When you experience a trauma sometimes the mind’s way of protecting you is to tuck the memory of it away. But even if you don’t remember what happen, the body does. The body will respond to things that trigger its remembering of the trauma. So it is with me when I was raped at 11 yo. I remembered certain things about the trauma (fragments), and there was a huge chunk that I couldn’t recall, but my body knew and it reacted to things associated with the memory. My body and my mind manipulated me into avoiding those things because they made me feel like they were dangerous which really they weren’t, but I didn’t realize that, until recently.
To deal with with what I avoid related to this trauma and recall the repressed memories, my therapist and I embarked on a new to my therapist and definitely new to me type of therapy called Prolonged Exposure. This is a type of therapy they do with soldiers who have been in combat and experience PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). For 8 of 10 weeks now, we have engaged in me telling my trauma from beginning to end (Imaginal Exposure), first starting out with what I did remembered, and gradually the memories are returning to complete the full story of what happened… well a majority of it anyway. Along with this part of the therapy, I also engage in something called In-Vivo Exposures where I expose myself with the things I avoid due to and related to the trauma. Which brings me to the title of this blog entry… Sleeping in Silence.
For most of my life I have slept with a fan on. And I have not slept in complete darkness. At the end of what was done to me, I was left in the darkness and silence to deal with the aftermath of the onslaught horror. So over time my mind associated the trauma to silence and darkness and thus I avoided it. So for a week in the In-Vivo, I exposed myself to these things 3 times. I recorded how dangerous they feel pre, post and peak the exposure, but with these two, silence and darkness, the hope was that there would be no post and I would just fall asleep. But let me tell you how scary it was to do these things!! Some nights I felt like a child crying and fighting to not go to bed… which I was doing anyway because of nightmares. I was also avoiding going to bed at a descent hour and getting enough sleep. So last week she added that In-Vivo as well! (Ugh!! Does she realize she triple whammied me?!)
During this whole process, actually starting back in August 2015 when I first saw my counselor, God has been slowly working on my mind and heart. I had such a hard time trusting Him and didn’t believe I was lovable, worthy of protection or that I mattered. Piece by piece He has been restoring me and transforming me into the person He has created me to be. My will has fought His will I think almost every step of the way. Doing these exposures was no different. I continued to wrestle with God, and as always, being the loving, faithful and gracious Father He is, He revealed to me some life changing, well at least for me, truths. First was that I needed to trust God. My upbringing and experiences broke my trust in God. And to fight His will made me feel all the more unworthy of His love and grace. Then I read something that totally changed my perspective.
“Genuine trust involves allowing another to matter and have an impact in our lives. For that reason, many who hate and do battle with God trust Him more deeply than those whose complacent faith permits an abstract and motionless stance before Him. Those who trust God most are those whose faith permits them to risk wrestling with Him over the deepest questions of life. Good hearts are captured in the divine wrestling match; fearful, doubting hearts stay clear of the mat. The commitment to wrestle will be honored by a God who will not only break but bless.” The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender
I longed in my heart to trust God, but because I had been betrayed too many times by the adults in my life, my view of God became skewed. Yet in my heart I believed He was trustworthy. This was a huge war between my head and heart for many many years and in the midst of this particular storm I needed to trust Him if I was ever going to heal.
I told my counselor that it seemed to me that when one has been through a trauma like I have that one would want to sleep in silence to be able to hear if someone broke in and was coming to hurt them. But she said no and in fact it made sense to her… I had been sleeping with a fan on to drown out my own thoughts and not deal with them. That was so right!! During this exposure, I learned that sleeping with the fan on not only kept me from hearing and dealing with my own thoughts, but it also drowned out the voice of God. And in sleeping with the light on, I avoided crying out to God, trusting Him and depending on Him like a child that calls for their parent when they are afraid of the dark.
Then one night in the dark and silence I remembered a scripture, well part of it, then my counselor told me the actual verse: “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. I realized that when I sleep in silence, I am able to hear God much clearer and deeper and sleeping in the dark brings me to a level of trust and dependence on Him that I had not experienced or embraced before. Now when I have nightmares or am afraid on the middle of the night, I don’t get up and avoid sleep. I am able to hear God’s whisper lull me back to sleep, telling me a story of how much I am loved, protected and matter to Him. He sings me a song of how wide and long and high and deep His love is for me. For over a week now I still have continued to wrestle with God about going to bed. But just like any loving parent, He reassures me that He is near…always near. In the complete silence and darkness of the night, now I fall asleep peacefully.
This morning as I write this, I realize that though this has been an issue related to my trauma, it is truly a metaphor for our walk with God. We avoid the silence and dark places in us trying to do and be all in life. We control what we do, when we do it, how we do it… Heck, we even try to control others in our lives in the same way! Too many people don’t trust God and avoid sitting in the silences and darkness of their life to let Him reign in their life. I started counseling to deal with FOO issues… that’s Family of Origin issues, and in this process I’ve slowly been surrendering my pride, my need to control, my fear of man and my horizontal vision of this life for a vertical vision of God as King and Ruler of my soul. He has consistently shown me He is my faithful loving trustworthy Dad and that is what started to transform me. I’m still wrestling with what was done to me on that Christmas Eve so long ago, and so many other things I’ve yet to tell, but there is a difference now. I’m starting to see that in the midst of that yuck, God just might have a bigger plan for me than I had ever expected. I don’t understand it all, but I know as He slowly reveals His plan for my life, I am in awe of the story He is writing and the tapestry He is weaving through my yuck. There is such great power in the silence and darkness whether it is literal or metaphoric. It is here I am finding out just how true scripture is… that there is nothing that can separate me from God’s love. Not even when I wrestle with Him in the silences and darkness.
“Sometimes you must go into the darkness to show the light.” Furious Love