I was reminded today, in a completely unexpected way, of a part of my story. A little forewarning, this is a sensitive subject.
When I was little, and until my mid teens, I had a very disturbing reoccurring dream. I didn’t tell anyone about it, I was ashamed, I felt gross and I was completely embarrassed. I would pray, beg, for this dream to stop, but for years it would roll through my sleeping hours.
Finally, close to my 20’s, the dream seemed to go away. Even so, I was left with the emotional damage. The feelings of shame, inadequacy, filth, failure and helplessness. I remember having intense emotional breakdowns, feeling overwhelmed with pain and inner struggle.
The scariest thing about these dreams was that I was sure who the perpetrator was. Not only this but I was becoming more and more confident that these dreams were images of acts that had been committed against me as a child.
Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was married at the age of 22. Even though this pain that the dreams had left me with was still so present, I was certain that if I ignored it, it would go away. I believed that I was dealing with it myself and that my husband didn’t need to know. It would have been to hard for me to share the details with him, and I didn’t see the point of intentionally bringing that hurt into our marriage. The symptoms would disappear eventually. Right?
Fast-forward four point five years later and our marriage had hit a rough spot. I was drained and borderline depressed, barely having the strength to get out of bed or off the couch, let alone put energy into our relationship. But my husband wouldn’t accept that and he forced me / us to go to counseling. He is a good man.
Counseling was the most difficult thing I had ever done. I was shaking uncontrollably the entire two hour drive to the counseling session. I didn’t want to go and I hated my husband for making me. I couldn’t even look at him. I was positive that the counselor was going to tell me what a bad Christian wife I was being.
But it wasn’t like that. This session was the first of several we would go to and it did help me get a little closer to healing.
During the session the counselor used EMDR Therapy. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy. A simplistic description of this therapy is that you follow the therapists hand movements with your eyes. Sometimes the client will loose sight of the fingers, showing that there is a blind spot in that area. Since humans process most memories visually, these blind spots are signs of repressed memories.
When the counselor hit a blind spot of mine, my body fell off balance and I struggled to stand upright. She asked what thoughts had come to mind in that moment and I lied and said that nothing had. But it was the memories of these dreams that had resurfaced. I quickly looked at my husband and knew I couldn’t bring them up. Once again, I believed the lie that acknowledging them would be pointless and that I was dealing with them on my own.
I know now that if I had been honest and brought up what had come to mind during the EMDR treatment, my story would be very different. I would not doubt that it would have saved my marriage. But instead, I decided to struggle with my secret on my own, thinking that everything would work out just fine.
I couldn’t see that this secret, although so far in the past, was affecting everything about myself and my marriage. It affected my confidence and body image, my view of men, my sexual experiences and view of these moments, the way I accepted affection and love…and that’s just a couple things that come to mind.
Secrets slowly seep into your life and darken everything.
Secrets kill. They are a deadly rust that spreads throughout relationships, slowly crumbling the foundation until it all topples over.
I refuse to feel guilt and shame from my past. I will acknowledge the wrong and move forward with those lessons. But I will fight the lies that Satan would love to tie me down with. I will share my story in order to help others in their walks, knowing that God has given me this plot for a reason. There is a purpose to my path and I believe that is to give glory to his name and to help those struggling around me.
So my offering of help today is this: Are you keeping a secret? Is there something you think that you’re dealing with on your own?
It might be hard, you might be shaking the entire time you do it, but share your secret with someone. Help them carry this burden. Ask for guidance or just spill the beans. Go to someone wise, loving and full of grace.
And friends, if you’re the one helping to share the burden, be gentle. Guide with truth and bring God into this conversation. Pray, listen, and remember that words aren’t always necessary. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being a sounding board. Have the wherewithal to suggest therapy if needed, or hold your friends hand all the way to the pastors office if you have to. But most of all, be open and listening for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
Sharing secrets is painful but that pain will pass. It doesn’t feel like it, I understand that. But please believe me when I say, dealing with secrets is so much better than hiding them.