All I can do is keep breathing.


Trigger warning.

Those of you who know me know that I am a very cerebral sort of person. I live in my head, in my thoughts. I often hide things I’m struggling with, problems I may be having, because I’m unsure of how to put them into words or because frankly I’m afraid of the reactions I will receive.

My internet-friend Sarah wrote this tremendous piece yesterday on her blog that has touched my heart and soul. She writes,

You would not chastise a person with a broken arm. You would not ask why his/her bone is not healing more quickly.

Why do you ask such questions of my broken soul?

I will let go when I can.

I will let go when I can.

I feel this deeply right now.

Six years ago this month, I was sexually assaulted.

It’s my initial instinct to quickly follow up that statement with things like, “But it wasn’t that bad, I wasn’t raped or anything, it wasn’t a big deal.”

I mostly want to say those things because I heard them so often from the few people in whom I confided.

But those are lies.

It was bad. No, I wasn’t raped, but it was a big deal. It affected me deeply on so many levels in ways that no one can understand unless they too have survived such a deeply personal horror.

For the past six years, I have mostly lived in silence about this aspect of my life. Several well-meaning mentors and friends told me to get on with my life, to get over it, that it wasn’t a big deal (incidentally, after hearing so many friends recount similar reactions to their abuse, I wrote “the proper response“). So I swallowed the pain and hid the repercussions as deeply as I could. I have been able to hide the panic attacks and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress from just about everyone. I have lived with the nightmares, the flashbacks, the pain – silently for six long, difficult years.

It has only been within the past year that I have been able to start talking about what happened. Start working through the trauma and begin the process of healing. It’s near-constant work. Some days are wonderful, almost normal, almost care-free.

But some days all I can do is just keep breathing.

16 thoughts on “All I can do is keep breathing.

  1. I guess it is because getting over it is what others would expect of themselves. I haven’t been abused but as a witness I expect me to “get over” a trauma, or at least incorporate it into my life and growth. Because I believe God’s promises to those abused, and have never seen them fail. I have seen the beauty of the trauma that leads to absolute dependence on the Saviour and to service and to hope and to growth. Because I know that Christ is Lord of the event, of the fear and paralysis, and of the healing. But I know the time-line is never standard. So if you would like to answer, I would like to know, what do you expect of you? Softly, Sarah

    • Right now, I expect myself to get out of bed every morning…and that’s about it. When I’m emotionally, mentally, and spiritually able to move on, I am fully convinced that I will. At least, right now, at this second, I’m fully convinced. That may change by nightfall.

      I expect myself to feel every emotion that I feel to its fullest extent as I feel it and not shame myself for feeling, because I’ve had enough shame fed to me by myself and others about my assault and many many other things to last me an entire lifetime.

      I expect that the God who tells us to bear one another’s burdens and to weep with those who weep is right here with me, bearing my burden, helping me get up in the morning, weeping with me during every flashback, every nightmare, every panic attack, and not holding them against me because He understands better than anyone.

      I expect to gradually make progress, and to not heap shame upon myself when I have a set-back.

      I expect my story to help others who have silently born the reproach of their attack for years to have the courage to realize that it was not their fault, they are not to blame, and they are stronger than they think they are and loved beyond their imagination by God and by others of us who walk this broken road with them.

  2. Oh, Dani, my heart goes out to you! I have never experienced this, but I am here for you. When you posted, “The Proper Response”, I appreciated what you had to say, especially the last paragraph: “Christians in particular, I beg of you to help the abused who may trust you and come to you. Weep with them. Help them bear their burden. Become a safe place for them. Be Jesus to them.” It grieves my heart to know that you have been sexually assaulted. What can I do to help bear your burden? This is one of those times when I wish we lived closer. Love you

    • (hugs) to you, Mom K. In general, I’m doing okay. I’ve tried to rush through healing before – it’s always disastrous, so I’m starting to focus on working through each post traumatic event as it happens and not expecting tremendous leaps and bounds of improvement but taking things one day at a time.

      I can’t begin to tell you how much of a rock Michael has been for me. As you can imagine, he works with me to help me work through things as they occur. He is incredibly gracious, loving, understanding, and calming. I can’t imagine beginning and going through this process without him.

      Knowing that you are praying for me and absorbing your kind words does wonders for me – truly. Community has been such a huge catalyst to healing for me in the past year, connecting with others who have survived attacks like mine or worse, educating myself about things like consent…validation has been priceless to me. Thank you.

      Love you, and looking forward to seeing you whenever we’re able to schedule a visit.

  3. My Dear Dani, I thank you for your honesty and courage! There are many who have lived with this hurt all of their lives. Not wanting to hurt someone whm they love dearly. You have taken the right steps toward healing. I know that it is God Who has enabled you to do this. No one can understand this type of hurt and humiliation unless they have walked there. May God bless you richly and continue to heal. You have a ministry today! There are many who need to hear how you are dealing with this. Remember that underneath you are the everlasting arms of God! Praying!

  4. I know exactly what you’re talking about. I was sexually abused as a kid. It’s been a long road dealing with this stuff. I wish you the very best…

  5. That took courage, Dani. Good for you. And thanks for the proper response piece. One of the things that always burned at me was my inability to be more than just a shoulder and a sympathetic ear, because I did not know how to respond. I will continue to pray for you. Just keep on trucking, Dani.
    In Christ,

    • Thanks, Joel. I’m hoping to start giving voice to others who have gone through various abuses and injustices – to shine light on things that so many people are eager to keep in darkness. I feel very burdened to help other abuse survivors realize that it’s okay to hurt and that healing looks different for everyone. Validation is a HUGE thing – love, understanding, patience and a lack of judgmental input does so much to help alleviate pain and shame.

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