To move forward in life, sometimes you first have to look back.
In the beginning when I disclosed my abuse, depression set in. That is when my life took a serious turn south. I not only had to work through the abuse and the accompanying self-blame, confusion, shame and self-loathing, but I had to deal with depression.
As I have said in previous posts, I have had depression off and on throughout my life. However, when I had my “ah-ha” moment and the confusion began to lift about the abuse, it was as if I was traumatized right then and there, years after my abuser had passed.
This was always a little mystifying to me. For nineteen years I knew this priest. There was no trauma – the “shake in your boots” type trauma. There was a “don’t ever allow yourself to be alone with him” type trauma, if you can call it that. However, during that time, I thought he was a friend.. A friend who crossed the line, but a friend nonetheless. I am embarrassed to say that today even understanding the dynamics of abuse. This is not an unusual phenomenon in abusive situations.
It was the fact that he didn’t cross the line far enough that made me constantly question whether it was abuse.
The abuse started around 1980. He died in 1999. I disclosed the abuse in 2008. And here I am, on the dawning of 2015, more messed up mentally than I have been at any point in my life.
What’s up with that?
There have been well-meaning people in my life who have suggested that I put the difficult childhood and the abuse behind me and simply move ahead. Message received: “Get over it.”
What I would have given if it was that simple. It was difficult to move ahead when I could barely survive the days. And I needed help doing even as little as that.
I realized that those people didn’t understand. They cared for me deeply and wanted to escort me out of my darkness. They simply didn’t understand that the monsters of a deeply hurtful childhood as well as clergy abuse were holding me there. It was going to take some time to get out.
I found that the key to moving ahead was to live one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time.
I can look back and see that some of those monsters have lost their grip and have fallen away into the great abyss. Healing has taken place. When I think about the abuse, I no longer double over in grief and pain. Sometimes I get mad at the priest and think, “You jerk.” At times I am overwhelmed again, but it is short-lived.
My mind and emotions are no longer consumed by the abuse. They are consumed by – ok, I’ll say it – mental illness. At this point, I think my doctor is onto something with the mood disorder diagnosis. The anti-depressants are now out of my system for the first time in probably six years. My body feels so much better.
But hang on Harvey. Anxiety has arrived on the scene. And when it hits, it hits! I am on edge and short with people. I grow angry very quickly. I am not a happy camper and neither are those around me.
I am becoming more familiar with my new existence and learning how to manage it. I know the anxiety fairy can tap me on the head with her little wand at any time and my world will fall apart.
For instance, my family went to a birthday party today. I felt fine before we left, but just in case it might be needed, I put an anti-anxiety pill in my pocket prior to leaving.
I needed it.
On the drive over, I felt the anxiety level begin to rise. It is perceptible. When I began to snap at the family, I knew it was time to reach in and take my little yellow friend. That did the trick. My mood settled back down before we arrived at the party and I had a good time.
Moving ahead. No longer looking back.
I am no longer held hostage emotionally by the past abuse. I am moving ahead. This blog is one piece of evidence. While the beginning stages of writing it were extremely painful, that is not so much the case now. As a result, I feel like I can devote more time to it, to you, rather than just surviving .
This wouldn’t be the case if healing hadn’t happened. And it has happened. I can’t point to any one point in time or one event that did it. Clearly Jesus had his hand in the mix the entire time. I leaned on him so hard. I cried on his shoulder. I yelled at him. A lot. He spoke to me through my spiritual director, through the sacraments, Eucharistic adoration, prayer, music, scripture, spiritual reading, journaling, and through others. It was work.
Healing has come to me with him walking beside me, and with me at the foot of the cross. One of the deepest desolations I felt was aloneness because no one knew what I was suffering.
One day in prayer I felt as if he told me that he knew exactly what I was suffering. He knew exactly what I felt – on that day, during the initial days of the abuse – when I was so confused, and ashamed, and blamed myself, and hated myself – he knew. And he knows today. I don’t even need to tell him what is on my heart and how I am hurting. He knows. He is here. He is with me.
Today, at this moment, I have consolation. He knows my pain. I am not alone nor is it as important that a human understand exactly what I feel. He does.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring for me emotionally – contentment, anxiety or depression. The moods fluctuate a lot. Managing them is a work in progress but progress is being made.
Jesus was abused and suffered agony at the hands of his spiritual leaders. He died, descended into hell, and he rose from the dead. This is the Paschal Mystery. He opened the gates to heaven for us and gave us the hope of salvation and [pain-free] life with our Lord forever.
We suffer our own Paschal Mystery: we were abused and suffered agony at the hands of our spiritual leaders. A part of us died and descended into a hell – darkness – and we have the hope of resurrection into the light of new life in Jesus. Pain-free. Forever.
It is there for you. Healing is there for you as well.
There is hope. There always has been hope. Our journeys are so different, yet so similar. What worked for me may not work for you, but know this: You are not alone. You are not to blame. The evil one can use shame that does not belong to you, rather to your abuser.
My prayers go with you. And remember, one day at a time. Maybe one hour at a time.