I've mentioned several times that I've seen a lot of counselors. I think "early intervention" (counseling at age 12) helped to curb some damaging thought pattens. For instance, I have never blamed myself for the abuse, and that is probably the most common thought that survivors have. "I must have done something wrong/it's my fault/I deserved it/I'm bad." Perhaps getting counseling at such a young age helped to steer me away from thinking those things, and I am so grateful that that is one battle I did not have to wage within myself --- learning to accept the exact opposite of that garbage. So, while there were still a lot of awful and harmful things going on at that time (I was still being sexually abused), I was being assured by my counselor that it was not my fault (she did not know about the ongoing abuse). And I believed that.
A counselor I had in high school had a poster hanging on her wall. It said, "I am responsible for my day." At the ripe old age of 15, I was learning that it was up to me to choose whether or not I would let the garbage control my life. At that age, I was making a lot of right decisions and a few wrong decisions. But, just a couple years later, the ratio had flipped. I was making a few right decisions and a lot of wrong decisions. But, I KNEW the wrong decisions I was making. I just didn't feel like I had the power to do things differently.
I continued seeing therapists through my first couple years in college and was honest and forthcoming about what was going on in my life (and my head). I told them the truth and they always told me the truth about the mistakes I was making and the changes that should be made. I always learned the "lesson" of what they were helping me to see, but I didn't always change my behavior in response to the truth I'd just learned. Change takes time.
Then I got married --- "rescued" is what I was hoping for. And I was rescued from daily life with my family. We'd moved across the country and life was no longer abusive; but it became increasingly lonely given all my secrets and acting out. I made an absolute disaster out of my marriage - the most regretful mistakes and poor choices of my life. This man did not deserve the mess I made of his life. When I left him, I was fully aware of how I tore through his life like a tornado. When I left, nothing was as I'd found it. Just like when my abusers left my life - nothing was the same with me. I knew I needed to make major changes, as I never wanted to hurt someone else, or myself, like that ever again.
I was suddenly alert and aware as I never had been before. Shortly after my divorce, I was dating someone special and had made a commitment to myself to not lie or keep secrets from him (now my husband). I worked hard at being intentional with my words and actions. Getting my tantrums and insecurities under control was no easy task, but it was important to me. I was upfront with everything I struggled with (which I had NEVER done before). I trusted him completely.
A year and a half after marrying, we started attending church. Getting involved in different church groups changed me a great deal. Many things were really good.... However, I was still mad as all get-out at my mother and struggled in general anytime I'd think about my birth family. That's when I decided to go back to counseling. She was a Christian counselor at my church. At our first meeting, she gave me two things to do for homework. 1- Read "Dorie, The Girl Nobody Loved" by Dorie VanStone. 2- Read the story of Joseph, Genesis chapters 37-50. While reading the story of Joseph, I was to journal everything in his story that compared to mine. I journaled practically the entire story!!! And I discovered that from the very beginning of time, families have struggled, families have betrayed one another, people have had evil intentions, and those who were abused and mistreated can overcome!
Long story short... Joesph experienced massive betrayal. His brothers tried to kill him, then sold him into slavery. While Joseph was a slave, his master's wife tried to seduce him. When Joseph refused to be seduced, he was falsely accused and thrown into prison. In prison he helped others, but when they got out, they forgot about Joseph. But Joseph did an amazing thing. He kept believing in God. Eventually God delivered Joseph from prison and made him second-in-command over all of Egypt. God made Joseph forget the pain, the anger, the loneliness, and all the other distressing emotions he must have felt.
As I completed this homework, I felt relieved to know that God is familiar with families mistreating one another. You will also find a story about the rape of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13:1-39. What we are dealing with is not new to God. He knows what we've been through, what we're feeling, and exactly what we need to heal. Joseph is the perfect example of overcoming horrible betrayal and going on to be hugely victorious. There is hope for us!
All of this to say... Over time you can be fully restored. With every passing day, I discover more and more good health in my life. But, there was only so much I could do without God. I had corrected a lot of my poor choices and bad behaviors before bringing God into the equation... But, the thoughts and feelings that I held deep in my heart and mind could not be fixed without His lovingkindness, compassion, forgiveness and grace.
Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." As I ponder this verse, I feel it is telling me to not allow the world or my painful experiences in the world to determine how I live, think, act or feel. Like that poster in my therapist's office said all those years ago.... "I am responsible for my day." Will I make the choice to carry the baggage with me every where I go, or will I choose to lay the garbage down and accept a renewing of my mind?
God wants to make us new again. He wants to renew our minds and heal what our abusers have done to us. Sexual abuse is not the will of God. He is not using the sexual abuse to "teach us a lesson". His will has always been to restore to our lives that which was stolen by the abuse.
Just as the effects of abuse become evident without prior awareness of how the abuse was affecting you, God's restoration happens without your awareness of His work. One day, you are surprised by the joy of realizing that you have been changed! You are better.