It’s midnight and I find myself awake and anxious.
Crawling into a cozy bed is every adult’s favorite part of the day, right? You’ve worked all day, logged 12,000 steps on that FitBit, and you’ve chased your children around. Bedtime has arrived and life is grand!
Lately, I’m finding the opposite to be true. I dread going to bed. I can fill my day with intentional activities. Spending time with a friend, reading a good book, journaling…I could go on. When my head hits the pillow, the game changes. I can do everything right—develop a good bedtime routine, take a prescribed sleep medication, crawl under my weighted blanket, listen to a sleep meditation video on YouTube. My mind still begins to race. Anxiety kicks in. Fear rises up. Tears fill my eyes. I get nauseous. I desperately want to crawl out of my own skin. I toss and turn over and over again until I find myself in a tearful, anxious place unable to find sleep. I wonder how I’m ever going to function normally. Life seems impossible to navigate.
My life is worthless.
I’m never going to be normal.
Why did this have to happen?
These are just some of the thoughts that plague my mind when I’m trying to sleep. It becomes a vicious cycle when these thoughts breed more guilt and shame BECAUSE I’m having these thoughts.
I shouldn’t be so selfish. At least I have a warm place to sleep.
The world doesn’t revolve around me. Just get over it.
The cycle goes on and on…
Navigating through trauma brings about a roller coaster of emotions. Anyone that has told you otherwise is….wrong. Some moments you feel like you are making progress and the light starts to shine at the end of the long tunnel. Other moments, you are surrounded by darkness, you feel ready to quit, and wonder if you will ever make it through this. Healing from abuse is almost never just about the physical or sexual part—there is a mental and emotional component to abuse that can sometimes be even harder to overcome than what you may have physically endured. As I’m working through my trauma, one of the hardest pieces to reconcile is the words that were repeatedly said to me in my abusive relationships—words that bring shame and disgust, worthlessness and heartbreak.
Can you relate? Are you a survivor who has been broken by words from your abuser? These words stick with you. When you hear them and you aren’t prepared to fight back, you begin to believe the words you hear about yourself. During the healing process, the brain has to develop new neuro pathways and fight against old thoughts you may have about yourself or how you interact with others. This is hard. It takes work and consistency.
When I was laying in bed in an anxious, crying heap I had a choice to make: I could continue to lay there in my anxiety and pain or I could fight back by choosing to believe the truth.
I chose to get up and fight.
This episode of sleepless anxiety happened 3 months ago. Spoiler alert: I did make it through. Since that time, I have come much farther than I could have imagined. I have worked hard, dug deep, and found some strength I didn’t know I had to work through memories and moments of my life that have negatively affected who I am today. I remember the day I left my therapist’s office after having processed through all the traumatic memories. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more victorious or free. I sat in my car with tears in my eyes and whispered, “Thank you Jesus. Thank you for leading me to a place where I could find freedom and for being constant even when I could not be.” I drove away, knowing I wasn’t completely done but the hardest part was over.
Soon enough, I realized that picking up the pieces and dealing with the aftermath can be just as hard as the trauma itself. Sure, I had been able to sort out the guilt and shame. I know now that abusers spot vulnerable people a mile away and you almost never see them coming unless you know what to look for. I know that I made several excuses for how I was treated and even how I treated myself. I know that what happened was something I didn’t cause and I don’t need to carry that shame. I can look back at choices I made in those moments and think to myself, “I was surviving. I made the only choice I had: to survive the moment I was in.” So, was it really a choice?
But my trust in other people is still somewhat broken. My coping mechanisms are still poor. My interactions with other people can quickly become affected by how I react based on my past. I’m eager to start dating, yet I found myself extremely anxious at the thought of even trying. How am I supposed to move on with my life now and be a healthy person in spite of what I’ve experienced?
As soon as these feelings kicked in, I found myself back in that place of anxiety. Unable to sleep, wanting desperately to make the pain go away. A few nights ago, I was in this same place. I was even more frustrated than before. I am supposed to be healed now. Will I EVER get to a place where I don’t have these little episodes of anxiety? Will my life ALWAYS revolve around this dark part of my life?
I was faced with the same choice that plagued me 3 months earlier: continue to drown in the pain or get up and fight.
I chose to get up and fight. I focused on what I what I KNEW in the bottom of my soul to be true—about myself, about my family and friends, about my past, and about my life.
Let me tell you—it’s not an easy choice and it’s not always the choice I make. Sometimes I make this choice kicking and screaming, led there by close friends who remind me of who I am and what is true. There is a time and place for allowing the pain to just be what it is and allowing myself to feel that pain, but sometimes I have to choose to believe the truth even when it feels impossible.
“What??!?? Believe the truth? What truth? My feelings are all over the place. I don’t even know what’s true anymore. “
I get it. Trust me, I get it from the deepest part of my soul. These feelings are normal.
Allow me to share a quote by a young author—
“You’re not in control of what life throws at you, but you are in control of the fight.” – Rachel Hollis
My sweet survivor—you didn’t choose this. You didn’t choose what you are healing from. Neither did I. We get to choose how we respond to it, how we fight back, and how we heal. Each time I chose to believe truth over the lies in my head, its one step closer to becoming a healthier person. You can do this too, even if it’s just one piece of truth. Pick a tiny slice of truth and focus on it. Repeat it over and over. Own those words and allow those words to heal you from the inside out. Maybe it’s a favorite quote, song lyrics, or a Bible verse…whatever it is—read it, feel the words, believe your truth. Maybe praying is your way of seeing truth. Pray harder than you ever have, if that’s what you choose to do. Fight back against the lies you were told and the abuse you endured by starting with a simple piece of truth that speaks about who you are and what you are worth. Each step we take in the right direction takes power away from the trauma.
I’m in a place now where I KNOW I’m going to be okay. I couldn’t have said that 3 months ago and I still have work to do, but freedom is here and it’s attainable. Because I know the truth now.
I’m begging you—think about what is true. Exchange that truth for the lies we were told, the lies we create in our heads, and the lies the world wants to tell us. We are worth so much more than that.
Take the step. Choose to fight. Believe your truth.
Angela is a survivor of abuse currently working towards her healing. Her posts are her thoughts as she walks through this process, hoping she can inspire and help other survivors in their own healing process.
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