Happy Tuesday Friends. If you are a regular follower of my blog, you know that I love providing tools to help you overcome some the toughest trials of your lives in a way that honors God, yourself and your family. About 9 months ago, I met a young lady who has faced more than one tough trial, but her outlook on life is amazing! When I recently saw her post on Facebook, I immediately emailed her and asked if I could share her post with you. Of course she agreed because she also is passionate about not being defined by her story, but instead using her story to inspire others.
So today, I would like to introduce my friend to you. This is her story:
“I recently came across this quote over Facebook that really hit me & made me think. “In the wake of a violent or traumatic experience, we’re left to struggle with some of life’s toughest questions: Will this thing that happened always define me, or will I redefine myself with the choices I make?” -Elizabeth Smart
As many of you know a couple years ago I shared my personal story of sexual assault. I didn’t share for pity or attention, but for awareness & hope for others who may be struggling with something similar and to let them know they aren’t alone and that there are programs & people who can help them heal. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and when I ran across that quote by Elizabeth Smart I started thinking of my own personal experience and everything I’ve learned, gained and experienced since then.
About 3 1/2 years ago in Hawaii I was brutally raped and left alone in the sand. Months later after sharing my story I had many people come to me sharing their stories of sexual assault and seeking help & it’s truly heartbreaking to know that sexual assault happens so often and so many people say nothing because of fear. Fear because of who our attacker was, fear of what others would think or do, fear simply because the situation was so overwhelming that maybe, like me, you didn’t even know what to do or think because it felt so unrealistic, but I am here to tell you whether it was a complete stranger, friend, family member, or public authority you should never feel like you can’t share because of who did it and what happened.
You should never let fear of religion or embarrassment play into keeping what happened to you a secret. Don’t believe the lies that you have nobody who would care and listen or that it was your fault. I’m here to tell you someone does care & there are outreach programs & communities of survivors that care about you and WANT to help you heal and grow.
You should talk to your family or friends so that you’re able to get the help you need and realize that you are SO MUCH MORE than what happened to you and that you are worthy and strong enough to tell someone and get the help you need rather than let fear manipulate & make you feel worthless to the point of it consuming your life and negatively affecting you.
I didn’t tell anyone about being sexually abused for months afterwards, and I caused myself so much more pain and problems physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally.
Don’t wait to seek help!
Help is there for you waiting to be utilized, you just have to tell someone! That step alone is already huge and SO worth it! So don’t be silent, speak out and begin your healing process. (If you don’t know where to begin just message me and I can help you!)
The thing that I loved the most about what Smart said was that we can let what happened to us define us or we can redefine ourselves by the choices we make.
Isn’t that so amazing and SO true?
Anything that has happened to us in life whether it be the mistakes we’ve made ourselves or things that have happened to us we still have the CHOICE, the choice to let our past define us or not.
Too many times as people, we let the negativity of our experiences get the best of us and we wallow in self pity or we lash out against the person/thing who did us harm. We hold grudges that come with constant pain and we end up in this cycle of pity and misery.
But at that point in your life it’s not your attacker or others who made you miserable it’s YOURSELF!
You are the only person responsible for your happiness, no matter what you’ve done or what others have done to you, nobody can make you happy but yourself because happiness is a choice. Like Thomas S. Monson once said, “You don’t find the happy life, you make it”.
This past summer I had the opportunity to attend a very heavy and deep week long program that focused on traumatic events & healing. I cried every day during almost every session and opened up about things that triggered or haunted me, but I learned coping mechanisms and most importantly I learned how to let it go and not let what happened to me affect my thoughts, dreams and every day task.
My biggest outlook that therapist helped me realize was that I always mentioned how “my virginity was stolen from me.”
I was embarrassed and ashamed and so mad that someone else made me feel worthless in my own body and “took” something away from me that I was one day saving for my husband. I never realized that I didn’t “lose my virginity”, giving that away would be me giving consent to the actions of my abuser and I didn’t.
I realized that I was letting what someone else did to me define myself and worth.
I was mad that someone stole something from me that I had all along. I will never let what he did define me. It’s important as survivors, that we do not let the actions of others define us.
I know it’s so much easier said than done, but it’s important you know that nothing about what happened to you makes you less of a person or “unworthy”.
That’s something I struggled the most with, believing I’m enough for anything in life, because my personal experience made me feel otherwise, but coming to terms with that truth really helped me heal. I didn’t consent to anything, therefore he did not take anything away from me.
As I’ve worked through this and other personal issues my defining moment was realizing I had the power of letting all of it go. Letting him and his actions go, no matter how much pain they had caused me.
One of the biggest tools that has helped me heal is forgiveness. Forgiving myself and eventually forgiving my attacker and knowing 100% that he no longer has that hold on me. I didn’t forgive him because of religious reasons or for him to be happy, but I forgave him for myself. I Forgave him so he no longer has any room in my heart for pain or sadness.
I’m not angry or bitter. I forgave him so I could realize he didn’t take anything from me because I didn’t give him anything and knowing that gives me peace. He is not in control of my happiness, what he did does not define me.
Every day we have the choice to make the best out of our circumstances. I’m here to let you know that no matter what happened to you, you can make the choices today to redefine yourself, no matter how hard it may seem.
I want to let other survivors of sexual assault know you are not alone & that what happened to you was NOT your fault!
You are still whole, beautiful and so much stronger than what happened to you. God loves you & knows your heart, He knows your pain and knows of your divinity. If you let Him, along with professional help & the love from your family and friends, healing is there and SO possible.
One day those negative feelings of despair will be feelings of love and gratitude knowing that at such a dark time you were able to seek hope, happiness and peace when it felt impossible and YOU did that for yourself!
Don’t blame others for your choices or happiness and don’t let what others have done or maybe what you’ve done yourself ever define you. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is real and so powerful in more ways than one. It’s open to everyone, you just have to put in the work to heal in whatever circumstance you’re in.
You CAN forgive yourself and what others have done no matter how traumatic or bad it is. You CAN live a happy life. You CAN overcome hard things & you ARE important no matter how painful the situations we may be going through at the moment make us feel. Choose to be happy & spread that love to others.
Don’t let the “Me Too” trend start and stop at posting that as your status, if we want to change the world we must be the change.
If you want to change your circumstances you have to be willing to put in the work and time TO CHANGE. Seek help for change. Put in work for change. Don’t just say “Me too” and think that now society is different and you won’t be hurt again or your past experiences will be gone.
You have to educate yourself and others on how they can make that change. Use the tools that are there for you to utilize to help you heal and grow. You can ask me or even look on the internet for support groups or free counseling if you can’t afford it yourself. Knowledge is power, educate yourself and others. By doing those small and simple things you’re already making a positive difference in your own life as well as others.
It’s important to realize you do not have control of others actions. If you focus on revenge or what other people may or may not deserve or how others should’ve handled a situation you will only make yourself more miserable.
You can’t make choices or decisions for others. You can only choose for yourself.
Stop worrying about where others are in life or what they’ve done that wronged you. Focus on yourself and God. Focus on the choices you have that you get to make. Focus on what YOU can control. You can control your happiness and your thoughts.
You control your outlook on your journey in life and what you decide to do next is where our redefining begins. You are worth it & you are important no matter what you’ve done or what was done to you.
Of course none of us are perfect, but trying to be better in the aspects of our lives that we CAN control will help us heal and grow in ways we never imagined. It is possible to be and live a happy life despite the traumatic events we experience in life.
I’m so grateful for all the good and bad I’ve been through for the simple fact of the way it’s shaped me today. The Saviors Grace means so much to me & so does the power of forgiveness than I could ever explain to others.
I love the gift of forgiveness, because it’s enabled me to live my true and authentic life by letting go of things I cannot control and choosing to be happy despite my circumstances.
I so believe everything happens for a reason and that what matters most is Gods opinion of you.
He loves you no matter what you’ve done or what was done to you.
Focus on His unconditional love for you, seek help if you need it and learn how forgiveness can help you heal in anything in life.
There is hope and light in life you just have to choose to see it.