The Wedding

I remember when the invitation came and my initial response of “oh yay!” was very quickly overshadowed by, “wait, I don’t know if I can do this.” For the numerous reasons I would want to attend this celebration one fact remained: I would have to see him.

Over the next several days my husband and I debated whether or not we would go, and he left the decision up to me. After much prayer and deliberation, the RSVP card was sent back with a yes. Yes, because I wanted to be brave. Yes, because I love my cousin and was so happy for her. Yes, because we adore weddings and hadn’t been on a date in almost a year. Yes, because I didn’t want to miss out on this special time with our family. Most of all, yes, because I thought that not going meant he still had power over me, that it made me weak and I was so determined to prove to myself that I had healed.

As the weeks went on the reminder that I had to see him hung on our refrigerator, taunting me every time I walked by. I rehearsed scripture, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) “Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of he servants of the Lord and this is their vindication from me, declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:17). To name a few.

I thought I was so strong and brave and proof of the Holy Spirit’s power as I got ready to go that day. We had decided to just go to the reception since this was our first time leaving our 9 month old with a sitter and he refused to take bottles. My nerves were a little shaky on the car ride, but I tried to focus on how good it felt to get out with my husband and how we were going to have a good time. I was so thankful and relieved to be at a table with my parents and siblings, I knew they totally understood my trepidation. I knew if I just avoided all contact with my uncle, which should be easy to do, everything would be just fine.

Then it happened. He stood up just a few feet in front of me and started giving a speech. Why wasn’t I prepared for this? Of course the father of the bride would give a speech! How could I let myself be caught so off guard? Oh Lord, why didn’t warn me ahead of time? My family at our table saw all the color drain from my face as I began to shift in my seat and fidget anxiously. First, the hot flashes. Then the dizziness and waves of nausea. I wanted desperately to run out of that room but fear held me frozen in place, that and the fact that I was fervently praying no one was noticing my intense and uncontrollable reaction and in no way wanted to draw any ounce of attention to myself.

His speech seemed to last forever, and hearing that same voice talk about the joys of his daughter’s childhood when he slaughtered mine was more than I could take. Seeing others smile up at him as he went on, and on, and on, filled me with anger and grief. Do you know who he really is and what he’s done? As I sat there, unable to face him and instead looking in the complete opposite direction, shaking on the outside and dying on the inside, I was able to see that my Heavenly Father had made provision for me after all; my husband.

I gripped my husband’s hand underneath the table with everything I had in me, clinging to his strength. The only other time I held his hand this tightly as though clinging to him for life was during the birth of our fourth child. I will forever be thankful to have him by my side. When it was finally over I wanted to escape to the ladies room but I still felt paralyzed by what just took place. I wanted to be sure to tell my cousin she looked absolutely stunning, because she most certainly did, but then we left shortly after as I felt very drained from the whole ordeal. Yes, somehow, listening to my abuser speak and being in such short proximity to him was indeed an ordeal, an exhaustive one. I wrestled with my naivete on how I wasn’t nearly as ready for this as I had hoped, and to be honest felt a little discouraged that I still clearly had such a long way to go.

\For the family members still refusing to believe the truth, there is just no way that someone has that kind of internal response to someone without there being a darn good reason for it. I’m not an actress, I’m a wife and a mom, doing my best to cling to Jesus until I truly am healed and whole. It’s never been my intention to disrupt anyone else’s life, I’m just trying to get on with my own. Trying desperately to cling to the hope that He really works all things for the good of those who love him, that somehow He can make something beautiful out of my ashes.

The Longest Winter

As summer turned into fall and fall to winter, I felt the sunshine leave my soul as well as the sky. Though there were circumstantial inconveniences such as being down to one vehicle, my husband working two jobs ’round the clock, and navigating our schedules amongst those things; the real challenge was inside me. The flashbacks became frequent and unrelenting, averaging one every couple of weeks. However, it wasn’t seeing that was so daunting a task, but rather feeling. I was remembering not just in my mind, but with every fiber of being. And it was brutal.

Before a memory would come back, I would get very nauseated, dizzy, irritable, and have terrible hot flashes. I have always found it interesting the way my body reacted to something my mind was not yet aware of. When the flashbacks happened, I would get intense sharp pains in my head. I have heard this is common though I don’t actually know what causes it; but I think of it as information being downloaded or transferred from one part of my brain (subconscious memory) to another (conscious memory). I would get this very strange sensation in my eyes, where they felt to be getting bigger and bigger and I would blink uncontrollably. This is common in switching.

Some indicators that a switch may be about to occur include the following: feeling “spacey”, depersonalized, or derealized; blurred vision; feeling distanced or slowed down; feeling an alter’s presence; or feeling like time is beginning to jump (indicating minor episodes of time loss).

External signs that a switch may have just occurred include the following: heavy blinking as if the individual is just waking up; mild muscle spasms or jerks; disorientation or visible confusion; checking the clock or one’s watch; seeming not to remember anything that just happened; complaining of a mild or moderate headache; adjusting clothing or posture; clearing one’s throat before speaking so that the tone or pitch changes; or a change in vocabulary, syntax, preference, opinion, temperament, skills, or general personality. [Switching and Passive Influence, https://did-research.org/did/identity_alteration/switching.html ]

It would usually be a couple days after the flashback that the even more unnerving trial presented itself: feelings. Sometimes sheer rage. An unquenchable anger not just at my perpetrators, but more so at God. On more than one occasion while everyone else was asleep but my tormenting past kept me awake, I lashed out at Him in the darkness of the night and out of the darkness in my soul. Why? How could you let this happen? So many times? You must really hate me. WHERE WERE YOU?

The grief. Grief I didn’t know existed plagued my days with perpetual sadness until I felt as though the last flame of hope had been extinguished down to nothing but ash from the bright fire it once was. Wondering if I’d ever again be the vibrant, cheerful girl others once knew me as. And how was I to explain this to others when I didn’t fully understand myself? I couldn’t, so I isolated myself from everyone and everything, retreating into my battered and bruised shell as a means of protection and self preservation.

Lord, you said a mustard seed. Just a mustard seed of faith is all it takes. Do I even have that anymore?

Wanting desperately to get back to the “old me” but seeing it would be impossible, I wondered why. Not even why did it happen, but why do I have to remember? Wasn’t everything better before I did? I was happy. I was content. I was hopeful. Knowing there was no “off switch” to stop what I was experiencing, I came to the conclusion that like a woman in the hardest part of labor unable to stop the waves of pain crashing in; the only way out was through.