I hate navigating crowded stores and parking lots during the holidays, so most of my family’s Christmas presents are purchased through the internet. Adding to the steady stream of packages are those from family who live out of state. I’m not always sure what’s inside the packages waiting in my mailbox, or who they are from. Unlike some people who spend the weeks before Christmas snooping for presents, I don’t like to ruin a surprise. So I’m not sure why I impulsively ripped open the padded envelope I found in my mailbox the week before Christmas. I pulled out a book and read the cover, Hush, Moving from Silence to Healing After Childhood Sexual Abuse, by Nicole Braddock Bromley.
It may be surprising to know that during the twenty-three years of my own journey I never read one book on healing from sexual abuse. I’ve done much of my own writing and journaling. I’ve spent a lot of time praying, soul searching, and studying the scriptures, but other than short news articles and clips, I’ve avoided diving into someone else’s experiences with sexual abuse. There is a reason for this, I’m afraid to face possible triggers, and frankly, sometimes I just don’t want to know what I don’t know. But my sweet husband has proven to be quite intuitive over the years we’ve been married. So when he told me he felt impressed to purchase this book for me, I knew I needed to read it.
I was right. The first two chapters took me back to a place I don’t enjoy visiting. I did experience triggers, but mostly I experienced a tremendous amount of guilt. Why guilt you may be wondering? Because it took me so long to heal, so long to find the answers—way too long. I can see the path to healing so clearly now, but I feel stupid that I didn’t recognize it a long time ago. I feel sorry thinking about the Emily of the past spinning her wheels, drowning in self-doubt. Why was so much time spent? Because of my lie.
The answers did finally come, but only in moments when I was desperate, when the pain got so unbearable that I felt compelled to make a change. Never because I was proactive in taking charge of my own healing. Again, it was because of my lie, “Don’t talk about it. You’ll upset them.”
“Identifying the lies that fuel our fears can help us find the courage to tell” (Braddock Bromley, Nicole. Hush. Chicago: Moody, 2007. P 34. Print.). This simple line written by Ms. Bromley made me realize how much power I’ve given this lie. I’ve always recognized its influence, but for the first time I put it into words that helped me identify how this lie fueled my fears and stifled my healing process.
At this point I’m way past telling—I did that a long time ago. The fact that I am a survivor of sexual abuse is no secret, however, I hesitated to reach out to the people around me and ask for what I needed in order to heal. Ms. Bromley highlights five needs that every survivor is searching for: the need to feel safe, the need for trust, the need for balance and boundaries, the need to be understood, the need to feel complete.
I am what you may label a “people pleaser.” This is a part of my personality that I’m very cautious about, a part I don’t fully understand or know how to balance. Nevertheless, I avoid conflict at all costs. I’ve always cared more about making other people feel comfortable than about those ever aching needs. My lie caused me to believe it was wrong to actively search for healing because this meant upsetting the delicate balance of feelings, or what I pretended was peace—another lie I told myself.
I appreciate the message of this book, Hush, which is that God is the source of all healing. It’s a book for someone who is searching for something in additional to traditional counseling. Searching for the kind of healing that only comes through a relationship with God, but is unsure about what steps to take. Ultimately, that is my message as well and I hope that is conveyed in the things I write. And regardless of my lie, and my personality flaws, in the end I found the place I needed to be because God provided what I needed to heal in the ways I needed. That’s a long story for another day. For now it’s enough that my lie has been revealed and can be turned over to truth. Maybe the fact I’m breaking my silence now makes some people uncomfortable, but I can’t live my lie anymore. I will continue to add my voice to the many other survivors out there.
I don’t want to leave the impression that this book had a significant impact on me, but it did provide some helpful insights. Insights can be gathered from many sources along the path of life, helping us gain vital understanding of who we and of God’s presence.
“For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you here with” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:12)