May 10, 2019

The Hardest Trial Of My Life So Far

I have thought about writing this post for several years now. I have gone back and forth wondering whether or not it was worth sharing and if I shared what the repercussions would be. What would people think of me if they knew what happened? Would they believe me? Would they think I was crazy? At this moment it time, I feel that it is okay to share. Hind sight is 20/20 and I hope I don't regret this later. More than anything though I hope that by sharing someone else may find the tools, strength and peace they need in their life to get through something similar.

Approximately ten years ago, one of the hardest trials of my life began. This trial is still on going and honestly I am not sure if it will ever end in this Earthly life. That being said, I think I have come to accept the fact that it may not end in this lifetime and I am okay with that. To a large degree things are out of my hands and I am okay with the stance that I have taken regarding the situation I am about to share.

As I started to say approximately ten years ago, one of the hardest trials of my life began. This trial blindsided me and I didn't see it coming. I didn't expect that I would ever experience something like this in my life, I think that is part of the reason why it took me so long to figure out what it was I was dealing with and attempt to put a stop to it. At times I have found myself wondering how I could possibly be going through a trial of this nature. This trial is called emotional abuse. This trial is also called verbal abuse. This burden is not caused by my husband whatsoever, but by two extended family members.

When the abuse first started happening, it started off as jabs, sarcasm and criticism and I shrugged it off. As time when on the abusive comments became more and more frequent. Unbeknownst to Andy and I, gossip and rumors about me where flying. At times it was so bad that I felt like I was a celebrity with my face plastered to the front of a tabloid magazine.

One day Andy and I received a phone call from someone in the family telling us what was being said about me when we weren't around. We were both shocked, surprised, saddened and hurt by the news. We couldn't think of what I possibly had done to be treated this way. At the same time we were grateful that this informant had the courage to tell us what was going on.

Frequently I would go off alone and cry by myself. I wondered how people could be so mean and cruel, especially when they were part of my own family. Where was the unconditional love? What did I do wrong? Why was this happening? How could people of the same religious beliefs as me act this way and think it was okay?

It was through talking to someone I trusted that I learned what I was dealing with was abuse.

Armed with this new knowledge that what I was going though, I began to stand up for myself as best as I knew how (I'm not one who likes conflict or confrontation). My abusers did not like it when I told them that what they were doing was wrong and needed to stop. And things got a lot worse.

Andy and I enrolled in counseling. We worked with our counselor to learn how to set boundaries and how to talk using I feel statements. At the time it was hard to go through counseling. Learning these new skills wasn't easy. We invited the abusers to come to counseling with us (for me that was a very scary thing). We thought we had worked through things and then we moved to Oregon.

Oregon was a breath of fresh air. I felt safer with the physical distance from those who had emotionally and verbally abused me. But the attacks against me resumed with our move. For a long time I asked myself why? Why was this happening? What did I do to deserve this? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

We met with our bishops here in Oregon and began meeting with a new counselor. We were pretty much given the same counsel from each of them. The most important relationship is the one that exists between me and Andy and our little boys. And if people can't be nice then they aren't welcome in our lives-- family or not. I was also counseled to continue to stand up for myself.

Even with this guidance, I still found myself asking "Why?". One day I had a paradigm shift. I was out walking and I realized that it didn't matter why these people were treating me this way-- it was wrong. Even if I knew the reason why, it wouldn't be logical or rational and knowing why wouldn't change anything because I myself would not accept it as justification for bad behavior.

I also realized that I am loved. God loves me, my husband loves me and I love myself and that is enough. Abuse is never okay. The way these individuals act, is a reflection of how they feel about themselves and they will be held accountable someday for the things they have said and done.

I find peace in knowing that I did nothing to deserve to be treated this way.  I find peace in knowing that I have forgiven them. I find peace through serving others and showing them that I care. I find peace in striving to be the best version of me.

When the thoughts of why begin to creep back in, and they do on occasion, I instantly tell myself that it doesn't matter why and the thoughts of why instantly cease.

One helpful quote that has helped me is from Rachel Hollis, she says,  "Someone else's opinion of you is none of your business." There is so much truth in that statement. More than that though, my worth is not defined by someone else's opinion of me.

I hope and pray for my abusers that they might find the joy and happiness in their lives that they seem to be lacking. I pray that their hearts might be softened. And I pray that they may see the error or their ways and have a desire to change for the better.

One day I found myself questioning what I have been going through and the stance Andy and I have chosen to take. Someone close to me shared with me a story about my Papa and my aunt.  At the time Papa had Parkinson's disease and was on the brink of death (he passed away when I was five or six years old). My aunt had been going though a trial of some sort and he asked her, "Will this matter in the eternities?" I have given Papa's question a lot of thought, "Will standing up for myself, my marriage and my little family matter in the eternities?" And I have come to the conclusion that it very much matters. I deserve to be treated with love and respect simply because I am a daughter of God. I am worth it. My marriage is worth it. And my little family is worth it. I hope someday when I am on the other side to be embraced in the arms of my loving Papa, Savior & Father in Heaven and that they will be pleased with me for standing up for myself, my marriage and my little family-- because isn't that what this life is all about? Loving families being together forever. If we won't fight for them, who will?