A couple of weeks ago was my 5th handiversary, the anniversary of the accident wherein I nearly lost my right hand. This past week was another anniversary for me. The 28th anniversary of my father’s passing. Neither of these memories bring joy, but both have taught me things I hope to never forget. Things about living, loving, and deliberately choosing our experiences. Sometimes, those things are easier said than done, but I’ve come to believe it’s always worth the effort to create happiness and joy in our lives.
The night my father died, I was angry. I have to be honest and tell you that anger wasn’t unusual during that time in my life. But the anger I felt that night surpassed anything else I’d experienced to that point. The emotions brought on by his death caused so much physical pain, I wondered if I would make it through. In the days before his death, I kept trying to find time to talk to my dad alone. I had things I wanted to say, closure that needed to happen.
But for whatever reason, in spite of the fact that I made my wishes known and tried repeatedly to make it happen, that time never came. I watched as other people came and went through the hospital corridors, even left the room so he could carry on private conversations with my siblings. It felt like another injustice in my life–just one more stab in the heart before Dad left this life for good.
A Missed Opportunity
For years, I fretted over that missed opportunity. I imagined doing things differently. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself force the issue, declaring the importance of my feelings, taking care of me.
But that wasn’t my MO in those days. I was more worried about being loved and accepted than meeting my needs. I didn’t want to upset anyone, least of all my father. And there were some pretty real fears wrapped up in my relationship with him. So rather than asserting myself, I allowed him to go to the grave without ever saying my piece.
I lived with the anger for more than 20 years–the anger of abuse, the anger of neglect, the anger of feeling like I’d never measure up in my father’s eyes. For years, it built up and spilled over, harming the innocents surrounding me. And when I finally faced that anger, it roared out of me like a monster, fierce and unforgiving. The same thing happened with the other men who inflicted harm. I allowed the anger to build until it almost consumed me, becoming rage directed toward my husband and children, impatience with the world around me, and self-loathing that could only be quenched with perfectionism. Abuse does much more than cause physical harm to its victims.
The Far-reaching Effects of Abuse
Here’s the thing, abuse comes in all kinds of packaging. It can be blatant physical or sexual abuse. It could also be name calling, shaming behaviors, bullying, obscure sexual advances, put-downs, controlling conduct, unrealistic expectations, and more. Until you’ve been abused, you just don’t understand how far-reaching and long-lasting the effects can be.
For me, it took nearly 25 years to finally put the past behind me and learn to look forward. Years of counseling, lots of faith and prayers, and some serious grit finally allowed me to begin seeing myself as a person who was worthy of love and who had something to offer the world. And once I understood those things, I realized I had a mission to serve. A calling to fulfill. A reason to exist.
My book, Severed: A Memoir of Hope and Healing is not about the physical, emotional, sexual, and spiritual abuse I suffered as a child, although I do discuss things. It’s not about the trauma inflicted through a cancer diagnosis, my spouse’s addiction, the sexual orientation of my child, or the severing of my right hand, although I talk about all of that, too.
The book is about me.
It’s about learning that it’s okay to take care of myself.
It’s about discovering that I am worthy.
It’s about realizing that life is about fifty-fifty–fifty percent positive and fifty percent negative.
It’s about recognizing that I have control over my own thoughts, feelings, and actions.
It’s about severing lies, uncovering truth, and claiming happiness and peace.
My purpose in writing my story was to help you understand your story. The little girl in me, the one in the picture holding the doll, wants to share the hope she found through the healing power of Christ’s atonement. She wants to share the light she discovered as she traversed the difficulties of life and dug her way out of the darkness.
This isn’t a religious story, but it is a story of faith and hope and truth. And the truth is, life can be hard.
But we can do hard things. And by reclaiming the power within ourselves, we can become champions for our own lives and our own causes.
There’s no greater feeling than knowing your purpose and knowing that you are fulfilling your purpose! That’s what my story is about. It’s less about me and my journey, although you could get caught up in that tale if you allow it. But I hope you’ll search for yourself in the pages of my book and seek to understand the lessons you’ve learned as you’ve triumphed over the trauma and abuse in your own life.
Because most of us have it in one form or another. And sooner or later we all have to face it. It’s usually just a matter of when. Some of us create perfect lives (and lies) without ever dealing with our past, only to discover later that we can’t really escape it. Others deal with the past but have a hard time moving forward. And others simply don’t know how to create a future–because leaving the trauma and abuse behind feels like leaving our identity behind.
What I know is that every single one of us is strong enough to overcome it and build amazing lives not only in spite past trauma but with the lessons we’ve learned providing courage and grit every step of the way!
You’ve got this!
If you have questions about my story or if you’re ready to move forward with your own, contact me today. I’m offering a free 30-minute consultation for readers of my blog so we can get to know each other, discuss my programs, and see if one of them is a good fit for you. Whether or not you take advantage of this offer, I hope you’ll take care of you.
You are worth it. You are enough already. You have the power within to create the life you want to live. You simply have to claim it.