I Don’t Want to Be strong…

“Part of healing from my abuse is experiencing the pain I was never allowed to feel or communicate. I was locked up with those feelings for most of my life and the stifled emotions were suffocating me. I thought I was being strong to hold it in but I used all my energy to suppress it so I didn’t have much left for anything else. To express pain is to let it out. Expressing it allowed it to leave my life.” The Rescued Soul by Christina Enevoldsen

This was how it was for me – I was trained to stifle my emotions because it was a sign of strength and sanity… as an adult, if emotions did come out, it was in anger/rage or in overwhelming anxiety and panic – usually triggered by an argument with my husband when I would project my feelings onto him or feel rejected by him. I would accuse him of things and even by his healthy and normal responses to my outbursts (going for a walk to cool off so as to avoid yelling, leaving the room to give me time to cool down, etc.), I would feel rejected. Whenever he responded, no matter how it was, I always felt like he was abandoning me when all I really wanted was someone to tell me it was all going to be okay and to hold me – to break through the wall of isolation that I had inadvertently formed.

I’m an analytical person, so I would evaluate my outbursts. I determined that I was just crazy, and that perhaps I needed him to avoid certain things because of the manipulation I endured from the man who sexually assaulted me. Since he used rejection of affection and closeness as a tool to get me to do what he wanted, it made sense on the surface. He would create the environment of loneliness surrounding me and declare it all as my own choice. The only choice to get out of it, was to return to the way he had things set up – to give into him sexually. Because of that realization, my husband would work extra hard to balance out that broken part of me. Of course, it was an unfair expectation but I’m so grateful for his attempts to help me through all of that.

The biggest thing I’ve learned since learning about narcissism is that I have PTSD from how I was treated in my life after my sexual abuse was exposed. I’ve learned so much about why I was responding the way I was (I didn’t just stifle it like I had with David – I would essentially explode and then feel crazy). While David sustained his own manipulative, clever, and deceptive tactics to abuse me, he never made me feel crazy… but maybe he would have if he was allowed contact after the truth was exposed. That being said, my sister J held no qualms about pointing out how insane I was.

Once, when I was uncomfortable near J’s boyfriend, who was drunk and put his arm around me, I kindly removed his arm and looked up to find J glaring at me – I saw she thought I had done something wrong and she sneered and told me to come sit next to her. When I confronted her later and expressed that I felt she was angry with me, she yelled and said “if you knew it was bothering me, why didn’t you stop?!” I had no words… she felt I was flirting with him, despite knowing the damage that was done to me just months prior by the man who violated my soul… she didn’t see how uncomfortable I felt by the drunk man, she only saw me crossing this line she had created in her head. She further isolated me into believing I had caused what had happened to me and thus couldn’t be trusted. I believed I shouldn’t be alone with a man, and I’d avoid all moments of interaction with men for many years and I’d battle in my relationship with my husband as well because of what it might appear to be.

Another time, she brought me to take my license test. The man who was testing me berated me the entire time I was driving. I made mistakes and I began to feel overwhelmed. Once the test was over, he told me I failed. It wasn’t that I failed that left me feeling the way I did, but I didn’t know what it was. I sat next to J and broke down into a panic filled mess. I couldn’t talk, I could barely breath. I’m unsure if it was emotions I didn’t know how to respond to, if it was emotions that triggered my PTSD, or if perhaps J said something to initiate my reaction, or if it was in how the instructor had spoken to me and caused me to be insecure regarding things that I hadn’t done wrong (yelling at me about the tire that was banging around in the back for instance. I don’t remember if J said anything before the panic attack. However, she mocked me and laughed saying, “Wow! What an over-reaction! You need to get over it! You are driving us home right now.” She forced me to drive in the middle of my panic attack and mocked me the entire time until I finally exploded at them and pulled over and refused to drive. Her response? My reaction was over the top and I was way too sensitive. I was shot down and ridiculed and criticized for the rest of the drive.

My emotions weren’t valid… and they certainly weren’t validated by these people in my life. I came to believe in my adulthood that my emotions were over the top and couldn’t be trusted. They weren’t a part of me, they were a part of my instability. Night in and night out, my husband would hold me as I cried while we were dating and on into our marriage and I had no answers as to what I was feeling. I just thought I was an emotional mess. I see now that those emotions were all residual from the pain of the words and treatment of me.

The fact that my husband loved me anyway always confused me… the fact that he wanted to marry me, knowing what he might have to live with, left me even more confused. No one knew how I knew he loved me and didn’t manipulate and deceive me… I could never explain it because sometimes his actions around them didn’t line up with what they thought of an honest man… but those moments we were alone… those moments when I was at my most raw, he didn’t leave me. He was there and he wouldn’t leave until I was okay. He’s still that man.

But I digress! haha

Since allowing myself to feel the appropriate feelings I felt towards the circumstances and people in my life who hurt me and angered me, I’ve been able to sort through so much of what I thought was insanity in my mind. I learned, I’m not crazy. I’m not overly sensitive. I’m not “too emotional.” In fact, I’m quite a rational person. I am intelligent and capable. I’m sensitive to the feelings of others and when I respond to them instead of ignore them, God can use me to do great things. He created me this way; my emotions are how I can empathize with others and I wouldn’t trade that for what others deem to be strong or rational. I don’t want to be strong if strong means what J has defined it as. I’m a human who deserves kindness, love, and respect and I feel pain when I don’t receive that, I feel pain when someone attacks my character and tells me I’m not good enough, I feel pain when I am rejected and not validated… but my value and the words that describe me come from God, not from J… not from any person in my life.

I’m not weak in the ways of how I was accused. Hiding my emotions didn’t make me strong, it made me a liar. Hiding who I was and what I was going through made J more comfortable because my “weakness” disgusted her. I always had a thought to why but now I know that I honestly don’t know. My weakness was part of what happened to me and had become a part of who I was – my true self was weakened and destroyed; my true self needed the strength of Jesus. The irony in all of it was that she wanted me to stop being emotional but she wanted me to be a bitch, as if the challenge she had taken on was to break me so I would fail Jesus.

But I was broken and that was okay… because God is near to the broken, and in my sin I was faced with His amazing grace. He never left me or abandoned me. He was always there telling me I was beautiful and loved…. and despite J’s attempts and what David left in a heap after he had his way with me, His message was louder than their lies I was hearing and feeling… and I believe God used my husband as a huge part of that message; a broken man, standing by me even in the darkest of times and after I revealed the darkest parts of who I was and my past, he loved me through it all. He’s not been perfect, he’s made mistakes and we’ve hurt each other. But while we’ve had spells of easier times our entire relationship started off very broken and we’ve only ever grown together – both of us broken as God continues to restore each of us. The things we’ve gone through… the things we’ve overcome together… what a beautiful thing to see, really… it brings to mind that song by Casting Crowns, Broken Together… but maybe I’m digressing again? ♥

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