FAITH INSTEAD OF FEAR IN THE MIDST OF THE UNKNOWN

In May overdoses skyrocketed by forty two percent. Since the pandemic began, anxiety and depression has increased dramatically due to isolation, job losses, fear of the unknown, and deaths in the family. Prior to the COVID pandemic, suicide was our nation’s second leading causes of death but unfortunately it doesn’t get as much media attention as it should. During our pandemic our own community had a mother of six recently committ suicide. A toddler was found murdered in a dumpster. People are suffering and losing their lives at the hands of people in authority. All of this is very traumatic to those who are left picking up the fragmented pieces of their broken hearts and tormented minds trying to make sense of all the tragedies taking place in our nation in addition to everything else we’re facing. The loss of a job is even more scary for those who are living in poverty. I know because I’ve been there. It’s why we are facing an increased threat against mental health. Teachers and staff are being challenged even more now that we have certain guidelines to follow in the midst of our pandemic in addition to the STAAR tests leaders are still pushing for our state to resume after being out of school for several months already. Not only will they have to focus on the test, they will have to work on plugging the gaps in from all the time lost from being shut down in March.

I get it…life is hard right now. This brings me back to my own ‘pandemics’ I survived through for many years as I raised twins on my own and cleaned up a mess that didn’t go away overnight. I’ve faced seasons of unemployment and lived on $900.00 a month with inconsistent child support while I learned how to navigate through a painful past in addition to withdrawing off of substances and smoking cigarettes. Since I was medicated as young as ten years old when they diagnosed me with depression and anxiety, all I knew was to self-medicate instead of self-regulating myself and getting through life’s tragedies without numbing the pain. Nobody ever told me or showed me how to overcome and let my body’s natural reaction process and develop the way it’s intended to because we were designed to heal.

For years I felt like I lived from one crisis to the next while I healed from my past and learned how to function in society apart from my background. But through those seasons of uncertainties I had to challenge my thought processes because I was still in bondage to negative stinkin thinkin that interfered with how I responded to painful and stressful situations. I lived with constant intrusive thoughts that kept me bound in chains of an internal torment I never want to go back to.

As I continued facing the fear of an unknown future and my painful past, I slowly began to let go of old thinking patterns and began to grow and learned how to think in the midst of crisis because the old way of thinking was no longer an option. I made an internal decision to live by faith and not by sight. Through my most recent tragedies and unknown future I finished and published my first book. We have to come to a place in life where we start choosing what thoughts to listen to and what not to. I’ve learned and continue to learn it’s not what you go through that determines where you end up. It’s Who you listen to.

To those of you who are having a hard time in early recovery as we face a national crisis together, please be encouraged to know I will continue to stand in the gaps with leaders as we turn the mental health language around and become a trauma informed nation so we all make it through the process and unknown future. I testify to my own battles that no weapons formed prospered during my refinement stages, and there is hope beyond recognition because I live a normal life unmedicated as I’ve grown to understand how to respond in times of crisis.

UNDERSTANDING THE BATTLEFIELD OF THE MIND

A few clinicians have asked me how I’m where I am emotionally, mentally, intellectually, and spiritually after everything I’ve been through. They asked because they recognize the effects one goes through when they’re faced with ongoing toxic stress and the levels of abuse I’ve faced should have broke me down instead of being where I am today. They recognize and realize a child’s brain that has experienced any kind of toxic stress without proper intervention parallels to a traumatic brain injury and we face the same challenges one faces as if we were hit head on by a semi truck or any other head injury involved in a wreck. Our motor skills, cognitive abilities, problem solving skills, self-regulating skills, and mental health stability underdevelops while the lower part of our brain overdevelops and keeps us in survival. The good news is there is hope, healing, and restoration…so I’ve opened myself up to help others overcome the unthinkable and my first book is in production and will publish soon.

As I’ve mentioned before in previous blogs, a child’s brain develops to their environment and if they’re constantly exposed to toxic stress, it causes severe damage to the developing brain. It interferes with our overall functioning and causes behavior issues because a child cannot articulate what they’re experiencing. These are skills we have to teach them and help the adults who are still affected and haunted by their own adverse childhood experiences.

If this isn’t addressed head on by trauma informed mental health professionals, research proves adulthood biology is indeed affected by one’s childhood biography and they can become institutionalized and some even an outcast to society. It’s the number one factor behind substance abuse and drug addictions because the body doesn’t know anything different apart from what it’s taught. That’s why it’s crucial in understanding how the body keeps the score and how we can rehabilitate those who have been affected by life’s tragedies. We simply need to re-educate and change the mental health language in order to help others find their way back.

So, how am I where I am after surviving abuse on every level and living a healthy and productive life apart from all the tragedies I’ve been through as I teach others how to overcome? How have I managed to overcome and break generational cycles and raised two twin boys as I’ve healed from a past like mine? My pain collided with the Healer and led me to the right clinicians that helped rehabilitate the internal damage we face from ongoing stress. In my early twenties I had to redevelop what underdeveloped as I renewed my mind and redefined my painful past. I laid on the operating table and had open heart surgery while I faced every painful event I’ve lived through. I’ve forgiven those who have trespassed against me as I continue to learn and discover what is and isn’t a healthy relationship. I continue to learn and grow in loving myself and showing myself compassion and understanding along my journey of healing. And I press into the One who created us to strengthen me when I’m re-traumatized through painful situations I still face from time to time.

The interesting fact about ones brain is the brain disease model will never repair what was never meant to be medicalized. Legislators and stakeholders are beginning to recognize this truth as they too understand the effects of trauma and how one can be rehabilitated and become resilient from life’s tragedies. Our brains can redevelop over time and heal simply by experiencing an internal makeover and challenge the deep rooted beliefs we grow accustomed to in a fallen world. The term Neuroplasticity is the change in neural pathways and synapses that occurs due to certain factors, like behavior, environment, or neural processes. During such changes, the brain engages in synaptic pruning, deleting the neural connections that are no longer necessary or useful, and strengthening the necessary ones. Many fail to realize this new term does in fact exist as we are called to go deeper in our walk with the One who created us because He does in fact lead us beside still waters to restore our souls. There is no pit too deep, and I share openly to help others overcome what was never meant to keep us bound in chains of mental anguish because we serve an interesting Creator who designed the brain to overcome the unthinkable.

MORE THAN CONQUERORS

The other day I was talking to another friend who is healing from her childhood traumatic experiences that’s followed her into her adulthood. In my last blog I mentioned our childhood biography becomes our adulthood biology, which is why it’s important and crucial to respond to the wounded child within instead of submiting to a system that disregards trauma and the long-term effects people go through.

As she was sharing her recent struggles, I couldn’t help but think back on a comment she shared with me regarding her journey as a mom with a young toddler who felt exhausted most of the time. She even told me she felt like she was living two different lives as she was cleaning up the unprocessed memories from her past while living in the present moment. When she mentioned her struggles, I was able to meet her there to share the good news. I expressed how her feelings and experiences are very normal and it’s important to recognize this on her journey. I’ve personally learned the only way to conqueror trauma and take charge of your emotions is to be self-aware and talk to someone trustworthy who can help guide you through the process.

Her experiences reminded me of my early walk in recovery. I remember the early days and how it was one of the hardest challenges I’ve had to go through apart from raising twin boys by myself as a single mom. It was as if I was also living two different lives because I lived in the past with unprocessed painful memories while my boys needed me in the here and now moments. These are the long-term effects one goes through when we fail to respond to the signs of a child’s cries for help.

From as young as I can remember until I was in my early twenties I literally could not function because of the damage ongoing toxic stress caused with no type of recovery plan in place. People knew I was living through the circumstances I’ve opened myself about because they documented the torment I lived through while they medicated my pain and blamed generational mental illnesses I didn’t even have. I was a complete mess on the inside as I tried to overcome the life I didn’t choose. I attempted college for many years off and on after I finally received my GED because I didn’t want to believe I was mentally disabled like I had been told most of my life, but I didn’t have the developmental skills because everything I lived through interfered with my overall functioning. Due to the severity of what I lived through growing up caused me to stay in survival because I lacked problem solving skills, language skills, cognitive abilities, self-regulating of my emotions, effective communication skills, etc. This is why proper child development is crucial to one’s academic success as well.

As I reflect back on my journey this far after cleaning up the messes I was left to clean up and what I’m walking through with another friend now, I praise Him for His faithfulness when He says we are more than conquerors. I will be forever grateful to the team of clinicians who helped me respond to the lost little girl who was trapped and needed to find her way out to live out what she was created to be and raised future men. To those of you who are in early recovery, there is hope beyond recognition. We were made to rise and He really does promise to never leave us nor forsake. Healing takes time. It’s not an overnight fix….but it’s certainly worth the journey because we are all worthy enough to invest fully in our own recovery because we are more than conquerors indeed.

HURTING PEOPLE HURT PEOPLE

There’s another story about Jesus that I found myself relating to this past year as I’ve opened myself up about my journey of hope, healing, and restoration apart from a traumatic past full of tragedies and addictions. Jesus felt led to go back to His hometown of Nazareth with His disciples to share the good news of the Gospel. Instead of having encouragement and support, He was faced with multiple challenges with rejection and betrayal even by His own family members. But instead of getting even or seeking revenge, He used that experience to teach His disciples how to shake off rejection and opposition by telling them to “shake the dust from your feet and keep on moving.” I found this statement to be so profound in the midst of my own personal experiences because I am so passionate about sharing the good news and how God really does take our ashes and restores us to complete beauty. I didn’t forsee the attacks I faced when I set out on a journey to raise awareness, so after healing my mind and restoring my soul this past year as He led me back to still waters to rest, I did exactly what He instructed us to do when we’re faced with rejection and obstacles. I shook the dust from my feet and kept on moving as I began a new journey and partnered with a national organization that stands with trauma survivors and pushes to change the mental health language to help others as we partner together to make an impact for those who have suffered and been affected by trauma, injustices, and addictions.

When I was released from the juvenile justice system at seventeen years old, I literally could not function in society due to the severity of the trauma I lived through. Everyone else minimized the pain I was living through with an abusive mother and other family members, so I minimized my pain as a way to cope with the life I didn’t choose. Society didn’t talk much about trauma back then, so it left me trapped in an identity crisis because I was caught up in the lies that something was severely wrong with me. I’ve said it before and will say it again, it retraumatizes people when we label what was never meant to be labeled.

Every clinician and doctor I encountered growing up labeled my pain with mental illnesses I didn’t even have while all the signs were there due to my behavior issues. Developmental trauma is even more complex than trauma as an adult because our childhood biography becomes our adulthood biology, which explains our national mental health and addictions crisis. Toxic stress, especially when it’s ongoing, interferes with our overall functioning and makes one look like they suffer from mental illnesses because it changes the physiology of our brains and bodies. Since I began my journey of healing and restoration, I have learned so much more than I ever anticipated about the human body and how our bodies keep the score and affects us to the core of our being without the proper mental health aid.

We were never designed to carry such burdens and the way I found my way back from a season of depression, anxiety, and other deregulated emotions was when I began to face every painful memory I lived through and redefined the purpose of my pain with the One who created us.

I remember like it was yesterday being lost and not knowing my worth or value apart from what I’ve been through. I remember shopping in the men’s section because I didn’t even believe I was worthy enough to dress like a lady. I have faced discrimination, abandonment, rejection, betrayal, bullying, foster care involvement, poverty, lack of opportunities, neglect, unsafe neighborhoods, and other household challenges, so I really do understand the debths of pain people walk through. Now I understand the debth of healing our Savior offers us and find it so intriguing and comforting to know our High Priest also understands our pain and sufferings. It never was and never will be the heart of God to keep people bound in chains of mental anguish when He gave us the answer key to renew our minds continuously as He leads us beside still water and restores our soul.

It’s very clear our nation is facing hardships and challenges and we need divine intervention if we ever expect to see real results for change, so I’ve made it my mission to raise a voice for those who don’t even know they have one and use my experiences to teach others how to become resilient from tragedies in life and live out everything they were created for. We have to regain control of our emotions and discuss things with a solution in mind. Adverse childhood experiences are real and pervasive. Everyone has experienced at least one adverse childhood experiences in life and if we don’t start teaching the upcoming generation how to be resilient and overcome adversities, we will continue to run into the same things over and over with tragedies that can be prevented simply by changing the mental health language and how we respond.

In order to change the mental health language, we need to realize the widespread impact of trauma and respond to plans for recovery. We need to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma instead of making people believe something is wrong with them. We need to respond by integrating trauma science and knowledge into policies and practices. And we need to resist retraumatization by protecting against dynamics that replicate trauma. To those of you who have been affected by trauma and its effects caused by trauma, I stand with you in the gaps as we raise awareness for a nation to fully understand how important it is to change the mental health language, and I testify to the good news that continues to set me free from glory to glory as I kicked the dust from my feet and got louder.

FACING YOUR GIANTS

This past year I spent time away from any and all social media because I desperately needed the detox to cleanse my soul. The journey I’ve been on as I’ve opened myself up to help those who are battling what I’ve been set free from hasn’t been an easy journey. I’ve taken hits I don’t even care to acknowledge in this blog because it’s not something I’m giving my mind permission to focus on when I have so much more to be thankful for. When I dare to think back on all I’ve been through the past three and a half years in addition to a traumatic past, I immediately reconnect my mind to the Truth that continues to set me free.

A few weeks ago as I was studying the book of John I was intrigued by Jesus’ character when the Jews and Pharisees began to cast stones at Him for responding to God’s call on His life. Instead of choosing to get even or seek revenge, He avoided Judea and fell in with the crowd as He too rested His mind and soul from the ministry He was sent on a mission by God. I instantly connected to this scenario because I have faced a lot of stones that were thrown at me for opening myself up about a life full of tragedies and how I’ve managed to overcome each adversity that was meant to destroy me. The fact that I even carry a smile on my face or have this much joy apart from a past like mine is nothing more than a miracle in itself.

Another person I found myself relating to was Paul (aka Saul) who was called by God to testify about his transformation from being a murderer to an Apostle who wrote more than half of the new testament. He faced a lot of challenges as he set out to share the Gospel with others who needed the same hope and redemption he found apart from the Christian murderer that he was. He endured imprisonment, a ship wreck, a snake bite, etc. but he shook off every opposition he faced and continued witnessing about the grace of God who redeemed him from the pits of destruction and changed his life for the better.

As I reflect back on my journey this far, I can’t help but praise Him for seeing me through yet another fiery furnace and allowing me to come out smoke free once again. I also think back on the internal prison I once battled with depression and anxiety so severe it dictated my here and now and my overall health until I finally faced every painful memory I just wanted to leave behind me.

Our minds were never meant to carry the burdens we attempt to carry and I for one am extremely thankful we have a God that doesn’t leave us nor forsake us in the battles we face here on earth. I don’t believe He intended us to carry such burdens or else He wouldn’t have told us to cast our burdens upon Him and we shall find rest and peace.

To those of you who have battled addictions or are battling addictions, experiencing mental anguish that come across as mental illnesses, or face financial difficulties during this pandemic, let me remind you all that He really does promise to never leave us nor forsake us because He is a God that took the giant out with a single rock and used what the rest of the world found unworthy to fight a battle bigger than himself. He’s the same God yesterday, today, and forever, and I testify to His faithfulness because I’m still standing despite what’s tried to break me💖🙏☝️

HE LEADS US BESIDE STILL WATER AND RESTORES OUR SOUL

A few years ago someone asked me if I still considered myself broken after everything I’ve been through. It was a question that challenged me to cognitively dig deep and to challenge my perception of a past like mine. To me broken was where I used to be running the streets unable to function in society because I didn’t have the developmental skills. I didn’t know how to self-regulate the raging emotions that stormed through my mind, will, and emotions. I didn’t know how to navigate through life without mind-altering drugs or substances because I was taught at a very early age how to medicate my natural feelings instead of how to cope with a life I didn’t choose. I didn’t know how to hold a steady job, be a stable mother to my twin boys, finish anything I started, or how to live life on life’s terms without changing the way I felt by using and abusing anything that changed the way I felt on the inside.

My first addiction was food. I found comfort in eating myself sick and indulging in sweets and carbs because they temporarily numbed the heartache I constantly walked around with. Shortly after I discovered food as a way to comfort instead of a resourceful need to survive, I turned to smoking cigarettes because they temporarily numbed the anxiety and panic attacks I constantly lived with caused by an unstable and unsafe environment I grew up in. After learning that food and cigarettes no longer sufficed my raging degregualeted emotions on the inside, I turned to heavier hardcore drugs and excessive alcohol as I continued searching for ways to numb the feelings I desperately wanted to numb because it hurt too bad to feel.

When I was 10 years old I was clinically diagnosed with depression and anxiety. As an innocent little girl I had nobody guiding me or protecting me from the unthinkable this world projects out on others and the ones who were supposed to love and protect me were the very same perpetrators who violated and compromised my safety by the way they treated me. I was made to believe my needs, wants, and feelings didn’t matter. Christianese talk and ill taught religion made me believe these lies that sunk in deeper because we were told to turn the other cheek and and forgive those who trespass against us. We were also made to believe other people’s needs went before our own. But nobody ever taught me about boundaries or that it was even okay to set them as a way to guard our hearts above all else…so I continued a path of destruction because I couldn’t escape the lifestyle I was trapped in while my soul continued to be wounded by other hurting people.

By the time I reached young adulthood I was beyond broken and became even more of an outcast to society because I honestly didn’t know how to function and had nobody directing me into a life apart from what I adapted to. I didn’t know the roots to my ongoing situations were caused from distorted thinking patterns I learned to use as a survival mechanism because everyone else around me minimized the abuse I lived through while they labeled my pain and medicated my wounded soul. So, to answer that question many years ago I had to look beyond all I had been through already and redefine what was stolen from me. I had to accept what never was and what would never be as I laid on the operating table having open heart surgery while I healed from everything I survived through. It was then when I discovered I was no longer broken because I was finally able to function in society and be a stable mother, but I was definitely bruised because I still struggled with intimate relationships. See, when you’re wounded through relationships it takes genuine relationships to heal, and I still lacked the ability to set healthy boundaries and attracted people that continued to keep the negative thought patterns that convinced me my needs, wants, and feelings still didn’t matter, so I had to break free from those thought patterns and rediscover who Tabitha was apart from being mistreated her whole life. I even had to relearn developmental skills I still lacked because society doesn’t teach humanity how to use their God given abilities to navigate through a fallen world because they try to medicalize what God never intended us to medicalize.

The brain disease model doctors and insurance companies are using to make billions of dollars off of people’s wounded souls is not and never will be the heart of God, but nobody’s holding these people accountable and it’s completely dehumanizing. I know because I’ve lived through it and so are millions of other people. As I sit in this season of my life and reflect back on my journey this far, I can’t help but praise God for all He’s done over the past twelve and a half years to lead me out of the land of the wilderness, but I still grieve for those who are still trapped in lies that were never supposed to entrap us. I’m convinced mental health is modern day slavery and my hope is to one day see this changed for the sake of humanity because it never was and never will be the heart of God to keep people bound in chains of mental anguish when He gave us the answer key to renew our minds continuously as He leads us beside still water and restores our soul.

THE HIDDEN TRUTH ABOUT GASLIGHTING

Recently I’ve been introduced to the term “gaslighting.” The dictionary’s definition defines this word as follows: “manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.” As I read about this word, I’m intrigued by the way psychology describes how this happens frequently in abusive relationships, but what about how it’s used in modern day psychology? Let me elaborate.

Many who know my story know I was abused on every level; emotional, mental, physical, sexual, and even spiritual. It wasn’t a secret in my community or even with my own family because years later I retrieved thousands of documents that documented the torment I lived through and have had many encounters with family members and so called friends of the family who openly admit to witnessing the abuse my brothers and I lived through, but nobody intervened or ever held our abusers accountable. Instead, they diagnosed us with mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression disorder, borderline personality disorder, body dysmorphia disorder, and the list goes on. They also placed us in special education with diagnoses of ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, emotional disturbances, etc. as they loaded us up on psychiatric medications. I often tell the very ones in our systems today who set us up to fail that I’m not sure what was worse; being abused on all levels my entire childhood and young adult life, or being convinced by those who were in authority to protect us that we had mental illnesses and biochemical imbalances because it was supposedly inherited by our previous family members who proclaimed they were born with biochemical imbalances instead of sharing the truth and secrets about our family’s issues with abuse, incest, and dysfunctional behaviors.

Everything I just briefly described robbed me of not only my childhood but my young adult years that I’ll never get back and the early years of my twin boys because I couldn’t function in society back then. It wasn’t until many years later after discovering my background wasn’t normal and consistently faced with trauma on top of truama on top of trauma while my community documented that I was in an unsafe environment that interfered with my overall functioning, yet they diagnosed me and my brothers with all these mental illnesses and loaded us up on psychiatric medications as something was wrong with us. If you ask me that’s exactly what gaslighting is and sadly this insanity continues while many continue to suffer.

Research proves the physiology of our brains are rewired during traumatic events that deregulate emotions and causes our nervous system to get stuck when we don’t process our painful experiences we experience in life. We were never designed to carry such burdens and with modern day psychology failing to respond correctly and appropriately we have a nationwide mental health crisis and addictions crisis.

For years I not only suffered from all the mistreatment I survived through and continued suffering because I fell into one toxic relationship to the next because it’s all I knew and found my worth in, I was also trapped in lies that paralyzed my identity and made me believe I was mentally ill caused by biochemical imbalances since it’s all I was ever told growing up. Gaslighting doesn’t just happen in abusive relationships and it’s time people re-educate themselves about trauma and how our bodies respond to mistreatment. This isn’t the heart of God and is completely dehumanizing towards humanity. If you ask me, it’s also modern day slavery because we were never designed to be held captive in such torture because the God I know says He’s given us a sound mind and the spirit of fear is not of Him either. At some point we all face mental ill health but it’s not something we can’t recover from with the right trauma informed therapist and supportive family and friends who encourage us along our journey of healing and restoration.

I realize I don’t hold the proper credentials as a doctor of psychology, but I’ve lived through hell to know the damage it causes when someone projects mental illness labels on us as if we’re damaged goods who live crippled lives with mental illnesses that haven’t even been clinically proven. Until we understand ourselves and how we respond to mistreatment and traumatic events, we will continue to live in a national crisis with mental health issues and addictions because we were never created to live in captivity and gaslighting occurs within our systems as well and not just abusive relationships. It retraumatizes people who don’t understand themselves and I write freely and boldly to speak up for those who don’t know they have a voice yet.

MAN CANNOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD

I’ve been reflecting back on my time a lot lately as a past local school district employee. When I began working for the school district, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I fell in love with the idea of teaching kids how to read and was able to make connections with these sweet souls through teaching. My last year with the school district included a very rough year with severe traumatized 2nd graders. I had previous experiences with other kids, but that year was the most emotional one out of all my previous times there.

That year we received 40+ kids and more than half of them didn’t know majority of their alphabet sounds. This wasn’t good considering our school was one of the schools that was on the IR list with the state. The teachers and I took it one day at a time as we met each student where they were and partnered together to get them on reading levels or close to it. We discovered through many emotional days that these kids had true battles they faced and didn’t understand. Some showed up to class so severely traumatized they’d hide underneath desks, showed signs of suicidal ideation, threw desks and chairs in a fit of rage, cursed us from one end to the next, and the list goes on.

This was also around the time I began piecing together my own traumatic experiences and became more aware of what a child’s behavior was really all about. Children’s brains aren’t fully developed. They can’t articulate the events or experiences they’ve gone through yet, or connect their emotions to the events. Instead, they throw fits and have breakdowns until you teach them how to use their words and manage their emotions. They also draw pictures as a way of expressing themselves. We had many who drew very explicit detailed drawings and were telling us through their drawings and behavior they were under severe distress.

When I saw the insanity I broke free from with generational trauma that were misdiagnosed and addictions continue, I knew intuitively I needed to be their voice because someone else’s transparencies saved my life. That’s when I began a new journey to build on the facts from my past documents I received from all of the same systems these kids and their families were affiliated with.

I knew in my moment of decisions I was chancing my future and my kids’ future because everything I just shared were things society doesn’t discuss openly. But during my last year and the experiences I witnessed, I knew my story of redemption wasn’t given to me to keep quiet.

In all the moments of despair and uncertainty of my own future these past 2 years, I’ve faced so much more than I ever anticipated that night God asked me to lay my life down as an educator and go public with my story. I’ve taken so many financial hits and that certainly wasn’t the plans when I stepped out in faith to pay over $10,000 of college tuition as a single mother. But in my moments of despair and grief, I keep running into the same words of encouragement from the One who promises to never leave me nor forsake me even though others will. He keeps assuring me that His words will not return back in void and He is my place of refuge during this refinement stage. After all, diamonds didn’t start out as diamonds. They had to go through extreme heat and refinement to become elegantly shiny after experiencing this process from a piece of black coal.

Although my past circumstances contradicted what I thought my future held after I was told I had support from leaders of this community, I still hold onto the one true fact that’s never failed me yet. Man cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. He’s the same God today as He was thousands of years ago. He’s faithful, and I will continue to watch the Red Sea split when there seems no other way. I will continue to watch Him shut the lions’ mouths because I refuse to compromise with this world and its false standards. And I will see favor like never before when He’s ready to give me the harvest I’ve planted with seeds I’ve left behind. He’s a God beyond any theological ideas or teachings, and He’s more concerned about our heart condition than he is our worldly successes.

HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT

Someone once asked me if I believed in love at first sight. At first I wasn’t sure how to answer the question because this person didn’t fully understand what I’ve actually been through and how the word love was thrown at me as it were a weapon of thorns rather than a soothing ointment to my soul. I pondered on this person’s question as I stood in a blank state of mind because I honestly didn’t know how to answer his question.

After thinking about his question and letting it sink in, I came to the only conclusion I knew how to respond with that type of question considering my past of broken promises, mistreatment, abandonment, and betrayal that was linked to the word love. I responded back by stating love was a verb, or an action word, and the only way I’d believe in love is if I saw this word put into action apart from what I know as a negative experience over and over. Most of my life people have thrown that word at me but failed to show me the true meaning behind it.

Those who said they loved me tormented me with negative hurtful words that wounded me so deep I walked in their false identities they gave me back then and still stare at the scars hidden beneath my clothes. Those who said they loved me violated my innocence, which left years of mindful torment along with messes to clean up as I began to find my worth and value apart from family secrets. Those who said they loved me silenced my pain with high doses of psychiatric medications and told me I never had a say in how I was treated or devalued me as a human being. Those who said they loved me took me in as a homeless and lost little girl who carried two lives inside her but tried to sell me as if my worth was only good enough for an arranged marriage to someone who needed papers to become legal in our country. Those who said they loved me abandoned and betrayed me the minute I found my voice and began to set healthy boundaries. I could keep going but I think the point can be defined with what I’ve shared so far.

Here we are many months later and I still think about the question as I remember the game I used to play as a kid while I tried to figure out what love was apart from being abused on all levels. One by one the pedals were pulled as I sat by my lonesome self asking the same question over and over until there were no more pedals left. “He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me, he loves me not…” Every time I landed on the final pedal I also landed on the final statement “he loves me not” and believed love was just another bad word I wanted no part of. I believed for many more years that was my true destiny because nothing else showed me otherwise.

One by one the lies sunk in so deep that I wasn’t lovable and viewed only as an object to people instead of being valued, protected, and truly loved, and I began to lose myself even more to the battle of addictions while my boys desperately needed their mother to get well. It wasn’t until I hit my last rock bottom that I realized there was hope beyond recognition whose love would lead me into a path of victory and freedom as I stand in the gaps for others who need to know that true love we all desperately long for does in fact exist and what I’ve since learned and discovered along my journey of finding love is this…

4 Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. 5 It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. 6 It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. 7 Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening].

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (Amplified)

Since that day when my pain collided with the Healer and redefined my memories of love, I began to believe I am someone with value and worth and will find the one who can love the way He defines love as we discover together how much we are both loved and valued apart from what painful experiences we identify with the word “love.” And I truly believe if it’s really love at first sight, absolutely nothing will separate us from the type of love that was never meant to question whether “he loves me, or he loves me not.”

WE WERE CREATED FOR LOVE AND TO BE LOVED

Recently I met another trauma survivor who also faced the injustices in our systems as well. We connected and bonded through similar stories where we felt unloved, unwanted, and unworthy most of our lives. Since our innocence was compromised and stolen, we don’t know what true love is because we were put in positions where we were made to survive instead of to thrive. Our entire lives the word love has only been used for selfish desires and selfish gains that’s been tossed around as if it means absolutely nothing to the ones saying it to us.

We are more familiar with the debths of pain we felt and still do at times because the memories and the sorrow still seem real all these years later as we face and process those wounded memories with others who don’t always relate to us. As trauma survivors, we are on a continuous journey of healing and restoration as we learn how to navigate in normal daily relationships with others. That’s not easy for us at all but we face it determined to not be defeated by unfair circumstances we didn’t choose. We were created to love and be loved but our circumstances taught us differently.

As time goes on and others sit back even in churches and enjoy life while they’ve minimized our pain, we can’t help but wonder if this was something we went through to be a voice for the voiceless as we find our own voices while we also continue to face the unwanted memories each week in therapy. It’s like we live double lives sometimes as we learn to break free from the prison we’ve kept in place to survive the unthinkable people do to innocent kids and families alike.

We seem to be misunderstood and made to feel even more unworthy as we try to understand what we ourselves don’t fully understand. We try to connect with people in deep intimate relationships but continue to keep our guards up as a way to protect ourselves from feeling past hurts of abandonment and betrayal after we’ve been used up for their own satisfaction. It’s a pain we’ve felt our entire lives and it’s scary to let others in the most vulnerable places we’ve always been taken advantage of. It’s also a life long journey as we begin to trust a God who allowed such sorrow to happen while the people in churches tell us to get over it and forgive our trespassers. If it were that easy all those years I suffered while the churches remained silent as they chased the ninety nine, I wouldn’t have found myself stuck in addictions and the lifestyle that went with it because I couldn’t function in society since nobody ever told me I was believing lies that were deeply rooted in painful experiences we all experience in life. Some are more severe than others and over the years I’ve since learned the term for that, which is trauma. When you are faced with ongoing grief and nothing to balance out the bad things in life and mistreated by the very ones who are supposed to love and protect you, it does something to the core of your being.

Society doesn’t understand us and slaps mental illness labels on us, which only makes us feel a deeper sorrow as we believe lies that something is severely wrong with us. We end up in jails and institutions because we simply don’t know how to cope with the attached behaviors and things that are never supposed to happen to us if we claim we love one another. Truth is-we’re not criminals either but we are made to feel as though we are when we have mental breakdowns because we simply hurt so deep and want to end it all. Our mental breakdowns cause us to do things normal people wouldn’t do and instead of feeling supported and loved on our journey of healing from the messes we were left to clean up, we experience more sorrow because society uses our past against us as if we are criminals. When I heard this new friend’s story and how she related to mine, it was so empowering to know we’re really not alone in our battles and have one another to lift each other up in our journeys.

As I shared my own personal experiences with how I’ve come so far in my journey and living in this much freedom, I shared with her how we break free from this prison I just described that I’ve learned to escape from because I simply refuse to allow a painful past to dictate my future. We face it head on. We talk about it even when it makes others uncomfortable and they try to silence us because we were never meant to carry such burdens. We walk with our heads held high no longer chained down to false guilt and shame that also kept us prisoners of our souls. We learn to trust and love even when it’s scary and uncomfortable because the only way we conquer our fears is to face our deepest fears and allow ourselves to feel again.

God never intended for his people to be held captive in bondages that He died for on the cross while others sit back and use His name in place of a business or a genie in a bottle because I have found in my own personal journey with Him He’s a God of hope, healing, and restoration.