clear that if I chose to “protest” the decision, my growth and progress toward healing would be stunted. Appealing the case would give me, at most, 3 years before my abuser would inevitably be removed from the sex offender registry.

I have learned that living in acceptance of the decision the court made has granted me a freedom that I would not have otherwise. I no longer have to worry about the “day my abuser might petition” or how I would have the strength to face him in court year after year. It is by no means easy to live in acceptance, but choosing acceptance allows me to work towards the second part of the serenity prayer.

While I am living in acceptance of the court’s decision on my case, I am NOT living in acceptance of this being the outcome in future court cases.

“God, grant me the courage to change the things I can.”

Legislation CAN change. Because I am living in acceptance of my case outcome, I can pour my energy into seeking change. Fighting things that cannot change will result in fatigue, discouragement, and hopelessness. I don’t know what change will look like regarding legislation, but I know that my experience in the courtroom has provided me with the insight needed to fight for change. God continues to grant me the courage I need to reach out to lawmakers and to take steps toward ensuring survivors’ rights in the courtroom.

“God, grant me the wisdom to know the difference” of when things can be changed and when they cannot.

It is easy to get overwhelmed with all the things I desire to see changed and the what-ifs. I strive to seek wisdom from God in knowing where to pour my energy. Recently, I learned my abuser now has an active Facebook page, which was formerly prohibited when he was listed as a sex offender. While it frightens me to think about the children he now has access to through social media, that is not something I can change. I can raise awareness about sex offenders and social media; however, I cannot waste energy worrying about the people he may “friend.”

These days, I am learning the Serenity Prayer is becoming a way of life. Each time something “new” happens as a result of my abuser’s removal from the sex offender registry, I turn to God to determine whether I need to find acceptance or courage while always seeking wisdom.

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God grant me the serenity to

accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

enjoying one moment at a time;

accepting hardships as a pathway to peace;

taking, as He did, this sinful world

as it is, not as I would have it;

trusting that He will make all things right

if I surrender to His will;

that I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with Him

forever in the next.

Amen.


Moving Forward

It has been a while since I have taken the time to sit down and type. Life seems to have been moving at an accelerated speed lately. One of the goals of my blog has always been to convey hope to others who have been hurt. Hope that the pain will lessen. Hope that the offender will be held accountable. Hope that one day, the abuse one has experienced will only be a chapter of his/her life instead of a bolded header on each page. Some days my hope seems minuscule compared to the other emotions; however, most days, hope permeates my entire being. God continues to show me that He is in control and He is going to use my story to positively impact this world. Two days ago, He showed me, yet again, how He is at work.

On October 23, I sent my first email to a North Carolina legislator. I briefly shared one of my concerns about the sex offender registry petitioning process. I prepared myself for a delayed response. With the election less than a week away, I knew the Senator likely had more important matters to attend to at this time. I just hoped for a response one day. Just eight days later, I opened my email and with complete joy and surprise read an email from the Senator’s assistant. Not only is the Senator interested in hearing my concerns and ideas, but he is also willing to meet with me!

Now, God didn’t just allow for a quick response from the Senator. Hours before I opened my email, I FINALLY submitted my paperwork to the Louisiana LPC Board of Examiners to begin my journey towards licensure as a counselor. I became eligible to begin this process the day after I graduated with my master’s degree; however, after court this past summer it was imperative that I took the time to work through the trauma and allow myself some time to heal. I don’t really believe in coincidences. I see the two events as little nuggets of hope that God continues to give me to remind me of His love for me and His desire to see good come out of bad.

I have no clue what doors will be opened next. I am thankful for these steps forward. While I may still get tripped up on some days, the momentum is definitely towards making things better for other survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

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Reaching Goals

Yesterday, I got to walk across the stage in a beautiful chapel, in front of family, friends, and amazing professors to receive a Master of Arts in Counseling: Specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. It was a long five years of reading, studying, writing papers, giving presentations, counseling clients at two sites, attending weekly group and individual supervision, serving full time in ministry, reading some more, and yes- even memorizing the entire book of Philippians. I would not trade a single moment of the last five years of my educational and clinical experience. As I sat in the chapel, waiting for my name to be called, I could not help but reflect on the little girl that did not think her life would amount to anything.

But, God had and still has greater plans than anything Satan can attempt to stir up. God has transformed and redeemed the experiences that were meant to break me. God used His people to encourage me, support me and remind me of my worth so that I could one day see all that God desires for me. These special people have been there for me at my lowest of lows and my highest of highs and they continue to fight for me. I am so extremely grateful for each of these individual’s place in my life.

Now that I will have a break from writing papers, I look forward to blogging more- finishing the series I started about sex offenders and the church and other series. I am honored that I was selected to speak at the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children’s National Colloquium in New Orleans in mid-June (If you are planning on attending, let me know- I’d love to see you) to share my story and how advocates empowered me to find my voice. I will begin pursuing licensure in counseling this summer and will work towards acceptance into the Ph.D. program in the future. I am certainly the most excited about welcoming my nephew to the world in August and all the spoiling of this precious baby that comes along with becoming a first time Auntie.

I hope if you are reading this, that you too will continue pursuing those goals and dreams that you’re not sure you can attain. There is nothing that you can’t achieve if you seek God’s will, surround yourself with people who support and encourage you, and make a decision that you will not give up even when it gets hard.

 

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My sweet PJ worked just as hard as I did for this MA

 

Sex Offenders and the Church: A Response, Part 1

Over the last few weeks I have studied protocols churches have already established to handle sex offenders’ attendance/participation in the church. There are many different views on this topic; however, every article I have read so far has been in agreement on how to handle one specific situation.

If a convicted sex offender desires to attend/participate in a church where the victim of his/her crimes attends, he/she should NOT be granted permission to attend; instead, he/she should be directed elsewhere.

As I stated in my previous post, my abuser did not go to church before or during the time he was abusing me. After my abuser was charged, he never attempted to attend my church- at least not to my knowledge. When I was in high school, I found peace and hope within the walls of my church. I can not begin to fathom what it would have been like to be in church with my abuser. I know that it would have significantly impacted my freedom to worship at the church I love. It took months of hard work in counseling to reduce the anxiety and fear I experienced simply at the sight of a yellow D.O.T truck in town because that was my abuser’s work truck. For those of you who live in Duplin County, you know it is nearly impossible to drive anywhere without seeing a yellow D.O.T truck. I would have never been able to sit through a worship service or any church activity with my abuser present.

It has been 13 years since my disclosure, and I still would not feel comfortable or safe in the presence of my abuser. Though I have experienced a lot of healing and I have even forgiven my abuser, I do not want to be in his presence- especially not in a place so special to me. There may be rare times when a victim/survivor eventually feels comfortable with his/her abuser worshipping in the same church, but I am willing to say that would be an extremely rare situation. In those cases, I think you yield to the wishes of the victim and follow the protocols set forth with any other sex offender.

A very possible/likely situation churches will face is when a person desires to attend who has been accused of sexual offenses but either has yet to be tried in court or there was not sufficient evidence for a legal case. What if the victim also attends? I will come back to this situation in a future post. For now, I will continue to cover situations involving a convicted sex offender. In the meantime, consider your reactions to that scenario and how you might respond.

In my next post, I will backtrack slightly from this post to cover some actions churches will want to take before they decide about whether a sex offender should be allowed to attend. I will also share links to sample protocols already established. Stay tuned!

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Effects of Sexual Abuse, Part 1: Is God a Good Father?

After a nearly 2 month unintentional hiatus from blogging, I am glad to be back with a renewed desire to keep speaking bravely. In this post, I am eager to share the role God has played in my healing journey. Over the next few weeks (or longer) I will be sharing with you how childhood sexual abuse may impact your relationship with and view of God, others, and self.

I can’t remember a time in my life where I questioned whether there was a God. I grew up hearing God identified as a comforter, a protector, a refuge, the creator and the ALMIGHTY FATHER.

I don’t think there are words to describe the sheer confusion I experienced when my earthly stepfather chose to steal my innocence and repeatedly abuse me. There is no way my view of FATHER would not be altered. The person I viewed, in the flesh, as father, marred my understanding of the Father. At this point, I was in elementary and middle school. Because of those experiences, I had absolutely no desire to turn towards God or to even pursue a relationship with Him. Why would I? I had been so hurt by the person who played a significant father role in my life that seeking a relationship with God sounded like the most dangerous option out there.

Towards the end of middle school and in high school, I found a place of belonging in my youth group at church. The word I most commonly associate with my years in youth group is “home.” As my involvement in church increased, my knowledge of God deepened. However, I still wrestled with so many questions. I did not trust God with my life. I identified God as a comforter, protector, and refuge for others- but I did not believe He was those things for me. I would often have thoughts like, “somewhere along the way He must have lost track of me and He allowed me to fall into the grasp of a sexual predator,” or “He couldn’t possibly care for and love me like ya’ll say He does because He didn’t protect me from my abuser.” I also questioned how He could view me as His precious daughter when I felt completely “ruined.” Satan knew all the tricks to attack my self-worth and I suffered from those blows for years.

I am incredibly thankful for the adults who played a significant role in my life by speaking truth to me for years and for never giving up on me. I can remember so many times when my youth pastor, in a variety of forms, would tell me “Kendall, if you will let Him, God can take those horrible experiences of abuse to reach others in a way that He has equipped you to further the Kingdom and to help others.” But, I was not ready to LET God have that part of my life back. He did not help me when it was happening; therefore, I was going to figure out the whole “healing” thing on my own without Him.

By the time I reached my senior year of high school, I realized that I was simply spinning tires in the mud. Even though I had made substantial progress in counseling and my PTSD symptoms had nearly subsided, there was a piece of me that still felt empty. No matter how I attempted to fill it, it simply would not go away. Even though I was active in church and participated in every youth event possible, I did not have peace in my heart.

Along my healing journey, I learned about the role forgiveness can/does play in abuse recovery. After multiple attempts of trying to forgive my abuser on my own, I realized that was not working like I had hoped either. In a moment of despair I can vividly recall making a “pact” with God. “Lord, I know I have not given my life to you yet. I acknowledge that you are God’s son and that you died for me and my sins, but it is absolutely terrifying to think about letting you be my Father. Help me truly forgive my stepfather and break the chains that still exist and I will give my life back to you.” Moments later, I stood up with the congregation at my home church as the choir sang a song of worship and I whispered “I forgive you.” For the first time it felt authentic. In one journal entry, I described that moment as fireworks going off signifying freedom. It was a feeling that could only be generated by God working in my life. A few days later, I made a public profession of my faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and God as my FATHER.

Now I would absolutely love to say that my relationship with God has been smiles, closeness, complete trust and devotion; but, that hasn’t been my story either. There have been and I am sure will continue to be highs and lows. There are still times when I catch myself questioning why certain things happened and I have to remind myself that even in those moments God is still good and He is always who He says He is. Even when I desire to run back to the old paths that abuse carved out for me, God is there in Spirit and through others to speak truth and help guide me back to where He has called and equipped me to be. I believe it is an absolute privilege and honor that He has allowed me to see the good that can come out of the bad as my youth pastor told me so many times. He has allowed me the opportunity to walk alongside others as they discovered their brave voices. He has provided me with the ability to live in freedom and hope after abuse. At the end of the day (and throughout the day), I know that I can run to my Father’s arms and they will be outstretched waiting for me. There won’t be a sexual favor expected in return. His arms will protect me, guide me, and comfort me.

As I have typed this post, I have prayed that you will be reminded of God’s goodness. If you have struggled with seeing and knowing God as a good, loving, trustworthy, sustaining, protecting, comforting, and Almighty Father, I get it. I know the road is not easy. I know that it is scary. I know that it is lonely. I pray this post will speak truth to you like my youth pastor spoke to me. I pray for the day that you will find yourself relishing in God’s fatherly love that can only be found in Him. He truly is a good, good Father.

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Stay tuned for part 2 by clicking the “follow” link.

 

Building a Firm Foundation

This past Saturday, I had the privilege and honor of attending Triad Ladder of Hope’s Fundraising gala as the keynote speaker. For nearly two months, I prayed and sought the Lord’s direction for the words that I would speak. When I was ready to back out or change my words to a less vulnerable topic, God would remind me of His plans and purpose. I am so thankful that God has allowed me to reach a place of healing where I can take the deepest places of pain within me and use them to show people how mighty and powerful He is.

I wanted to take the time to share pieces of my speech. I know many family and friends wanted to attend the event and were unable to. The theme of the gala was “A Firm Foundation.”

Childhood sexual abuse fractures the foundation upon which life has been built. Your body no longer belongs to you. It becomes difficult to distinguish whether a person is safe or not. Hope for a future without being hurt, deteriorates rapidly. Your foundation is now built on lies, fear, and survival.

This faulty foundation does not crumble over night in most cases. Many times, the fractures in the foundation occur over time through the grooming process that abusers use to gain control over their victims. My abuser began chipping away at the edges of my foundation not long after he married my mom. He began by blurring the lines between normal and abnormal, safe and unsafe, right and wrong. Because he was a person deemed safe and trustworthy, I held on to the belief that he would not do anything wrong to me. He was supposed to love me, care for me, and protect me.

Therefore, when he began exposing himself to me at various times, I did not feel the need to run in fear to the nearest adult to tell. When he once tried to kiss me on the lips, I just thought it meant that he loved me or maybe it was an accident and he was trying to kiss me on the cheek. I ignored the pulse of fear that jolted through my body, because I thought he loved me.

I shared at the Gala that I experienced an overwhelming and breathtaking moment when I was asked to be the keynote speaker. I was so honored to be asked. What took my breath away was being able to witness how God allowed part of my story to come full circle. I never fathomed that I would be speaking for an organization founded in the exact city where about 18 years ago I was abused for the first time in the back of an 18 wheeler truck. I am so thankful God gifted me with this opportunity to see firsthand His redemptive efforts in my life. The little girl that was terrified and confused in the back of an 18 wheeler truck got to bravely speak.

My foundation began crumbling when the ongoing sexual abuse began when I was 8 years old. In my speech, I shared how this faulty foundation impacted my understanding of my purpose in life. The rules my abuser enforced began to carry into other environments as well. I detailed in a previous blog post about an incident in a hotel pool area where I became so conflicted about whether I was supposed to “service” a man in the sauna when he began exposing himself to me or continue swimming with my siblings. I was 9 year old and believed that my duty/job in life was to sexually satisfy men.

While I was freed from the physical presence of my abuser at the age of 13, my foundation remained in dangerous condition for many years. If you knew me in my teenage years, you likely saw a girl that worked hard in school to keep straight A’s, played hard for any sports team I was a member, and attended church fairly regularly. I did not let people see the foundation rotting away within me. My sister recently reminded me of one of our “mixed/burned” CDs that we would jam out to in my little Chevy Cobalt. These CDs so perfectly represented my life and I did not know it at the time. The first few tracks on the CD consisted of some of the most degrading and objectifying lyrics I have heard in my life. Then the next few tracks would be the top contemporary Christian hits. This pattern would repeat. I so badly wanted to my life to align with the contemporary Christian tracks, but my foundation was still built on the lies that the earlier tracks supported.

It was not an overnight process to rebuild my foundation. It took years of counseling to get a grasp on the ways that abuse was continuing to impact my life. My foundation was not made strong until I was able to reach the point where I was able to see myself, my worth, and my purpose through the eyes of Christ. It involved a complete lifestyle change. Today, Satan still attempts to fracture using the lies that I once believed so strongly. But my foundation is now built on truth that reminds me that I am a Beloved daughter of the King, my worth is priceless, and my purpose is to serve the Lord in all I do.

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Braving the Holidays

Traveling home for the holidays always fills me with excitement as I look forward to spending time with my family and friends that I do not get to see often. There are so many wonderful memories that outweigh the difficult ones. However, if I’m honest, the excitement of returning home intersects with a fear of the reminders of my past. Traveling home for the holidays can be difficult for anyone, for a person with a trauma history- it can become even more complicated.

Navigating the excitement and fear can create an inner chaos that is tough to put into words. Emotions can range from pure happiness of being surrounded by those you love to profound sadness or anger when you see a place that reminds you of trauma. It can feel like a rollercoaster that does not stop. This week, I traveled 15 hours to my home state. I have been piecing together this post for some time now. It was not until I passed a restaurant that used to be a Western Sizzlin’ that the pieces of this post felt like they connected.

As I drove past the restaurant, my thoughts immediately went to the many times I rode in the “big truck” to this restaurant on Friday nights with my family, which included my abuser. However, as I continued driving I remembered a hilarious moment inside that restaurant and I was able to smile. I feel like the story deserves sharing because even in the midst of ongoing abuse- there were many “happy” moments in my childhood.

So, I was probably 9 or 10 when we stopped at the Western Sizzlin’ to eat before we went to the port to pick up the next shipment. After eating my dinner, I filled a bowl with Cool-Whip to eat as my dessert. Nothing else- just Cool-Whip. As soon as I put a large spoonful of it in my mouth, I knew something was wrong. I remember saying “I think something’s wrong with this Cool-Whip.” Initially, we thought maybe it had spoiled or something. Upon closer inspection, I was asked where I got the Cool-Whip from. I innocently pointed to the hot bar for potato fixings. Apparently, I was so excited for the Cool-Whip that as soon as I saw what resembled Cool-Whip I rapidly fixed my bowl without taking into consideration I was not at the dessert bar. I had indeed mistaken sour cream for cool-whip.

I share this story because when it came to mind I realized that the triggers and reminders from my abuse as a child no longer hold the power they once held over my life. I will not say they are gone because I don’t think I will ever be able to travel around my hometown without the nagging thought that there is a possibility I could run into my abuser. Today, I feel much more apt to handle that situation in a healthy manner if I face it. I am thankful the physiological responses to these triggers are no longer paralyzing as they were for many years. I contribute this part of my healing journey wholly to my faith in Christ and my time spent in counseling as a teenager. 

If you are currently in the process of battling triggers as a result of trauma, I hope that you will trust and know that you can overcome them. It is not an easy process and it certainly does not happen overnight. But hold on to the hope that one day, you will be able to pass by that restaurant or see that person that resembles your abuser or that vehicle that looks like the one they drove, and you will not experience the heart-stopping fear that you may feel now. One day, you may even be able to recall a positive experience and smile. aircraft-1362586