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The Other Side is For Real
I was very aware of people. I had to keep them at a distance. At the same time, a part of me so desperately wanted to be seen and known— the scared, lonely, honest part of me.
But I played it safe. Stay hidden and keep people at a safe distance. I knew for a fact that if anyone really knew me they would abandon me. Now I let Aaron closer than anyone had ever been. I was more honest than I’d ever been. As I talked about how I felt about myself, Aaron said the word “defilement.”
I claimed I didn’t know what the word meant. Though I might not have been completely sure, it resonated deep in me. I was defiled. I was a horrible person. I did unforgivable things, and I should suffer forever. I deserved the worst. I deserved punishment and pain. I wasn’t worthy of love or care. Not people’s love. Not God’s love! (Excerpt from “Remember to Forget”)
That’s where I was a few years ago. That was my reality; the truth about me. I had lived the first
39 years of my life based on that belief. I had made decisions and choices for my life based on that belief. But I did whatever it took to not show the world. I became a hard worker. I worked in relationships, I had to fulfill the other person’s need somehow, that was the only way I had worth.
The men I dated saw me the same way. The man I married agreed. I had friends that didn’t agree, but I didn’t understand that. I grew up in abuse, it began when I was very young and continued into my teens. I never told anyone, it was just part of life. What was there to tell? It was my own fault, I got what I deserved.
The emotional turmoil, the pain, the shame was mine to carry. I don’t remember my dad telling me those things, but his actions did. I learned that my only worth was in fulfilling his desires. Growing up I had settled for just surviving. Earning my spot in this world by doing for others. I managed, but it was a lot of work to have to medicate the pain and keep it all hidden. I had accepted that I had to live with the burden.
I wouldn’t say I planned to work through my past, or chose it at first. I had a very weak dream that life could be different, like a fantasy. I didn’t see it possible, I would need help, a lot of help and I didn’t see myself as worthy of help, care or healing.
This Aaron reached out, he cared, he believed in me. It fueled my dream and my strength grew.
Slowly I moved, one day at a time. Giving up was often tempting, choosing not to live at all was tempting. The pain was outrageous! But I began to question my beliefs; what if I was worth it?
What if I deserved life and not just survival? What if my life had value in itself? I finally told. I exposed the secrets, the lies, the shame, and little by little it lost its power over me.
It was a daily choice to keep going. It was hard work. Healing is a battle, the process of healing sucks! It’s looking at all the ugly; the pain, the shame and then challenging the ingrained beliefs, and looking at the stupid choices I made because of them. I began to understand that what my dad did doesn’t define me, it defines him. I get to define me and I have worth, I have a place in this world and a purpose. The shame is not mine to carry and not mine to mask.
Some days I still wonder why I’m here. Although I know my Dad was wrong when he taught me I was worthless, the notion can still challenge me. But then I look at my kids, all 3 of them have known abuse and neglect before I became their Mom. They are special needs, constant supervision, and hard work. But they are so worth it! They are amazing people with big lives ahead of them. More than anything I want them to know that they are worth every effort for them to heal and become everything they are meant to be.
The same goes for you. You don’t have to hide. You are worthy of healing and “the other side” is for real. You can get there! Keep going one day at a time.
About the Author
Sarah Hemli has worked with both children and adults with special challenges based on her degree in human development and special needs. As a foster Mom she loved and cared for children from traumatic backgrounds and lived with the affects neglect and abuse had had on them. She became a resource parent training others to understand the effects of trauma and the special parenting it requires. Several years into her work she decided to deal with her own trauma history. In her book Remember to Forget she shares her journey to offer hope of healing and life to others. Sarah lives with her 3 adopted kids and their 3 cats.
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