I’m just a girl.
Raised in the south but always somewhat nomadic. At the time of this writing I believe I’ve lived in around 30 houses in many different states and cities. I’m 34 years old.
I grew up in a highly abusive home where emotional and psychological abuse was not just normal and expected, but elevated as proper, “godly”, and “Christian”. I guess with that you could throw in spiritual abuse as well. If anyone understands the abusive elements of toxic families, or parents who have personality disorders, then you understand the terms “golden child” and “scapegoat child.” I was the scapegoat.
Women were not loved, cared for, respected, or appreciated in my family and so being female resigned me to a life of being put down, ignored, and belittled for everything I said or did by default. It didn’t matter how well I performed or succeeded, it was never as good as the golden child even if, objectively, it was. I never felt competitive or jealous of my sibling, but I did always wonder why my achievements were ignored and considered worthless, or even put down. It was tremendously painful.
As a people-pleaser and perfectionist by nature, I never understood why I got treated badly for obeying all the rules, getting straight A’s, placing well in competitions, working hard, excelling in athletics, etc. No matter how hard I worked and no matter how well I performed, it was always either ignored or received with a resounding “meh…” It was a life of constant striving for affirmation, approval, love, and even basic levels of respect, while wondering why I always received the opposite. This attitude was pervasive and underscored much more vicious forms of emotional abuse such as gaslighting, triangulation, breaking, etc. However, it was all done in the name of Jesus and with the distinct message that this is what my role in life was supposed to be – hand stamped by God himself. Therefore, protesting the abuse was a punishable offense. The only response allowed was “thank you, more please….”
By the time I was in high school, the level of mental and emotional trauma I had sustained from my family was so great I was looking for any means necessary to numb the pain. After a year of being bulimic, I learned that starving myself was much more effective to the ends I was seeking. I learned that the less food I put in my body, the less I was able to feel my emotions, and that’s exactly what I needed. In a sense, it was the only thing that allowed me to survive the rest of my years in that abusive environment. However, by the time I was 20 years old the anorexia had brought me to the point of nearly losing my life.
At 82 lbs and losing my hair, eyesight, and cognitive functions, I put myself into in-patient treatment for an eating disorder. As crazy as it sounds, I did not truly realize I even had an eating disorder until my life was ebbing away and a friend made a rather blunt statement to me about getting help. For 4 years, people who knew me for my whole life watched me disintegrate before their very eyes without ever saying a word. It’s hard to imagine that they didn’t notice, but it’s even harder to imagine why they never cared enough to say anything. Even more odd that my own father tried to keep me from going to treatment. I remember thinking to myself as a teenager “if I died right now, it would probably be months before my parents realized it. Unless they needed something from me before then…” To tell the whole story would be a novel, so I’ll leave it at this – I never knew what love or support felt like and it was always me and God against the world.
God has always been enough, though. At this time He did a couple miracles which got me to the right treatment center at just the right time. Average recovery time for an eating disorder (assuming you get the help you need) is 5-7 years. My insurance only paid for about half the treatment I was supposed to receive and so the treatment team did not think I had much hope. They called my mother after I got home and told her to prepare for me to relapse. I think God knew I needed to know they had said this – because if there’s one way to ensure I do something – it’s to tell me I can’t do it. Their lack of faith in me did nothing other than set my determination into stone and I decided that if I couldn’t be a “perfect anorexic” then I’d be a “perfect recovery patient”. I then set all my OCD and perfectionist tendencies towards being the most perfect recovery patient the world had ever seen and I followed every direction and instruction my doctors gave me – to a T. And I followed them to a T until I felt confident and “safe” enough to regulate myself. I never looked back and I never relapsed. I ended up recovering right in between the 5-7 year mark.
The road to recovery from anorexia obviously had it’s own difficulties and roadblocks, but they were not the only difficulties I faced in those 5-7 years. Shortly after getting out of treatment I met and began dating a guy who turned out to be extremely abusive. At first I didn’t notice anything was wrong, since his treatment of me was exactly like my family’s and nothing seemed out of place about that at all. It was my “normal”. It wasn’t until his abuse escalated from verbal/psychological/emotional to physical and sexual that anything seemed awry to me. He ended up raping me, knowing I had wanted to save myself until marriage. The last words I remember him speaking to me were “now you don’t get to tell your future husband you’re a virgin”. He said it with a smirk and such a look of victorious smugness it makes me sick to remember it, even to this day. I call him Psychopath #1.
To get away from him, I ended up moving to another city and living on my college campus. I quickly met a guy who, though I had no idea at the time, would be my second abuser. We started off as co-workers and then became long-distance friends after I had graduated and moved away. Within this time, the abuse from my family escalated to an all time high and I finally had enough. I went no contact shortly after moving but later ended up moving back to the city the second abuser was from (for work reasons, not because of him). We ended up reconnecting and that’s when he raped me. (See the Sexual Assault Photo Story for this story). I call him Psychopath #2.
Unlike my first abuser (who it never even occurred to me to report – that’s how used to abuse I was!), I knew I needed to report this one. The problem being that I also knew he would come after me if I did. I’m not sure if anyone has ever had their life in danger from another human being, but if you have, you know the feeling. It’s unforgettable. It’s a knowledge down into the depths of your soul that says “if you do this you will NOT come out alive.” So before reporting, I moved once again and reported the crime from a safe place. Sadly, the police did absolutely nothing about it. They sat on my case and waited for about 1.5 years before finally contacting him. By that time he had left the country and they closed the case with nothing but a short log of unanswered phone calls, which they called their “investigation”.
I spent a few years processing this trauma and trying to get back on my feet, completely alone except for the generosity of strangers who have been more like family to me than any biological family I have ever known. As soon as I made it back on my feet and was living on my own again, that’s when I met my third abuser. He worked in my workplace and was known as a “great guy” among my coworkers. It wasn’t until I began to see the person behind the facade that I caught on rather quickly that something was very “off” about him. Though our relationship (or as Dana from Thrive After Abuse has termed it, our “manipulation-ship”) was short-lived as I saw through him pretty quickly, it wasn’t quick enough to escape more abuse, including more sexual trauma. I call him Psychopath #3.
It was then I had the biggest light-bulb season of my life and all the dots of all the abuse from my whole life began fitting together. Although I spent both my college and graduate school careers studying psychology (no wonder, I was trying to figure out why people were the way they were!) – it wasn’t until I learned about Cluster B Personality Disorders (Narcissistic PD, Antisocial *psychopaths or sociopaths* PD, Borderline PD, and Histrionic PD) that everything from my parents, brother, extended family, and all my abusive relationships finally began to make sense. Understanding the patterns of victimization, re-victimization, lack of support (which abusers can smell like blood in the water), and complex trauma all flooded in over the course of just a few months and I finally began to understand myself as well.
As I was processing all this information and having one “aha” moment after another, I began recording my thoughts and discoveries and posting them online. What I discovered was a huge community of victims just like myself and for the first time, I began meeting people who not only understood what I had been through and what I was struggling with, they actually wanted my help. My YouTube channel grew and I began receiving requests for help, mentor-ship, and coaching. At first I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that, but as I grew in my own healing process I felt more comfortable helping others. Now it’s my greatest honor to help others through struggles I had no one to help me through. It’s such a beautiful reversal and blessing, I hardly have the words!
That’s how BA Recovery began and that’s where I continue and strive to help fellow victims and survivors understand their own confusing and traumatizing encounters with true evil and give them hope and support in the darkest times of their life. While I don’t post much publicly anymore, you can still find about a year’s worth of my original content on the BA Recovery YouTube Channel. Please feel free to use this as a resource for anyone who has been through emotional or psychological abuse.
At this point in life, I’m not sure what all God has in store for me. Not one single aspect of my life has gone as I ever would have planned or hoped for; but I do believe in a God who works everything (even over 30 years of traumatic abuse) for good for those who love Him. He’s already turned my life around from re-victimization to helping others come out of abusive cycles. He is already working it all for good. And I do love Him to the greatest extent a broken heart can, and I know He accepts it as enough. I pray my testimony can be used to provide encouragement and hope to others going through the same kinds of darkness and despair so if I could ask anything, I ask that you would share anything you find here with anyone you think may need to hear it. Victims of abuse are so isolated, confused, and alone – just sharing a testimony may be enough to shine a light into a very dark place in someone’s life.
Many blessings to you.