Note to Reader
This is a twelve month project which aims to bring to light the individual pain experienced by young women and to show how their unique stories make them who they are. We ask you to feel with an open heart and respect their stories.
So I dated one more time after that but I ended it right around the time I went to visit friends in North Carolina and I was desperately trying to figure out what I was doing with my life. If I was going to stay in Orlando or move up to Raleigh. It was the week of Thanksgiving and the week I got the tattoo on my arm. Which had been on my mind for a little while because it means, “My delight is in her.” And I think I needed that as a permanent reminder that regardless of who is in my life, or what was going on, that this is actually all I needed in terms of someone’s love, affection, and delight in me.
I feel like the film was finally being cleared from my eyes...
I think that after that trip, where I had some really interesting conversations with friends that I wasn’t expecting to have, not necessarily related to my particular past or situation, but I had my eyes opened to a few things. I feel like the film was finally being cleared from my eyes, which had been the first time in at least a year and a half of just blindly going about my life. Trying to make the most of whatever good I could get my hands on. A few weeks after that I met my husband online and the rest is history from there.
The pain from the situation with my sister and the pain I inflicted on myself because of my addiction to pornography, and then the situation with the guy, it took awhile and actually I would say I’ve had quite a bit of healing. Part of it is due to time passing and part of it due to my heart becoming softened again. I feel like I had a very hardened heart for a few years after I moved south. However, I would say the greatest place of healing I’ve come to actually only came about a month ago because of something else that happened in my life. This situation was so earth-shattering for both my husband and I, our worlds were just flipped upside down completely by God which I think we desperately both needed. I think I’ve experienced the most peace and love from the Lord in the last month then I’ve known in several years. I think I’d gotten to such a point for so many years that even though I was serving and doing things, there was a lot that was just in my head rather than truly heartfelt. Not to say that I didn’t have a decent relationship with the Lord at that point but I think it was more out of obligation than true desire. I think the greatest place of healing has been the last month and it’s been a miracle.
Even if I’m not intentionally dealing with the pain, I think I’m learning or relearning how to forgive myself, or accept forgiveness from other people because of my stubbornness. Just being open and having honest communication with people, and learning how to be open about a situation as soon as it happens is the quickest way to healing. Because the longer it sits and festers, the more negative ramifications could come from it physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally.
There was healing with my sister. I don’t really know at what point in time that happened. I definitely know that she did forgive me. I just can’t recall when it happened because it was nine years ago, so it’s hard for me to remember. I think it took awhile for the awkwardness of that situation to kind of dissolve. But my relationship is great with her now.
I would say for the most part I’ve had significant closure on some of the bigger things that occurred in my life. Fortunately, all praise to God, I have zero desire or thoughts of anything related to pornography anymore. It’s just not even on my radar, which is amazing! Because that particularly, I’ve learned through a lot of counseling and reading, is one of those things because it’s a visual thing. Where alcohol it destroys your body but with pictures, if you see certain things over and over again, pathways are carved into your brain, so it’s hard to forget stuff. If anything that’s what I deal with occasionally. I have to be careful what I watch on TV, what I read, especially working in the art industry now. I don’t want to say that some art is pornographic, because it is done in a fine art way as a celebration of the body, fortunately I can look at that and see it as beauty rather than sexual or a source of pain for me. Which is amazing! For the most part, I’ve seen a lot of closure. Some of it was intentional and really difficult to get to that place. Conversations with the person that took advantage of me, a lot of tears and figuring out how to admit that to my family and the guy I was dating at the time. And just being in a place of forgiveness because I think if you can’t forgive someone who has done things like that to you, even if you’ve moved past it, there’s still something that you’re hanging onto. So I think forgiveness is a crucial part of healing from pain whether it’s self-inflicted or others have caused it.
Forgiveness is a crucial part of healing from pain.
All that matters is that God loves me and delights in me...And that’s enough to get me out of bed every day.
These events have massively shaped me. This may sound silly but I’ve said this before to a few people, in high school I was very vanilla. I wasn’t super eventful, I tried to fly under the radar, I don’t love a lot of attention. Other than the academic and extracurricular identity, I feel like I didn’t start to develop into I was going to be until I was in late college and then within the last couple of years. Just because so many things have happened, good and bad, painful or not. I think more than anything, these things have taught me a lot about who I am just as an individual, as a child of God. Because I think up to a certain point, when I was about twenty, I didn’t really have a heart relationship with God. Even though I went to church all my life, I could say Bible verses left and right, but nothing really was personal for me. I think once I started having different experience, especially the painful ones, whether they guided me down the wrong path for the time being or they guided me more quickly towards the Lord, either way I always came back to my faith. It has shown me that the stuff I was taught growing up has just become so personal for me. I started reading the Bible in a more personal manner. It has helped me realize that regardless of the pain that I’ve experienced, all that matters is that God loves me and delights in me, hence the tattoos that I have. And that’s enough to get me out of bed every day.
I think the most growth happens during pain and difficulty, or afterwards especially. Because you realize it’s not the end of the world and that it’s not going to get the best of you. There’s hope and growth to be had, some sooner and some later. So I think it’s shaped me into a much more insightful person. Because I see when I’m going through something painful that I can approach it a little bit differently and know there is lights at the end of the tunnel. It’s not just dark and damp and I’m sitting in a cave crying forevermore with no way out. I just have to get up and walk out of the cave. I think I’ve thrown myself way too many pity parties throughout the years.
I can definitely find the good in my story. Not that people who have very vanilla lives can’t relate to others but its difficult when you haven’t had things go on in your life to learn from and grow from. Because more people than not have had horrible things happen in their lives. So it makes connecting to others so much easier for me. Even if I don’t get their particular circumstance, I understand pain, difficulties, and that I was at the end of my rope not knowing what to do. Being able to explain to people that you can’t rely on yourself. First and foremost you rely on God and trust that He’s going to get you out of whatever situation and not just say it, but believe it. But also to be in community with other people, to have friends to talk to, because you can’t go through stuff on your own. Even if you come out stronger at the end from going through something on your own, you’re gonna come out resentful to other people because they didn’t help you. But it was because you were too prideful to ask for the help. Which has been my issue occasionally.
I think a lot of people are way too independent and self-reliant. But we were made to be in community with people and with others who are like-minded. We’re not out there to just shake a finger at each other and say, “Oh you horrible person! You let this happen!” or “You did this to yourself!” You’re supposed to find people who will love you regardless of what happens. Even if they get upset with you when they’re trying to help you, just let them help.
I feel like the growth part is continually making me stronger and more whole. I feel like for several years there was a lot that was just missing. Even though I had a relationship with the Lord, great friends, great community. I feel like so much of what I was doing felt like an obligation. But once I started dealing with the pain, I was able to start becoming who I was again without a gaping hole in my side. Dealing with the pain has improved my relationship with my parents, with my sister, with my husband, and I think the willingness to heal is key.
I think the willingness to heal is key.
The common thread in my story has been mercy. I think mercy includes God’s love for me. If He didn’t love me or people, He wouldn’t be as forgiving and merciful and gracious as He is. Mercy includes grace and that’s a big one for me. I think everyone can understand that. Grace is undeserved and that’s something I’ve had to learn how to accept being the stubborn person I am. I’ve also had to learn how to be gracious in times of pain. Whether it’s to myself which has been super hard, or to other people who have caused pain. The closer I am to the Lord and understanding His character, the more I desire to be like Him, and then in turn I can show that to other people. Because there really is no way to be truly loving, gracious, and merciful to other people without God.
I would say the world and it’s perception of beauty and worth have definitely affected my perception of those two things, especially with what I dealt with while dealing with pornography and as a teenager. What the world perceives as being desirable or sexy in an attempt to get the opposite sex to be attracted to you definitely skewed my perspective for a while. It definitely messed with my appreciation and understanding of what sex is actually meant for and supposed to achieve. It’s so weird to think about at times because though I had those experiences and situations occur, I don’t regret them because of the growth that has taken place. On the flip side of it all, growing and looking at it in hindsight, it has been really insightful for me. It has shown me what most people still look at, whether that be clothes, make up, or fitness that’s supposed to make you special; it’s not all you are. And that’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned. I’m more than what I look like or whether people think I’m desirable or not. What matters is if they can see I value myself and that I find my identity in Christ. It’s not just outer beauty, it’s inner beauty. So who am I now? I am delighted in, a work in progress, and loved just as I am. I do know my worth. Absolutely.
I definitely think my scars whether they are visible to the world or just to me, I know they are beautiful and something only God can make beautiful. I think a lot of people are ashamed of their scars. Whether because it’s something they did to themselves or they allowed to happen, but ultimately my scars are the beauty from ashes. They remind me of where I’ve been and what I’ve been through, because those experiences have brought me to who I am now. And if that’s what it took to get me to where I am now with the Lord then I’m okay with it. Look anywhere in the Bible, it’s full of people who needed to have hard things happen to them for them to be able to see God. Sometimes that’s what it takes.
I would say to those reading this: work through the pain as soon as you can. It’s not easy to talk about it but the longer you wait the harder it’ll get, or you’ll wait years and the pain will be pressed down to such a point that you never get closure. In terms of making bad decisions, try not to but if it happens either in the situation or hindsight, rely on God for strength, on family, on friends because they will be the ones to help you work through things. Because being alone will not be beneficial for you in the short or long term. Remember that you need to let pain be a catalyst for growth. If you don’t let it become that then you’ll become bitter and resentful, and that will effect more than just you. When you let the pain become a catalyst for growth, it opens the door for healing.
Sharing my story has been beneficial because some people know parts of my story, some people know all of it, some people know little snippets here and there, but I think what has happened to me or I put myself through, I think there will be a lot of women or girls who have experienced it. I’m sure a lot of them will be afraid to speak up especially with one or both of the situations, whether it be pornography or being taken advantage of. Both of those you have to be willing to talk about because if you don’t, it’s just going to destroy who you are inside and how you see yourself. I think being able to share this has been incredibly helpful and freeing. Hopefully my story will be relatable, and some can connect with it, and it will inspire them to go talk to someone or get the help they need.