Whether as a child, teenager or an adult, sexual assault and domestic abuse can cause victims to lose their voice out of shame, fear and guilt. A victim needs the opportunity to speak about what is or has been done to them without question or judgment. Encountering God’s word throughout years of therapy, I found that it is possible to overcome my trauma and gain healthy control of my life.
Source Of My Trauma
I am a survivor of incest by my mom’s father, my maternal grandfather at the age of 3. Those memories of the trauma I was subjected to didn’t present themselves fully until I was in my late 30’s. Due to that early childhood trauma many boundaries had been obliterated and led to many other instances of me either falling victim to other abuses or failing to see the warning signs of bad relationships. For years I felt out of control when I desperately wanted control of my life. It wasn’t until I ‘died to myself’ and gave up all control to God that I realized that surrender was how I would seek ‘healthy control’. The verses of Ephesians 5:6-20 stood out to me in a time when I felt most out of control, in a spiral of impending doom and negativity.
Those verses helped me to see the lies that the traumas had created, leaving me in the dark and believing their empty arguments. When I found Christ’s light–His truth–I began to understand the truth about myself and thus began to heal from the inside out.
Ephesians Was A Wake Up Call
These verses in Ephesians were a blueprint to understanding what had been done ‘to’ me and also what I fell into while stumbling through that muck of darkness and lies. Ephesians 5:14, “Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead and Christ will give you light” was the first verse that rang over and over in my mind and led me to explore the rest of the chapter before and after the verse. To me it stood out clearly as a directive from God for those of us stuck in the spiral of depression, anxiety, fear, etc. that trauma and abuse can cause. These verses in Ephesians helped me to realize that healing is a journey, that we have to ‘try’, and that we can have freedom.
It is vital that we understand what our “facts” are in order to take the first step to overcoming trauma.
Often when we’ve been through something that has caused us great distress, we can get caught up in our feelings and surroundings more than the reality itself. We feel as if the world is against us, or that we will never get out of the hole we feel trapped inside.
Look At The Facts
Taking a moment to stop and look at our lives in a very general, factual way can often bring us into a clearer perspective, allowing the opening for us to move forward and get the courage and strength to carry on. For example, my simple facts are: today I am alive, I am not sick today, I have a roof over my head, I have food on the table, I have a husband whom I adore and family and friends that support me. Everything else I can work on piece by piece, knowing that there is a stable ground to begin on.
Self-confidence can be extremely low when coming through trauma. Believe me when I say that a survivor’s self-confidence CAN be restored even when feeling broken.
When we begin to look at our facts, and then take inventory of these lies that are perpetuating this insecurity and lack of confidence, we can begin to name the opposite of those lies. In the moment of this exercise it may seem silly or even ridiculous and obvious, but if you are feeling the lie within and it’s causing a debilitating insecurity, you must focus on what the opposite of that lie is – THE TRUTH. Then we can begin to see that maybe the insecurity is founded on a lie and not the truth.
As we make these little efforts and begin to realize the truth, embracing the truth, we celebrate the ability to do so. Perhaps to someone who hasn’t experienced any major trauma or setback in their life may not understand these small steps, but to the rest of us they are meant to be celebrated. The more we celebrate our progress forward, the more confident we begin to feel, and we can work on letting the insecurity remain in the lie, leaving it behind.
Prayer is an important aspect of healing. We must pray even when we are angry at our circumstances.
When I have been particularly angry at someone or at the fact of having a life-threatening illness and find that my anger is at God for allowing it to happen, I take comfort in knowing that even Christ himself asked God to take his cup of suffering from him in the last hour.
Trauma Doesn’t Define You
I recall when I was most angry, hurt, betrayed, and even scared, I had to voice these emotions to God and ask Him to give me the desire to even want to pray for the person who hurt me or the circumstance. So, for days and even weeks I would pray for the desire to pray about the situation. Slowly the desire came, and I began to pray for my heart to be at peace in regard to the person and situation. As God answered that prayer, I found myself able to give it over to Him and let it go. There were times that the slow healing wound would be pressed, and I would find myself back at step one, seeking the desire to pray about it. But the important thing is merely the willingness to bring God into the center of it all.
It is vital to remember your facts in the light of thankfulness. Writing out what you are thankful for, even just the fact that the sun is shining, or that you are able to take a breath today, focus on what you can find that is good. Then you will soon, with God’s help, be able to pray and want to pray for the person or circumstance. It is a journey that only God is able to bring you through to overcome trauma and gain healthy control of your life.
About Our Guest Blogger
Shannon McGraw is a survivor of both incest and rape. At the age of 27, with no place to turn, she found God surrounding her with His peace. It was the beginning of a love story that continues to unfold day by day. Shannon founded Hopeful Hearts Ministry, a non-profit organization which supports long-term recovery of survivors of all forms of abuse through peer support, counseling and public awareness services. Her newest book is Reclaimed: Overcome Trauma and Gain Healthy Control of Your Life.