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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Living and Loving After Abuse

Dear Bro. Jo,

I have a question that has bothered me for some time, but I have never discussed with anyone before . . .

I am a 29-year-old female who is still single and very rarely dates. I was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused by my father from about age 9 to age 17 or 18. I have very severe PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) issues because of the abuse.

I have been going to counseling for years for the physical and emotional abuse, but just a few months ago revealed anything about the sexual abuse. I have met with my therapist and my Bishop several times in the last few months trying to work through my issues with nightmares, flashbacks, and horrible feelings I have about myself.

However, the topic I have not seemed to be able to approach with any of them is how I feel towards guys now. I wish that I were married and raising a family. I truly feel like I would be a good mom. I'm just not sure I would be a good wife.

I am very socially awkward when it comes to guys. I have only had 2 guys that I've gone out with more than once. My flashbacks get a lot worse when I'm alone with a guy. I tend to think all guys are like my father and will only end up hurting me. Logically I know this is not true and there are a lot of good guys out there but I don't know how to get over my issues enough to be normal around them. My past makes me so afraid that I clam up and can barely even carry on a conversation with them without sounding like a total dork. I'm old and know I'm running out of time and fear that I am never going to find that special someone.

I want to be comfortable enough around guys to be myself and hope that one of them will be interested enough to want to go out with me. I just don't know how, do you have any advice?


Searching for an Answer

Dear Searching,

To be honest, I'm not sure that I have too much to tell you that you don't already know. You're going to counseling and talking to your Bishop, both of those things are very good. Somewhere along the line I imagine that you'll have to confront your mother and your father; him for the evil he committed and her for allowing it to happen. Your therapist will be able to help with all of that much better than I can.

What I CAN tell you is this: these are not trials you brought upon yourself, but rather are things that happened To You. Like getting many types of cancer, there's nothing you could have done to prevent these attacks. It's not your fault.

Despite these things, you're still a cherished daughter of our Heavenly Father, who loves you. The dark side of agency is that bad people can commit abominations against the innocent. You have lived, and will continue to live, with and through these events. Surely the Lord has a reason for your preservation!

I don't know what that reason is, but I have faith that you can use this as a way to help others.

I pray that with time your pain will be eased, and that you'll be able to find a good man who will deserve your trust and will give you the love that you deserve. While I understand how phenomenally difficult that may be, I know that it can happen.

Sometimes healing takes a long time . . . and that's okay. Continue doing the good things you're doing.

May the Lord bless you with that which you need,

- Bro Jo


Brandon said...

Might I add a little bit to Bro Jo here in sharing something. It's a personal experience on the other side that may be able to help.

My fiancee is kinda in the same boat as you are. Albeit, not for as long, but she too was sexually abused by her father. She too struggles with the PTSD and having flashbacks. I have seen them happen to her and let me tell you, it hurts me too.

It was very difficult for my fiancee as well to accept me in her life. She wants to be married as well and have children. She also has fears though because of the abuse.

In the end, however, it came down to one thing: how she felt about me. I give you this advice as well. Make sure you find a man who is going to treat you special, even more so than any other might. I pay extra special attention to my fiancee, but make sure I get my day to day things done as well. You can't avoid dating all together, but you can look for that someone who notices you and cares for you and wants to make you happy still.

As her fiance, she has told me how much I have been able to help her with the healing process. Her flashbacks occur very less frequently. I have helped her overcome a lot of her fears that have come from the abuse. I don't say this in and of myself, but she has told me so. She also still has some of the issues from the abuse, but because I chose to care and love her for who she is now, she has become better.

Never let anything get you down, especially abuse. Wait for that someone who will see you for who you really are.

L said...

I want to reach out as someone who was also abused, although I was abused by a then-boyfriend/fiance.

There are men out there, like the person who posted before me, who care enough to be patient and graceful with "us." My fiance let me set the timeline for everything physical, even holding hands. That was before he even knew about the abuse! Even now I still get flashbacks sometimes, but he makes extra efforts to remove environmental triggers (it is so cute and warming when he gets up to close the closet doors in the middle of a conversation) and to be careful about what he says, even if just in wording. Through time and experience we even figured out what he can usually do to help me throughout the various stages of my flashbacks.

It's not easy, but the Lord is always there and, when the time is right, a man will be there for you, too. It will take time and sometimes you have to consciously take risks to open up and build trust with another person. But when you find the right person you'll know, because they'll be right beside you waiting and helping you find the next step to take.

It probably feels completely hopeless sometimes, but you're healing and you're getting stronger day by day. Just look at where you are now! The fact that you wrote to Brother Jo is a testament to your control over your life.

The Lord will continue to be with you. He wants you to be happy and happy with a family. Don't ever forget that your future husband is still looking for you, too. Trust in Him, him, and in yourself; between the three of you you will find what you have been looking for.

Love your sister in God,