If you’ve read my other blog posts, you know I come from a history of abuse (mental, physical, and psychological). I didn’t know I was living in a toxic abusive environment because I grew up in it. I didn’t know there were other ways, better ways, of living. If you grew up like me, you probably didn’t know it wasn’t a norm to be yelled at all the time, to be called the least favorable thing, to always cower in a corner hoping you are small enough to be invisible to your abuser’s eyes.
I never want to feel small or less than anything ever again. I never want to be surrounded by chaos. I never want my heart to be so troubled I couldn’t breathe. I never want to wish to be something that I am not.
I wanted to break away from the chains that tied me down. I wanted to free myself of the chains that said I cannot leave because I am dependent. I wanted to melt the chains that tell me change is not going to happen right away. I wanted to break the chains that told me I was too young.
I remember as a young adult sitting with two of my friends in one of their bedrooms. We spoke to each other about the frustrations we faced at home. We told each other how hard it was living with parents who didn’t understand or because of the culture our moms chose to stay with their abusive husbands rather than to leave.
We promised we wouldn’t do that to ourselves, especially to our children knowing how we grew up. We faced many difficulties with abuse, feelings of worthlessness, and putting others’ needs before our own. It wasn’t a path we wanted to follow. We want to be happy. We want our family to be happy.
Thinking back on it, I don’t recall us forming any real plan of escape: how were we going to go into adulthood and leave our family home? How are we going to provide for ourselves? When are we going to start being happy?
When we spoke of our happiness, it seemed so far off. I always thought I would be happy when I leave my parents’ house. I will be happy when I start a family and right everything that was done wrong to me. I will be the parent that I deserved to my little ones.
It was all a dream.
I didn’t know how I would be a good mom, or a good wife, or just a plain good person who should be confident in herself.
My plan was not to let anyone drag me through the mud, but that would mean I would be on the defense every single time someone is NOT on my side. That’s tiring.
What is a good wife? My mom is a good wife who took care of the kids and put food on the table and listened to her husband, but her life is not a happy one nor a fulfilling one (as far as I can tell). I couldn’t look to my mom and be confident that I will be happy in marriage if I was simply a good wife.
But I didn’t know all of this. I didn’t know where the change should start. Not until God called me away from everything I was comfortable with (and I was comfortable with starting new).
In Santa Cruz, I learned that I was living a life cycle of abuse. The history of my culture didn’t teach men to respect women, but rather to rule them. My culture has a history of women’s voices coming second to men and children’s opinions do not matter (and that of unmarried women). In my immediate family, that cycle continues along with abuse. My father was not loved by his parents and from the little, I gleaned he was treated poorly.
He had the best intention when he married my mother and had promised her he wouldn’t treat her the way his father treated his mother. Yet, the cycle continued and his children suffered.
So, why is it that with the best of intentions and a clear mind of what abuse looks like that it still happens?
My friend, it is because of the people we surround ourselves with.
When I share my frustration with my friends, it was an outlet. We share similar experiences and while we feel for each other, I think we were stuck in our own self-pity while pretending to be strong. When we left each other, we went back to our same old life waiting for change to come.
There was no action.
I encountered my plan of action unexpectedly in Santa Cruz. The right people were there. I was far from distraction.
I want you to know that the cycle of abuse, of brokenness, can be broken HERE and NOW. Below are four steps that happened in my life to open the path towards living a life free of abuse, breaking the cycle of brokenness for me.
1. You first must know that there is a cycle of brokenness, that there is an issue. I didn’t know it was a cycle. I didn’t think it would play out in my life, but it did. I was an abusive person myself and didn’t know it. I overcame being physically abusive and learned to show affection and speak words of love.
2. Then you must know that YOU CAN BREAK THE CYCLE. It’s so important to know that you have the power to break the chain, the cycle, of brokenness in your family. You are the change, you hold the power to break it.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
3. Find yourself a mentor, or a professional, who cares about aiding you in breaking the cycle. This is where you will start to examine yourself, your situation, and all the things that you hate. This is also when you will examine the bad characteristics you picked up from the environment you were in but didn’t know you picked it up. You need an outside perspective to help pinpoint where they are and how to unravel it. As you begin to unravel the tangles of your spirit, there will be deep emotions you didn’t have emerging; you’ll need your mentor to guide you through the emotions that will engulf you during this journey to FREEDOM. There will be a lot of tears as you cleanse yourself of all the hurt.
I had a lot of anger towards my parents for the way I was raised and for their choices. I learned from my mentor that I cannot shoulder and do not have to shoulder the consequences of my parents’ decisions. I was so relieved to know that I have that choice (I grew up with the impression that I didn’t). I learned to forgive their decisions and not take them personally. It was not easy by any means to forgive their decisions that impacted me, their actions that cut my soul. The choice to forgive was mine, and forgiveness comes with understanding that my parents choose to do what they thought was best for them. My choice is doing what’s best for me.
4. Embrace and nurture the person you want to become. Surround yourself with people who want you to break the cycle of brokenness and will help you break the cycle. They are positive people who will not feed your frustration but ease them. I find it best when I surround myself with Christians who are after God’s heart. They fill me with words of life and give me hope when I am at the end of the line. I find myself looking for women of God to become friends with because their God given wisdom is like the water of life. When I run dry, they fill me, and vice versa. (If you fall back to hanging out with friends and family that are broken and do not want to seek help, you will eventually fall if you do not have anyone positive to lift you up).
I know it will be hard if you don’t already have these people in your life to find them. I believe you will find them if you look. God did not put us in this world to be alone. Perhaps He’s already put someone in your life that you don’t know about. Maybe it’s someone you don’t talk to often, but that person is trustworthy. God has helpers for you so that you will not have to walk through life suffering without help.
Breaking the cycle of brokenness, of abuse, will take a long time. Take each day as a single step. Embrace each day as you do something that makes you happy and takes you closer to who you want to be: a happier, kinder, more confident you. Each day you move towards being the brighter person you see yourself as is a day of victory.
There will be times when you falter when the old scars begin to cause you pain again. Don’t be afraid, because you will already have the tools to combat it. The Word of God that speaks truth to you and surrounds you with love; the people who were on the journey to breaking free of the cycle of brokenness with you; and you, who are now stronger, will defeat the pain that wants to take you back. You are strong, sister, and you are not alone. You will achieve victory, break the cycle, and become whole.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17
Disclaimer: I am not a professional counselor or a counselor of any sort. What I shared on this post is based solely on my own experience and my journey to breaking free from the stronghold of the cycle of abuse. I strongly recommend seeking professional guidance for more in-depth and curated counseling to your particular needs.