Tag Archives: depression

Tears in Heaven

Street art by Nitzan Mintz, Jerusalem, Israel, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/zeevveez/8765164478/, Author zeevveez https://www.flickr.com/people/29001414@N00 (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic)

I curled up on the couch a few nights ago, expecting to watch a good old-fashioned whodunit on television.

Unfortunately, I discovered too late that the corpse in the story belonged to a child molester. A woman sexually abused as a girl had killed him, in her effort to protect another child from abuse.

Suddenly the program was deadly serious — raising all too familiar issues of credibility, deception, violence, guilt, and justification.

The Lens of Abuse

Though this blog regularly deals with the topic of abuse, victims must strive not to view the world through that lens only.

There are countless good things — and good people — in the world. Victims deserve better than to be robbed of those, in addition to having been battered and violated.

A Happy Face

There is a deep and pervasive sadness associated with abuse.  Our childhoods were stolen from us, our lives shattered.  We cannot pretend our abuse never occurred; cannot just wish our depression or PTSD away, and put on a happy face.

The Apostle Paul encouraged believers this way:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Php. 4: 8).

So  we have every right to incorporate good people and good things into our lives. They are a reflection of God’s own love.

The problem is that we cannot do this by act of will alone. The victims of sexual abuse  cannot simply choose to “think less about sex” [1]. If our abuse was sexual, everything has become sexualized, whether we want it to be or not [2].

Tears in Heaven

“Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?”

Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton

How will heaven handle these issues?

Will we forget all the painful events in our lives, and the people who caused us that pain?  What if those events were formative, shaped our character and aspirations?  What if the very people who caused our pain were, also, our loved ones? Continue reading

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Falling Knives, Part 2

“Self-Injury Awareness Day – Open Your Eyes. Open Your Heart.” Photo by AndyCandy94 (CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication).

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones” (Mark 5: 5) [1].

For many abuse victims, assaults on ourselves are more than an emotional echo of earlier trauma, more than metaphorical.

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI)

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury or NSSI (commonly known as “cutting”) is generally viewed as an attempt to deal with emotional pain [2]. Estimates suggest that as many as 14% of teens engage in cutting, at one time or another [3].  But adults are not immune.

In sexual molestation and rape, the violation involves the body. Therefore, the body becomes the “enemy”. Self-inflicted injury is one way this can manifest. But negative feelings ranging from loneliness, worthlessness, and shame to stress, rage, and racing thoughts may prompt the same behavior [4]. Continue reading

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Wrestling the Python

Python at California Academy of Sciences, Author Wa17gs (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

Photographer Richard Avedon in the 1980s took what became an iconic photo of the German actress and model, Nastassja Kinski, with a Burmese python.

Pythons are non-venomous, but lethal regardless. These powerful snakes initially use their teeth to grasp prey. Pythons then coil their long, muscular bodies around the victim and squeeze. This interferes with breathing, ultimately suffocating the prey. Once the victim’s heart has stopped beating, pythons will swallow the lifeless body beginning with the head. They will then digest the body, bones and all.

Depression is much the same. Those unfamiliar with the illness may be tempted to dismiss it as a “mere” mood disorder. But it can be deadly.

Depression can squeeze the joy from life, and the life from us. Once depression has gotten a hold on us, it can be difficult to dislodge. Thwarted, it can recur, despite our best efforts.

A life and death struggle follows, in which even the smallest tasks can seem overwhelming. Everything is colored a more somber hue. We give up on life, believing ourselves unworthy of love and acceptance. Ultimately, the darkness can consume us.

Our best defenses against depression are psychiatric treatment and/or psychological counseling, preferably early on in the illness. Anti-depressants are not, however, for everyone.  No one anti-depressant fits all. And these drugs can have serious side effects.

Remaining in touch with friends and loved ones is vital.  We need human contact and emotional support, whether we believe we “deserve” them or not.

The list of those who have led meaningful lives despite depression is a long one. It includes Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, John Keats, Edgar Degas, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie, Winston Churchill, Isaac Asimov, Bob Dylan, and many more.

With help, we can wrestle the python successfully.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God” (Ps. 42: 11).

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Unbiblical, Part 2 – Sin Nature v. Abuse-Related Guilt

Christians speak regularly about the “sin nature” of mankind, the inclination by human beings to do wrong, as illustrated by wars and crime.

The following verses on the topic are typical:

“…[T]he imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” (Gen. 8:21).

“ ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…’” (Jer. 17:9).

“ ‘Then I will…take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh that they may walk in My statutes…’ ” (Ezek. 11: 19-20).

“ ‘For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies’ ” (Matt. 15: 19).

If anyone has experienced that sin nature, abuse victims have. Victims, however, have been more sinned against than sinning.

Unfortunately, the continuous emphasis on sin is likely to sound like condemnation to victims, when what they need is love, encouragement, and hope.

Christians should remember that abuse leaves behind deep scars. Victims of abuse may struggle with gender identification, sexual addiction or dysfunction, self-neglect, anxiety, depression, dissociation and related amnesia, drug or alcohol addiction, cutting, anorexia, bulimia, binging, and other issues. The majority of prostitutes are thought to be runaways, with a history of abuse.

Dealing with major problems like these is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for the self-righteous. Merely living ordinary lives can take enormous effort and enormous courage by abuse victims. That victims, for the most part, accomplish this is amazing.

Victims should not be made a topic of gossip. Nor should they be subjected to snap judgments, whether about their morality or mental state.

Above all, victims should be reassured that they were not the guilty party in abuse; that, as children, they were wholly incapable of consent to whatever was done to them; and that God still loves them, despite all they have been through.

This series will continue next week with Humility v. Lack of Worth

 FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

 

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The Feeling of “Sinfulness”

As abuse victims, we can be tremendously hard on ourselves.  The slightest misstep, the smallest error may seem a catastrophic failure. More than that. An unpardonable sin disqualifying us from love (even, in a spiritual sense, from Salvation, itself).

The feeling of “sinfulness” — that vague sense of guilt with no real cause — is just one of the scars left by abuse. We relive the trauma of having been treated as worthless. This opens wide the door to depression.

The feeling of “sinfulness” rebounds from the abuser to us because there is no punishment this side of eternity sufficient to fully offset the harm done to us. The best we can do is strive to forgive and move on.

It bears repeating that abuse victims were innocent victims. But acknowledging this intellectually will not always translate into our accepting it emotionally. A childhood filled with negative experiences must be overcome.

Legalism

Though the feeling of our own “sinfulness” can at times be overwhelming, the conclusions drawn on the basis of that feeling may not be accurate. The situation is complicated by the fact abuse victims must re-learn as adults to trust their own feelings.

Unfortunately, some Christian sects feed into this by emphasizing Salvation through works, i.e. through our own unrelenting efforts, rather than through  faith in Christ alone. This can readily morph into legalism (a focus on the letter of the law, at expense of the spirit).

Legalism marries well with the perfectionism to which abuse victims are prone.

But being unworthy of Salvation is not the same as being worthless.  Christ died for our sins despite our unworthiness — victims and non-victims alike. That actually highlights our value in God’s eyes.

We were never worthless, except to those who abused us. Continue reading

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Healing from Abuse

Child abuse – whether physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect – is likely to have permanent consequences. The wounds of abuse are grievous, inflicted when we are most vulnerable.

The extent to which we heal varies from one victim to the next, as does the rate at which healing takes place. This makes perfect sense. Victims are violated at various ages, for varying lengths of time, in countless evil ways. They have unique internal resources, and varying degrees of external support (sometimes none).

All these are factors in recovery. We must not, therefore, gauge our progress by that of others.

The “Inner Child”

Experts often refer to the wounded “inner child”. This is not to suggest that victims develop multiple personalities, though some may. It is an abbreviated means of saying we remain sensitive to issues relating to abuse, and – at an emotional level, at least – retain a strong recollection of the trauma inflicted on us.

Misplaced “Coping” Strategies

Unable to defend themselves against abuse, some children adopt desperate strategies in the effort to cope with it. These childhood strategies may continue into adulthood, becoming a hindrance where they once served a legitimate purpose.

Dissociation is one such strategy. The child, in effect, imagines himself or herself elsewhere while the abuse is taking place. This is the “out of body” experience. Dissociation may later be triggered by events which recall (or mimic) the abuse. Though meant to be protective in nature, dissociation can produce serious gaps in a victim’s memory. Continue reading

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Frozen

The Disney animated film “Frozen” has become enormously popular. Rather than telling yet another tale of how a girl finds her prince, the film tells the story of two sisters whose love for each other saves them and their world.

Child abuse victims, too, run the risk of being frozen.

It is not difficult to find stories about abuse in the news. Incest. Child pornography and exploitation. A child tortured to death. A group of children held captive; handicapped children tormented. Systemic abuse with the collusion of law enforcement or the church. The rare monetary judgment against a predator, more often than not unenforceable for lack of funds. Take your pick.

No Disney villain can compete.

The children robbed of their innocence and peace of mind – sometimes their lives – deserve to have their stories told. But as survivors we cannot focus exclusively on this darkness or we will succumb to it. Isolated, immobilized by despair. Frozen.

There is hope in the world. There are those who consider these violations among the worst harm human beings can inflict. There is love waiting to be found. Reach out for your share.

Darkness cannot withstand Light.  It was to conquer darkness that Jesus Christ came into our world.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1: 4-5 NIV).

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Surviving the Fire

Read the blogs of child abuse victims and those concerned for them.  Somewhere along the line, you will find mention of what the abuse damaged or destroyed outright.

Our innocence.  Our childhood.  Our peace of mind.  Our self-confidence.  Our self-esteem.  Our ability to trust.  Our capacity to select loving partners, and sustain healthy relationships.  Our faith.  Our voice.

And from far too many, the abuse took their very lives.

For many of us, what the abuse left behind was isolation, grief, anxiety, depression, rage, and a permanent sense of violation.

Unfortunately, that we will never be the women (or men) we might have been is not helpful information.  We are who we are…marked by these scars.

In some sense, the scars are our badges – if not of honor exactly, then certainly not of shame.  We were the ones sinned against, not the ones sinning, no matter how we were made to feel about the torture inflicted upon us.

As with the veteran who has lost a limb to war or the woman who has lost a breast to cancer, this is simply our reality now. Continue reading

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Bitter Pill

“‘…and the truth shall make you free‘” (John 8: 32).

One particularly tenacious scar of abuse is the vicious criticism victims direct at themselves. In most cases, this criticism continues long after the abuse, itself, has ended. It undercuts our relationships, our endeavors, and our peace of mind.

Because the rationale behind self-criticism is not immediately clear, victims are tempted to take the criticism at face value. This can be a crippling mistake (even a fatal one, if the criticism feeds depression).

When those who preyed on us expressed their criticism of us – our behavior, our hopes and dreams, our very being – verbally, it does not require a great leap of faith to draw the conclusion that our critical inner voice is actually theirs.

What of those among us who were not verbally abused? Abuse by any other name remains abuse. Victims are not unfeeling lumps of clay. They know what is being done to them is wrong, whatever blandishments accompany the violation, whatever labels are applied.

As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously put it, “Even a dog distinguishes between being stumbled over and being kicked.”

Why then is it so difficult for victims to still that inner critic?

The truth at the very heart of abuse, the reason we continue to excoriate ourselves long after the abuser has gone, is that we would rather destroy ourselves than believe we meant so little to someone who should have loved us.

That is a bitter pill to swallow. But it is the medicine we need to heal from this scar.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Focus

Reports have been made of abuse by priests, abuse in residential boys’ schools, abuse in church-operated Magdalene laundries, abuse by pediatricians, abuse by police, abuse by politicians shielded by police, abuse by the committees formed to investigate abuse.  The list goes on and on.

Abuse is widespread, generational; the number of victims, staggering.

It is essential that light be shed on this perverted behavior.  It is not necessarily wise, however, that victims focus on the reports of abuse. The sheer numbers can be overwhelming.

We have enough reminders of our brush with evil. The scars of abuse may include perfectionism (and the reaction to it, workaholism), anxiety, depression, sexual difficulties, and weight issues. These pose challenges to many of us on a daily basis. Continue reading

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