Loss of Safety and Trust
Everything has an origin story and more often than not, we don’t recognize the beginning of the fall until we are lying at the bottom, lost under the debris and grit of trauma. Those seemingly inconsequential moments that somehow compile into one unforeseeable moment; the one where you are sitting with a razor blade clenched in your swollen hand, not knowing how you actually came to be in such a dark, desolate place. Music blasting. Heart pulsing. Everything meaningless…empty….void.
This was me.
Welcome to the first of seven blogs in my trauma series. This one will focus on loss of safety and trust and how it impacted me and how I moved beyond its clenches.
When I turned ten, my family adopted my sister. Before then, I was a happy kid filled with dreams and a whole lot of adventure, unaware of anything other than the life of contentment that I was living in. So, when I was suddenly thrust into a world of verbal and physical abuse, neglect, and fear…it was sudden, unexpected, and more than I was prepared to handle. Maybe sometime we can go into the details of what happened, but for now…I’ll summarize.
At the age of fourteen I had felt more than I had ever wanted to feel. I was anxiety-ridden, depressed, and struggling against a whole host of mental illnesses including depression and body-dysmorphia. My home life was a disaster as my childhood was ripped from me piece by piece and no one seemed to care or understand why I was so unhappy. But how could I possibly explain? I didn’t even know what was happening. My mom was suddenly always angry and yelling and this person…this girl that was supposed to be my new sister was like a wild animal. I didn’t know anything about the foster system at this point, so I was unprepared in every single way.
I wasn’t prepared to see this new sister threatening to kill herself. I wasn’t prepared to see her holding a knife to her throat. I wasn’t prepared to see my mom physically abusing her and I definitely wasn’t prepared to see my new sister physically hurting her back. I didn’t have the knowledge I needed to protect myself so I did the only thing that I knew how to do. I stopped feeling. I stopped loving. I stopped living.
My life began to revolve around cutting myself. Every emotion that I felt was bad…so I cut to turn it off. I cut when I was lonely, when I was sad, when I was happy, or too excited. I cut when I was scared or brave…I cut up to ten times a day. The release, the control…it was everything. I finally had control. And it didn’t end there. I taught myself to throw up and how to starve. I taught myself to make it look like I had eaten when really, I was going on day three without food. I learned how to hide my emotions, my expressions. I learned how to shut off my humanity, because it was the only way that I knew how to survive.
I was fighting every day to keep myself alive, because at that point, I had nothing worth living for.
Through all of my teenage years, I stopped trusting that anyone would actually love me. I believed that I would never be safe again. I couldn’t share how depressed and down I was, even with my best friend, because it was just too much. Too much for me and too much for everyone else.
Safe. What was safe? What was love? What was trust or hope or joy?
When I met my husband, I was nineteen and trying to break free of anorexia, self injury, and bulimia. I was broken. I was depleted. I didn’t know anything more than the animalistic urge to survive. I pushed Gabe away repeatedly, but he always came back. He never stopped loving me. Never stopped believing that I was beautiful and he told me how worthy I was.
After a while, I started to believe him. I started to open up again. I found love through physical touch (something I hadn’t allowed myself to have). I found love through his kindness and words. I found safety in his willingness to stand by me. I found me. And I found the real Jesus.
It doesn’t happen over night. Trauma is real and it’s devastating and it wreaks havoc. I honestly can’t believe I made it out alive, but I am so grateful that I did. Because my life now is one worth having. It’s not perfect but it’s mine and it’s filled with so much goodness. I’m still not very good at expressing emotions…and I really do have a hard time showing my weaknesses and being vulnerable, but I believe honesty is one of the first steps in healing, because how can we ever help anyone (including ourselves) if we can’t open up about how we are truly feeling?
So how did I learn to find safety and trust again, after having it ripped away for so long? I started slow. I began to talk even when I didn’t want to and I surrounded myself with people who I knew (even on the days that I struggled to actually believe it) cared for me. Even when I thought I would get hurt, I was just so done with hiding and hating myself…so I practiced trusting that my friends wouldn’t leave me when I became too much to handle. I rested in the fact that Jesus wasn’t looking to make me perfect, but rather, He was looking to just go through it all with me.
I also stopped putting myself down. It was so hard at first to quiet the voices that kept telling me how worthless and ugly I was, because for me, I measured everything by how beautiful a person was…and when you think you are the ugliest person alive, well…obviously I felt like I was worth less than nothing. So, for every negative thing I had to say about myself, I practiced saying three kind things. And after a while…it got easier and easier to believe that I actually wasn’t so worthless.
I gave up cutting even though it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. And I tried to focus on loving myself and showing grace and forgiveness instead of reacting with punishment.
I read books about gratitude and celebrating everyday moments. I allowed myself to believe Gabe when he told me how beautiful I was. And I began the long, hard process of forgiving my parents and rebuilding our relationship after years of hating them.
I’m still dealing with the struggle of trusting others and feeling safe, but I have grown so much and can honestly say that the struggle is almost unnoticeable at this point in my life. There are moments that I really feel lost and unsafe but the growth is real…and I’m okay. I am so grateful for my life now. So excited for the future and filled with joy and hope and all the good feelings. Recovery is always possible and I am proud to say that I have recovered in full and that I will never be going back to who I was. I’m not ashamed of what I went through, but I’m no longer that girl. There is always freedom from pain. But you have to be willing to fight for it.
Next, we will talk about Flashbacks and re-enactments…and maybe I’ll do an eighth blog just for a final summary/closure.
If you have questions or comments, feel free to hit me up in the comments section, connect with me on my instagram ( _sarahculture_), or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
To be continued,