To Those Whom I Met In An Online Support Group For PTSD

It’s different now. You know? Four years ago, you were my only support— online, in person, and in life. I only had you and a brand new baby to hold.

I shared a lot with the group, with you, but the biggest battle is still one I carry alone. Though, you taught me to bare it all and learn to pull a few close. I did that. You taught me a lot of other things too, although many of you I’ve shoved away. And you let go.

I bet you don’t know, everything I do, the woman I am today, is because of you. I stumbled into the room half dead, half alive, broken. And every time I opened my mouth, you cared and you actually spoke back. Everything I said, you told me it helped you. I’d never had confidence in myself like that… or people who wanted to love me. I didn’t even know the sound of my voice before I met you.

We bled together and laughed together. I swear, we introduced the world to cupcakes and vodka. You still make me smile. You still make me cry too. Because I know, in the end, I hurt a few of you after the loss of my sister.

It’s not easy for me to admit I did some of the damage. It’s not easy for me to write this open letter to you. But, when hearts get broken, we have a way of slamming doors. And, when we remember love, we have a way of kicking them open too.

Maybe, back then, I was just a stranger who walked into your life and you did your best to love me. I wish I would’ve told you then I was so broken I didn’t know how to receive it. I wish I could have told you then how I will love you with everything that I am… and hurt you because I can’t always control it.

All the words I needed to say got lost because I knew you loved me and you were hurting too, but you shoved me away. You ignored my pain. And every single time, it broke me. I can’t tell you how hard it was to watch your news feed; your sadness and pain. But, mostly, your love.

Many of you had families; sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandchildren. Gosh, I envied them. And I listened when you called me family too. Maybe I seemed just as lonely as you, but the truth is, you had love you couldn’t feel in the middle of your darkness. It was too much for me because on my side of the fence the yard and the houses are empty.

I wish I could’ve told you back then. I think a part of me really tried. But I was shattered, the words came out sharp and anger became me. I wish I had logged off. Part of me wishes I had stopped reaching out. Because my circle was small and when it came to pain, I carried it all; your bad days, my bad days, your loss, my grief, all of the weight from everything we’ve ever escaped… and the only place to dispose of it was in the same place we gained or left it.

I’m sorry I hurt you while I was hurting. You deserved better from me. But I just wanted to say, in case you ever look back my way…

Thank you for teaching me how to walk.

How Being Abusive Helped Me Forgive My Abusers

I used to carry enough anger for every victim of child abuse and then some until I discovered my anger kept me clinging to violence.

When abuse happens inside the home, it’s difficult to escape your abuser even after you are grown. My sisters and I ran opposite directions. We each had different traumas and different symptoms in reaction to those traumas. We were so young.

My oldest sister left town and changed her name twice; severing all ties with the family, including me. My other sister dove into college. When the trauma of sexual assault found her inside the dorm, she ran into the Air Force. Next, she ran to love. While she’s happily married, she draws so much distance from the family, she might as well be gone. Me? I stayed. I am still holding on.

It took a long time to understand and forgive my sisters. It came with a unique kind of pain. While there are great sacrifices in running from your past and great triumphs to be gained, choosing to stay can be the same.

Choosing to stay can be healing if the abuse has stopped and you’re willing to put that anger away. I hear people say,

Abuse is a choice!

I agree. I hear them say,

You abuse because you were abused?! Bullsh*t!
You abuse because you’re an abuser.

Deep down, there’s a piece of me that feels the same way. I know that anger. I know that pain. Those statements and feelings are valid, but they don’t create healing or change. People are not born abusive. Something makes them that way.

I was barely a teenager the first time I hit my sister. I had been watching a movie on Lifetime. At the beginning, a man abandoned his three kids at a gas station. It showed them standing with their toys and belongings. The youngest was screaming as he drove away when I grabbed the remote to turn it off. I headed to my bedroom, fuming with anger, as my sister headed the other way, and I hit her. I hit her and I didn’t feel a thing! I don’t even know why I did it.

I have no memory of the rest of that day, but I do remember the day I hit my mother after she was done belittling me and calling me names. I blamed myself for the abuse after that. I felt like I must’ve deserved it because I did the exact same thing.

If I believe what the majority say, I am an abuser. But I believe I was a victim. I believe my actions and my anger were controlled by other things. It took years to identify and understand those things. It took years to forgive myself for violence beyond my control and convince myself it’s okay to let go of those mistakes. It took years to release the guilt. I still carry the pain.

Because of those experiences, I can look at my abusers and identify the same kind of causes and distinguish their pain. Does that validate the abuse? Does it negate the consequences of child abuse? Does it mean my abusers didn’t have the choice to change? No.

Am I making excuses for them by recognizing how domestic violence and degenerative illness caused my life to be this way? In my younger days, I did. I don’t allow myself to do that anymore. Still, the elements of abuse haven’t changed.

Being able to identify why the abuse happened helped bring understanding. It helped me offer my parents insight into their abuse and the sickness that caused it. It opened the doors to forgiveness that many victims lock before throwing the keys away. It helped bring healing in the middle of pain.

Some people do abuse because they were abused. If they can’t talk about it, if we’re too busy labeling them as abusers instead of acknowledging they were victims; if we can’t show them the why behind the violence, how can they change?

I escaped the abuse. I stayed to break the cycle.

And I’m stronger for it.


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Life is Temporary. Grief is Not.

My sister died by suicide February 26, 2015, less than two weeks after her father’s funeral. Her daughter is the one who found her. Today is her birthday.

I wonder if she still wakes up and looks for her. I wonder if she cries at night, missing her mother, wishing she were holding her tight. In five days, it will be her birthday.

On that day, I will continue to mourn her and respectively acknowledge the anniversary date of the death of the woman who loved me as if I were her own daughter, stepping in to fill the shoes of my own family when they failed to support me. I was so consumed with grief and loss I didn’t even know she was sick and hurting. I never said goodbye. I wish I could’ve told her how much she changed my life and how much I loved her.

April 29th is my father’s birthday, but that’s not why I remember the date. It is also the birthday of my friend, with whom I ministered for years at our church. She was age 25, on vacation in Hawaii, heading to watch the sunrise with her husband, when they were hit by a drunk driver. She died instantly. That was six years ago. It took three years to acknowledge that loss and finally grieve her.

On this day, twenty-one years ago, I was in middle school when my friend died from a gunshot wound to the head.  I sat in the cafeteria, in shock, as the entire school finally took the time to acknowledge him as more than a trouble maker or juvenile delinquent. At first, it was investigated as a suicide.

In the end, his death was dismissed as another instance of a teen with a gun, who should’ve known better. I still drive by his house. I can still see him and all of his siblings. I wonder how many people knew he missed so much school because he was also their caretaker. There are consequences that come along with forcing children to be adults. Dangerous consequences.

The same year my friend was shot, a lady in my mother’s Multiple Sclerosis support group took her own life. I didn’t know it then, but I experienced firsthand what suicide contagion looks like. Two other support group members died by suicide in the months that followed. My mother discontinued her support group, and “suicide” became a permanent, routinely used word in our home. For ten years, I listened to my mother threaten her own life or encourage me to kill her. So, later that year, it didn’t seem unnatural or abnormal when I attempted to take my own life.

People believe death and loss are something we experience, something we feel, for a moment in time and then heal from. People assume the pain leaves the heart once the stages of grief have ended, but, often, it doesn’t.

We bury the loss. We hide the guilt, and we forever carry the grief in our hearts until we finally reach the end of our own lives.

Life is fleeting— temporary. We must cling to hope to survive.


If you are feeling suicidal, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 
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