Friday, December 5, 2014

The Lenses of Abuse

(This is an encore post from John Joseph.)

I had dinner with a friend the other night and started sharing the history of my abuse with him. His reaction was kind, but his words belied a simplistic view of my pain. “Just let it go,” he urged, over and over. I gently pushed back on his premise, trying to help him see that I am a person who carries deep pain and one who is doing all I can to process it with the help of my therapist, my friends, journaling, and spirituality. I’m not sure he ever “got it” though he finally stopped telling me to “get over it.”

This experience reminded me that I see life through the lenses of my abuse. I cannot completely explain why the pain is still so present in my daily life. I cannot totally tease out every reason that life seems so sexualized and that it taints all with an off-color hue of sadness. I cannot fully explain the lingering effects of violation, or the lies that still hover in my mind that I am “damaged goods.” I can’t explain why I still feel that the abuse was my fault and that no one would love me if they really knew me. I just know that these are the things I still feel deeply.

My recovery doesn’t seem to progress in a linear pattern. It doesn’t always seem to move from Point A to Point B. It zigs. It zags. I feel great one day then BAM! It hits me square between the eyes. I heard someone say in a recovery meeting, “While you’re trying to get better the devil is doing pushups.” Maybe there’s some truth to that. Whether you believe in a personal devil or not isn’t the point. Abuse and the residual effects of it are devils enough. 

 I hope to take these abuse-colored glasses off someday. Or, I hope to at least be able to adjust them enough to realize that there are some fantastic things in my life despite the abuse. I am healed more than I was a few years ago, so I know there is some progress. Maybe in a way these lenses help me to see the wounds in others and to know that the last thing I need to tell them is to just “let it go” or to “get over it.” Healing takes time.


Mark said...

a few years ago I shared in a small fellowship group that I was healing from sexual abuse. A man approached me afterwards and said "You know what you said, that was me too. You just gotta forgive and let it go."

He was right about forgiveness. But his own life showed that he had not been successful in "letting it go".

He had a history of failed marriages, high blood pressure, jumping from job to job and opportunity to opportunity, and some other additive behaviors.

I believe that in his frantic attempts to heal his own pain, he had spent his life trying to fill that void with other people, places and things.

Regardless of his words, his life showed that he had not been able "to just let it go."

Anonymous said...

Abuse has shaped who I am today. Both positive and negative. I still feel that I am not capable of loving or of receiving love. I see how my love hurts others or becomes the object of ridicule and embarrassment when Im brave enough to express it. I struggle with defining love. When i feel what i think is love I am shamed for it. So I tell myself to get over it. I try to force myself to "just let it go." I try hard to kill off those feelings of love as I know it. But somehow in the process I lose part of who I am. Again.

Cec Murphey said...

Dear Anonymous,
I've rarely read a comment on this blog that touched me like yours did. It saddens me to read about the pain that oozes out of your words.
I'm not a therapist, but you would like to talk with me, please email me at

HopeForLove said...

What Mark said about the man who approached him sounds like my former husband, who divorced me in March, after leaving me in June 2012. He was sexually abused by a priest as a teen, and his father was abusive physically in punishments.
He said to me at one point, "It wasn't a very happy marriage anyway, was it?" We were married 31 years when he left me. He has already taken up with a woman 10 years younger than him, though everyone is shocked at his behavior after seeing us as a couple for so long and involved in so many things.
I go to Celebrate Recovery for codependency, and I hear so many testimonies that sound like my former husband. I am never going to give up hope for him, though it is very difficult for me.

Roger Mann said...

This stuff really hits us at the core of who we are and who we were meant to be. We can lose ourselves and our ability to reach out and 'touch' another human being in a meaningful and healthy way. The shame becomes that scarlet letter invisible to others but all we can see when we look in our mirror.