In October I challenged myself to face one of my biggest fears stemming from the molestation. Men.
I have had very limited experiences with the opposite sex. In fact, technically, I have only had one “boyfriend” my entire life, and that was in the fifth grade…I don’t really think that counts. Sure, I have gone on a few dates, but they were few and far between. Usually, I ran away any time males came near me until I got to know them. In fact, it took one friend two years of professing his “love” for me to feel safe around him. If a guy so much as looked my way, I felt threatened and unsafe. I felt that I immediately needed to protect myself. HE WOULD HURT ME, somehow. As much as I’ve wanted relationships my whole life, I’ve been terrified of them much, much more.
So, when I started working through the molestation and its aftereffects, I knew that along with facing it, I had to move forward. So, I joined an online dating site. This way I could control who I communicated with and when. I could delete someone from my matches with one click. It was one baby step in the right direction. Since then I have actually made quite a bit of progress, but not without bumps and bruises. I cannot count the number of anxiety attacks I’ve had as a direct result of this “baby step”. Every step of the way has been anxiety stricken. Merely creating a profile took me two weeks, and then I didn’t make it official for another week. The first time a less than desirable guy contacted me, I slept with my switchblade in my hand. Navigating each of the different “stages” of communication has felt comparable to sitting in a room full of clowns-I hate clowns.
In fact, there were many occasions when I have simply prayed to God for contentment. I prayed to be content being single and alone my entire life, to be content living without the blessings of a marriage and children. In fact, I didn’t pray, I begged. I’m not sure what God’s answer is, but I can tell you I am not content with my current singlehood.
I have been navigating through these baby steps and coming down of numerous ledges, but last night was by far the worst. This is a bit embarrassing to admit. I have been communicating with a seemingly nice guy, who lives within driving distant, for a few weeks now. He asked for my personal phone number. After some good-hearted peer pressure from friends, I gave it to him. Then, I panicked. I barely slept that night. I can’t tell you what specifically frightened me, most likely because it was highly irrational. However, throughout the day yesterday, the more rational side of my brain was dominant and I was actually getting excited. I knew this was something I wanted. Then, it happened. He called.
But, I didn’t answer, I couldn’t. I simply stared straight ahead for a good thirty minutes, like a spooked deer.
My sister knew what was happening the past few days. She has been with me every step of the way. So when I called in tears, she wasn’t surprised. As we talked, I cried and cried and cried. I went to my safe place, the bathroom. (That was the only “safe” place when my abuser was around. Since then, I have always gone into a bathroom when I got anxious.) I was literally curled up in the corner of the bathroom sobbing. I was terrified; full-fledged panic attack style-chest pain, sweating, hyperventilating, room spinning, etc.
What frightened me so much? Well, for one, getting what I have always wanted…yes, that is scary. Also, I am constantly afraid that men want what I don’t want to give them. Let’s be realistic, that is true for the majority of men, especially godless men. (Sorry guys, but we know what is on your mind.) This guy is not godless though. He seems like a very nice, God-fearing man. So, rationally, I know I do not need to be afraid of him. In fact, I wasn’t afraid of him. But I can’t get that thought out of my head. Deep down, that wasn’t what was happening. I have worked hard and come so far, I honestly didn’t see this coming.
When people would ask me if I felt guilt or shame about the abuse, I would retort with a resounding “NO, I was a kid!” I was so proud of that. I knew it wasn’t my fault. But, what I didn’t realize was that I did feel guilty when I was young and that feeling has stayed with me to this day. I felt guilty because someone I loved wanted something I wouldn’t give him. I stopped him because I didn’t want him to touch me anymore. I loved him, he is family. I felt guilty because I disappointed him. In fact, I have a very early memory of abuse that has bothered me because I can’t remember the whole picture. I can remember the end of it and that is it, but I have never forgotten the feeling I had. I felt like I had let my abuser down. I felt guilty about that. I realize that sounds a bit ridiculous, but it is true, and, a quintessential component of child sexual abuse. I never thought I fit that mold, but it is absolutely true.
I remember feeling special because this family member paid attention to me. I liked that attention, I craved it. I am the youngest of four and was always the annoying baby sister. But, not when I was spending time with him, I felt special. That feeling was exploited by his sinful desires. My world was ripped apart. I was torn between wanting that attention so badly, wanting to keep it, wanting to do anything to keep him close, but knowing deep down inside that what he wanted me to let him do was horribly sinful. God wouldn’t let me be taken over by that sin, He gave me the strength to stand up to Satan and his evil schemes. So, I shouldn’t feel guilty, in fact, I stopped him from sinning against me any longer. I should be proud, I should not feel guilty.
As my sister and I talked, I came to this realization and, literally, the fog, disorientation, and terror melted away. She repeated over and over again that I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do and, more importantly, I don’t have to feel bad about that. This is MY life and I make the choices.
Moreover, God is with me every step of the way. He has commanded his angels concerning me to guard me. He will never leave me. Since He is for me, who can be against me? I am not that scared little girl anymore. Not only do I have God on my side, I have the strength He has given me, physical and personal strength. By God’s grace He has given me the ability to see right from wrong, to see sin when I am faced with it. Putting my trust in Him, I have nothing to fear. He makes my paths straight towards the plans He has for me. The Lord is the stronghold of my life. He is my light, my salvation. He is my guide, my comforter, my Redeemer.