Renewal. Revival. Truth.

17 years old.  I was sitting in her living room, her hot breath on my face. Hushed words with so much intensity. I was told how ignorant, god-less, un-christian, "common", cruel, ungrateful, disrespectful, worthless, and evil I was. I was videotaped as I sobbed and shook and wished I could die. I was told that my school friends needed to see how their "Christian" friend and leader really acted. I was asked if I would be embarrassed to show my friends the "real" me. I was asked why I was crying and why I was angry. I'm a "lucky little bitch". I was told that I was the reason for her sickness and strokes/seizures, for her outbursts, and rage, and thoughts of suicide. I was finally left to sit alone. I wasn't allowed to speak or cry or move off the couch, because I would contaminate the rest of the house. I was disgusting.  -- A tiny house in the middle of the country, no streetlights, and the continued "conversations" that were meant to be heard through paper-thin walls about my worthlessness and cruelty. Then nothing. Just crickets outside in the black.

Eventually, one of them appeared again and pulled me close. She laid my head on her lap, brushed the little hairs from my temples and told me how proud of me she was and how good I was.
And that's the night that I died.

---

The summer before my senior year of high school. A normal time for uncertainties. A time for hopes and dreams, questions and fears. A time when the future is equally exciting and terrifying. A time when we most desire stability and belonging, when we seek direction and hope. 

After a years of issues and a particularly severe year of emotional torment, I left my school, my church, my best friends, my boyfriend, all of my positive influences, my leadership roles, people that knew me and respected me as a person, half of my family and all normalcy and sanity. I was forced to move out of state to live in a camper with my mom and my 7 year old sister. No drivers license, no car, no freedom, no friends, no church, limited calls, if any. Definitely no contact with my Dad. We were "starting again", away from everything that she hated, no loved, no hated, no loved.

She thought that we needed counseling. But "we"meant me. If I would just let go. If I could just love her more. She couldn't understand why I didn't love her enough to be entirely happy about leaving everyone and everything. We sought counseling at a little church but once they actually caught on to what was happening, we would find fault in those manipulative traitors and and stop going. The game would be played and apologies made for past boyfriends or behaviors or "working too much" but never admission or apology for the current situation. 

A bad example to my sister ... a diva, a brat, cruel and callused, selfish, ignorant, uncaring, disloyal. A liar. The mental and emotional control went on for what felt like years. I had no right to be depressed or upset, angry or sad. I had no right to feel unless they were her feelings. No right to speak unless they were words that she wanted to hear. I felt like I had nothing. I didn't matter. I was either screamed at or ignored. My voice didn't matter. My opinion didn't matter. My emotions didn't matter. I had to shut down. So I did. I went into emotional hiding. I prayed so much that summer. I walked to the campground playground when I could. I would sit swing and listen to praise music to try and find something bigger. I was dying inside. 

Apparently my sudden silence was taken to be a "cry for help" and I was literally wrestled into the car and taken to the ER while they bombed the camper for roaches where a doctor prodded me with questions about my depression and "thoughts of suicide". I never wanted to or threatened to kill myself, I explained. I just didn't want to be tormented. I wanted normalcy, stability. I want to feel loved. I want to be away from my mom's 'friend'. But what what my mom (apparently) heard from the doctor was quite different. "She hates you. She loves her Dad. She doesn't want to be with you."

The scratching squeak of the glass doors sliding open was the only thing I heard as we walked into the parking lot. No eye-contact. No words. Finally one word, not so hushed this time, "In". The door slammed behind me. A few moments of piercing silence, just the sound of the pouring rain on the hood, and then every word and name in the history of names.
"How could you tell some stranger lies about your family?!"
"You're lucky to be alive right now."
"You're lucky you weren't slapped shit-less in the parking lot."
"No one wants to look at you because you're worthless."

"You're dead to me", she said.
And for the first time in my life, I really wished I was.

We drove to a laundry mat. You know, just going about normal business while my mom stared off into the distance and I wept uncontrollably. I couldn't breathe. When the car finally stopped, I ran to the closed down gas station next door and melted beside the pump, praying for God to have mercy on me and just kill me rather than torture me like this. They didn't follow. More than an hour later they drove away, while I still sat at that closed gas station. They eventually came back because my sister saw that I had been left behind and melted down. They made me get back in the car and told me that they only cared where I was because they were responsible for me and "would be damned if they went to jail for some little bitch". We drove off into the middle of nowhere to that tiny hell-house with just trees and fields and darkness. So much darkness.

My innocence was slaughtered that day and my identity was stolen. I was left questioning who I really was, what value I really had, and what I could possibly offer anyone in life, especially God. What I knew to be true was completely altered. My identity had been forever changed.

There is certainly much more to this story, good things, great things, and bad things... God did incredible things and wonderful people worked very hard and loved me so well.

But my purpose in writing this is two-fold.
1. To work towards truth. And I can't work towards truth if I can't ever speak the whole truth. I feel things deeply and personally because those attacks were personal.  My "trust" issues are valid. My hardships may not be particularly blog-worthy or visible or memorial-able but they are no less real.
2. To encourage other people that my not have a "platform" or physical proof of injury, to know that they aren't alone. You are valuable. You aren't crazy (as much as certain people would like you to think you are). You are wholly loved.

Lots of people have written books and blogs about abuse, loss, addiction, tragedy... but I feel like emotional abuse is rarely spoken of because it's label-less. It's not a "platform" that's seen as acceptable or reasonable or truly tragic. It's messy, somewhat self-inflicted, continuous, and most who have experienced it don't ever get "past it" or away from the influence of their abuser. Like an addiction, it's always calling from the shadows.

--------

The wounds still haven't really healed. It's been more than 10 years and these scars can still be easily opened. I fight my own personal identity crisis daily. These things may have been brushed under the rug, buried beneath the surface, or never acknowledged but that doesn't make them less true and it certainly doesn't make them less painful or toxic.

I'm sure that many people will be quick to tell me to count my blessings and to be grateful I wasn't beaten or physically tortured. And I am thankful about so many wonderful things in my life that I certainly don't deserve. The truth doesn't negate thankfulness. There are people who would say it's best not to speak of these things but respectfully, not speaking of these things is just more isolation. Because until you've been in a place of mental and emotional chaos at the hands of people you believe love you, you don't understand. And to the abusers who refuse to acknowledge the things that happened, it's real. It's been very real for me these past several years and it has affected every single aspect of my life -- from my marriage to my children to my relationship with my sister to my aspirations and decision making abilities. But honestly, the worst of all is my spiritual life. You made me doubt things I never knew I could. I walk on eggshells in my own mind. I can't even be "good" without thinking that I'm probably doing it for the wrong reason.

I will never let you in fully, again. I will not let you hurt my family. I will try to protect those that I love against torment. I will not let you control my mind or my emotions. I will protect my boys, because that is what parents do, protect their children from harm. So instead of guilt-trips and conversations about forgiveness, lets converse about this... when you can acknowledge that all these things were done and said, then we can communicate. Until then, it's not actually a conversation... it's manipulation. 12 years and these sores still burn so wildly that there isn't a day that goes by that I don't feel the sting. I need to cut off the cancerous limb and all the twigs that have sprung from it.

I need to be able to tend to the true heart issues in my life. I need to hear the truth and believe it, good and bad. How am I supposed to work on issues when I'm consistently made to feel as though I'm insane? How am I to seek truth and believe the truth when I'm not allowed to speak about true things that happened?

I'm finished with being fearful of what people think and assume. I'm finished wondering if people understand me or really care about me. I'm finished second-guessing. I'm finished feeling crazy. My identity doesn't come from you or your friend. I know, in my mind, that you both were wrong, but my soul still feels tormented.

My faith needs to be greater than all the fears within me. I want to believe that God can heal even the invisible wounds. I have been wholly crushed and wholly lost but I know that I am wholly loved, if I accept it and believe it.


And that is my meditation for this year: Renewal. Revival. Truth.
I'm ready for this endless winter to be over and for spring to come once again.

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