there is life after sexual abuse…

5C464366-6030-49E0-B189-0138BF49B5B4The affects of sexual abuse have stayed with me for years, paralyzing me and keeping me from experiencing the joy that I know God intends for me.

I had lived with it for so long that it had become a part of me, something that I couldn’t imagine living without.

there have been years where i could go through the motions and live life somewhat normally, pushing the darkness deep down inside of me.

but most of the time, i was plagued with the darkness and the lies that wouldn’t stop racing through my mind.

C7EE8BCD-D30C-41B7-A9F9-9E8618D2F4CDAbout six years ago, I began to struggle with clinical depression.

some times i would find myself in such a deep pit of depression that, had it not been for my husband, i probably wouldn’t have left my bed.

knowing what i now know about depression, i am convinced that my past has played a big part in my struggle.

Thankfully, in the past year, the depression has lifted significantly, leading me to believe that this is just one more way that God is bringing healing to me…..

168F4194-344D-4CA9-BC1B-F5B591910ECBJust over a year ago, God began to walk my family through some big, yet amazing changes.

first of all, he brought me to a point in my life where i finally felt ready to walk in freedom.

Freedom the affects of sexual abuse.

My first step was to share my story with a close family friend, who also happens to be a pastor.

he helped me to see that what I’ve been dealing with all these years is shame.

98199AE5-80FD-42AF-A211-8766BBB53AF7This may sound weird, but I can’t begin to tell you how helpful it was for me to be able to name my struggle.

Our Pastor/friend suggested that i read the book, Shame Interrupted by Ed Welch.

reading that book was such an eye opener for me; it helped me to understand the affects of sexual abuse, and allowed me to see for the first time ever that I wasn’t alone.  And that my struggles and feelings were totally normal.

the author shared Scriptures meant to share God’s love and desire to take our shame and replace it with freedom and joy.

as i read this amazing book, God began to magnify my desire to walk in true freedom.

5937CDF4-774C-4305-A30A-2C26AE9E0CA0My husband and i both felt that i would benefit from some godly counseling, however, we also knew that we couldn’t afford much.

we both began to pray that God would open the doors for me to get counseling if that was his will for me.

during this time, our family was actually transitioning,  as we had recently left our church of thirteen years.

God led us to an amazing church, and little by little began to change our lives.

the Sunday sermons seemed to be directed right at me….it was as if God was telling me that He was going to set me free.

on New Year’s Day of last year, i sat in the Sunday service, tears streaming down my face, as God spoke to my heart, telling me that this was the year He was going to bring healing and that I would experience the true freedom that only he can give.

39AF4231-8CBD-4DD6-BC07-32826F4E8843Within a few months of becoming a part of this amazing church, we found out that the church has an awesome counseling ministry that is free to members of the church.

and so, this past fall i began what is called Bibical Soul Care.

i meet twice a month with my my counselor, as well as two other ladies; one is a dear friend of mine who is acting as my advocate, and the other is training to become a soul care counselor herself.

friends, this counseling is changing my life.

I’d be lying if i said that its been easy.  Because it certainly hasn’t.

the homework is filled with Scripture, and I am learning how to identify my thought patterns…the good ones as well as the bad.

This past session was the most difficult by far…I had to share the 5 most painful experiences of my life, giving as much detail as I was comfortable giving.

53E42295-F734-4361-B2C0-9BFF7C2A3FA7I literally sobbed through the whole session.

i couldn’t stop the tears.

and i shared my story.

once i was finished sharing, i was able to stop crying.

I felt such a relief wash over me, and i experienced a taste of the sweet freedom that Jesus has for me.

We meet again this Tuesday, and we will be talking about the ways those painful experiences have impacted my life and my thinking.

I have a ways to go, but little by little God is peeling away layers, and replacing them with sweet glimpses of His amazing love for me.

and you know what? He wants to do the same for you!

** Have your past experiences kept you from experiencing the sweet freedom that Jesus wants for you?  I’d love to chat with you in the comments, or as always if you’re more comfortable emailing me, please feel free to do so! Lifeofpattyanne@gmail.com

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sexual abuse: the underlying affects

8FD5CF50-5BD3-4ECC-B19C-FD903858C84FThose years of emotional and sexual abuse had impacted me in ways that I never even realized.

shortly after I married my amazing husband, i was filled with this overwhelming fear that he would leave me for another woman.  I didn’t want him to go anywhere without me, and the thought of him being around other women drove me crazy.

my husband was very patient and gracious with me, but he was clearly confused as to why i was struggling that way.  And to be honest, so was i.

two years into our marriage we began having babies.  And after each baby, i would loathe the body that i saw looking back at me in the mirror.

i would literally lay in bed and cry because I didn’t want my husband to see my fat tummy.  I preferred to have the lights off when we were intimate, because i wanted to hide my body from him.  And all that time, I had no idea where this was coming from.

B75418DB-B7DC-43DD-A05B-B694EA17B6A0As the years went by, my image of myself only grew worse with each baby that i had.

And to be clear, I’ve never been a heavy person, even after having babies.  But I did—and still do—carry all my weight around my middle, and for some reason, I found that repulsive.

no matter how much my husband said he loved me, or how beautiful he would say i am, i saw myself as disgusting and damaged.

i remember laying in bed one night, and my husband saying to me, “It doesn’t matter how much weight you lose, because as long as you think that way about yourself, you won’t be happy.”

and i wasn’t.

I lost 40 pounds about 10 years ago, and guess what?  I still saw myself as repulsive.

0D0EA7E1-15C9-4A85-BE9E-D43BD72287F0I am ashamed to admit that these feelings of insecurity affected my relationships with other women as well, even women in my church.

certain personalities in women would raise red flags with me, and i would see them as a threat, so I would avoid being close with them because I didn’t want them around my husband.

and when certain women—women who were loud and drew attention to themselves—would sit in front of us at church, I would sit through the service steaming mad on the inside.  I would spend the entire service wondering if my husband was looking at “her”.  I was miserable.

and my poor husband.  God bless him.  On the rare occasion that I’d actually voice my fears and accuse him of ogling other women, it would hurt him, a lot.  He would reassure me of his love for ME and ME ALONE, but the fears didn’t budge.

For the sake of not hurting my husband, I began to hold those fears in, and on those occasions when I would make up scenarios in my head, i would stew over them, but not tell my husband.

he of course, figured it out because i was walking around mad all the time.

not exactly great for those early years of marriage.

7C1B9D82-A9F1-44B6-9677-C280376698B3Probably ten years into our marriage, I read the book, Trusting God, by Jerry Bridges.

Reading that book went a long way in helping me learn how to trust God with my marriage.

My freak out sessions were fewer and farther in between, but my insecurities were far from gone.

i think i eventually came to a point where, rather than fearing that I’d lose my husband to another woman, I hardened my heart to the idea, and developed a “i could care less” attitude.

that entailed me deciding in my heart that if he ever did cheat on me that he’d be gone, and I would never forgive him.

Not exactly a healthy way of thinking, trust me.

I went on this way for years…until last year, when God used a good friend to open my eyes and help me get to the root of my struggles.

more on that next time…..

** can you relate to the fears and insecurities that I’ve lived with for so long?  I’d love to hear your story; feel free to share in the comments, or you can email me at lifeofpattyanne@gmail.com

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Christmas meanderings…

0D22482A-5A30-4742-896E-C8D5B71E5F3EEvery year, Christmas seems to come and go, leaving me breathless and wondering how the time went by so quickly.

and no matter how hard i try to plan ahead, i still find myself scrambling a few days before Christmas, allowing anxiety to slip in just enough that it threatens to rob me of the sweet joys of Christmas.

i feel like i handled things a bit better this year—when i felt the old familiar anxieties  start to flair up, I simply reminded myself to relax and do what i can, accepting the reality that the most important things will get done and the rest can be let go.

it’s actually quite crazy the things that I allow myself to get worried about; i mean, quite frankly, who really cares if we have five different types of Christmas goodies rather than eight?

5BDB62B4-B991-4988-8B3E-5F60B43BEAF3All in all, we had a wonderful, relaxing Christmas, and thankfully, we were all healthy!

i messed up on both the breakfast and lunch menus, but my family was very gracious and no one went without eating.

we ended the day by going to see the movie, The Greatest Showman.  I’m telling you, if you haven’t seen this movie, you have to go see it!  It’s phenominal!  And to be honest, when my seventeen year-old daughter told me about it, I didn’t expect to like it.  But it made me smile and it made me cry, and i can’t recommend it highly enough.

BFBAD609-DA52-449B-A80D-B5AC10D0ECFFOf course, the day didn’t go by without me thinking about our adult daughter.  It’s hard to think that she’s out there somewhere, and i have no idea if she’s ok.  I find myself wondering if she’s safe, or if she’s even alive, for that matter.  And i cant help but remember the years when she was an innocent, sweet child who made us smile by just entering the room.

i’ve come to accept that this is our reality.  And i realize that there’s a possibility that we may never see her again.  Or that she may die as a result of the dangerous choices that she makes.

Sometimes i think i’d give anything just to hug her and pretend that our lives didn’t turn out the way they did.  But the reality is that she made her choice,and i can’t do anything about it.

and as painful as these past six years have been, I wouldn’t trade what God has done in my life, as well as in my husband and younger four kids.

He truly has made beauty out of the ashes.

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