{ context }

On September 22, 2014, I reported to my city-county courthouse for jury selection. This was my first experience of being called for jury duty; I had been excused from all previous calls because I had been living outside of the country. From the moment I received the notice, I had a bad feeling about what was to come; I thought it was simply because of the inconvenience it would cause for my job, especially if I were selected and required to report for the duration of the trial. I tried to get excused, but no such luck. So, I reported.

After two hours of waiting around, we were finally called in to the courtroom to begin the selection process. The judge addressed the sixty of us being screened, explaining the process we were about to experience and reading the charges against the defendant. The man was accused of kidnapping, statutory rape, and giving illegal substances to a minor. The minor in question was a teenage girl who was only thirteen at the time all of this happened.

As soon as the judge read the charges, I felt a wave of extremely intense emotional and physical anxiety wash over me with the force of a catastrophic hurricane. I found out later that I had experienced a trauma response; it lasted about a week, leaving a decimated emotional landscape in its wake. Over the course of the next four weeks I tried my hardest to get an appointment with someone at a Christian counseling group in the area; I was barely functional, and, while I was still able to work, I knew I needed help figuring out what was happening to me. After the second round of being placed with a counselor whose availability was exactly the days I explicitly informed them I was not available, I cried over my lunch and then called two more places, leavening a message on the answering machine at both. One hour later, a woman called me back from the lesser-known of the two, told me her expertise was in all the areas I needed, and booked me an appointment with her for the following night. I have been meeting with her ever since.

{ journey }

Since that first session in October 2014, we have been digging into my story:

  • My mother leaving for a year when I was ten, returning for eight months, then leaving again right before I entered sixth grade (at a new school) and never coming back (my parents’ divorce was finalized when I was thirteen, my father retaining full custody of me and my sister)
  • My mother’s virtual disappearance from my life until I was seventeen
  • My father’s remarriage when I was fourteen (three months before I entered high school), and the five years of emotional and sexual traumas I experienced as a result of and within that new blended family.
  • Sexual and relational traumas I experienced from people outside of my immediate family and after I left home.

We have explored and rolled around in so much muck and mire! I don’t know that I can say that things are becoming clearer, but I can say that Pops has been faithful to get into the mud and quicksand with me and to keep me breathing, even if just barely. We have talked a great deal about names and identities—the true, the false, and their sources. We have talked about shame and dignity, about what and who is safe for me and what and who is not, and we have explored the effects of emotional abandonment, neglect, and abuse. And we are only just beginning to explore the sexual traumas.

My therapy sessions have been a place of safety, dignity, and life. It has been a vehicle for examining all these traumas and scars that have defined me and informed how I relate to the world, to myself, and to God and for putting names to and uncovering—maybe even reframing—narratives I knew existed but couldn’t identify.

Since the very first session, my therapist has been encouraging me to journal this journey. Until now, I have rarely been able to wrap my head around it enough to encapsulate it with words. Words were too small, too limited, and the things I’ve been working through had not yet distilled down enough to fit into any verbal form. For someone who has always had more than enough words, this has been incredibly difficult; but it has also been a vehicle for faith. I have had to do more sitting and listening in my meditative moments alone. I have had to do a lot of questioning and even more waiting. I have had to admit that I cannot come up with the answers on my own—or at all.

But in the quiet, in the waiting, in the spaces in between my raging questions and confusion and pain—those are the places where divine responses have started arriving, where pieces have started shifting together, where understanding is being birthed.

And now I have words. Words that need sorting and ordering, that need rhythm and emotion, that need finessing so they can communicate through their presence (utterance) and their absence (silence, space).

I think it’s time to start writing again, time to start punctuating this story I’m in and getting it out so it can do the good it was designed for—even if the only one who ever reads it is me.