***TRIGGER WARNING: Some of the content in this post may be difficult for some readers because it is a story of sexual abuse. Please be mindful of your well-being.***
“Though I suppressed the memories for almost thirty years, the child abuse I experienced influenced every moment of that time. As the shock wore off, my heart broke.
“For weeks I felt like I was drowning in a sea of my own tears. The only thing bigger than my pain was my anger. First there was my abuser to be angry at. I was a naïve, sheltered, and twelve years old (while he had perfected the art of manipulation and grooming young girls by the age of seventeen) when I first met him. For two years the abuse and then rape continued. He even introduced one of his friends into the “games” we would play so they could both have fun.
“Then there is the anger at his mother, who discovered us one day. After yelling at him she turned to me and began calling me names. “You whore! What are you trying to do to my son? If I hear one word about this from anyone I’ll tell everyone what a tramp you are! Leave this house and don’t you ever set foot here again!”
“I tried to talk to my mom about what had happened but I didn’t have the words. She only knew that I had gotten yelled at for playing games at the neighbor’s house. Even if she had asked what we were playing it would have sounded innocent- things like “Prince and Princess” and of course the princess has to kiss the frog. I had no idea that the real name for the frog was a penis. All I knew is that I hated it when the frog jumped into my mouth and made me gag.
“Suddenly, my life made sense. For years I had blamed myself for changing from a sweet and fun little girl to a suicidal teenager experimenting with alcohol. I blamed myself for every boy who took advantage of me. I blamed myself for marrying an abuser at age nineteen when God had warned me not to do it. I blamed myself for giving in every time he pushed me to do things I didn’t want to do. I blamed myself for my anxiety, depression, and lack of trust in others. I even blamed myself for the many health problems I struggled with over the years.
“In one moment of clarity I realized it was not my fault. Any of it. While the abuse brought pain, the realization of what the abuse had done to my life and those that loved me made me angrier than I had ever been. Thirty years of blame that wasn’t my fault. Thirty years of pain without proper therapy. My anger turned to fury.
“My relationship with God helped me cope with the pain and anger. God helped me heal rather than turn bitter. I needed my husband, my therapist, my mother, and medication to get through it. My experience with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) for healing from the abuse inflicted by my ex-husband years ago gave me the courage to do it again. When I had felt I couldn’t face the memories and pain God had been with me, strengthening me and telling me it would be worth it. I counted on His help again.
“With EMDR, I could do in six weeks what would take four years to accomplish in talk therapy. We worked through the abuse, desensitizing areas of my body that were experiencing flashbacks and empowering me to face life without fear and guilt.
“At what turned out to be our final session, I wasn’t sure what I still needed to work on so I drew some pictures with my non-dominate hand which was how I accessed my inner child. After a few pictures I started with a new page and drew three things across the center. First was a stick figure representing my abuser. He was surrounded by a large red circle with a line across it. Next was a heart, broken and bleeding. Finally, I drew a sad face with tears running down the page.
“I needed to ban my abuser from my life, I needed to heal my broken heart and I needed to stop the pain. We began with the first item- getting rid of my abuser. I held the picture in my head and let go of control.
“In my mind I held a photograph of my abuser in my left hand. It was worn and blurry. I hadn’t seen him for almost thirty years. From slightly behind and off to my right a bright light shone through. I knew it was the healing power of God. When the light landed on the photograph it began to burn in little spots all over the picture. The spots blackened, expanded, and eventually disintegrated into bits of ash that blew away until there was nothing left. Instantly, I was freed. It felt like a ghost that had haunted me my entire life permanently vanished.
“The next thing I decided to tackle was the ocean of sadness I had created with my tears. I’m not sure what I expected but it wasn’t to be standing there in my mind with my twelve-year-old self at my side facing the mother who had shamed me into forgetting everything about my abuse. I began by yelling at her because that was what I wanted to do but it wasn’t what I needed to do. Instead, I needed to listen.
“It was as if this woman was somehow there, speaking to me spirit to spirit. She explained that as a mother she had been dealt a shock that she didn’t know how to deal with in that moment. She said things she didn’t mean because she had no idea what to do or say. Over the years she had worried about me. She was happy to know that I had moved on, met a wonderful man and had a full and satisfying life. She was grateful I had been healed. She apologized for hurting me and asked me to forgive her. As I did, I felt a peace descend on us both. It was as if a chord drew her back to heaven and away from me.
“I turned to my child-self and hugged her. I missed her innocent joy in life. I missed her play, smile, and silliness. I loved her and wanted her just the way she was. The light that filled her eyes with hope and joy was beautiful to see. In that moment she merged with me, fully integrated into who I am today.
“There was only one picture left. My broken, bleeding heart. My therapist and I began again. In all my other visualizations I had been there helping my child-self through things. My child-self had been fully integrated into myself and so this time I stood alone, unsure what to do.
“As I stood there feeling alone and exposed I began to understand that the broken heart was because of the shock and pain I experienced as an adult knowing what had happened to me as a child. It represented the full realization of how the abuse had affected my life and my children’s lives. I felt that it had literally broken my heart.
“I looked down and I held my heart in my hands. A white finger showed me the huge tear down it and how it needed to be fused back together through the power of God. I saw that when it was done my heart would be whole and complete without even a scar showing where the tear had been.
“I heard within my mind that this could only be done through the power of the priesthood. I fully accepted this and what this angel was trying to do. In my mind I heard the angel begin, Sandra Dawn Rytting, by the power of the Melchezidek priesthood…
“In that moment I heard every word of the blessing I was given. I felt my heart heal just as I had been shown. I did not see the angel but I heard him and saw his finger through my mind’s spiritual perception. By the time I left the office the rest of the blessing had left my memory, all except those first few phrases, but the effects were amazing. Every part of the abuse, the pain, the anger, and lingering effects were wiped clean. It felt like a rebirth.
I share my story because I want all to know that the power of God is real. For years I prayed that God would just come down and heal me without me seeking help or working through it. I just wanted the pain to be gone. However, I realized that I couldn’t let it go so God couldn’t take it.
“My prayers did open up paths to healing. Each time I was ready I found the right therapist for what I needed at that time. Looking back I could see how God had held me in his arms and guided my path where it needed to go so I could heal. Sometimes that meant going places that were painful and difficult. Sometimes it meant tearing down the walls I had built so I could get to those memories. Through it all He had never deserted me even when I had walked away or blamed Him.
“The love of God is more powerful, more infinite, more glorious than we can ever imagine. I have caught glimpses of it as if from afar and even those shadows of His true self leave me in awe. He is there for you and always will be whether you can feel Him there or not.
I learned that forgiveness does not mean that I condone in any way what others did to me. I don’t have to understand it or make sure that the other person knows the pain they have caused. Forgiveness is being willing to let go of judgment, thoughts of revenge, pain and bitterness and allow God to enact his perfect judgement with mercy and justice. That is why the forgiveness is for me and not for my abuser. It allows me to give my burden to the Savior and carry it no more.
“No matter what horrible things have happened to you I want you to know that God still loves you and will heal you. The paths are difficult but are worth every painful step. Each person has their own unique combination of treatments and gifts from God to get to that healing place. God will guide you if you are willing to trust Him enough to keep moving forward. There is light at the end and it is more glorious and wonderful than anything you could have hoped for.”
You must think I’m strong to give me what I’m going through.
Forgive me if I’m wrong but this looks like more than I can do- on my own.
I know I’m not strong enough to be everything that I’m supposed to be.
I give up, I’m not strong enough.
Hands of mercy, won’t you cover me,
Lord right now I’m asking you to be strong enough for the both of us.
Maybe that’s the point, to reach the point of giving up.
Because when I’m finally at rock bottom that’s when I start looking up and reaching out.
I’m broken down to nothing but I’m still holding onto the one thing-
You are God and you are strong when I am weak.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
I don’t have to be strong enough.
Matthew West, “Strong Enough”