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When The Triggers Don’t Stop

by | Feb 13, 2020 | PTSD, Survivor Story, The Year of Restoration, Trauma, Trauma Resource

I’m currently reading a new book released just this past week, “Woman Rising: A True Story” by Julia McCoy.

This memoir is the incredibly raw and vulnerable depiction of the horrific abuse the daughter of a cult leader endured throughout her childhood, and then how, as a young woman, she made her escape in the middle of the night, and eventually built a new life for herself.

I’m only a few chapters in, but reading this woman courageously recall the stories of the pain her father inflicted on her has already brought up countless, vivid memories of the pain inflicted upon me by my own father’s hands.

Just when I think I have a realistic view of exactly what happened in my childhood and can pinpoint each and every behavior that was so unhealthy, I realize instead I *still* haven’t fully grasped the degree of toxicity in the everyday things I found “normal.”

I remember how I used cower in fear of his voice and his selfish, violating hands, and how I used to get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach every I heard the garage door open, signaling my brain that he was home. I would stay in my room in the evening for hours on end, just to try to avoid his presence.

I remember how often I was told by his friends that I was blessed to have him as a father; these people so easily blinded by his charm, they had no idea of the hell going on behind closed doors.

Earlier this week, while I was laying down to rest, my dear fiancé raised his voice (out of enthusiasm, not anger) to say something to me, and it instantly set off a strong trigger of a memory of my father hovering over me while I lay curled up, defenseless and shaking in bed. Protective covers violently ripped away from me to attempt to wake me, my father began to scream, “I don’t care about you — you WILL respect me!!!”

These chilling memories have been flashing before my eyes nonstop all week. It’s not enjoyable, but I am giving myself grace through it all. Instead of being angry at flood of memories, I realize these memories, once tucked deep away in my mind, are now springing forth and carrying with them the renewed opportunity to process, grieve, and move forward from them.

To all the survivors out there, I want to encourage you to not become discouraged when a fresh recollection of a buried memory suddenly overwhelms you, or a new trigger unexpectedly bombards your body. It doesn’t mean you haven’t healed. It doesn’t mean all your therapy hasn’t worked. It simply means your brain is now ready and strong enough to tackle a new, once buried memory, which would have been too overwhelming to address before.

Like layers of an onion, healing comes in layers as well, and each layer can sometimes take years to work through before you are ready for the next.

My mentor likes to say, “The instant you become a redeemed child of God you become a saint. But it takes a lifetime to learn how to act like one.” I believe healing from trauma is the same way. Your wounds have already been covered by Jesus. You have already been made whole in His eyes. But it may take a lifetime of intentional processing and receiving grace to learn how to live whole.

Never stop learning to live whole. After all, that’s what thriving forward is all about. ?



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About the Author

Emily Elizabeth Anderson is a Christian blogger and rising activist for people who have experienced abuse within a Christian environment.

After growing up in a fundamentalist cult for 23 years and experiencing childhood domestic violence, Emily began her journey to recovery in 2015 and eventually found Jesus to be her ultimate healer. She soon turned her passion for writing into a blog and her story has since been featured on several media outlets including NPR.

She married her best friend, Joshua, in 2020 and together they are passionate about educating on the realities of trauma survival and recovery, as well as supporting survivors they meet through their online community.

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