The Shower

It had been one year since the evidence of past sexual abuse had come knocking on my door, and if you’ve been following my story, you know that up to this point I had believed it was only one incident. Though I had been in a season of rest there was an area of my life that although should be an ordinary, mundane task, was sadly a nightmare: showering.

Ever since my first PTSD episode, I had been unable to shower. What should be easy and mindless was a constant source of dread. A few times a week, I would force myself into the bathroom, turn on the water, and contemplate getting in. I couldn’t do it, the fear I felt was too strong. So, instead I would stand there on the towel, with the shower curtain open, getting water everywhere, and do my best to wash myself while never actually getting in. I would then wait until my husband was showering to lean over the tub and have him wash my hair. He didn’t really know why he needed to do this, but he never complained. Being so broken that I couldn’t wash my own hair was a sobering picture of the devastation and destruction sexual abuse leaves, but it also made me love my husband even more. His patient, quiet support was a rock of refuge.

When the flashbacks and memories came of a time I was in the shower at the age of four, a couple of things happened. First, some of the shame and humiliation from how I’d been “showering” for the past year was lifted as I finally understood the root of why this was happening. I wasn’t just anxious to shower for no reason, rather showering was a trigger to a horrific memory. While I won’t get into the sad and disturbing details that took place in that shower, I will say that when you are four years old and you’re enjoying a shower, feeling “big” that you know how to do it and don’t have to take a bath like a baby, and a grown man gets naked and gets into the shower with you, it most definitely will impact you.

While in a way it was good for me to finally have the understanding of this trigger so I could begin healing from it, walking through the necessary but difficult steps of forgiveness, there was a second thing that resulted from this memory surfacing that I wasn’t sure was such a good thing. If it didn’t happen just once, how many times did it happen? That became a painful and nagging question I wasn’t sure I wanted the answer to. But, with this newfound knowledge of what was going on, a determination to prove that because the light of Jesus lives inside me, I wasn’t going to let the enemy have this power over me anymore. I could and would shower.

Opening up and sharing something that had been so embarrassing was really freeing as I saw the love and support of family and friends, and was reminded once again that we “overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony” Revelation 12:11. Unfortunately, full healing would wait another year from this particular memory. Though the next year I would be able to get in the shower, I would still have to pray through it and have worship music on, and be in and out as fast as I could. I am happy to report that I now shower like a completely normal person, it is no longer a trigger. But for two whole years, it was. That shows you that sexual trauma does leave a big wound, but it doesn’t have the final say. That is because of the healing power of my Jesus, and I hope that gives you hope. Sometimes healing doesn’t happen exactly when or how we want it to, but it does come. He is good.

Fear

Monday, February 13th, 2017: Only a couple weeks had passed since the Lord told me to trust Him with what was next. I was enjoying a hot cup of coffee and taking notes on a Francis Chan sermon I found on YouTube, savoring the quiet moments alone before the kids woke up. I knew they’d be up soon and our morning routine of breakfast, devotions and homeschool would begin, so I decided to take a quick shower. As I was getting ready to get in, still listening to Francis Chan on my phone, a sudden and intense feeling came over my entire being that I had never experienced before. (At the time I had no idea what had happened, but would later learn that with just one word, I could have what’s known as a “trigger” that would send me into a tailspin only Jesus himself could get me out of).

I quickly shut the sermon off and jumped in the shower. Feeling absolutely bewildered by what was happening in my mind and body, I tried to ignore it and think about something else, but whatever was going on wasn’t going away; in fact it intensified. A rush of panic swept over me and I got a metallic taste in my mouth. I can only describe this scene as though it felt that something was trying to kill me. I jumped out as fast as I could, having only shaved one leg, and text my friend, Tiffany.


See in my mind, this was a spiritual attack. The feeling of absolute evil upon me was so strong that it couldn’t possibly have originated from anywhere but hell itself. Little did I know, that this was actually coming from within. Somewhere buried in the deep recesses of my subconscious mind, a dark traumatic past was rising up and taking over. This state of hyper-vigilance remained for the rest of the week, and the only plausible cause I could come up with was that perhaps, I was pregnant. I had heard that the hormonal changes in a pregnancy can make a woman anxious, but could it possibly be capable of causing it on such an extreme level?

On Friday, February 17th I got my answer. I stood in my bathroom astonished to be looking at two pink lines. I wanted so desperately to feel joy, didn’t I want more kids anyway? Hadn’t I been praying about this? I should be thrilled! But the only thing I could feel was fear. My mind flashed to how just months before while praying I thanked Jesus for the birth I had with Mia, that I was finally able to deliver a baby vaginally. I heard him say, “do you want to do it again?” but I couldn’t answer that. Thinking of the intense anxiety I had after her birth left me feeling paralyzed.

Apparently, pregnancy can be one of those things that trigger and reveal a traumatic past. I tried really hard to focus on my excitement over having another baby, I loved this baby so much already and I had no idea why I was struggling with such intense anxiety, I truly just wanted to enjoy this pregnancy. After another week went by and I was still having daily panic attacks, Tiffany invited me over so she could pray with me to help ease my anxious mind.

Only 5 weeks along, I sat down in her living room as our kids ran off to play so she could pray with me. She had barely gotten out but just a few words when I burst into hysterical tears, “I was molested when I was four, I think it was my uncle.” She was trying to calm me down but I was, for lack of better words, freaking out. “I don’t understand why I’m saying this, I don’t remember,” I bawled. I couldn’t understand why these words were coming out of my mouth and I really didn’t understand how something like this could be true if I didn’t remember. I hadn’t connected that all this panic and fear was because I was remembering. And I certainly didn’t know that there was such thing as dissociation, or DID, or that I had it, or that these fragmented pieces that contained memories could rise to the surface and speak, in something they call “switching”. All I knew was something terrible and unexplainable was happening to me, and I was powerless to stop it.