This morning I found myself strolling down Memory Lane, a memory that scares me, a memory I wish I could bury forever and never recall.
The memory used to cripple me. It would rise up from the deep, dark hole I shoved it down and arouse intense emotions, leaving me in a tail spin as I fought to distance myself from it, as I fought to justify and make sense of what happened.
I have done a lot of work to grow and heal from this memory, and I do not remember what triggered it. I just know that I was beyond the initial question of figuring out if I wanted to deal with the memory or shove it back down. That ship had SAILED. I was already in the memory, in the place of ‘fighting to justify’ what happened. I was trying to make sense of it all and could feel ALL the emotions rising up: Anger, indignation, hate, confusion, sadness, physical pain, guilt, remorse, and so many more feelings that words cannot explain.
The fear of being drowned by overwhelming emotions sent up a (mental) RED FLAG.
I paused — unsure what would come next. Then a voice asked: “Are you still a victim or are you a victor?” Carrying on that thought, I wondered: At what point do you ‘change’ from victim to victor? Truthfully, I don’t know. There were years where I was always the victim and it wasn’t going to change, but at some point, something was changing or had changed in me. I did not want to be a victim anymore. I did not want to be burdened and weighed down any longer. I wanted to be the victor — whatever that meant.
I thought about which direction I was going to head down, which title I was going to claim: Victim or Victor; Broken or Beautiful; Damaged or Whole; Hurt or Healed; Volatile or Stable; Incapable or Capable; Begrudging or Forgiven.
It took nearly nine years to get to this place, but I chose: Victor, Beautiful, Whole, Healed, Stable, Forgiven, and able to Forgive.
In that moment I THANKED God for forgiving me and giving me the ability to forgive all who have wronged me. I thanked God for the healing work of His Spirit and the GIFT of faith to believe in the healing. I think I was healed for a lot longer than I knew — I just didn’t claim healing. It wasn’t the time then, but it is the time now.
Later that day, I gave thanks again…..so very grateful to ALL the people who helped me heal, process and overcome. Grateful for God’s strength rising up to ask which direction I was going to take and which title I was going to claim, and I was proud of myself. We have to give ourselves praise for big and little victories accomplished. So I gave praise where praise was due. Later that day I wondered ‘Why the HECK did it take nine years to get here!?’
I am sure there are more researched answers than mine, but here are my thoughts as to why it is hard to overcome ‘victim mentality.’
- Claiming victory over wounds ‘diminishes’ the wound.
While this does not make sense, it does. There was a very bad, maybe even traumatic, terrible, and negative thing done to you. You wrestle with this. You battle this for a long time. It becomes part of you. Let’s be honest, it IS part of you. The moment ‘that thing’ happened, it became part of you and your story. It shapes who you are and who you’ll become. It is yours. Yours to claim. Yours to carry. Yours to work through. Yours. It’s almost like moving on diminishes that. Moving on ‘takes away’ the pain of what happened, and you ‘earned’ that pain. You would not choose it. You don’t want it. You’re not going to wave it around like a trophy, but it happened to you. It’s real. It’s hard. It’s yours.
While moving on does take away the pain of the wound, it does not take away what happened. Nor will it ever. What happened was real, and it should not have happened. What you went through will never be undone or diminished by moving on. What happened to you was SO wrong and painful and heavy. Moving on does not say what happened was okay or what happened didn’t happen or what happened ‘wasn’t that bad’. Moving on acknowledges the hurt happened. It was bad and it was wrong, BUT you are no longer tossed to and fro because of it. You are no longer going to let the perpetrator (or wrongdoing) have influence over your thoughts, mind, body, heart, emotions, or life. Moving on says what happened was real, but you’re more than that. You’re better than that. You’re ready. You’re able. You’re a victor – not a victim. You’re beautiful – not broken. You’re worth more and worthy. You are NOT damaged goods. You are whole, healed and healing. You are your own, beautiful person. Claiming victory over the wound does not and will never diminish what happened to you.
For me, another scary thing about moving on is:
- Fearing the unknown of it
How do you move on? What does it look like? For so long you have been defined by what happened to you. So who are you now? What does life look like when this ‘thing’ does not control you?
We all fear the unknown, and the questions are real: Can I still talk about what happened? Is it part of my story? If it surfaces or I am triggered by it, does it mean that I haven’t moved on? Does it mean I am not healed? What if I thought I forgave but I find myself angry and upset again? What if I have to continue to work through after I think I have moved on?
The answer is Yes! You can move on slowly, one day at a time. Your life does not have to look like anything in particular. It looks like what it needs to look like. When you are not controlled by this anymore, you can allow healthier thoughts and hobbies and reactions into your life. You can still talk about what happened. Talking about what happened does not mean you have not worked through it – it means you have strength to share your story. It means you have the ability to help and encourage others with the same thing they’re working through. It will always be part of your story, but you can say when and how you share it. You write the narrative! It means you are healed, but there still may be triggers to work through, and that is okay.
Healing and forgiveness is a lifelong process. There is not that ‘one moment’ when you realize ‘you’re all better’ and that’s it. It is day-by-day, choosing healing, choosing forgiveness, choosing which path to take. I wish it was a one-and-done: You forgive. You heal. You move on. For some reason it does not work like that. What happened to us lives in our bodies and our memories, which is why certain smells, songs, movies, people, places, etc., can trigger what happened. Being triggered does NOT mean you have not healed. It means you’re real and what happened was real, but again, you now have the ability to acknowledge the trigger and say ‘You don’t control me,’ or say whatever you want! “Sorry guilt, nobody is here today but righteousness.” “Sorry memory, I acknowledge your presence, but I am not going to think about you today.”
You do not want to repress memories or feelings. You do not want to deny them when they surface. You want to take a moment, acknowledge, determine if it is something that you need to work through, like another layer of healing that needs to take place, and if that is the case, you should address and work through. But if it is not another layer of forgiveness and healing… if it is not something that needs to be addressed, then tell that thing you’re in the driver’s seat and it can ride in the trunk!
Thanks for reading about my journey. If you have any questions or encouraging stories, please hit me up in the Contact Page. As well, I strongly believe that seeking professional help is not weak. It is never wrong, and it is always worth the money. There are a many other ways to cope and heal aside from professional help – techniques (below) are some ways that helped me work through hurt:
- Journaling my thoughts
- Writing a letter to the person and sending OR not sending
- Sharing my story with ‘safe’ people
- Sharing my story in a larger group (as applicable)
- Sharing my story in any medium (songs, journals, blogs, books, etc.,) that are meaningful to me
- Counseling (Christian-based or not, Trauma counseling, Inner healing ministry)
- Seeking prayer
- Yoga, prayer walks, physical activity that allows me to reconnect to my body/thoughts
- Reading the stories of others
- Reading books about the topic or healing from the topic
- Support groups
- Time and a lot of effort!