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When Trauma is Part of Your Identity – Part Two: My Story

This article discusses topics in the nature of physical and emotional abuse and may trigger those sensitive to these conversations. If you are feeling as though you need immediate help, please do not hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or dial 911.

I remember making sure to walk slowly on the way home. I couldn't walk too slowly or take too many detours or else my parents would worry; but, I would wind back and forth through the streets so that I might get an extra fifteen minutes or so to myself before I reached the front door. Even then, it probably wasn't enough. I didn't always get home at the same time as my mother and certainly not my father. I would still have to take a deep breath before opening the door and pray she wasn't there. I still had to face what I knew would probably hurt and needed to protect my brother so that he wouldn't face it as well. He was probably going to his friend's house anyway, so that would leave just me. There was a big empty house that sat on the corner. I never saw anyone come out or go into it. Maybe it was empty. Maybe I could just pretend as I walked by that this was my house and the only person who lived there was me. Wouldn't that be nice? I needed to keep walking. I couldn't walk too slowly after all. My parents might worry.

My hands shook in my sweater pockets. I had bitten my fingernails to the quick and I would sit and pull out strands of my hair while I watched television. I never really realized I was doing it. I was terrified of going to sleep, but I hated being awake just as much; so, I used to try to sleep with at least one eye open. I never could master it. I kept walking as the afternoon fog rolled in over the small coastal town where I lived. It was cold and wet on my face, but if I could stay right there for just a little longer, I probably would have given my left arm. I was almost to the end of the block though. I had only maybe added about 12 minutes to my walk.

"Don't let her see," I thought. "She can't know you are afraid of her, she'll used that against you. You'd rather her think you were hard and mean than scared and weak."

I was fighting back tears, causing my head to burn and ache and my vision to blur. I couldn't even be upset; it just made me a bigger target or pitiful to everyone else. I walked down the front steps to the door and cautiously pushed it open.

* * *

My sister has Bipolar Disorder along with Antisocial Personality Disorder and compulsive lying. Many of you might be familiar with bipolar disorder; someone you know might have it. I know multiple, lovely individuals who struggle with it. You have probably also encountered someone with a lying disorder or that just loves to lie. It's fairly common. You might not be so familiar Antisocial Personality Disorder.

According to the Mayo Clinic:

"Antisocial Personality Disorder, sometimes called sociopathy, is a mental disorder in which a person consistently shows no regard for right and wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others. People with antisocial personality disorder tend to antagonize, manipulate or treat others harshly or with callous indifference. They show no guilt or remorse for their behavior.

Individuals with antisocial personality disorder often violate the law, becoming criminals. They may lie, behave violently or impulsively, and have problems with drug and alcohol use. Because of these characteristics, people with this disorder typically can't fulfill responsibilities related to family, work or school."(Source)

Charles Manson and Ted Bundy both had Antisocial Personality Disorder. Sometimes that makes me feel powerful. Why, you ask? Because I have, for 29 and a half years, survived my sister. If I could do that, maybe I could have survived even the worst and most dangerous criminals in history. I don't think I want to test that theory, however. Anyway, back to my story...

My sister is Bipolar with Antisocial Personality Disorder and lies like most people breathe. It was evident since she was 6 months old, a few years before I came along. The interesting thing about her diagnosis is that she is cruel, and even dangerous, to everyone she meets in some way or some form, but some she lets off easier than others and some she is harder on than others. I was, unfortunately the latter.

For as long as I could remember, I was afraid of my sister. She would scream at me at the drop of a hat, punch me, bite me, cut me, and no less than a half a dozen times, she tried to actually kill me. I have been tied down by her, screaming for my life, backed into corners, and beaten until I nearly fell unconscious. I would be lying if I said I was too good of a Christian to not feel hatred for her... and I don't use that term lightly. She was relentlessly cruel and abusive and very openly despised me for no other reason than the fact I existed. Maybe I shouldn't have a complex, she hated everyone just for existing; but me, she hated the most.

It was agony for my family. I want to make clear that I come from a good family; a family that, despite our flaws, our normal tendencies to fight, would never intentionally hurt one another. I am a middle child in a "yours, mine, and ours" family with two brothers and parents who are ten years apart in age. We are a modern large family, but it works for the most part... that is until it comes to my sister.

Every family resource (time, money, worry) went into making her well. I do not believe she recognizes that still, but it is true. There was no room for anything else. There was no room for fun holidays or quiet dinners or happy birthdays, no matter how much we tried to have those things. I remember, my mother once said to me when I was in my mid-twenties, "You were such a happy kid growing up." That surprised me. I didn't remember one day before my sister left home at eighteen, that I was happy.

Luckily, she did leave... for about 10 months. I thought my prayers were answered! Friends, when I say I was begging for my childhood roommate and household bully to leave, I mean it. I shouldn't have, but I prayed everything from her quitting school (where she would frequently and violently attack me in the halls) and moving far away to her overdosing on the various drugs she ingested on a regular basis. That makes me seem cruel, but as a child, I had no idea what to do! Every single day was a new barrage of physical and mental abuse that, though try as they might, could not even be stopped by my parents. The police would be called; she would be spoken to, but short of kicking her out or pressing charges, what could be done?

Still, at eighteen, she met someone she would marry (for at least a few months) and she moved away to Missouri... and then Lodi, or where ever she could find a spare couch. That lasted, like I said, for 10 incredible and peaceful months. It was like a new lease on life! She became pregnant and moved back in with us and I felt all of the fear well up in me again. She had her baby (a beautiful little boy who is now twelve) one month before my seventeenth birthday and the beginning of my senior year of high school. I didn't leave my room much that last year at home and took the first full-ride offered to me at an university I ended up hating in order to leave as quickly as I could.

She lived for two more years at home once I left for college. When she physically abused her son, my parents gained custody and she was asked to leave. She has been married at least once more and has had two more children, who now live with her second husband and do not have contact with her after she had been abusive toward them as well.

In the ten years since she was asked to leave, I have seen her in person, maybe 3 times. Each time I am so scared I can barely breathe. I get sick to my stomach, I cry, I shake. I fear for her to even know where I live or where I work. She is every terror in frequent nightmares and has left me with a fear of sleeping in a room without a lock on the door. She has helped to create a trauma identity in me and for many years, I was afraid to speak of it to anyone.

"What will they think of me?" I wondered. "Would they see me as weak for being overcome by this person for so long or for letting it sit with me even today? What will they think of my parents? Surely, I know they did what they could, but will others know that as well?"

I couldn't bear the shame of the pain. Isn't that how it always is, though? In this fallen world, Satan will use the worst situations of our lives to make us feel as though WE are the ones to blame and to be ashamed. "If only we had more faith, maybe that wouldn't have happened to us," our brains will taunt us. That's just it, trauma will come, regardless of how strong we are or how much faith we have. Satan makes sure of that. So why do we insist on hiding it and making others believe that their shared experience of trauma, the dramas we even hide from our mamas are wrong?

Today, I shared part of my story with you to let you know that trauma is not God's intention for you, but it also does not mean that you are a bad or weak Christian because it is something you have had to endure. God knows and understands what you are facing and He, in fact, has something to say about it. Next week, I will share part three of this short series with you as we discuss what the Bible has to say about our trauma and how we can run to Jesus and be assured He will carry us through it. I hope you join me.

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