Updated: Apr 21, 2019
Look at the picture … what do you see?
I hope you see the love and happiness I share with my husband and daughters, but do you see my fears? Are you able to see the traumas I’ve faced? Can you see by this picture that I was molested as a child, sexually assaulted as a young adult, or that I lost my dad to suicide shortly before my 21st birthday? Do you see my strength and my desire to help others?
Sometimes we look at a person and all we see is how amazing their life is – we don’t always see the struggles they’re facing. Other times we look at a person and all we see are the problems they have, and we stop short of recognizing the good they still have to offer.
Years ago, as I was preparing to graduate from college, I was on the phone with one of my sisters when she said, “Your life is like a fairytale. You married a great guy, you have a beautiful house, and you don’t have to worry about anything.”
In that moment I remember feeling frustrated and even a little hurt by the fact that all she saw was how easy my life was. I’ve never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me, but she knew of the traumas I had experienced and how hard I was working to overcome them. It felt like a slap in the face that she could so easily overlook my struggles and only see what she thought to be the perfect fairytale life.
More than 16 years has passed since we had that conversation and, yet I think of it often. It’s a reminder to me to be conscientious of the fact that life isn’t black and white. People and even situations are rarely what we initially perceive them to be.
Most people see me as someone who’s outgoing and bold, but what they don’t know is that I’m actually quite shy and that I often feel socially awkward and painfully uncomfortable around new people. Due to the number of times I’ve moved since marrying my husband, I’ve had to learn how to be outgoing and willing to put myself out there. I’m what I like to refer to as a shy extrovert. I’m uncomfortable around new people, but as an extrovert I need to be around others in order to recharge and feel good.
I grew up number four of six children … the baby girl. I nearly always felt like an outcast in my own home. I was anxious and often felt unloved. I was in 8th grade when I began having memories of being molested. This only intensified my anxiety and fears. I didn’t initially understand what I was remembering and the worst part was that while I couldn’t stop the memories from flashing before my eyes, I wasn’t able to identify my perpetrator. The uncertainty of not knowing who to trust was almost unbearable.
It wasn’t until I was in 10th grade that I found the courage to talk about it with someone. My oldest sister wasn’t surprised by my confession or my plea for help. She explained to me that it was our mom’s brother and that he had molested others in our family. I spent years struggling with knowing too much and yet not knowing enough. I wanted answers for why this happened, how someone could do this to a child, and how or why another adult would leave their child with him after learning the truth about him. But most of all, I wanted to know who I might have been if I hadn’t had those experiences.
As time passed I grew more frustrated, angry, and hurt. I could have chosen to continue wallowing in my pain and if I’m being completely honest, I probably would be a miserable person living a life focused on blaming others for my misfortunes if it hadn’t been for the people in my life pushing me to do and be more than I ever thought possible.
Throughout my life I’ve experienced the kind of pain I wouldn’t wish on another person, but I’ve also been tremendously blessed. While it took me many years, many heartaches, and too many tears, I have learned that my pain doesn’t define me, nor does it control me. Through the love and support of others I have discovered that every difficult experience has offered me the opportunity to grow and become stronger.
The hardships I’ve faced wounded me, tortured me, and almost defeated me at times. So how did I manage to heal and live a life filled with incredible love?
I’ve been blessed by the people who’ve been my village. They’ve pushed me past my comfort zone in a healthy way, encouraged me during times of self-doubt, and loved me even when I felt unlovable. These people introduced me to various forms of therapy and alternative healing.
I no longer ask the questions I once had. I’m no longer consumed by the anger or sadness. In fact, I’m grateful for who I am today for having gone through the difficulties I’ve faced.
I’ve learned that finding the good in every situation is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and to others. Sometimes it’s easy to find the good in a really bad situation … in fact, people often expect us to do so. Finding something good in a trauma can make it a little easier to accept what’s happened.
I fully agree with this, but I’ve recently learned to take it a step further. I try to see every interaction and every situation as an opportunity for something great to occur. Having this outlook has had a positive impact on my physical, emotional and spiritual health.
I’m more energized and excited for each day. Instead of feeling anxious about interactions with others, I feel confident with a sense of anticipation. My connection to others as well as my faith has grown tremendously providing me with a sense of peace and hope.
My life isn’t perfect. Just like anyone else, I get overwhelmed and stressed out. Heartaches and disappointments still occur, but my struggles feel a bit more manageable when I’m showing gratitude and looking for the good in every situation.
Life isn’t black and white … we have to look deeper and be willing to take a chance in order to find the unexpected gifts that will assist us in our healing.
I’ve recently dedicated an Instagram account to document my unexpected gifts. You can follow it at growingoutofdarkness
I’d love to hear about your unexpected gifts or even better, I’d love to see them. Post a black and white picture and share a little about your experience.
Blessed │ Wife │ Mom │ Friend │ Founder of GOOD │ Author │ Public Speaker │ Golf Fanatic
It took me years to find my voice and even longer to learn how to use it so that I’m creating GOOD rather than just fighting the bad. Now I use my voice to heal myself and hopefully others along the way.
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Sending love to all those who struggle with mental health and/or have lost a loved one to suicide.
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