I left the Christian counselor’s office in a state of emotional freedom that I had not experienced in literal decades. After nearly two years of counseling, it was that day the final link in the chain of emotional bondage had been severed. A year earlier, a diagnosis of PTSD had taken me by surprise, but now here I was, breaking through the final vestiges of a traumatized little girl’s life into the blessings waiting ahead without the dread of that dark past overshadowing every event in my life. The freedom I experienced as I made a clean break with that past was soul-cleansing.
Of course, life didn’t immediately get better—in fact, to this day my life holds more heartbreak, more challenges, and more unhappy surprises. What happened that day was that I gained a greater understanding of myself and the family I grew up with—an understanding that finally allowed me to see that what was happening in my life today was not a repeat of what happened then. Even though my current life situations have been almost as traumatic, as an adult I can act upon or against the events occurring in my life. My counselor gave me the tools I needed to better handle those challenges.
How does a little girl get PTSD? I mean, isn’t PTSD something that soldiers get who have experienced traumatic events in a war zone? The day I was diagnosed, I asked my counselor that question. Her reply was, “My dear, you were in a war zone. Your entire childhood appears to have been one traumatic event upon another.”
My childhood—now there is a story to tell. Those years held some bright moments, but not many. Mostly it was a game of how long before the next violence, before we older kids scooped up the littles and huddled together behind a locked door; how long before we could sleep without the fear of being awakened to another episode of rage, screaming, and assault, praying that “they” kept it outside our room.
The adults who raised us would tell you they provided for us—a roof over our heads, food on the table, nice clothes. What they also “provided” was the unstable life of two emotionally damaged people who loved each other fiercely and hated each other to the same degree. And that life was so unsettling that we kids all suffered with and carried one form of emotional baggage or another into our adult years and our own family lives.
I share this story with the desire not to sully the names of family members, but rather to tell you how one woman overcame her childhood traumas with the healing help of a mighty God who held her firmly in the palm of His hands—a God I didn’t meet personally until I was a young woman, but who knew me before I was born and had a plan for my life. A God who protected me. A good God. A loving God. A God of grace and mercy.
My story is not fantastic, as stories go. BUT GOD—now that’s a fantastic story!
And so the story begins…
Once upon a time, a curly-headed, hazel-eyed child was born to a 14-year-old girl—a child having a child. That was my beginning. My mama was not emotionally equipped to raise a child; she should have still been playing with dolls, not changing diapers. She was also alone, having been deserted by my father, whom she never married. That was a big deal in 1954. I never met my father, never actually knew anything about him until my adult years. Even today, this is all I know—he was 27 years old, divorced, a police officer, and he loved women. Until he didn’t love them. Ultimately, it cost him his life, being murdered by a jealous girlfriend shortly after I turned one. My only possessions of him are a few pictures and newspaper articles chronicling his murder.
But I digress. Let me first tell you about my beautiful mama.