I’m gripping two syrup smeared plates as I lean over the back of a kitchen chair. I look up from clearing the breakfast dishes to listen to the CNN pundits discuss the latest accusations of sexual assault in Hollywood.
I’m lured to the sofa for the rest of the update. As I lower myself to sitting, I can’t remember if I put the dishes in the dishwasher or back on the table.
Before pulling a worn out throw over my shoulder, I lick leftover syrup off my fingertips and dry my hand with my shirt. I plop a pillow behind my head, and stretch out on the couch, rolling over to face the TV.
I listen for a while.
Then my hearing dulls. I turn on my back, pull the blanket under my chin, and tuck my arms underneath its warmth. I stare up at nothing in particular.
My thoughts turn to my to-do-list. It’s only basic laundry, dinner, and cleaning today. But my body rebels. My legs feel weighed down with heavy fishing sinkers.
Nevertheless, I push myself up to sitting. I pause and inhale deeply. The oxygen energizes my lower limbs and I stand and pick up the scattered toys. I toss them in the playroom. Then my burst of motivation wanes. I can organize it later, I reason to myself.
I return to my warm spot on the sofa. The morning show hosts still buzz as background noise. Our two year old ambles over to me offering a miniature cup of tea and a plastic biscuit. She’s taller and perpendicular to my horizontal sprawl. I can probably shut my eyes for a while if she keeps this barista role-play going.
In the evening, I manage to generate a decent dinner, but I forego a shower. I sponge splattered sauce from the counter with one hand and stroke the small of my back with the other. I should stretch my back one of these days, I tell myself. Because I’ve never had back issues before.
My husband and I tag team the kids’ bedtime routine. His participation motivates me like race horses motivate one another on the track. Except my pace is like watching it in super slow motion.
Eventually, all little voices hush and it’s our time.
But my unhealed past still haunts my present. Especially in the bedroom.
I know if I want to be a healthy Christian, and wife, and mother, I need to have a balanced perspective of bedroom life in a marriage. Books help. And I’ve employed a language of healthy self talk.
But lately nausea rolls in like a steady choking fog. Sexual touch elicits an inner scream reminiscent of the one of nightmares. Gaping jaw. Wide panicked eyes. And a loud silence.
My skin ripples with disgust.
Why am I feeling this way. Especially now. I’ve come so far. The Rosbergs and The Penners coach me well. And my husband’s patience pastors my performance anxiety. His kindness perpetuates peace within me.
Even so, something’s up tonight. And many nights lately.
I make excuses. I hurry the process. Anything to remedy this stirring stomach and skittish skin.
I smell a faint hint of his disappointment. He masks it with a kind embrace, but I know him too well.
A few hours later I turn toward him. I face his back. His breath whirrs and stills in the slow rhythm of REM sleep.
But calm is cornered to his side of the bed.
I don’t know what’s happening for sure. But I might have a clue.
Before the sun rises my sister and I share the quietness. She clinks each egg on the side of the pan as I tick keys on my laptop.
“When did you get these new plates?” she asks pulling one from the shelf.
Suddenly, an old red hot companion boils from my stomach to my heart.
There it is. I tell God. What is that feeling?
I remember its consoling heat when I was a kid. I remember it as a young adult. It was my protector back then. No one was brave enough to dare breach it. Or that was my plan anyway. Create a beast of contempt to keep pain at bay.
I didn’t need it anymore, though. Why would it return with my sister? And why would I need it with my kids? Lately, my words seethed and roared at the tiniest infraction against me.
“Lord, I need you to tell me what’s going on.”
“You bought those plates two weeks ago and no one noticed. ‘No one sees you.’ The old lie planted from childhood is waking up. And it’s time, now, to go to that place in your heart. Will you trust me?”
After I became a Christian, I did some work of forgiveness toward others. Shortly after that the “No one sees You” lie went into quasi-hibernation.
But like all lies and all trauma, it can’t stay underground forever. It surfaces in symptoms of some sort. It surfaces in attitudes, emotions and physical reactions. Oftentimes stories told by other brave survivors will trigger memories.With minimal self-awareness we can let the signs begin to tell us our story.
For decades sexual assault accusations of powerful men in Hollywood and the music industry tried to crash the shores of our nation through mainline media. Yet, for decades, like sea walls blocking the water from breaching the shores, fear, hush settlements, intimidation, and manipulation prevented the truth from making landfall.
But on October 5, 2017 the walls exploded under the pressure. Women’s truth smashed our shores; we were all paying attention. The sex abuse accusations rolled over Hollywood and our nation like a storm inciting the sea to come in closer. It couldn’t be contained anymore. It never should have been.
As the weeks stretched on, other women scaled the wall like Wonder Woman as she entered No-Man’s-Land. Or in the case of America, No-Woman’s-Land. Each braved the possibility of a barrage of word bullets and judgement. If history were to repeat itself, she would be second guessed, ridiculed and hushed.
The message of the moment poked a spoon into the pot of my soul and stirred up several settled and forgotten memories.
Each story, a stir, swirling old memories to the surface. Old memories dense with pain, and spiced with shame.
I was surprised irritated and hopeless. Do I have to go back there? It wasn’t that big of a deal compared to what others have gone through.
“What happened to you, happened to you.” Holy Spirit whispered.
Denial doesn’t keep it hidden. It bleeds out into your family and other areas of your life in different behaviors and mindsets that seem unrelated. But they are not.
I’m hungry for healing. It’s not comfortable. But like cleaning a house, it always gets worse in the process before it gets better.
The first step is admitting, ‘What happened to you happened to you’.
Be the Wonder Woman of your own world. Scale the wall to No-Womans’s-Land and share your story with a trusted friend or leader.
Seek God for ways to pursue healing.
Not sure where to turn first?
Go to your church’s website and search for “pastoral care”. Email the Pastoral Care Pastor or the Women’s Pastor and ask for resources. Support groups, counseling, inner healing prayer etc. It may take courage to make this step. It did for me. You can do it too.
Visit RAINN, (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) the founders of the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
Or call the hotline 800-656-HOPE.
“Whether you’re looking for support, information, advice, or a referral, our trained support specialists are ready to help.” -RAINN
Whether you are female or male these resources are for you. Men are sexually assaulted too.
What happened to you happened to you.
I believe you. It’s safe to come out of hiding and pursue your healing.
I’m a work in progress too. You are not alone.