I have a confession to make: I am scared.
I’m scared of the what ifs and possibilities. I’m scared of what could or could not possibly happen. I’m scared of car accidents and bad weather. I’m scared of my parents dying before me and I’m scared of growing up. I’m scared of being too happy and being too sad. Most of all, I’m scared to let people in.
We live in a society of surface transparency and surface openness. We pretend to know really deep things about all of the things and have grand ideas about how the earth works and about whether or not there is a heaven or hell. We never really face each other, or greet each other with openness. Part of that is wisdom- but I think a bigger part of that is fear. I know that’s the case for me.
Growing up I had no voice. I didn’t talk back and I didn’t really have a say or an opinion. I remained quiet. And as soon as I learned that I had a voice I was told to quiet down by a well meaning but very wrong family member. But I listened. I became a swirl of ideas and thoughts and emotions. I’d come home from school afraid that that day would be the day my parents died and I’d never see them again. In fourth grade I had a parent teacher conference and I was so scared about the outcome that I ended up making myself terribly sick with pneumonia, bronchitis, strep and asthma. Needless to say anxiety and panic have always followed me.
In the last three years I’ve discovered what it means to have healthy communication, and in that I’ve been learning the value of my own thoughts and emotions. I’ve been learning to give myself space to consult with myself and figure out what I’m thinking. But more than what I’m thinking I’ve been learning about what I’m feeling, and it’s explosive. Surviving an unseen trauma makes a person feel voiceless. If I’m not walking with a limp or if I’m not facing something in a public way, it can almost feel unimportant and nonexistent. Because people forget, or feel uncomfortable with talking about them. Surviving multiple unseen traumas can make you feel like you’re dead. Actually dead. And that’s what I’m realizing about myself.
The other night I was talking to my guy, and I mentioned to him how I have such a hard time connecting to my own body. I feel trapped inside myself and I feel nothing for my body. Its caused me nothing but trouble, rape after rape, violation and abuse and so much self hate. And in that moment I was reminded by my therapist about the reality of disassociation, and how for me, a big coping mechanism has been my body and brain shutting down mid trauma to cope. Because of this, I have a really hard time caring for and loving my body because I don’t recognize it as me. Just a body that I’m stuck in.
This week I’ve been panicking, unable to sleep, my body fighting me with sickness and pain. Fear has been consuming me, even just at my work desk I’ve had to get up to walk around or go to the bathroom because I’ve been sick with fear. And today I realized that I am only experiencing the side effects of untreated and unhealed wounds.
I swear I’m getting to the point here….
The point is this. I have sat in silence for 26 years. Afraid to speak up. Afraid of anything. Seeing the world through a perspective that craved to protect rather than open up. Everyone has wounds, whether they’re healing or festering we have wounds that run deep. And the more that we accept the reality and the importance of uncovering these wounds, the sooner we will heal. It’s estimated that 40% of the adult population struggles with anxiety. An estimated 70% of adults will experience trauma in their lifetime and another 20% will go on to develop PTSD. I happen to fall into all of these categories. And for a long time I felt like I was addressing it. But I was just shutting down any voice that cried out in pain, shoving them in a lock box never to be seen or heard of again. But in the presence of love fear has to flee.
My boyfriend, sweet Daniel, drives me crazy, but I am sure of many things with him, and his love and desire for me is one of them. And he’s simply reflecting the love of Jesus. And we know the verse, “perfect love casts out fear ” (1 John 4:18.) Daniels’ love isn’t perfect, but it’s a reflection of the perfect love of God, dying to kiss and heal my broken places. Desperate to break the chains that bind me. Hopelessly, endlessly, desperately grieving for my trauma and my broken heart while simultaneously shattering concrete barricades and setting me free.
As I come up to my least favourite time of year, my anxiety and panic start to rise as another year, another July, comes and goes, marking two of the greatest traumas I will probably ever experience. And usually this time of year I pull back from people, wrestling daily with fear, and panic attacks, nightmares and insomnia. The greatest thing about the love of God is that it casts out fear and rescues us in our brokenness. My unseen traumas are not unseen to Him. My years of voicelessness are removed as he gives me a voice to speak and faith to believe that he hears me. The phrase “fear not” is found in the Bible 74 times, and “be not afraid” is found 29 times. The love of God is saturating every single one of those verses. That is an astounding number of times to mention fear for a person like me, who struggles with fear and panic. And it makes me think that God was considering the fragility of our humanness deeply, when he formed us. And because of who He is we don’t have to hide and pretend to be brave or whole or healed. He pulls us up out of the pit, sets our feet upon a rock, and calls us his beloved. There is no fear in love.