Saturday, January 31, 2009

Quotes that have helped me

Some days it may feel like you are David fighting Goliath, just remember, David won.

It takes the same amount of energy to live a good life as it does a bad one. Choose wisely.

'No one can hide the star that you are.' - Brad Hardisty

FAITH is the only known antidote for FAILURE!' -Napoleon Hill

“The difference between successful people and failures is that successful people make a habit of doing the things that failures don’t like to do.” Albert Grey

"That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do—not that the nature of the thing has changed, but that our power to do has increased."

“What I need most isn’t for someone to make me feel better, I need people who are willing to stand with me to face the raw truth.”

"A woman is like a tea bag- you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water." -Eleanor Roosevelt

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do." -Eleanor Roosevelt

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. -Martin Luthar King, jr.

“Come to the edge.”“We can't. We're afraid.”
“Come to the edge." “We can't. We will fall!”
“Come to the edge.” And they came.
And he pushed them. And they flew."
~Guillaume Apollinaire

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Friday, January 30, 2009

a glimpse

I went out to dinner with my husband tonight. At first, I wasn't sure I was up to it. There was so much going through my mind and my body. My body hurts most of the time. I know its a flashback sort of thing... my body thinks its being raped even when I am just sitting there. That makes it so hard to WANT to do anything. I am so glad I went.

It went great. We had a good time - just talked, laughed, ate. The best part:

Before dinner, I remember asking my sweetheart - will there ever be a time it doesn't hurt? His reply, you know there will be. Then, I don't know when it happened... but I do know when it started to hurt again. It just didn't hurt. I was laughing, enjoying my dinner, enjoying being with him, and it didn't hurt! It went like 20 minutes... maybe more... which means it will be longer next time.

It gave me so much hope! I am so grateful!

Thank you dear Father, for showing me what it can feel like. Thank you for giving me that glimpse at a moment when I wasn't sure it was worth it to keep trying. Thank you for showing me my progress. Thank you!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse - What stuck out to me today

Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse
Elder Richard G. Scott
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I speak from the depths of my heart to each one of you who have been scarred by the ugly sin of abuse, whether you are a member or nonmember of the Church. I would prefer a private setting to discuss this sensitive subject and ask that the Holy Spirit help us both that you may receive the relief of the Lord from the cruelty that has scarred your life.

(I just had a prophet of the Lord ask for me to receive the relief of the Lord.)

Unless healed by the Lord, mental, physical, or sexual abuse can cause you serious, enduring consequences. As a victim you have experienced some of them. They include fear, depression, guilt, self-hatred, destruction of self-esteem, and alienation from normal human relationships. When aggravated by continued abuse, powerful emotions of rebellion, anger, and hatred are generated. These feelings often are focused against oneself, others, life itself, and even Heavenly Father. Frustrated efforts to fight back can degenerate into drug abuse, immorality, abandonment of home, and, tragically in extreme cases, suicide. Unless corrected, these feelings lead to despondent lives, discordant marriages, and even the transition from victim to abuser. One awful result is a deepening lack of trust in others which becomes a barrier to healing.

(But I am overcoming this. I struggle a lot, but so much less than I used to. Thank you Lord for your help in overcoming this!)

To be helped, you must understand some things about eternal law. Your abuse results from another's unrighteous attack on your freedom. Since all of Father in Heaven's children enjoy agency, there can be some who choose willfully to violate the commandments and harm you. Such acts temporarily restrict your freedom. In justice, and to compensate, the Lord has provided a way for you to overcome the destructive results of others' acts against your will. That relief comes by applying eternal truths with priesthood assistance.

Know that the wicked choice of others cannot completely destroy your agency unless you permit it. Their acts may cause pain, anguish, even physical harm, but they cannot destroy your eternal possibilities in this brief but crucial life on earth. You must understand that you are free to determine to overcome the harmful results of abuse. Your attitude can control the change for good in your life. It allows you to have the help the Lord intends you to receive. No one can take away your ultimate opportunities when you understand and live eternal law. The laws of your Heavenly Father and the atonement of the Lord have made it possible that you will not be robbed of the opportunities which come to the children of God.

You may feel threatened by one who is in a position of power or control over you. You may feel trapped and see no escape. Please believe that your Heavenly Father does not want you to be held captive by unrighteous influence, by threats of reprisal, or by fear of repercussion to the family member who abuses you. Trust that the Lord will lead you to a solution. Ask in faith, nothing doubting. (See James 1:6; Enos 1:15; Moro. 7:26; D&C 8:10; D&C 18:18.)

I solemnly testify that when another's acts of violence, perversion, or incest hurt you terribly, against your will, you are not responsible and you must not feel guilty. You may be left scarred by abuse, but those scars need not be permanent. In the eternal plan, in the Lord's timetable, those injuries can be made right as you do your part. Here is what you can do now.

Seek Help
If you are now or have in the past been abused, seek help now. Perhaps you distrust others and feel that there is no reliable help anywhere. Begin with your Eternal Father and his beloved Son, your Savior. Strive to comprehend their commandments and follow them. They will lead you to others who will strengthen and encourage you. There is available to you a priesthood leader, normally a bishop, at times a member of the stake presidency. They can build a bridge to greater understanding and healing. Joseph Smith taught: "A man can do nothing for himself unless God direct him in the right way; and the Priesthood is for that purpose." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 364.)

Talk to your bishop in confidence. His calling allows him to act as an instrument of the Lord in your behalf. He can provide a doctrinal foundation to guide you to recovery. An understanding and application of eternal law will provide the healing you require. He has the right to be inspired of the Lord in your behalf. He can use the priesthood to bless you.

Your bishop can help you identify trustworthy friends to support you. (Oh Please, help me find friends to support me. I feel very alone. I have tried to build up a support system on my own, and I have failed. I am left with Bishop Johnson, Dann, and now Bishop Campbell. I have my CFC sisters, and they are amazing, but they carry the same burdens that I do. They have been through the same hell. Are there people out there who can love me who haven't been through this hell? Are there people who won't judge me, but can support me through? I feel alone. I know the Lord is with me, and I am AMAZINGLY blessed to have the support I do. Many of my friends don't have one person they can talk to, and I have three!)

He will help you regain self-confidence and self-esteem to begin the process of renewal. When abuse is extreme, he can help you identify appropriate protection and professional treatment consistent with the teachings of the Savior.

Principles of Healing
These are some of the principles of healing you will come to understand more fully:

Recognize that you are a beloved child of your Heavenly Father. He loves you perfectly and can help you as no earthly parent, spouse, or devoted friend can. His Son gave his life so that by faith in him and obedience to his teachings you can be made whole. He is the consummate healer.

Gain trust in the love and compassion of your elder brother, Jesus Christ, by pondering the scriptures. As with the Nephites, he tells you, "I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy. … I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you." (3 Ne. 17:7–8.)

Healing best begins with your sincere prayer asking your Father in Heaven for help. That use of your agency allows divine intervention. When you permit it, the love of the Savior will soften your heart, break the cycle of abuse that can transform a victim into an aggressor. Adversity, even when caused willfully by others' unrestrained appetite, can be a source of growth when viewed from the perspective of eternal principle. (See D&C 122:7.)

The victim must do all in his or her power to stop the abuse. Most often, the victim is innocent because of being disabled by fear or the power or authority of the offender. At some point in time, however, the Lord may prompt a victim to recognize a degree of responsibility for abuse. Your priesthood leader will help assess your responsibility so that, if needed, it can be addressed. Otherwise the seeds of guilt will remain and sprout into bitter fruit. Yet no matter what degree of responsibility, from absolutely none to increasing consent, the healing power of the atonement of Jesus Christ can provide a complete cure. (See D&C 138:1–4.) Forgiveness can be obtained for all involved in abuse. (See A of F 1:3.) Then comes a restoration of self-respect, self-worth, and a renewal of life.

As a victim, do not waste effort in revenge or retribution against your aggressor. Focus on your responsibility to do what is in your power to correct. Leave the handling of the offender to civil and Church authorities. Whatever they do, eventually the guilty will face the Perfect Judge. Ultimately the unrepentant abuser will be punished by a just God. The purveyors of filth and harmful substances who knowingly incite others to acts of violence and depravation and those who promote a climate of permissiveness and corruption will be sentenced. Predators who victimize the innocent and justify their own corrupted life by enticing others to adopt their depraved ways will be held accountable. Of such the Master warned:
"But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matt. 18:6.)

Understand that healing can take considerable time. Recovery generally comes in steps. It is accelerated when gratitude is expressed to the Lord for every degree of improvement noted.

During prolonged recovery from massive surgery, a patient anticipates complete healing in patience, trusting in others' care. He does not always understand the importance of the treatment prescribed, but his obedience speeds recovery. So it is with you struggling to heal the scars of abuse. Forgiveness, for example, can be hard to understand, even more difficult to give. Begin by withholding judgment. You don't know what abusers may have suffered as victims when innocent. The way to repentance must be kept open for them. Leave the handling of aggressors to others. As you experience an easing of your own pain, full forgiveness will come more easily.

You cannot erase what has been done, but you can forgive. (see D&C 64:10.) Forgiveness heals terrible, tragic wounds, for it allows the love of God to purge your heart and mind of the poison of hate. It cleanses your consciousness of the desire for revenge. It makes place for the purifying, healing, restoring love of the Lord.

The Master counseled, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you." (3 Ne. 12:44; italics

(Dear Lord, Watch over Larry. I don't know where he is or what he is doing. I don't know what happened to him to make him think that what he did to me was ok. I am angry at him today, but I know you know him. You know him better than I can imagine. You know his heart. And you love him. I felt that when I was with him. I felt your love for him. Please be with him today. Help him to feel loved, happy, peaceful. If he doesn't feel that way, guide him to know what to do to feel that peace. Help him to love himself. Be with him as he makes his choices today. I know you can make everything work for our good. Help Larry. Make the things he has done, the things he has felt, everything, work for his good today.)

Bitterness and hatred are harmful. They produce much that is destructive. They postpone the relief and healing you yearn for. Through rationalization and self-pity, they can transform a victim into an abuser. Let God be the judge—you cannot do it as well as he can.

To be counseled to just forget abuse is not helpful. You need to understand the principles which will bring healing. I repeat, most often that comes through an understanding priesthood leader who has inspiration and the power of the priesthood to bless you.

I caution you not to participate in two improper therapeutic practices that may cause you more harm than good. They are: Excessive probing into every minute detail of your past experiences, particularly when this involves penetrating dialogue in group discussion; and blaming the abuser for every difficulty in your life.

While some discovery is vital to the healing process, the almost morbid probing into details of past acts, long buried and mercifully forgotten, can be shattering. There is no need to pick at healing wounds to open them and cause them to fester. The Lord and his teachings can help you without destroying self-respect.

There is another danger. Detailed leading questions that probe your past may unwittingly trigger thoughts that are more imagination or fantasy than reality. They could lead to condemnation of another for acts that were not committed. While likely few in number, I know of cases where such therapy has caused great injustice to the innocent from unwittingly stimulated accusations that were later proven false. Memory, particularly adult memory of childhood experiences, is fallible. Remember, false accusation is also a sin.

Stated more simply, if someone intentionally poured a bucket of filth on your carpet, would you invite the neighbors to determine each ingredient that contributed to the ugly stain? Of course not. With the help of an expert, you would privately restore its cleanliness.

Likewise, the repair of damage inflicted by abuse should be done privately, confidentially, with a trusted priesthood leader and, where needed, the qualified professional he recommends. There must be sufficient discussion of the general nature of abuse to allow you to be given appropriate counsel and to prevent the aggressor from committing more violence. Then, with the help of the Lord, bury the past.

I humbly testify that what I have told you is true. It is based upon eternal principles I have seen the Lord use to give a fulness of life to those scarred by wicked abuse.

If you feel there is only a thin thread of hope, believe me, it is not a thread. It can be the unbreakable connecting link to the Lord which puts a life preserver around you. He will heal you as you cease to fear and place your trust in him by striving to live his teachings.

Please, don't suffer more. Ask now for the Lord to help you. (See Morm. 9:27; Moro. 7:26, 33.) Decide now to talk to your bishop. Don't view all that you experience in life through lenses darkened by the scars of abuse. There is so much in life that is beautiful. Open the windows of your heart and let the love of the Savior in. And should ugly thoughts of past abuse come back, remember his love and his healing power. Your depression will be converted to peace and assurance. You will close an ugly chapter and open volumes of happiness.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I am progressing

While meeting with Bishop Campbell, at first I felt so sad - I really missed Bishop Johnson. Bishop Johnson knew me so well, he could almost read my thoughts sometimes.

I had prayed about what to talk about with Bishop Campbell before I went. I didn' feel much while I was there... mostly I was just trying to get to know him, and get a feel for him. Near the end of our meeting, he asked me if I was thinking something. I told him I was thinking lots of things.

He asked me to share just one thought.

And it became immediately clear - the only thought in my head was how much I missed Bishop Johnson. I didn't want to share that. I didn't want to make Bishop Campbell feel bad. I didn't want him to think that I didn't trust him as the Bishop. But, since I had prayed, and that was the ONLY thought, I shared it.

He asked me if I had clicked with Bishop Johnson the first time I met with him. The answer was a resounding NO. It had helped me to think back to the way things were, and to see my progress. I have made a lot of progress.

I understand myself so much better. Sometimes I feel like I have known what I know now for a long time, and so why am I not doing better? But then I remember it was just a year and a half ago that I started talking. It has only been a year since I first admitted I was abused as a child, and a little over a year since I realized that what Larry did was rape. And although I have felt angry at Dann for a long time, I also have felt like I deserved the things he said and did. Its only been recently that I have started thinking about how I deserve better.

I used to sit in the Bishop's office for an hour and never say anything, because I felt so guilty taking up his time. Then I would feel so guilty for taking up his time, and not even saying anything, and I would have to punish myself more. I couldn't talk about anything except the eating disorder - everything else was too painful. I would feel so angry, but felt so guilty for feeling angry. He would have to push so hard to get the slightest thing from me.

I would sit there and long to ask for a blessing, but felt so unworthy, I would never ask. The few times he offered, I would say yes, but then fight against it. I no longer hesitate to ask for a blessing. (most of the time)

I am grateful that I was reminded of my progress. I am grateful to see how far I have come. I am grateful that I have come so far. I know it is through His help. I am sooo grateful. I will continue to walk the path that He lays before me. I am grateful for His guidance.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Things I should have said but didn't

There are so many times that I know what I need to say to take care of me, but I stop myself. Today I stopped myself because I didn't completely trust Bishop Campbell. Other times, I find other reasons. It doesn't matter WHY, I should have said these things while I was meeting with him.
  • "No, I don't have a car. I plan on walking home. This may be a dumb idea, because I have been very dizzy and shaky all day."
  • "I am currently on medication that makes it so I feel almost nothing. I would like to continue feeling nothing, but I also want you to push me to feel something."
  • "It hurts when I pray. I wish I could make you understand, but I don't know how. All I know, is that it hurts. A lot."
  • "I am angry at some of the things you said in church today. I want to talk to you about it, and I want to understand what you really meant."
  • "Don't talk to me about feeling the spirit when I read scriptures... I don't feel it when I read, and I feel a little angry about that."
  • "Please, please, please text me, call me, let me know I am not alone. I desperately need your help. I am not as strong as I want you to think I am."
  • "If you get to know ME, I have a lot I can teach you."
  • "I am so afraid of letting you in. I am afraid you will judge me. I am afraid you won't understand. I am afraid of the work it will take to help you know how to help me. I am afraid of feeling the loss I felt when Bishop Johnson was released."
  • "I am going to go sit in the bathroom and cry. I am not sure why I am crying. This frustrates me a lot. I am embarrassed at how sad and emotional I feel. I'm scared you'll want to comfort me, and I can't handle that."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ways to cope

Select a small personal object that you like a great deal. It might be a jeweled pin or a simple flower from your garden. Focus all your attention on this object as you inhale and exhale slowly and deeply for one to two minutes. While you are doing this exercise, try not to let any other thoughts or feelings enter your mind. If they do, just return your attention to the object. At the end of this exercise you will probably feel more peaceful and calmer. Any tension or nervousness that you were feeling upon starting the exercise should be diminished.

Positive Mind/Body Affirmations
• I handle stress and tension appropriately and effectively.
• My mood is calm and relaxed.
• I can cope well and get on with my life during times of stress.
• I think thoughts that uplift and nurture me.
• I enjoy thinking positive thoughts that make me feel good about myself and my life.
• I deserve to feel good right now.
• I feel peaceful and calm.
• My breathing is slow and calm.
• My muscles are relaxed and comfortable.
• I feel grounded and fully present.
• I can effectively handle any situation that comes my way.
• I think through the solutions to my emotional issues slowly and peacefully.
• I am thankful for all the positive things in my life.
I am filled with energy, vitality, and self-confidence.
• I am pleased with how I handle my emotional needs.
• I know exactly how to manage my daily schedule to promote my emotional and physical well-being.
• I listen to my body's needs and regulate my activity level to take care of those needs.
• I love and honor my body.
• I fill my mind with positive and self-nourishing thoughts.
• I am a wonderful and worthy person.
• I deserve health, vitality, and peace of mind.
• I have total confidence in my ability to heal myself.
• I feel radiant with abundant energy and vitality.
• The world around me is full of radiant beauty and abundance.
• I am attracted only to those people and situations that support and nurture me.
• I appreciate the positive people and situations that are currently in my life.
• I love and honor myself.
• I enjoy my positive thoughts and feelings.

Gratitude Journal
Write down at least three things everyday that you are grateful. Draw pictures, put in photographs, things that made you laugh, smile, or blessings you noticed in your life. Keep this journal positive, so when you are feeling this way, you can go back and find comfort.

Smash it!
i suggest getting a cheap plate at a thrift store and decorating? markers stickers cut outs from magazines, words images, what ever that expresses your pain and sadness. take your time. try to really let it out. and when you're done, SMASH IT it feels really good

Create a sacred space. often we don’t have the money or the time to make our room a sacred space, so it can be a sacred box. I keep little things people have given me that make me happy, some greeting cards,photographs, sea shells, etc. I also keep in it letters from people I love. I asked them to write letters telling me they love me, I can heal, blah blah and then I can always look at my box when I need a pick me up.

Create a playlist of upbeat songs and crank up the music

positive affirmation cards, make at least 15 cards with positive statements on them
for a list of examples

talk to someone - this is REALLY ok!
do yoga, pilates or stretch
do art
play with a pet
sacred box
play with clay
think about someone I care about and what they would say to me
self affirmations
write letters to what is upsetting me
listen to music
Use washable red markers to "cut" on your skin
Place your hands in freezing cold water
Repetitive reality checking (It's January, 2009, and I'm going to be ok)
Recognize and acknowledge the choices you have NOW
Carry tokens to remind you of peaceful comforting things/people
Get out on your own, get away from the stress
Help someone around you (reach out on a bb, newsgroup, phone list etc.)
Pay attention to the changes needed to make you feel safe
Take a different perspective (different vantage point)
"I'm aware" Repeat 5 things you see, smell, touch, taste in your present surroundings to help ground you in the present
Go for a walk - Pay attention to the rhythmic motions of your body
Move to music
Ask yourself inside, what YOU need
Touch Something familiar/safe
Put your feet firmly on the floor
Tear up paper (old phonebooks, newspapers, etc.)
Throw ice cubes at the bathtub wall, at a tree, etc.
Notice black and white thinking
Notice "choices" versus "dilemmas"
Keep in touch with others who are fighting the same fight
Make yourself as comfortable as possible
Color in coloring books
Hold a stuffed animal
Write a poem
Leave the room
Play a musical instrument
Listen to a comedy tape or video
Pull weeds in a garden

Ride a horse

Watch a movie
Play a game
Read past journals
Notice the progress
Ties or jewelry (mindless work)
chores: laundry, dishes, iron Dann's shirts, scrub the floor, etc.
write Thank you notes to those that have helped me
drink an ice cold drink
scream, cry, yell, just get it out!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A letter to the Bishop that changed my life

It seems strange to be putting a letter to you in the same place that I have put the other letters... But since this is my life, and you are more a part of my life than they ever will be, there is much I want to tell you.

Thank you for being a friend to me. Thank you for your kindness, your love, your time, your devotion to me. Thank you for being an angel in my life. I know the Lord would have been with me as He always had, but there was something so nice about hearing a comforting voice and feeling your arms around me. I have never known such safety as I have talking with and sharing with you.

Now, as things are changing (as they always will), I know it will be ok. I know I am not alone. I know that if I can learn to feel safe with you, and to feel loved by you - I can learn it elsewhere as well. Thank you for being that safe place for me to fall so many millions of times. Thank you for helping me to see the greatness in me.

Thank you for sharing your life with me. You willingness to open up to me has given me so much. Its hard to put in words all of the feelings... but through your sharing of all the pain that you have been through, you have helped to bring healing to me. I hope that maybe I have brought healing into your life as well.

Driving in to church today, I just felt an ache when I knew I wouldn't see your truck there, when I wouldn't talk to you while trying to play the organ, and that I wouldn't be meeting with you today. I know this is all part of the Lord's plan for each of us, and I am grateful for His hand in my life. But I don't have to like it. (This is said with a dramatic pouty face, and a slight temper tantrum.)

I am so grateful for you! Words can't express how much you have meant to me. I am so afraid that you will get some distance from me and think I am crazy or be grateful that you don't have to deal with me ever again. I'm afraid that the only reason you have loved me is because you were the Bishop, and without His help, you won't be capable of loving me. I'm afraid I am just too hard to love.

I know this is probably false, and even if it is the truth, I can handle it. I appreciate that you have always been completely honest with me, and I hope you will continue to be so.

I love you! You are still on my list of blessings everyday, and will continue to be so for a very long time.

Lots of love,

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The new bishop

Meeting with Bishop Campbell was a very interesting experience. I have been in that office a lot of times, and spent a lot of time there. I was so sad that Bishop Johnson wasn't there. He has been sucha huge support to me, and a good friend, and I am so greatful for him. I didn't like being in his office and having to talk to some other guy.

Bishop Campbell was incredibly sweet and kind. He seemed to understand mostly that he just couldn't understand. He wanted to. I could see in his eyes love and compassion for me. In fact, it was the very same love I had seen in Bishop Johnson's eyes. I knew where the feeling came from, and I knew that Bishop Campbell was the bishop.

I am so grateful for the gospel, and the church leadership. I am grateful that although I will miss Bishop Johnson being in the ward, seeing him at church, and counseling with him like I used to, I also know that I am not alone. I have gone to Bishop's, teachers, leaders, friends, etc., looking for someone to love me, to understand me, and to help me to understand myself and what happened. None of them could or would.

Bishop Johnson worked so hard to figure me out. He was willing to put in so much time, and so many prayers. I know it was so hard on him and his family, and I also know he saved my life in so many ways! Then he sat down with Bishop Campbell and they talked about all of the crap I have been through, and how hard I am working to find a different life. Bishop Johnson also shared his love for me, so that I could feel loved from the new bishop.

I am not expressing myself as well as I would like. I just feel so grateful. I feel so hopeful for what will come. And yet, I feel so sad, because things are changing, and I miss the way things used to be.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I am a survivor!

I am a survivor of:
childhood sexual abuse (age 5)
physical and emotional abuse (until age 18)
sexual assault (age 18)
repeated marital rape and other forced sex acts (age 19-21)
physical and emotional abuse from my husband (age 24-29)

I just feel so sad. I have had many great blessings, and I am so grateful yet to look at this list... and to know that I have known very little time without experiencing abuse. I feel sad. I feel sorrow for the life I never knew, and for the pain that I experienced that I didn't have to experience.

What does age 30-35 look like?

I don't know - it's hard to imagine. I would love to say 30 starts the day where it doesn't hurt anymore. I am strong, and I take care of myself, and I can trust the men in my life to not hurt me. Dann is trying hard, but will it be enough?
Thinking about the future still brings more pain than hope. It is hard to imagine that the future holds more joy than pain, or that it will be any different than the past.