Trigger Warning: This article contains content concerning sexual assault, self harm & suicide.
About eight years ago, I started having nightmares of a younger me in sexual situations. I had no recollection of these things actually happening & the images were so disturbing they haunted me. I started seeing them even when I was awake. It made me jumpy, moody, and even afraid to be out of the house.
I had just had a newborn baby boy, and I had postpartum depression and panic attacks. My emotions were so large I couldn’t handle them. All these things I didn’t know how to deal with started causing friction in my marriage. I remember having a fight with my husband. I couldn’t even tell you what the fight was about, but I remember how I felt.
People told me it would pass. That I would start to feel better. That it was just because I wasn’t getting enough rest.
It didn’t pass though. When my oldest turned six months old, I found out I was pregnant again. I cried. I didn’t know if I could take any more. But I did. I endured and had another beautiful baby boy. But it was all still there. The depression, the fear, the hopelessness, the nightmares.
My loved ones didn’t understand. They wondered how I could be so depressed. How could I be so sad with such a beautiful family? They didn’t know about my nightmares though…about my waking thoughts. Images of me as a child. I thought I was sick. I was certain I was going mad.
I sought out therapy. I remember sitting in my therapist’s office and just crying for the hour session, or just staring at the floor and not saying anything. There was a mound of shame, fear, and anger inside of me that I didn’t understand.
It got so bad that I decided I was done. I couldn’t take it anymore. On my lunch break at work, I went out and bought a box cutter. I was planning to drive to a big parking lot after work and just quietly end it. I was certain I couldn’t be the wife or mother my family needed me to be. I was going insane, and I couldn’t take them with me. I began typing out a note for my family. I started to tell my boys goodbye and how sorry I was that I wasn’t strong enough to be a mother for them. That’s when I stopped. I couldn’t do it. The thought of someone telling them that their mother killed herself tore me apart. I couldn’t do it. I deleted the note and threw the box cutter away. I decided to keep trying to find my way through the pain.
It was about this time I decided to go to Crossroads. I wanted the boys to grow up in a church. A church I felt I could trust. In a service, they brought up a class they offered for people who’d experienced Childhood Sexual Trauma. I felt a nudge. “But I don’t know if that is my problem,” I argued to God. “I don’t know where these images are coming from.” I still felt the nudge.
I was afraid, I was anxious, I was even a little ashamed, but I went to the class. And I am so glad I did. Yes, it was uncomfortable. I was in a room full of strangers sitting with the daunting feeling of knowing we all knew why we were in this room together. The air felt heavy and there were a few moments where I felt I was just going to get up and run out of the room because I couldn’t handle the emotions that were bubbling up. But I took a deep breath, and I stayed; I didn’t talk much or make much eye contact, but I stayed and I kept going back each week. Through the discomfort, I started to learn that I was not going crazy. I was having a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. The memories that were coming back were in fact things that had happened to me. My panic, fear and sudden onset of flashbacks were normal for people who had gone through things like I had. Even the coping mechanisms I had used since childhood started to make sense. My inability to say no, my social anxiety, my heightened awareness, and jumpy nature were all pieces to a puzzle and I could only now see the full picture. I learned how trauma changes the brain and heard others’ stories. Stories that were different from mine but felt the same. I felt their pain and could relate to it, and I didn’t feel so alone anymore. While going to the classes, I continued my therapy. My therapist was very good at helping me discuss what I was feeling during the classes. So even though I wasn’t talking much in class, I had someone I trusted to help me process the new things I was learning about myself. There were things in that class that God needed me to hear so that I could move forward. It felt like a step in the right direction and I could tell there was a light at the end of the tunnel I was in.
The work I did in that class and during my therapy sessions started me on a path to healing. I learned I was not crazy. I had suppressed the traumatic events of my childhood in order to survive. Those events came to the surface after having children of my own. Though God led me to this new path of healing, it is not to say things have been easy. Healing is hard work. After the classes, I would often go home and just cry. My heart was breaking for the little girl in me who had to carry this burden for so long. Even to this day, I still cry for that little girl. I still dissociate sometimes. I still have flashbacks. And raw feelings of deep sadness and anger still overwhelm me from time to time. But something is different now. Now I can invite God into those spaces of deep sadness and anger. He not only sits with me but helps me bear the burden, and we cry together. And, when things get to be too much to handle, I go see my therapist and we talk it out together.
I have also learned to look at my past in a new way. When I look back now, I have a different perspective on God’s involvement through my painful experiences.
On this side of considering so many new thoughts discussed in the class,__ I honestly believe wholeheartedly that God has been with me every step of the way. He was with me as I was going through those traumatic events. He helped me forget them. He even helped me remember them when I was old enough to heal from them.__ He knew. He knew if I didn’t have my boys to live for, I couldn’t handle the healing process. And wow, has it been a process; and it is still in process. But I am miles and miles away from that woman who wanted to die. I still have flashbacks. I still have moments of feeling dissociated from myself. And moments of disdain for the ways I’ve been affected by what was done to me. But I’m not alone anymore. I now am walking through a healing journey guided by God, who knows all the necessary turns and support I’ll need along the way. He has shown up by putting me in groups and conversations that keep giving me the next piece I need to have more compassion and understanding for myself and even for others. When I feel lost in self-hatred or overwhelmed by emotions, I feel God reminding me that this version of me is enough. Even with trauma responses and all the ways I feel socially incapable— I am still enough.
Still enough to have a hopeful, promising future.
Still enough to be a good and healthy mom.
Enough to keep living and taking up the necessary space and resources to support my healing.
Enough to deserve good friendships and safe relationships.
Enough to be a light for someone else in their time of darkness.
And enough to break statistics and cycles of the abused becoming abusers.
I know this view of my worth is from God because I am never that nice to myself. He loves me, though. And by watching how He loves and is patient with me, I am learning ways to love myself similarly. Slowly learning to follow His example.
This is not an easy part of my story to share. But so many of our stories have darkness and despair in them. We don’t usually like to share those stories, but I think it helps.
I wrote this article for you who are suffering silently, unsure of how to go on. You, who have children you want to protect. You, who know someone who has suffered through childhood sexual abuse. I want you to know you are not alone.
One in five children are sexually abused. And those are just the ones we are aware of.
The effects of this abuse are deeper than we can put into words and lasts longer than even we as the victims can make sense of. But what I’m saying to you is there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is peace that starts to predominate the torment. There is love that starts to overshadow and eradicate the misdirected self-hate. And there is acceptance from the most Holy of holies, and even acceptance from the world around you. And you don’t have to show up in that world without your pain, trauma or inner struggles. You don’t even have to show up, hiding those dark stories (from those you trust). You and your complicated past can be fully seen and known by God and others, and still be the worthy recipient of that peace, love and acceptance. All of that is waiting and accessible for all of us, no matter how much trauma we’ve endured. If you have intrusive thoughts, if you have trauma that is affecting your life, I believe this is your signal to start healing.
What happened is not your fault. You can heal from the wounds it left. You don’t have to do it alone. God is here to do this with you and nudge you towards the steps that can bring you healing. Even when you’re not 100% sure if it’s God— take that first step in faith that it’s Him leading you out of the pain. Learn to love & hold yourself the way He loves you.
My name is Mandy Mazor. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Through God, I have learned that I am strong enough to face the feelings & experiences that I thought would crush me. Abuse heaped shame & disgust on me, but those things are not my doing; I.. am Beautiful. I am a warrior who reached her end & did not fold.
Open yourself up to God helping you heal and discover the truth. You experiencing healing is absolutely worth every ounce of discomfort and agony that you fear may be in front of you. You are worth the bravery involved in uncovering the truth to oppose the lies that your trauma taught you.