Friday, August 8, 2008

Darkness, Despair, Denial

Near the beginning of 2002, a new friend of mine, who has expertise in this area, suggested I read The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Dan Allender and use the accompanying workbook. Even if you were never sexually abused as a child, she said, this book could help you with some of the issues you’re dealing with. This month I have restarted the workbook for the fourth time with the intention that this time I will get to the end.

Today I completed chapter two. I have had many of the “secondary symptoms” listed such as depression, addictions and compulsions (sexual, eating, emotional dependence on others and more), self-esteem, self-destructiveness and physical symptoms that could point to “the stress of blocking memories and emotional pain.”

I can see progress. My depression has lifted significantly in the last two months and at least some of my addictions and compulsions are under control—thanks to God’s work in my life. But there is much yet that needs healing and there is much about myself that I still don’t understand. I have begun to see things I never could before and am becoming aware that what I thought was the reason for some of my dysfunction may, in fact, not be the primary cause; that there is something earlier, something on the edges of my thoughts that I am yet unable to touch. I know I have spent much of my life in denial of many truths that God has only begun to unveil to me in the last six or seven years and I suspect there are more.

Honesty with one’s self is a difficult task. It can stir up pains that seem intolerable, pains that we have kept at bay by refusing to examine them and the reasons behind them. I remember one time my world was shaken to my core and I came completely undone. My husband, children and I were visiting family I hadn’t seen in a decade or two. One family member casually mentioned that my father had been bi-polar. It was a knife driven into my chest. Bi-polar is a mental illness. Mental illness is hereditary. Did this mean that I was mentally ill? If I was mentally ill, that would mean my perceptions were warped and if that was true then all I had believed was at the foundation of the many problems in my life might not be true at all. Instead of being able to blame someone else for the pains in my life, could I and my misperceptions be at the root of it all?

It was more than I could bear. My world and everything about it came crashing down on my head. I was so overwhelmed with the thought that my dysfunction might be at the root of my difficulties, rather than the person I blamed, that for three days I couldn’t stop crying, my head felt sure to burst from a migraine and my body and mind slowed down so much that anything I did was like a robot wading through thick molasses. It took me a full year before I was willing to admit that perhaps my fears were true and finally made an appointment with my doctor to discuss the possibility of mental illness. Since then I have been treated for depression several times and currently I am not only taking medication but have been visiting a psychiatrist weekly for the last twenty-one months.

There have been times, even recently, when unknown pain has thrust itself forward unexpectedly and I have quickly pulled back because it was too much to examine. And yet until I am able to face the truth and admit its verity, I am crippled by denial and keeping that area of my life away from the probing light of God—he who can heal all brokenness that we bring to him. “Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked one lame man. He did. Do I? In all areas of my life? Will I allow God to pull out those things I’ve hidden deep in the darkness? Am I willing to look at them in the brightness of his light?

Thanks be to God that he doesn’t move faster than we are able. He knows how I would crash and shut down if faced with more than I can bear and so he works in me slowly, step-by-step. The process of sanctification and healing is a life-long project. It never ends. There is always more of our sinfulness and depravity yet to be revealed to us. I want the courage to face it all; to continue growing in all ways; to leave no part of my life untouched by God’s mercy, grace and healing.

God, thank you for all the amazing ways you’ve worked in my life. You have done miracles and made changes in me I thought could never happen. You have drawn me to an intimacy with you that I thought beyond possible. But I haven’t “arrived.” There is so much more of me I need to give to you. There are so many parts of my life still in untouched darkness. Thank you for your patience and for your healing. Continue to bring your light into my life and so increase my union with you. Thank you for your love.

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