Untethered

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“Go back.

It was supposed to be my time to recharge, not to revisit places that seared my soul like a branding iron.

Go back.” Over and over the thought pressed, set on repeat, echoing in a gentle whisper.

I drove out of town, willing myself forward as the sweat made my palms slippery on the steering wheel. I drove the once familiar path that led out to my childhood.  To a town so small it feels hidden away and untouchable.

Unconsciously I began slowing down as I crept closer.  The sights, the smells, the atmosphere of the place bringing back a host of memories that were unwelcome.  I slowly drove down the street where I grew up and was struck by the realization that I was still tethered to this place, to the past.  Flashbacks tore through my mind like an old-school flip book, flipping to the rhythm of my increasing pulse. It felt like a noose tightening.  It was then that I grabbed for my cell phone, my tie to the present, my unconscious lifeline, only to realize I had forgotten it at home. Without hesitation, I found my foot gunning the gas before the invisible noose finished closing around my neck.  Picking what seemed like a random road out of town, I drove and frantically prayed for deliverance. It was instinctual and so familiar. The further away I got, the easier it was to breathe, and the angrier I grew.

That night I sat and cried ugly, angry tears for hours.  It has been over 30 years since the searing; that place doesn’t get to have a hold any more.

Again, the gentle pressing: “Go back, you are not there anymore.”

And so, the next day I returned, this time with my husband driving so I would have no excuse to leave.  He drove faster then I desired, doing the speed limit. He had no apprehensions toward the place.

The town was still with the white noise of chickens clucking, and we were clearly outsiders.  My childhood home now changed, blue paint replacing the once pale yellow. Attempts to modernize the simple home were evident.  And yet, the random yard furniture continued to be a theme– trailers, cars, random sheds, grassy overgrowth, the accumulation of stuff in wide open spaces.

Get out and walk this road.”

I didn’t want to.  This was not a town where you walk the streets unnoticed, nor was it welcoming.  Plus, 2 of my children were now with me. Wait, why did I allow them to come along?  A panic swept over me.

I have you, Crystal.

We parked in quite literally the only place possible, the town park.  The town park, with it’s single swing set and rusting baseball diamond.  As my daughters rushed toward the swing set to play I walked into the past.  Slowly, I walked to the back of the park, to the ditch where I was once held down by the teenage girl as she instructed her younger brother on how to violate me.  Hidden. Her voice echoing in my head, my pulse started to race. But now, a new thought. What had happened to her to lead her to do that? Why? A new and unfamiliar sadness swept over me. What was their story?

You aren’t here anymore.  I want you to see.”

Loudly, I spoke truth in that space; loudly I declared my freedom.  The weight began to lift off my shoulders, and laughter began to pour out of my chest.  I turned around to walk back and watched as my children laughed on the swing set as my husband pushed them.  A new memory in this space.

I walked on down the road, remembering.  I looked over at the little market where I would take all my parents’ change and buy every piece of candy I could. Then I would hide and eat every last piece until my belly ached–the birth of my eating disorder.  I stood at the bus stop where I would wait every morning to take the long bus ride into another town where I attended school. I rode with two of my abusers. Me, the elementary school kid, being beckoned to the back of the bus after a certain stop along the way, to hang with the “cool high schoolers” and do their bidding under the hiddenness of a jacket.

I walked on and stood before the home of my littlest years.  I remembered the trailers, the “friends.” I remembered the abuse, the theft of my innocence. I remembered the pictures, the child pornography.  And again I wondered why they did it, what had happened in their stories. Again, I spoke the truth in this space, loudly, looking like a crazy person.  I am not here anymore.

And then, with incredible clarity and indescribable power I realized–

Where do you think your passion was born?

Where did the seed get planted for who you would become?

Where did you find your voice?”

This place.

When the enemy said, “I will destroy her,” God said, “Wait until you see what I do.”

God has used all of it.

I looked down at my girls who were trying to take in this strange place and realized they were the ages I had been during that season. Age 3 when we moved there, about 10 when we left.  God had me. Intimately, always, he was with me in that fire.

As we left, I realized we had even retraced that old bus journey I once took daily.  He had covered and redeemed every single inch of the journey. I was free, finally untethered from this place and space.

“Mommy, what was that place?” asked 3 year old Victoria.

“That was the birthplace of Mommy.”

 

The Why (The Day I Attempted Suicide, Part 2)

“…you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32

IF I were dying, THEN they would realize how much they love me–this was a fantasy I would play out in my mind often as I tried to fall asleep at night. My mind was a safe place where I would try to sort out all the feelings that were far bigger than I was at the time.  At four, one does one’s best to wrestle with complex issues, and this was part of my feeble attempt. It was the year I was first sexually violated and lost my innocence. Throw that into a whirlpool of flourishing familial dysfunction, and I would begin to understand pain and rejection for the very first time. Sometimes our greatest traumas come from what isn’t given.

Survive–we are hard coded to survive until it is pecked away by the brokenness. Surviving is not the same as thriving… So much can be robbed from us in moments, leaving behind decaying parts that long for redemption to breath new life.

17. He spent at least a year grooming me, testing to see just how broken I really was, before he attacked me. After so many sexual assaults through the years, THIS ONE had to be my fault, right? I should have known better. I should have been wiser.  And yet, wasn’t this story familiar somehow– the one that seemed to speak of my worthlessness again and again? I had even met Jesus, so how could these things happen still? I was tired of surviving. After I managed to get away, I sat mostly naked and sobbing on my bedroom floor.  I studied the pill bottle on my vanity. Gone were my childhood fantasies, left were rotting wounds. How could I go on? What was the point? So much pain. That first thought was nothing but a whisper…just take the pills

The seed had been planted before I was old enough to add, watered with every trauma life brought, and fertilized by my ignorance.  Suicide...maybe it was the only way the pain would ever stop. It became the new fantasy, a false promise that maybe it was the only way to end my pain after all.  So, with every incredibly dark and painful season this thought would echo through my mind like a sweet promise of freedom…

Lies are always powerful, but the truth holds greater power still.  I had yet to learn that lesson, though.

The day I attempted suicide, the birth control pills had pulled the proverbial trigger, but the gun had long ago been loaded.  Take away the synthetic hormones and my mood would indeed regulate, but it would not teach me what I desperately needed to learn. The trigger was always there, tempting me to just pull…

…when the infertility news arrived.

…when my twin daughters died.

…when I faced rejection more profound than I had ever dreamed possible before…

..the thought came like a drink of water that promised to extinguish my fire. No more pain.

What was wrong with me?  Who thinks these thoughts? Clearly only crazy people! The shame that enveloped me held my tongue until I was bone weary of the plague it had become.

The perspiration beaded on my brow and soaked through my shirt as I finally blurted out my secret to my therapist.

I struggle with thoughts of suicide, and I don’t understand what is wrong with me!” I cried.

The flood gates opened, the tears I had cried behind closed doors for years spilled forth, climaxing into an ugly, snotty sob of confession.

Amazingly, she NEVER said what I was so terrified was true–that I was indeed crazy.  (In fact, I asked her repeatedly just to be sure.) Instead, her words would shatter my shame, breathe life into my desert, and pave the way to greater freedom than I had ever previously known.  I would finally understand the why, I would begin to see the truth and slowly she would teach me to understand just what I could do.

Freedom. Finally.