Do you have to put on a smile and fake it at Holiday gatherings? Holiday gatherings can be very complicated and difficult for survivors of sexual abuse.
A little over ten years ago, my husband and I met with my counselor, and I finally let him in on the biggest secret of my life: I was sexually abused throughout my childhood. The shock and anxiety coursed through my veins from telling him the secrets. I worried about what would happen next and wondered if I had messed up our marriage of thirteen years. Would he still love me? Could he? What about the kids? What have I done?
A few days later, we stopped by this bridge to take our picture on the way to visit family for Thanksgiving Dinner. No one else knew my story except my husband, counselor, and a few close friends. My husband knew healing would take time and vowed to stand with me, but my fear of rejection taunted me, as always.
I braced myself to show up for Thanksgiving and engage with family. I plastered on my smile and wore my mask while panic riddled my insides.
Chin up. You can do this. Fake it like always. It is just a few hours.
I don’t remember much about that Thanksgiving, probably because I was in such a hypervigilant state that my mind focused on pretending, survival, and helicoptering. Survival takes an incredible amount of energy and steals precious moments.
Our family photo at the bridge showed up in my Facebook memories at Thanksgiving this year. I thought, “Wow, God! Look at what you have done. I am truly thankful that I don’t have to fake it anymore. Thank you for your truth and light. Thank you for new traditions and precious memories.”
If I could go back in time…
and stop this frazzled mom on the bridge to whisper some encouragement to her heart, I would say: (Maybe this encourages you too?)
- Keep showing up for your counseling appointments. Take the next step and the next step.
- Walking in the light and truth takes much less energy than living in lies and darkness.
- The light allows you to be present and engaged. You can focus and use your energy to truly embrace and love others.
- Your fears are real and overwhelming, but you have more power than you realize.
- God is with you, and facing your Goliath will not be as hard as you think.
- Healing is not quick or linear, but embracing every setback helps you go deeper on your healing journey. Trust the process.
- One day, you will sleep without night terrors, and shame will no longer pour over your body like warm glue. You will finally believe that it was never your shame.
- It is okay to start new traditions with safe people. You are not required to show up to your detriment. Boundaries are beautiful, and they take work and practice.
- Right now, you think this healing is for you and about you. It is, but it is so much more. The impact of your recovery will ripple through your children and future generations.
- Your voice may be a whisper now, but you wait. God will give you your voice back, and you will use it for others so they can be free from shame.
- The journey is worth it. YOU are worth it. Do this for you and the precious little girl inside of you.
- You are seen, believed, and deeply loved.
- Life is hard, but HOPE changes everything. Cling to Jesus. Keep clinging to Him.
I had no idea when we took this family photo ten years ago that I would eventually write my story of healing from childhood sexual abuse to share with others, but here we are. (Yes, I am nervous!) I hope to publish Journey Pink, my memoir of healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse, soon. I’d love for you to join my private Facebook Group here for updates: Journey Pink Community, or subscribe to my newsletter here: Journey Pink Newsletter
I am thankful for you and your support.