A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

This Thing Called Healing

I can’t take criticism. After a lifetime of abuse, the smallest critique sends me either running to the bathroom to cry or coming out with both fists flailing, trying desperately to fend off attacks. All I hear is yet again how bad I am, how messed up I am, how selfish, stubborn and hard-headed I am, how emotional and silly I am. And I believe it and then start having ugly and dark thoughts about why I even exist. My mind searches my memories (the ones that aren’t blank spaces in my mind) for something to contradict the “bad me”. Something to prove that I’m actually ok. And I can’t find any. Only memories of being told over and over how bad and defective I am.

So a criticism as small as a 1 on a scale of 1-10, I receive as a 7. I beat myself up horribly and become outright depressed, or I fight and push the critic away, even counter attacking to protect my exhausted, mutilated sense of self. Fight or flight. I feel defeated, just give up inside and let the guilt wash over me, crumbling in a heap of self-hate as I have done so many times in my life. Or, I declare that I will not take this anymore, and I attempt to launch an all out counter attack, while awful memories flash through my head like knives, creating an even more urgent sense that I have to fight to survive.

When I finally do see the reality of the situation, no matter which way I chose to handle it, I feel humiliated, weak, stupid, embarrassed, guilty, ashamed, all in the light of already feeling like a terrible person to begin with.

When will I ever get control of this thing? When will I see that not everyone wants to abuse me? I have to somehow learn to take helpful criticism as an opportunity to grow, and not run for cover from the bombs I think are being lobbed at me.

Judith Herman, in her book, Trauma and Recovery [*Affiliate link], talks about the three stages of healing for someone who has experienced long term (or complex) trauma (like many of us who have experienced domestic violence) —

  1. The establishment of physical and emotional safety.
  2. The establishment or re-establishment of trust.
  3. Re-integrating into society.

Each of these stages can take years to work through and each is dependent on the others.

The first stage is establishing safety. Physical safety, although it isn’t always easy to accomplish, is usually fairly clear-cut. We actually know what it means and can make plans and goals to reach it. But emotional safety is so much more tricky. Many of us have never even seen what that looks like, or the last time we experienced it was so long ago, we can’t remember it.

I am finding that I am bouncing back and forth between feeling emotionally safe and feeling lulled into a false sense of security that I am safe, when maybe I’m actually not. I am just so used to watching my back and being betrayed and lied to, that I can’t trust that I am genuinely safe.

This is where I think I am stuck. I am running in circles, trying to learn trust (Herman’s second stage) and what exactly that even means, and understanding that I am not just physically safe, but emotionally safe too. Trust affects safety and safety affects trust. I can’t feel safe if I can’t begin to trust and I can’t begin to trust if I can’t feel safe. At times I feel like I’m riding a runaway horse on a merry-go-round of fear and I can’t make it stop.

The path to healing is not straight-forward. It’s not really that clear and it’s full of twists, turns, wrong ways and do not enters. It’s long. Longer than I think I ever realized. I think the longer you have been in abuse, the longer that road to healing will be, so no one can say when anyone else will actually “heal”. There is no set map, but there are well established ways of building the roads and bridges we need in order to make our way successfully across the madness.

Take it one step at a time, ask God for and seek His constant discernment and understanding, take action to learn, re-learn, train and change the things you can change.

Decide each day that this day, the fear will not win. This day, I will make it through the flood of emotions that will happen without becoming defensive. This day I will tell myself and try to believe that God sees worth in me and I don’t need to defend myself or crumple in a heap of guilt anymore. I may have different choices from those I wanted to have today, but I still have choices. I have the choice to begin to change those pathways in my mind that tell me I’m not worth anything, so that the abusive memories will have no more power over the reality of my life today. I have the choice to seek help and work hard to believe I can be who God made me to be.

I can’t look into the future to find a goal to reach for, because it’s too far for me to grasp right now, but I can decide that today, the abuse will not win. Today, with God’s mercy and love, I will win over the damage that was done to me.

Do you feel like this? For those who have been able to heal from this, how did you do it?

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70 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Still feel like I’m living in the ‘running in circles’ stage. Definitely having to lean on the Lord’s faithful witnesses to me via sound Biblical sermons and a few select friends. Sadly, it is family that can’t be trusted 😦
    Deborah – you stated it well and prayerfully I will, “Take it one step at a time, ask God for and seek His constant discernment and understanding, take action to learn, re-learn, train and change the things you can change.”

  2. Heather

    What a great article, Deborah. I’ve a feeling it will be familiar to most of us. This is my prayer every day when I sit with God…..thank you for putting it into words.

  3. twbtc

    Hi All,
    Interrupting this thread for a moment: This morning we had an ‘Opps’ moment and we accidentally published two posts. We have taken down the ‘Nor Shall Your Eye Pity Him’ post and it will published in a few days as originally scheduled. This explains the reason for the ‘error’ message if you try to access this post.

    Sorry for the confusion, but at least you got a little taste of what’s to come. :).

  4. IamMyBeloved's

    Deborah – Thank you for sharing this. Your post is very familiar to me, as I am sure it will be to others, who have dealt with long term abuse and its affects on the mind, emotions and responses.

    There is the possibility that EMDR will benefit you. My understanding is that these triggers of criticism or the like, are all embedded in pathways in our brains that have been “dug” by years of abuse. The EMDR helps smooth out, fill-in the ruts and re-route those pathways, making it easier to deal with the sense of feeling triggered.

    I think criticism can put me on the defense, because some of the episodes of abuse usually began with some form of criticism. Don’t know if that holds true for others or not. But I think it is also true, that even “normal” people who have not endured abuse, have trouble taking criticism. Just talked to a group of other Christians about this. I think abuse just makes us all feel worthless and different and abnormal from everyone else. It is just one part of the insurmountable hill of lies involved in abuse.

    • deborahmom

      I agree with you IamMyBeloved’s about everything you said. I have heard of EMDR but I can’t find a therapist in my area who works with trauma from abuse and uses this technique. I am hoping it’s more available for others. As for me, I have some books on EMDR coming. I have no idea if I can teach myself, but it’s better than nothing.

      • Heather

        Deborahmom, I have had EMDR in the past. I also had a counselor friend recommend tapping your hands in a left/right fashion while praying for The Lord to show you His truth about who you are. You can tap out your struggles, fears, and lies that you have believed about yourself. The idea is to ask Him to develop new and healthy neuropathways in your brain.

        It can be done anytime if you cannot find a therapist. The goal is to rewire the pathways with Truth.

        I’m no doctor, but I continue to tap during my prayer time. I really should try to tap more often! Hope this helps.

      • IamMyBeloved's

        Hi Deb-Just a suggestion. Have you tried your local Center for Prevention of Abuse? They have funding to have at least some of their counselors trained in EMDR and it may be available in your area. I would suggest that you try that first, as it is also free. They may have other help to offer you as well.

      • deborahmom

        IamMyBeloved’s Yes, I did do counseling through my local women’s center (our equivalent here) when I had just come out of the abuse, but they were not trained in EMDR. It’s good to hear other centers may be though.

      • Heather

        I just had a thought. Perhaps anyone dealing with PTSD or deprogramming may have training. Worth a try. I was thinking of veteran’s groups in particular.

  5. me

    It helps me to know that I am not alone in this. At times I feel as if I have taken a teensy step forward and a jump backwards. Trying to bury myself in the Lord and to remain hidden in Him

    • one step forward one step back is okay, I think. In fact, it is often a sign that healing is occurring.

      The Lord showed me a truth about this: one step forward and one step back is like backstitch in sewing. Backstitch makes a stronger seam than running stitch. The overall progress is forward, so don’t worry about the fact that sometimes it seems like you are going backwards. The Lord is just bringing about your healing so it is good and strong in the end and cannot be easily pulled out by the catches of life.

      • Anonymous

        Barbara – the backstitch analogy is wonderful. Must remember this and share it with others:-)

      • That’s very encouraging!

  6. Valerie

    I think this is a prime example of how the enemy gives us a second blow after he has already used our abuser. I heard a great explanation once that really stuck with me: If we feel convicted about something it is likely from the Spirit, if we feel condemned it is always from the enemy.

    When I have these times of anguish I find comfort and refuge in reciting back scripture to God telling him the truth of who He says I am. It never fails to make the cloak of darkness lift!

    • If we feel convicted about something it is likely from the Spirit, if we feel condemned it is always from the enemy.

      I think that is a good saying to apply to those who have healthy functioning consciences. And therefore, it is probably true for all true believers, those who are really in Christ.

      But for those who think they are Christians but are not actually born again and have never actually entered the Kingdom of God but are just living some kind of cultural / nominal Christianity, and more particularly, for those who are abusive and wicked and are deliberately and intentionally faking Christianity in order to have a cover for their wickedness (and a fertile field of naive people they can get their wolfish teeth into) I don’t think the saying necessarily applies.

      If someone is faking Christianity or resisting the gospel, they will feel condemned rather than convicted when they are admonished for their sin. They may heatedly object to the admonishment by fighting the admonisher (or their conscience) by saying: “You are ACCUSING me! That is not fair!” (Haven’t we all heard that from abusers, eh?)

      And with such people, if you give them that little aphorism above, they will just use it as another tool to resist taking responsibility for their sin.

      But that is how it is with abusers. Everything principle that is helpful or true or good for non-abusive people, will be twisted and turned upside down by abusive people. The really do live in an alternate reality.

  7. Linda

    Thank you, precious one, for bearing your heart. Every one of us requires a different blueprint for healing. He renews our minds! What a glorious work that is! I want to encourage you, & everyone else in the same frame of mind. While suffering trauma can be the ultimate means of permanent crippling, we have hope in Christ. I am grateful for the firsthand knowledge & wisdom I’ve gained from being subjected to a lifetime of abuse, & I’m grateful for the empathy & insight I’ve been given for others, because of it. At 70, I still battle worthlessness & confused or misplaced thinking & emotions. This generally takes the form of self pity, & I’m amazed at how quickly I can default to it, over next to nothing, but each time it’s less than before, & not as much as tomorrow. It gives me hope, & gives me the heart to pray for others who also, desperately need His mercy & His healing.

    Stay strong, knowing that each incident takes you closer to where He wants you to be. Thank you again for sharing with us.

  8. nessa3

    For me …I need to have some marker on the way to reach…have to have some plan. If I cant see some reachable place I give up…some days are good, its hard for me to get to happy, I keep holding my breath for the next punch to hit me. My biggest struggle is to keep emotionally engauged….it gets to painful and I disconnect.

    • deborahmom

      nessa3 Yes, it is hard to stay emotionally open. It’s so easy to just shut that part down and keep our guard up all the time. I struggle with that too. Happy often seems like “what’s the catch? When is the other shoe gonna drop?” I so get how you feel. It goes back to that safety and trust thing.

    • Nessa3, I don’t have any suggestions about what markers you might find helpful, but I’m confident you and the Lord can together come up with some good ones.

      But I do want to honour you for your ‘disconnnecting’ because that is one way your spirit is dealing with the pain, trying to save you from having to endure it when things become too untenable. Would it help to honor yourself for this self-protective mechanism you have?

      I know you want to eventually not be disconnected emotionally, and that is a good goal to work towards; but can you, for the moment at least, just praise yourself for how you are sometimes engaged and other times disconnected? Can you see that “in and out” process as your creative way of responding to the pressures you are under? Would it help for you to praise yourself that way?

      And if this idea is no use to you, just ignore it. 🙂 You are the expert on your situation, not me.

      • nessa3

        Thank you for the comments…I do know what your talking about…I have been getting EMDR…and know its ok to disconnect sometimes..when nothing else helps.Its been very difficult the last few months….getting into some ugly issues…I hadnt faced or forgotten….

  9. Sarah

    as long as society feels it is ok to batter women or to beat up on battered women I don’t know how we can heal. Once the courts stop, the counselors stop, the churches stop…maybe then?

    • In one sense, you are quite right, Sarah. The degree of healing a survivor can achieve in this life is related to the degree that social systems support survivors and deliver justice and equity to them. While society, or sections of society, continue to condone and enable abusers, then the healing that survivors can attain will be limited. It comes back to the fact that victims and survivors of abuse are STILL being abused, still being stigmatized, still being unfairly blamed and judged as ‘crazy’ or ‘silly for putting up with it’ etc., and worst of all, still being made to send their kids into the hands of the abusers by court orders. And the kids are still being manipulated by the abusers so they often get set in a pattern of defying the good parent and resisting the good parent’s efforts to shape them into mature responsible characters.

      As Lundy Bancroft says, we will not be able to stop abuse and abusers entirely, but we can make it more difficult for them to do what the do. And that requires social change. . . and social change is usually a slow business.

      Someone may be able to find the exact citation for that statement by Lundy. I know it’s in his book Why Does He DO That? [*Affiliate link]

      *Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
    • Not Too Late

      I’ve wondered the same. Perhaps it’s a different quality of healing. I’m only thinking out loud, but maybe we heal toward a rest and contentedness in God, and one that eagerly looks forward to the completeness of healing when we see Him. I know it’s a well-worn cliche, but maybe it is like the grit in the oyster that doesn’t go away but becomes the center of a pearl.

  10. Seeing Clearly

    I would like to pitch a tent for the two of us in a meadow of wild flowers where it never rains, but the creek nearby runs peacefully. If you were there in peace, for two weeks, perhaps you could get your inner bearings. Of course, the return to your surroundings would trigger anxiety very quickly. It must feel like torture inside. Security is a primary need. You recognize that and you have studied and learned so much.
    I tried EMDR for a valid period of time. But I quit because my anxiety grew worse. I think that type of treatment is good in more ideal situations, where home rest accompanies the treatment. I returned home to confusion and challenges. So my brain said that it couldn’t handle stimulus from within and without. (That is over simplified.)
    People should not be criticizing you on a regular basis. You already know that, but I affirm it.

    I decided that divorce was the only option left. I interviewed 2 attorneys. The Christian man talked with me for 2 hours (longer than I expected). He kept pushing me to try a reconciliation council. I repeatedly explained why that was not an option. He billed me full rate for 2 hrs!. The non-Christian man, the one with integrity, offered an initial evaluation and assessment free of charge. At that time, I was also making copies of paper work of all sorts that might be necessary in the future in the midst of the divorce. I filed 2 yrs back taxes as a single person because he had neglected. I made myself a will and designated medical POA. I started being proactive.

    While the Christian community considers emotional and verbal abuse a controversial issue, the medical community considers it ABUSE. My husband took me to the medical center for my colonoscopy. Due to the behind the scenes behavior of his, I walked in quite upset. During my paperwork time, red flags went up to the staff that I was not in a safe situation. When I was behind closed curtains, before they put my IV in, the nurse ran through medical history questions one more time. When the question was asked, ‘Are you in an abusive situation?’ I said, ‘Only verbal and emotional” She said that counts. For the first time, I spoke out loud, YES, I AM!. They walked me through the same exit steps as if I had bruises all over. I called my brother who picked me up. My doctor assured me they would protect me. When I was safely out, they told my husband that I had left with my brother. My brother had no idea what was going on for me at home. I was never certain that I might truly be crazy, so I hid the severity of my situation. I was actually very embarrassed by the living situation.

    A month later, I finally told my Ex I was filing for divorce and from that day on, he was not to be in my presence without a 3rd party present. In God’s provision, through unforeseen circumstances, I moved into the basement of my brother and sister-in-law’s home. Six years later, I am still here. It is a peaceful, loving, respectful environment. When I settled into a secure environment, I could begin to accomplish healing. Confusion in my head is mostly gone, Depression meds are gone. I wake up happy, have energy, love my life. I feel free. The attorney with integrity brought me through a tough 1 1/2 yr divorce process. I was surrounded by friends and family who believe in me. They were not able to comprehend what I was living in, but they accepted me as a valuable person. Now that I live in a healthy environment, I can see positive results in my internal hard work.

    For you, dear friend, rolling a barrel uphill every day is destructive to you. While you have no guarantee of what you will actually be like in a different situation, take a risk. Step out and use the resources available to you in your community to get out from under the oppression. I doubt that reconciliation council or permanent separation will be effective. It is tragic that we have to give up all that we have worked for in life, just to live at peace, within and without.

    Thank you for your transparency. I would not have had your courage to write as you have. I know you are very bright by the way you communicate. Please be gentle with yourself. You are precious every single moment.

    • IamMyBeloved's

      Seeing Clearly – Just a note on EMDR. It can create more anxiety and stress in the person receiving it, due to having to deal with the issues of the abuse and trying to relocate the memories in a different area of the brain. But over time, my understanding is that the heightened stress/anxiety you may feel after treatment, subsides. This is also due to the area of the brain that has the deep ruts from abuse being less traveled. Sorry you had that experience, but it may have been normal for that type of therapy.

      • Seeing Clearly

        I appreciate these new insights on EMDR. Hopefully, it brings relief and healing for others who try it. Now that I am able to relax, I would not hesitate to try EMDR again. Fortunately, I am quite settled now. The blessing for me was that I had excellent insurance coverage at that time, allowing me to try EMDR along with counseling with a psychologist weekly. I was just trying to stay afloat. We are courageous women, being the best we can be each day. That is success, even though it doesn’t feel like it.

    • Seeing Clearly, I am not a trained counselor or expert in therapy for PTSD, but your comment brings to mind what Friend In Need From Europe once told me: that when he sought therapy for his PTSD he was told by the health professionals that they did not treat PTSD until after the person was no longer under the abuse. They said that treatment for PTSD was not advisable, nor likely to be of much effect, until the client was in a relatively safe environment. That makes sense to me. And maybe that is why the EMDR did not seem a good fit for you when you tried it. Maybe if your living circumstances change so you are no longer under the abuse full time, EMDR would be more beneficial for you. Just a thought. 🙂

      After all PTSD stands for POST traumatic stress disorder. When you are still living in the abuse, what you are undergoing is what I call CTSD:— CONTINUING traumatic stress disorder.

      CTSD is my own invented acronym, by the way. Don’t confuse it with the acronym CPTSD which stands for Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
      CPTSD was first proposed as an acronym by Judith Lewis Herman, and to my knowledge it is now a reasonably well accepted acronym in psychology. I think that perhaps it may have even been officially listed in the latest version of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychological Society). I need to brush up on the DSM5 to make sure of my facts, though.

    • Alice M Harmon

      Your story about the hospital gave me chills. You were so brave to speak up that day! And I am overwhelmed by the staffs’ response. Truly a praise God moment.

      • Hi Alice, thanks for your comment and welcome to the blog 🙂

      • Seeing Clearly

        I had been crying out to God for some years, ‘God, why doesn’t someone stop him?’ There seemed to be no reply. When I told the nurse, ‘Yes, I am ‘, I understood right then, finally, that I was the one that had to stop him because I was the one he was abusing. Like Don Moen’s song, “He will make a way where there seems to be no way”.

  11. a mom

    I live with nothing but criticism. I do not hear compliments, I do not receive kind words. Sometimes the criticism is wrapped up in ‘teasing’ but the teasing is always mean. I once told them I couldn’t take it anymore, and from now on nobody could say anything critical unless they could first be sure they had said something nice to me that day.

    Basically, my teens and husband quit talking to me, because they would rather not say a word than have to say something nice.

    • Good for you for setting some boundaries, a mom. They have clearly chosen not to respect you and are making it ultra obvious.

      Verbal abuse disguised as a joke (the ‘teasing’ you mentioned) is awful. I’ve been at the butt end of that, and it hurts. So does the silent treatment.

  12. ColleenR

    Just had a setback into the same cycle due to a telephone conversation w/my ex. Used telephone because of “time sensitive” negotiations re: visitation which came about because I made exceptions to schedule in the decree because he has cancer and didn’t know what his summer would bring. What a nightmare. He is so good at reacting to what I say as if I am the manipulator, especially if I get emotional during the conversation. His family has a “suffer in silence” culture, especially for the women. He often accused me of manipulating him with my emotions when we were married. Now I am back in the cycle of having a difficult time trusting my own perceptions. Of everything. I wonder if I will ever feel consistently sane. I wonder how people have the courage to remarry. Sometimes reading things here is helpful and overwhelming at the same time. But I keep coming back around. It is helpful to know I am not alone. And most likely am not actually crazy. 🙂

  13. Friendinneed

    Recovering from PTSD myself, I’d like to share my experience. I am a Dad survivor.

    I’d like to recommend EMDR, indeed one needs to shop to find someone willing and able. I found other stuff to improve my situation, quiet music, various distraction techniques, a swim, a shower, a short bicycle ride. The idea is, I think, to pleasantly tickle your senses. The bicycle ride will give you something to look at, your mind will stop thinking.
    Have a trustworthy friend tap you left and right on your shoulder blade. The idea is the same as EMDR. It will attract your focus. Have them do it from your back, so you do not see the next tap coming, 10 minutes. If you have back stiffness, it is my experience that it leaves.

    For 3 years I could not read, but now it is succeeding. Reading a silly book not too exciting, perhaps something you have already read.

    Not my strongest idea, but I change beds a bit. Not that I am proud about it. As a matter of fact I am a bit ashamed of it. True I do not always feel safe, physically. As Seeing Clearly said here above, I do pitch my tent, in a forest. I literally become unfindable. When it is too cold I move to different beds in my own house. This year I went to friends’ houses taking care of their animals and slept at their place. They were happy and so was I, again a different bed.

    Next week I will receive aid from a christian health care, they will help me make a program how to spend my free time, in a better way, creating a schedule. They say they have good experience with that.

    As you are all Christians and so am I, I’d like to recommend someone with a trustworthy ministry and a track record. Maybe I am saying something silly here, I hope not. For starters, the church that I go to does not accept abuse, neither should yours, or anybody who ministers to you. People, like you come to my door. In the quiet hours of the evening they come to my door from various churches. I adopt the rules of the bible, the ministry of Jesus, no appraisal of man and everything is for free. The bible speaks about gifted people, and they are out there. A year ago, a lady with much prayer authority in my church, prayed over me that all images would be removed. That happened that day, that hour, that minute, that second, that instance. The images are gone and did not return, the emotions I still experience, but I hope for more, healing from the Lord.

    • thanks for those good ideas and the encouraging testimony, FriendinNeed. 🙂

      Changing beds — that’s one thing I have never thought of, but I can see how it might help sometimes.

  14. Friendinneed (from Europe)

    I can conccur to confusion after EMDR after the treatment. I could not drive a car afterwoods. A man came to my door the other day, had suffered from a car crash trauma to the head, he told me, that it had gone after EMDR. It worked for him. Here in this country EMDR is accepted by the government for PTSD, provided it is a certified therapist. Lady Heather, just read your comment on the tapping. Thank you, thank you so much.

    • nessa3

      I have been taking EMDR for about three month…other therapys only got me so far and Id get stuck…This is helping but you do have to have some grounding tech. or learn a safe place….there are other techniques to try if EMDR is to triggering.

    • Seeing Clearly

      Thank you for your insight about EMDR. I am glad that you are joining our conversation. We may not live in close proximity, but we are close sisters.

      • Seeing Clearly, don’t feel bad for making the assumption that Friend in Need is female 🙂 but he is male. You can read his story here.

      • Seeing Clearly

        Oh, the assumptions I make. I will read what he has written, now.

      • Seeing Clearly

        Friendinneed, I just discovered A Cry for Justice a few months ago. So I did not meet you until tonight. Barbara referred me to the story you wrote last year. I just read it. Oh, my. I am so sorry. Tonight, I am thankful that you have come as far as you have in your healing. It is very incomprehensible to me what life, day in and day out has been like for you.

  15. IamMyBeloved's

    I had a setback today too. I was putting files in order and ran across some old emails from my abusive pastor(?) (can’t really call him a pastor – maybe spiritual abuser fits better) where he is discussing my life and me with others in the “c”hurch via his emails. As he falsely portrays himself to be a knowledgeable psychologist, he makes a comment that he believes I am deeply tormented. Brilliant deduction, Sherlock. That’s what decades of abuse does to someone. Torments them – deeply. The spirit of abuse IS a spirit of torment. However, he says it in a demeaning and analytic way that leads me to think he means that I am not where I need to be spiritually. As if the blind man would know where anyone should be spiritually. He speaks as if he hungers for power over me – at least enough power to destroy me, so no one will believe me when I tell them the truth about the things I know about him. He gropes for reasons in my past, which he makes up as he goes, to come to his brilliant deductions. He knows little, if anything about me really and yet reaches into the wind to pull out what he “thinks” may be causing this marriage problem. He then goes on to level the sin playing field. If he had had an ounce of spiritual discernment or true godly knowledge or any training and knowledge at all concerning abuse, he would have been able to see clearly, that I was the way I was, due to the abuse I had reported to him. Instead, he and his sidekick decided to see just how far they could go and get away with it. Instead, they decided to write their own definition of abuse and shove it down everyone’s throat.

    It really angered me, but also cut. That cut runs deep in my veins and still bleeds from time to time. But, I know that God will hold that wicked man and his cohorts to full account for their evil spiritual abuse and over-the-top lying and conniving and deception of others. I also know that God will hold them to account for not confronting and addressing the sin that should have been addressed and instead – letting the guilty one go. Today is just one of THOSE days.

    • And while you are in pain about this, and with good reason, the very fact that you could write this comment here which so accurately and decisively describes your spiritual abuser, shows how far you have come, IAMB. congratulations! 🙂

  16. Suzanne

    Yes, Deborahmom, I do feel like this. Criticism sends me over the edge emotionally. I constantly feel worthless and the worst part is that I’m defeated before I begin any endeavor by my own lack of confidence and self worth. That is why I was never able to achieve success in school, professionally or in my personal relationships despite having a reasonable degree of aptitude, desire, and intelligence. I’m 60. Until just 5 years ago I couldn’t look anyone in the face when we conversed. Growing up I never witnessed a healthy human relationship and didn’t really know that I was entitled to one or how to construct it. The abuse began in childhood (my abusers are my parents and siblings) and continues to this day although I spend as little time as possible with them. In their eyes I’ll be the family scapegoat til the day I die. I have prayed about this for decades but it never seems to get better. As a Christian I know that my Savior desires that I be a witness for Him, but talking to others about my faith is a near impossibility. I have about given up ever “healing” from the abuse. Perhaps I’m not supposed to.

    • Suzanne, dear sweet sister, my heart goes out to you.

      If I were you I would not come down heavy on myself for not being able to talk to others about my faith. I suggest you let yourself off the hook of that one! I’m sure Jesus understands how hard that is for you given how low your self-confidence is and how much you have been put in fear by other people. Gee whiz — you find it hard to talk to people about anything, let alone talk to them about your faith! Jesus does not demand you do what you find so very very scary! I think he just wants to nurture you very gently, patiently succouring your wounded heart and spirit. And He loves you no matter how you ‘perform’. Clearly, you have faith in Him, a living and true faith. You know Him, and He knows you and has adopted you.
      It sound to me like you are putting a works-religion demand on yourself, and I suspect that one reason you are doing that is that many so-called Christians have taught you a work-religion type of thing — that teaching is rife in Christendom.

      (((hugs))) from Barb

      • Suzanne

        Thanks for your kind words Barb. I cried for a long time after I read your post. It wasn’t because I was hurt by what you said but because it’s such a rare thing for someone to show compassion for me. Your words opened some kind of floodgate. Pretty pathetic, huh? And I don’t believe that I need to do anything to earn my salvation. I know that Jesus paid the price for all my sins on the cross. But He did tell us to spread the good news of the Gospel. It’s important, and I’m not doing it. You’re only the second believer to tell me that Jesus understands that I can’t do it.
        Anotheranon expressed how I’ve come to see my life. I do look to Jesus alone for love and acceptance. And I pray for the salvation of the unsaved ones God has brought into my life. Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that, although it was painful, the abuse I’ve suffered has resulted in a prayer life I wouldn’t otherwise have had. I’m grateful for that.

      • Jesus understands that I can’t do it [share the gospel with unbelievers]

        Yes. A bruised reed He will not break — Isaiah 42:3 and Matthew 12:20

        I teared up just reading your comment Suzanne. Bless you!
        I don’t think it’s pathetic to have a good cry. 🙂
        Neither does the Apostle Paul: weep with those who weep Romans 12:15
        And neither does Lundy Bancroft, see these two posts by him:
        A powerful key to healing from trauma [Internet Archive link]
        When you know you need a good cry [Internet Archive link]

    • anotheranon

      I know these feelings too Suzanne. I was criticized daily by my mother. I got straight A’s, never got in trouble, was involved in projects, etc but it was never good enough. I never gained much confidence till I was in my 40’s. I had to withdraw from lots of family functions to avoid more criticism and nasty remarks. Some people will never change.
      But remember, Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and those who are crushed in spirit (Ps.34:18, Ps.147:3, Is.61:1 and others)! Look to Him for love and acceptance. Even if you can’t witness much you can pray for others and live a life that points to Christ. Sometimes baby steps are all we can do, but God sees it all.

      • Hi anotheranon
        you submitted a comment about a post about abuse on The Gospel Coalition’s website. Unless you give us the exact link, we can’t do much about it. Email us and let us know the link if you still want us to look at it. There is no search function that I could see at TGC’s site.

  17. Freindinneed (from Europe)

    No worries, no offence. As Barbara explained to me a year ago, most people on here are female, and there is no photo. This week I have a lot of time on my hands, I had not been on here in quite a while.
    Barbara refreshed my memory, indeed the EMDR therapist wanted me to get out of the abusive situation and be at a safe place. Although I moved, my house was still not safe, as my ex would stalk my house. One experience that I read here, on this site, is that someone moved 2000 miles and a got a street prohibition for the abuser. So there needs to be a sufficient distance, discouragement towards the abusive person. My ex would go into attack mode at my door or even in my new house. The smart phone proved to be a repelling tool. How about a film of the abusive person, on camera? They don’t like being exposed. A street prohibition is only 1000 yards in this country. The fear of getting a street prohibition, means that my ex can be hunted on by the police. This thought proves more repelling that an actual prohibition. The distance between my house and where my ex is living is not large. Therefore I am using another tactic to move around a bit. I feel myself more safe and I want to become less available for abuse. Get my name out of the frame, if this person is on the prowl or lurking, less chance of me bumping into this person.

    • Seeing Clearly

      It came to me this morning, as I was slowly waking up, that I have known for a long time. another male abuse victim. He was a member of the same church as me, his daughter and sons, a little younger than mine. He was a gentle, hard working man. This week, I will try to put more of his story together, from memory, through a new lense. Some memories flood back now, but I don’t have time to write any more. FIN, you have opened my eyes to a matter that is very important, but I have been ignorant about. Thank you.

  18. KingsDaughter

    1. The establishment of physical and emotional safety. 2. The establishment or re-establishment of trust 3. Re-integrating into society

    Each of these stages can take years to work through and each is dependent on the others.

    Thinking of my children here… HOW can I EVER help them heal when, every other weekend they are re-traumatized???
    This is so maddening! I really want to cuss!
    I know there’s no easy answer… I’m venting more than anything. But, if you have advice or prayers, I’ll gladly take them!

    • HOW can I EVER help them heal when, every other weekend they are re-traumatized???

      I’ve made this into a post for our FB page.

  19. Finding Answers

    To Deborahmom’s post:

    ^^^That!!!!

    I am STILL hovering between Judith Herman’s points 1. and 2.

    Quoted from Bar’bs response:

    Seeing Clearly, I am not a trained counselor or expert in therapy for PTSD, but your comment brings to mind what Friend In Need From Europe once told me: that when he sought therapy for his PTSD he was told by the health professionals that they did not treat PTSD until after the person was no longer under the abuse. They said that treatment for PTSD was not advisable, nor likely to be of much effect, until the client was in a relatively safe environment. That makes sense to me. And maybe that is why the EMDR did not seem a good fit for you when you tried it. Maybe if your living circumstances change so you are no longer under the abuse full time, EMDR would be more beneficial for you. Just a thought.

    So THAT’s why everything crumpled after leaving my last workplace less then 1 year ago. First time in my life no longer in an abusive relationship. Entire family was abusive…marriage of almost 2 decades (now divorced over a decade) was abusive…friends were abusive…

    STILL go into freeze mode when verbally attacked or criticised. (Never heard of the “freezing” part of “fight-or-flight” until I researched Polyvagal theory a very short time ago….omitting details, as possibly too identifying.)

    Nervous system STILL too hyper-vigilant for any kind of tapping technique, EMDR or otherwise. Doesn’t require overt physical abuse to leave one this twitchy.

    Doesn’t take much to leave me feeling physically unsafe. Thank God I live alone, though in a larger building. Bit of a connection just made…feeling physically unsafe triggered when someone does something so inconsequential as park in my assigned parking stall where I live…boundary violation.

    I would be SO grateful to be rid of the hyper-vigilance.

  20. Finding Answers

    (Trying to airbrush as write…)

    Off to watch the videos….

    I never even get to fight-or-flight, just get stuck in deer-in-the-headlights.

    I came across Polyvagal theory while researching some other long-standing oddities in my life. When I was less than 1 year old, I became ill with a rapid-onset illness that is frequently fatal without the use of antibiotics. When not fatal, there are usually lasting disabilities. Everyone, including me, thought I had escaped unscathed.

    Until recently, anyway.

    With research, hindsight, and puzzle-building from other experiences, there was evidence of one after-effect. The extreme pain of the illness caused me to dissociate. Not dissociative identity disorder, but dissociative amnesia, fragmenting from memories of intense physical pain. This laid the groundwork for a lifetime of misunderstood coping mechanisms.

    Maybe the videos will add more pieces?

    (Just noticed I chose the “wrong” reply, so it won’t be nested properly. Sigh.)

      • Finding Answers

        (Airbrushing as I go…omitting a significant amount of potentially identifying detail, and knowing this leaves the picture fuzzier.)

        Oh….My….God….

        Just finished watching the videos. More pieces to the puzzle. Adds on to the Polyvagal theory.

        Really rough explanation for Polyvagal theory is shutting down of the body to very basic organ function. Can actually see this in colour on a computer with the right software during some simple medical tests. (Saw this for myself, though I didn’t understand the implications until my research.)

        Of the four hormones mentioned in the videos, my response to trauma / aggressive circumstances has always been the opiates. Never the other three.

        So take the initial physical trauma of the babyhood illness. Add an abusive family, parents and siblings. Add sexual abuse by two siblings. Add an attempted drowning by one sibling. Add in a nearly two decade abusive marriage, abusive workplaces, and abusive “friendships”.

        Top this off with a complete lack of awareness that any of what I experienced was abuse, as I’d only been hit twice by a parent, one of those sending me against the wall. (Omitting details to prevent triggering anyone.)

        No wonder this healing process has become overwhelming,,,so many flashbacks to integrate.

        And in listening to the discussion about how victims may respond during an interview after a sexual assault, I realised this is the response I automatically revert to during every traumatic / aggressive circumstance.

        So, so grateful for the videos. So much to process.

  21. Finding Answers

    Healing is in progress, but still dealing with residuals. I know healing takes time, that some days will be better than others. So frustrating to not find the words to express myself clearly, so unlike the way I could before my walls crumbled.

    Sometimes I have days I need someone else to provide the word(s) for me – I try to explain myself, hoping the word will come to mind. In the end, I give up, using [….insert net-speak for….].

    I hate the anxiety that comes with this, fearing I will be misunderstood, that I will hurt someone, that I will drive them away.

    I am grateful for the Holy Spirit, praying He will continue to lead me to dry land.

    I am grateful for Jesus Christ, His willingness to die for my sins – I cannot imagine how someone could love me that much, and not be like my abusers, and making all sorts of conditions. All He asks is I follow Him, come clean, so to speak. It’s not an easy road, I am not asking for easy. Not if He is with me, not now, not ever.

    I am grateful for my Papa God, for His love, for His parenting.

    I need the Word / word so much in my life. My anchor. My Source of life.

    I am listening to music again, awed by the beauty and pain I hear. I hear my Lord’s love for me, grateful for those who can express in music what I cannot.

    I am coming back to life, one step at a time. My abusers have lost the battle, it’s time for me to move on, gaining ground inch-by-inch.

    Life is good, the struggle worthwhile.

    I am grateful to be alive…..

    • Seeing Clearly

      Finding Answers, I, too, am grateful to be alive.

      My house is gone. Now, I live in a small space with a loving sibling and spouse. Now, I work at a fun minimum wage job 14 hrs/wk (finally, after beginning disability 15+ yrs ago).

      My profession was high wage in the medical field.

      My role was as a minister’s wife.

      My unraveling began many years ago and divorce 10+ yrs ago. There was the nervous breakdown and hospitalization, firing from a stressful job, rejection from adult children upon announcement of divorce, (now quite healed, continuing). It has been a road that I never dreamed I would walk down.

      Today, I accept that so much had to be thrown out with the trash of a deadly marriage. Daily happiness of simple things, physical and mental health, genuine friendships, no more fear of God, a gladness in my heart………

      I am in awe of what can be when I told my ex and other abusers, “No more!”. I’ve had to repeat, relearn, retool, refresh…..but all is possible. Certainly, there are sadnesses, sense of losses, but these things are evidence tha I am alive, very alive.

      • Finding Answers

        […..Insert net-speak for thank you for sharing….]

    • Finding Answers

      Adding on to my own comment once again…..

      In the last week, God has healed me in the context of being able to now feel emotions.

      My capacity to sense-feel was / is so strong, and I know feeling comes from the heart. The difference between sense-feeling and feeling is difficult to describe…..feeling seems more personal, less abstract.

      The Holy Spirit is leading me to create new memories, feeling emotions rather than labelling them as “good” or “bad”. The holiday season – including New Year’s – has always been a hard time for me. I’ve tended to try and fill the time with busyness.

      The last year has led to profound changes in my life. And from now on, my experience of life will be very different. For me, I will feel. For others, I will continue to sense-feel, and the sense-feel will link to my newfound emotions. A slightly convoluted version of empathy, but the Asperger-like traits are not included in the feeling-from-the-heart healing.

      And I’m OK with that, truly I am. At least I have the capacity for empathy.

      I have felt many feelings in the last few days, though they have been muted by limiting my sensory input. The frustration with limiting my sensory input was definitely FELT! I felt like a person trapped in an iron lung, or – no intent to cause anyone distress – someone completely paralyzed, lying face down and staring at the floor. And no one to visit me, to provide any relief.

      I do not write that last paragraph as a pity party. Indeed, I can now feel a small taste of what it must be like for someone to live that particular reality. I am in awe at their resilience.

      To me, this healing has been a miracle, a Christmas gift I never expected.

      Now, in childlike anticipation, I am waiting to cry – real tears, not tears of betrayal.

      • Seeing Clearly

        It is beautiful that you are feeling emotions. It is a wonderful gift. I find music helps draw out emotions at times, and sooth emotions at other times. Quiet music without words helps me sleep better through the night hours.

      • Finding Answers, when I first read your comment I was so moved I didn’t know how to answer. And I still don’t know what to say, except that it is wonderful you are now able to feel emotions. I imagine it will take adjustment for you to get used to this… so (hugs).

      • Finding Answers

        (Extreme airbrushing….)

        I have cried real tears. I have felt overwhelmed by emotional responses to seemingly simple things. I have been too stunned to find coherent words. I have been so touched I have had no words.

        Tonight, I have found there is one thing that is experienced similarly, whether felt or sense-felt. For the first time in a long time, I feel a long way down the wall of the pit – it’s not a pleasant experience, whether feeling or sense-feeling.

        I am a stranger in a strange land, not from the perspective of so many changes in my life, but like someone who has walked into well-known territory after some naturally occurring event. Perhaps now, I can empathize with Noah. It doesn’t look the same, and there is a rainbow in the sky.

        I have had my own flood…..I need a rainbow.

      • 🙂 🙂 🙂 …. these smiles are me rejoicing at the healing you are experiencing and the new life you are feeling.

        And these are me weeping with you as you weep…. 😢 😢 😢 😢

        And since tears are so new to you, it might help you to know that when people have a good cry they often feel very tired and drained afterwards. That’s normal: it’s okay to feel tired after you’ve been weeping and crying. Weeping is a release, and it’s a lot of emotional work to go through it.

      • And I guess you don’t have shares in any companies that make tissues, do you?
        …because I guess you are going through lots of tissues, now you are weeping. 😢

  22. Broken and defeated

    After getting away from my abuser recently, I noticed that I have been crying a whole lot more and it can at the most random times. Right now I have multiple time crying episodes per day easily. It’s not tears of missing him (abuser) – surprisingly I do NOT miss nor think of him in that capacity anymore. I believe GOD has blessed me by putting a “block” or anesthetic of sort on any emotions related to “missing him” or even reminiscing good memories. I feel absolutely none of those – I feel “cold as ice” when a good memory comes to mind.

    My tears are for this: coming to terms that I have been abused for most of my life, extremely isolation, what the future holds, and anger/shame/guilt at myself for being in this situation. Right now, I alternate between feeling very angry feelings at injustice/evil and sadness for myself.

    During my relationship, I would rarely cry in front of my abuser – call it pride or whatever but I instinctively would NOT do it in front of him. I forced myself not to and would immediately run to another room and shut the door if I felt the tears well up during an argument. When those rare tears would escape, it was out of desperation when I was trying to explain something for the 1000th time of what he did to hurt me but he would continue to deny everything and blankly stare at me. He would always say that I was never hurt because he rarely saw me cry. He said that so many times during the relationship – in some sick and perverted way, I think seeing women cry made him feel powerful and most in control. It was almost like “oh so you’re not crying, so let me abuse you some more or escalate the abuse to see if I can ‘hurt’ you and force you to cry.” Really sick logic but I think that’s how his mind operated.

    After abusive episodes, he would typically leave and not come back for hours so he could have the last word and to punish me further with his absence (by this point I was already extremely isolated in a brand- new state). I always resisted …even to the very end of the relationship. I rarely would back down from my abuser during arguments even if it was to my detriment – I guess in a way, being silenced most of my upbringing had something to do with that. Years of repressed feelings from abuse and massive desire to be “heard” makes me feel like I have to yell back at the top of my lungs to be heard. Looking back on past arguments, I really was and STILL am fighting for my LIFE, fighting for my identity, fighting for my right to just be “me.” Abusers want to erase the essence of who you are – I will not go down easily!!!

    So right now, I cannot stop the crying. I don’t even know if this is normal because I feel my crying has reached an excessive point. It’s like for most of the relationship I forced myself to stay as strong as possible in every way imaginable in addition to having my guard up…and now that I am away from him….all those repressed feelings now have an outlet to flow out now. I have to admit that I don’t always feel better after crying because I know I have to work through the grief and yucky feelings that accompany it, but I am relieved I am away from my abuser. I am now on a new adventure: navigating the aftermath. Thank you for listening.

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