My-Story of Recovery from Sexual Abuse through Art-Therapy and Spirituality.
This is My-Story of recovery from sexual abuse through art therapy and spirituality.
I am not going to dwell too much on the abuse because it is the recovery that I want to focus on here.
I was first sexually abused when I was 12 y/o and again when I was 18 y/o.
Many people are younger than I when they are first abused, but I know that after my first abuse, I lost my innocence. The abuse was by someone I knew the first time and not by someone I knew the second time.
My-story begins at age 12 and I never told anyone about my abuse. I kept it to myself. I actually thought it was normal to have sex at that age! (even though I didn't really understand what was happening until later.)
I developed an attraction to the person who abused me. I was sexually promiscuious. I drank alcohol. I tried drugs. I acted out. All of the red flags that maybe people would see today..back then, people were still in the dark about..and uneducated about.
My abuse came from someone who was a member of my church so I turned against God and my faith. I couldn't understand how God could allow someone to hurt me like that if he loved me like everyone said he did.
I began running around, partying, engaging in dangerous and self destructive behaviors.
I didn't know the difference between sex and love...I only knew that my heart felt like it had a huge black hole inside of it needing to be filled with something...anything. Alcohol, drugs, men, excitement- anything at the time that would work. I didn't want to slow down long enough to FEEL anything.
My-story is not that different from most, I shut down emotionally. I was able to dissociate during sexual encounters, making it easier to participate in them.
I hated myself for what I was doing and I hated the abused child inside of me for making me that way!
I didn't listen to anyone about anything!
When I was 18 y/o, I found myself in a situation due to my dangerous behavior, where I was sexually assaulted again. This time, violently.
I went to a party and left with a guy who, naturally, just wanted to have sex. At the last minute, I got scared and decided I didn't want to do that.
I fought for my life to get out of his house (a big mistake to let him take me there in the first place!). I had to use a baseball bat as a weapon to get out. I did make it out after receiving quite a few bumps, bruises and bites on me, all of which would be undetected and unseen, and yes, unreported.
After that episode, I went on with my life to school, failed relationships, dangerous and shameful behaviors, a failed marriage and a physically abusive relationship, narrowly escaping. (I truly thank God for friends!)
I found myself in my 30's alone, living by myself in a house with my two cats, for the first time. I was terrified to be alone! I felt totally abandoned and lost. Where was God? Where was anyone?
Being alone forced me to look at myself through my depression. I was suicidal..what I was doing in my life was obviously not getting me where I wanted to be...happy..or at least living a peaceful existance.
I decided to give God another chance. That is when I found out that it was ME who abandoned HIM, He didn't abandon me.
I had a spiritual awakening. I do believe that it is when we are totally broken sometimes that we will truly listen to God. I believe that He wants us to totally rely on him and sometimes we don't know how to do that unless we have no one else to rely on, not even ourselves.
The Ted Neeley Experience
This is a very important part of my spiritual awakening and Ted Neeley plays an important role in that experience.
One night, while I was living alone in my house. I was feeling depressed and alone and suicidal. I decided to go to the movie store and find a movie to watch.
As I walked through the videos, my eyes fixed on the movie "Jesus Christ Superstar". Yes, I had watched the musical in the theater when I was about eleven years old. I vaguely remembered it. I don't know what attracted me to it that night..but I do know that I wasn't leaving the video store without it.
I took it home and watched it. I watched it 15 times. I cried every time. My eyes fixated on Ted as he played Jesus. I hurt for him.
I could feel my shame and guilt that Jesus had to die for me. Ted helped me connect to Jesus through his portrayal of him. He literally saved my life.
After I was done watching the movie, something magical happened. I knew in my heart that I would meet Ted Neeley...so I could personally thank him.
Somehow, some way, I knew in my soul that I would meet him. It made no logical sense and to my friends sounded a bit crazy at the time..but God doesn't have to make sense!
My spiritual awakening consisted of me figuring out that I actually could relate to Jesus as a person. He was someone who understood pain and all of the feelings that men and women endure. I had always thought of Jesus just as God..someone or something that I couldn't connect with.
I could swear that Jesus reached his arms out of Heaven one night and held me while I cried. I felt his presence like I never had before.
My life was changed and yes, saved that night. This was my first step into recovery.
I soon found out, about two months after watching the movie that the origional cast from "Jesus Christ Superstar" was going to tour for the 20 year anniversary of the film. A coincidence? I think not! I saw the musical five times....AND..I met TED NEELEY..five times and spent several hours conversing with him.
Speaking with him even further healed my soul.
Ted claims he is just a "drummer from a rock and roll band from Texas" but to me, God has used him to bring countless people to God and still does! He is an amazing man with an amazing gift.
After I mended things with God, I started making friends with other women and discovered I wasn't the only woman who had been abused or who had feelings like me.
When I was 35 y/o I was visiting a friend of mine when she was painting. She handed me a paintbrush and some paints with a canvas. I had never painted before so I was completely intimidated and afraid of what my painting might look like. The shame welled up inside of me, still there from the abuse.
I prayed and asked God to help me get out some of the negative feelings inside of me that were still haunting me from my abuse. I prayed for some type of recovery.
I began to paint. WOW!!
As I painted, the paintings that emerged were full of feeling and symbols that I easily understood. I had found a way to recover that worked for me.
One of my first paintings was of a woman, eyes covered and hands bound by red cloth. She was standing in a deep hole at the end of a path leading to what looked like a sunrise. In the path directly in front of her was a lion guarding the path.
After finishing this painting, I looked at it and understood that the woman was me. I cried and cried. Inside, I felt what she felt.
I was bound by my abuse still to that day. It was still hovering over me and keeping me close..like the lion, ready to pounce on me any instant. Me, unable to see when or where it would rear it's ugly head!
I pondered over that painting for a few days and shed many tears. Then, I knew I needed to paint more. It was a need inside of me.
My next painting was of the same girl, but her hands had become unbound and she was reaching to untie the cloth from her eyes. The lion in the path had moved away from her and off of the path. There was a more visible sun this time.
Yes, I was making progress. Inside, I felt like someone had given me keys to release me from prison.
Memories of my abuse came pouring out. It was painful..but I could talk about it to my girlfriends who had also been abused. I cried about it, I became angry about it, and yes, I painted more about it!
I also used the "empty chair" method to expell my anger..which was the most difficult emotion for me to deal with. Painting and writing are helpful with most emotions..but anger is soooo intense and can eat you up if you don't find a way to expell it or get it out. I believe in using multiple ways of getting it out!
I wrote my feelings down, one by one, in my journal as I defined them and felt them. I had gotten so used to shutting down in my relationships that it had been awhile since I had allowed myself to actually "feel". Recovery is not painless, in fact, I believe that it is the pain that sets you free.
My last painting of this series was of the same woman, hands unbound, eyes uncovered, standing tall and free, arms outstretched. The lion was next to her and her hand was on the lion's head, petting it. There was a sun shining.
Why do you think I painted it this way instead of the lion going away?
Well, I believe that your abuse memories never really go completely away, but you can make peace with them, like the girl with the lion. They are a part of you. It is better to love that little abused girl part of you better than to reject her..if you can.
I have been able to talk to that 12 y/o girl and say to her that it wasn't her fault and that I am taking care of her and loving her now as she should have been loved so long ago.
I am also able to love that silly 18y/o girl who was a bit crazy!
There was a lot of good inside of both of them. They just needed someone to love them at the time but didn't have that because I didn't allow anyone to know about the abuse.
I found that when I opened up and was able to let out the anger, resentment, fear etc about me abuse, I had so much more love inside of me to give.
This love I first gave to myself..because after all of those years I found out that I DID DESERVE IT!
My story doesn't really have an ending..your recovery is neverending, in my opinion. Yes, you get better. You learn your triggers, you put your demons to rest, but your recovery, like your life, goes on.
I was lucky enough to have a child on my own by artificial insemination at age 35. Why alone? Well, as you probably guessed it, I still wasn't trusting enough to date a man to be in a lasting relationship with at that time in my life. I was emotionally pretty healthy, healthy enough to be a mom, but relationship wise, I still had a ways to go.
I had a beautiful daughter who was a wonderous gift to me...and still is, every day. It is also a struggle every day not to put my abuse fears on her (even in recovery we can do that, if we are not careful!).
I did eventually did get married but unfortunately it did not work out. Fortunately, I DID learn a great deal about myself and what I want and need from future relationships. Just because a relationship fails does not mean that YOU are a FAILURE dear ones! It just means that you get another chance to find the right person for you!!
I have to give more props to Ted Neeley, if it were not for him, I doubt that I would have ever trusted a man again. I actually told my husband (and he later met Ted) that HE was lucky I met Ted or we probably wouldn't have been married! Ted showed me that a man can be loving and kind and respectful.
I wish that all abused women could meet a man such as Ted to know that there are good, loving men out there who won't hurt you.
I wish for you, dear ones, the strength to keep going and to keep on keeping on. Recovery is really worth the pain and the tears. There really is a rainbow at the end. It may take years to see it..but like I have said repeatedly, God will carry you when you think you can't take another step..and your sisters in recovery will also help to carry you and support you, if you give them the chance.
If you need help re-connecting to Jesus? Give "Jesus Christ Superstar" a chance! I am sure that there are hundreds of people that will agree with me on that one!
Be sure to read the stories below from other survivors..just like you. Women who were brave enough to share their stories. Each woman at a different place in their recovery. We all can learn from them. Won't you share your story too? The more of us that share, the more of us that we help. We all feel the same pain and loneliness from our victimization. It is when we speak out that we know we are not alone and we are all connected as sisters in recovery! Blessings to all of you my sisters and I applaud your bravery and courage for speaking out! Keep the stories coming. You are helping so many women that you will never know!! Thank you so very much for them!
Ted Neeley singing from the movie "Jesus Christ Superstar"
Do You Have a Story of Your Own?
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