Recent studies highlight the effects of childhood trauma, abuse, neglect and sexual abuse on people long after they experienced the events. Long into adulthood, childhood victims share some common traits:
- Prone to develop depression
- Cognitive distortion (seeing the world as a dangerous place)
- Tendency to entertain suicide
- Anxiety disorders
- Physical illness
- Difficulty in relationships
- Control issues with food
This is not an exhaustive list. But it gives you an idea of the impact of past trauma on your present self. I share this not to simply help you identify the root of your present issues, but to help you re-see things, this time with a lens of grace and understanding. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you are normal. Give yourself some grace, the kind of grace you would gladly grant to a friend in pain.
If someone had pulled me aside in my early twenties and told me that I would suffer from many of these issues going on into adulthood, and that the reason I would stemmed from my childhood, I would be both angry and despairing. It would have seemed entirely unfair that I was doomed to a life of pain because of something I had no control over.
But I’ve come to realize that there are two factors that trump this list: God and me (emphasis on God).
Most people who meet me have no earthly idea about my upbringing. They guess I’ve had a stable, two-parent home with a relatively easy middle class life. When I hear that, I smile. Because God has truly brought me on a healing journey, and He gets so much glory for rescuing me. However, I also had to want to get better. I had this insatiable longing to be whole. And so I sought counsel, asked for prayer, read all sorts of books, and made a hundred million mistakes along the way. My desire to get well combined with God’s supernatural ability to change me made all the difference.
All that to say, you are NOT doomed to repeat the sins that were perpetrated against you. You are not helpless to overcome the past. Your future is not cemented. You are not powerless. I only say that because of the graciousness of God. You may feel doomed, helpless, cemented and powerless, but the truth is, when you surrender to Jesus, He empowers you to move past the past.
None of this journey is simple. Some of it may involve getting professional help or medications for mental health diagnoses. It may mean you join a support group. It sometimes means you’ll go through bouts of seemingly unending sadness about your ability to change. I want you to know this: YOU ARE NORMAL.
I also want to say: I’m sorry you experienced trauma as a child. It’s unfair that it affects you today, that you’re circling back around to the pain, that you trigger easily, that you have such a hard time trusting people. I wish I could give you a hug. I would weep alongside you.
But please don’t give into despair. The God of the universe is the God of the reversal. And around Christmas time, we see this in beautiful clarity as He defied the laws of nature to become a helpless baby, in the hands of sinful men and women. He must’ve known the weight of sin of others against Himself in a way we cannot fathom. And although He had no stately form of majesty, His destiny was not marked by the obscurity He came from. He would save the world, our unlikely savior.
You are not doomed, friend. Jesus loves you. He will empower you to live the kind of life that makes the demons tremble and the other broken ones rejoice. Don’t give up.