Month

June 2016

It’s not about you, them, or even me anymore.

It’s only been 4 actual blog posts since I launched My Heart Sees Hope and I have already gotten some raised eyebrows and fear expressed to me about writing on this very personal subject publicly. 
I want to clarify a couple of reasons why I would choose to share my story at all. 

Reason 1. “We are only as sick as our secrets.”

If you were to ask me about my childhood 10 years ago, I would probably tell you that I grew up in the city of Chicago. That I have 2 siblings. That I attended a Catholic Grammar School K-8. That I moved to the suburbs in my sophomore year of high school. That I became pregnant at 19, a wife by 20 and that my parents were divorced shortly after I had my oldest son. Period.
End of story. 

I would have never believed that I would one day have courage to ever come forward to admit that as a young child, I was sexually abused from the ages of 5-11 by 3 separate people. That at 13 years of age, I was raped in the basement of my house by a 17 year old boy. 
It’s not comfortable to be this open and vulnerable. But it’s even worse to feel as if this part of my history, something that is a part of who I am, should be forever smothered with avoidance. 
My story today is not for anyone to pity me. There was a time a few years ago when I was in the really raw part of my healing process and hurting extremely bad and I needed people to feel sorry for me. I dwelled in it for a period of time. I’m not happy with that part and time in my life, but it was all part of the grieving process. The moment when I came to terms with the answer to the question… How did I become so broken?

 I lost many friends then. Some because they didn’t understand me, but most because I pushed them away. 

My story today is to take back my life. Take back my story from the perpetrators that stole parts of who I was and to find my true purpose in the world as a survivor of this. 

Because whether you want to hear this or not, I will never be able to forget this. 

It will never go away.  

But I can take what was once sadness and confusion, I can change what once was shame, and turn it into good. So to those asking why…this is why. 

I really want to help others like me. Period. I don’t know exactly how I will yet, but I have a really good idea that it starts with the words … “me too”. 
We need to know we can share our stories and that there are places to be encouraged, safe, and understood. I made the mistake these past few years sharing my story to the wrong people. It has been terribly retriggering and it caused me to retract into my shell for a bit. It’s a story I will write more about later and an important lesson in my journey into to healing and recovery. 

My Heart Sees Hope was born out of that one really difficult lesson. That’s my motivation and mission. 

I will not be ashamed. 

There are people who really don’t get it. They really don’t care, and you or I can never make them. But on the flip side, I do care. Many people do get it and we can ban together and be a tribe of our own. 

Reason #2 
“To educate the ignorant.”

The biggest problem with the world and these issues is the shame that surrounds it. Nobody wants to talk about it because it’s … icky. It is. But to those who know someone or are actually related to someone who has been a victim of this – if you truly care about them, then you need to understand how this affects a person. I’m not everyone. My story is only my story. However, every single group I have attended, every recovery blog I have read, and every person I have met that has experienced this type of trauma, have experienced the same exact struggles and effects I have. 

So who knows?!? My story may help you understand a friend or a relative a little bit better. 

Reason #3 GOD

Throughout my life God has been a pivotal force in my existence. Throughout my years of therapy, I have been told by more than one doctor that people have committed suicide for much less than I have experienced. I’m going to tell you what, I would NOT be here right now with out my relationship with GOD. 

My journey as a Christian has not been smooth, or easy. It’s not been always positive either. People can suck whether they attend church or don’t. However, I know they are not GOD. They are flawed broken people like me. Hurt people – Hurt people. I am grateful for my volatile faith journey because it tested me and my faith today is stronger than ever. I cannot say enough about how GOD heals. 

This parable below says a lot about why… 

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” Matthew 13: 4-9

You see I don’t know who my story will reach. I just am trusting that GOD who strengthens me to do this, knows my heart is good in this, will have it fall on the right ears and one day will help. 
Because it’s not about the people who did these things to me anymore. It’s not about the people who weren’t there. 
It’s not about me anymore either. 

It’s about HOPE for the broken and living in the light. 

We are HIS

It’s Sunday. 

A day of rest, a day of worship, a day of fellowship, a day to repent, a day that for many years of my Catholic life, I didn’t think much about unless it was Christmas or Easter. 

However, I will admit,that I have always sought to know God and all that he was on a deeper level. I was always drawn to the faith & hope that there really was something bigger and better out there. I wanted to believe that “someone or something” knew the real me inside, loved the real me, and that there could be someone I could talk to when I felt alone. 

Although I no longer practice the Catholic faith, I will be forever grateful for the foundation laid in my heart of who God was. In my personal experience, Catholism distracted me from the true meaning of the Gospel by the church keeping their traditions and rituals at the forefront of everything. It wasn’t until I went to a bible based evangelical style non denominational church where I was taught by a “normal guy” (pastor) in normal clothes reading straight from the bible that I even learned what all those traditions even were for! 

But regardless, I always knew God was “up there” and for whatever reason I never questioned it. 

I just never did. 

Even throughout my painful experiences. I never really blamed God. I did wave my fist in the air a lot and curse sometimes. I have been angry with God and how he has allowed things to go for me. But I just never lived a moment thinking he doesn’t exist. It’s like I always knew him. Even when I didn’t always feel him in my life.  

The only questions I ever had of him were why can’t HE just take me with him?  Take me out of my messes and can’t I just get wings like an angel and fly away? Because my self worth had been so beaten down growing up,  I didn’t even question why he let people hurt me so much, I just question why he made me at all.  

Why did I even exist? 

A question I asked HIM many times throughout my life. As I grow in my healing process that question and it’s  answer has been slowly revealing itself to me. 

Without my hitting those dark levels of brokenness, I’m not sure if I’d ever truly look to God at all. I’d still be trying to fix everything on my own. That day on my stairs I mentioned 2 blogs ago, was the beginning of learning to surrender all. My battle to release of control of my life that I never had control of anyway, and the day I started to listen more, and say less. 

God has always been with me.  Through all of it. But he wanted me to be in it with HIM.  It’s hard for some to wrap your mind around that, I know.  It wasn’t until today I could really understand things this clearly my self. But what my plea is for anyone who is struggling, anyone who feels alone, anyone who doesn’t think they matter at all. 

You do. 

I’m not a pastor or a psychologist. I still swear a lot , wrestle with being selfish, jealous, self centered, judgemental, critical, and I even miss church on many Sunday’s. There really is absolutely no reason anyone should think I’m an upstanding representative for God. I mess up way more than probably most who don’t believe in God. 

Yes I’m extremely flawed and will be forever a work in progress. But you know what my faith in God and his son Jesus says about all that I’m not?  It’s says no matter what,  I’m loved and forgiven and that I CAN change. That I was meant for so much more. 

That He KNOWS everything about me. He knew me before I existed. Memorizing Psalm 139 in the NIV bible was a turning point in my life. It took me now 2 years to finally believe it, but I now do.

If there is anything I can leave you with today- Sunday June 26, 2016, is to give faith a chance. 

Hope was found when I finally gave up the idea that my life would look anything remotely like I thought it should. Our lives and whatEVER they have been, do not define who we are. God says we are HIS. God is love. God is light. If we are his, we are both love and light. Even if we cannot see that in ourselves, HE CAN. He will use our broken, screwed up, messes to connect with the world and to further his kingdom. 

To God be the glory. 

I never saw it coming… 

Never in her wildest dreams would that girl believe that the boy right next to her was going to be the single most important person in her life to come. 

This boy would pick her up from school every day. 

This boy would look at her like she really was the only one in the room.

This boy would tolerate her smoking even though he absolutely hated it and would several years down the road convince her to finally quit. 

This boy would laugh at her jokes even though she always screwed up the delivery. 

This boy would survive hitting a tree head on, full speed in a snow mobile on a day she should have been at school but decided to cut. (The hospital visit broke the news to the parents) 

This boy would help her understand that not ALL boys want one thing. Some really do want to know you. 

This boy would teach her to how to drive….fast.  (He can’t complain- he taught me) 

This boy would help her learn to laugh at herself. (Especially after falling so often) 

This boy would teach her how to eat and one day not feel guilty about it. 

This boy would teach her how to feel beautiful not wearing makeup but was always amazed how blonde her eyebrows were without pencil. 

This boy would choose to stay with her and grow up to be a young father while his other friends partied and were still in college. 

This boy loved her when pregnancy changed her body at 19 into a a mural of red stretch marks. 

This boy would hold her up after the ultra sound said there was no heart beat, just after she shared the news that she was 4 months long with their 2nd. 

This boy would allow her to stay home with her baby while he worked 2 jobs because he understood why she was so afraid to leave him with anyone, in fear  what happend to her could happen to her own. 

This boy would teach her that parents don’t have to fight on Christmas morning. 

This boy would teach her that daddies love their children no matter how much they weighed or how smart they were. 

That this boy would learn to become her best friend even when she tested him continuously. 

That this boy was going to be the only man to show her that men can love unconditionally, and they do stay. 

Love is not easy but it is worth fighting for.  

I’m just glad my battle partner is him. 

Love you Forever Mike Ferraro. 

Understand the misunderstood. 

“Just get over it already!”

 “Let it go”

“You really need to move on” 

“How much attention do you need?”

“Why can’t you just BE HAPPY?”

There is nothing I wanted more for my children, my husband, my mother, my siblings, the friends I have today, as well as the friends that I have lost on this  journey then to just simply 

LET IT GO. How about not even having anything to let go at all???

But to those who have no real understanding of sexual trauma and abuse, (a.k.a. Didn’t happen to you) 

I needed to understand that I even  wanted happiness for myself. That I deserved to let it go for myself in order to move forward. That in doing this, it wasn’t saying it didn’t happen. That in doing this it wasn’t being selfish. That I could do it at all. 

As I write today, I know it’s possible. I’m currently living in a new world of growing self love, finding my peace and worth, as well as understanding who I am and where I came from. 

But for those of you preaching those words, it really is a little more complicated then Elsa’s beloved lyrics. 

I wanted to share a little insight on what I know on experiencing  trauma like this. Trauma at any age definitely affects us emotionally – we know this.  

Scars heal but never go away. 

Physically body scars change how we look right? Well if they are in the brain, how can you argue that emotional scars don’t change how you actually think? 

Here’s the real deal:

Trauma causes legit “Brain Damage” 

Trauma especially during childhood while your brain is growing, can rewire a persons thinking structure. 

Another words, in my case because the abuse started from such a young age I never looked at the world as my children do.

Ever. 

Only today am I understanding how different the world and people actually are.

Most people trust others if there isn’t a reason not to, but for 30+ years of MY life, my view has been someone must prove to be trustworthy and then will be allowed in. This is a HUGE struggle even today. It’s a continuous battle. Probably will always be. 

So the words to just “be happy”or “let it go” fuels ugly cycles in survivors like me. 

Let me explain: 

When you are a person that is already swallowed with secrets and shame, these words become the constant reminder that you will never be understood or belong.  Because honestly we see everything differently. I see everything differently. Period. 

When your identity is not rooted in  safety and truth, those words might as well be in another language. 

We don’t get it. We want it, but we can’t figure out a way to understand it and in the the cycle turns into a shame game. 

Here’s what I have learned today, I CAN let things go. It just takes me more time than others. 

I believe I have forgiven and let go of a lot and as much as possible at this point in my life. 

I’m here right? Writing this. 

 But I couldn’t for a really long time. I needed to believe and understand that my identity wasn’t what happens to me. That my identity wasn’t in what anyone thought of me. 

You see when you are abused like this, boundaries are not healthy nor understood. 

So in my case I had allowed who I was to be determined by everything happening and everyone around me. If something was bad, I was bad. If someone didn’t like me, I didn’t like me either. 

I never just understood, I have the power to believe I am worth it regardless. It’s like that piece of myself never grew. It was really crazy when it all clicked. I found my ruby slippers! 

Literally this just happened recently. 

As a person who has been looking in the mirror at herself for a really long time at all the ugly she has come from and in return created around herself because of not feeling heard, I know that WE MUST learn to let it go. 

We DESERVE to feel happiness. I deserve to like me and feel like I’m worth having relationships that are safe, loving, and let’s not forget ….fun.

But it took some real unconditional love from my husband, my children, and my mother to see it through with me.  

I needed to be held.

 I needed to scream and cry. I needed days to be quiet and be sad. 

I needed to say I was angry and that life wasn’t fair. I needed to pity myself. Not forever but for a time. 

I needed tons of grace and forgiveness for my lack of trust of good people and my actions to them because of it. Apologize and own it. Then move on whether they get it or not. 

I will be the first to admit, 

I have not been easy to love.  This process is terrible and unfair to all involved. 

But there comes a point when I had to choose to accept that life wasn’t fair and these were the cards dealt to me. 

I had to say I have the choice now. I’m not a victim anymore. I had to grow up. 

I have people in my life who not only love me, but they truly like me. 

They HEAR me and because I know this of them, I trust them, today I can let it go. 

The worst part of being a victim of sexual abuse and rape is the isolation you feel because of SHAME. 

Shame is the ugliest word in existence. It’s what the devil will try to use against me every day of my life. 

He’s losing though because his games are always the same. I’m smarter, I’m stronger, and I see it when it’s coming. I have a support system that I trust to share my struggles with and they are what have helped me let it go. 

If you are a person who struggles like I have, please know this. You need people. You cannot do this alone. Their are people who will go the distance with you. I will. 

Write me. 

If you happen to be someone who knows someone with struggles like mine, love them anyway. Know that it will be worth it. That this is a process. Don’t leave them. That’s what they expect. 

Help rewire what was damaged and be a part of their story that leads to victory. 

See this little girl??? That’s me! Just trying to play.. Like any other little girl. 

I know God didn’t put me on this earth to see his world that he created and had Jesus die for, to just hate and see as I had for so long. 

Amongst all the crazy turmoil in this world today, I can see God everywhere working. He uses people like me, the broken, the damaged, the misunderstood, the unfit, the crazy, the slutty, the tattooed, the try to hard people to change others. 

Because like that little girl in the picture, we didn’t start out this way. 

This is our journey, we can find our way back and to see even better. We will change the world. 

A New Day Has Come

It was a seemingly non-eventful moment in life, while driving in my car a few weeks ago when a bit of clarity hit me.

These words…
“I’ve been waiting for so long, for a miracle to come… Everyone told me to be strong. Hold on and don’t shed a tear.”
Recognize those words? Well if you don’t, it’s time to get real with your inner cheese ball side and listen. Cause there’s some good stuff to be heard and felt.

But, although I had heard this song at least a thousand times, my profound clarity came from a feeling and not the words you just read.

Ahhhhh. This is one of the many steps into finding a true Acceptance of myself.

That Celine Dion can sure belt it out. “A new day…….haaaaaaass…….Come….” You know it and you wanna sing it.

The Def Leppard, Cindy Lauper, Dixie Chick, Neil Diamond, Celine Dion,  top 40hits, cover band loving crazy chick inside of me that said I really do love this damn song!

Yep. I do.

And it’s ok if no one else understands the pure joy of shamelessly singing Celine Dion at the top of their lungs on a summer morning, in a VW bug with the windows all down. Because for someone like me, who lived most of my life waiting on the world to tell me who I am, what I should be, and what I should like, took a stand for her self and owned something out loud she loves to herself. (now you 😉)

To most, this may seem like a really minimal silly victory. But in my life it says volumes of how far I have come. Because for me, and many others like me it’s about living in the now, and realizing how special moments of peace can be. Clarity just keeps coming and it’s amazing. I’m just bursting with new stories to share. That’s what this blog is going to focus on.

But I do think it’s important to share some bits along the way of what brought me to here -today.

Although it’s been a life long really, my story, my journey of true healing and acceptance began just a decade back. From the outside looking in I looked like a woman who had it pretty good. 31 years old, 3 spectacular kids, and although we struggled to accomplish financial success without college degrees, we finally had figured out a way to buy own our home. Thank you to the bubble bursting housing market that gave everyone loans. 😬

To celebrate our 10 year anniversary we decided to throw the wedding we never had. My husband Mike and I renewed our vows in October of 2006. I had the cake, the hall, the pastor, my kids, family and friends. I finally had my day. I had gotten everything I thought I wanted out of life. Now it was time to just live. Raise our family, have fun, and grow old together.


But in the few short months following, in April of 2007 I collapsed. I couldn’t breathe. I was on my stairs, head in my hands and thinking I was really going to die.  Mike came home to my frantic inconsolable struggling with heart pain and palpitations. He didn’t know why I was so weak, and so scared. He didn’t know about all the starving, the purging, and the boxes of laxatives I was ingesting on a daily basis.

What he knew was I worked out a lot because I struggled with body image. What he knew was I struggled with depression because of a multitude of experiences I had in my past. But what he really didn’t know was if I didn’t get serious help I was literally going to die. That after engaging in serious eating disorder behaviours since I was 12, my then 31 year old body was turning on me. My body was saying enough is enough and my mind was screaming why are you even doing this???!!

So it was that day in April I finally got real and said I needed help. That was the beginning that led me to today. I signed myself self into Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital and began the journey of change and healing. The photo below is one of my original notes from my very first process group. I haven’t looked at it since.

Until today.

It’s a lot to read. It’s wonderful to know that I have survived most of this and although I have had a lot of relationship casualties along the way, the ones who are here by my side today understand  that this process doesn’t happen over night. That grace saves people.

That change and healing happens by taking 10 steps forward and 9 steps back. And sometimes the steps are huge, and other times they are found in a song while driving to work.

My recovery journey as my life has not been a straight line. It has been a crazy rollercoaster of tears, heartache, drama, and lots of hurt. Digging up memories to figure out the whys and how’s have been the best and worst part. People dont get that hurt people can hurt people. Hurt on my part and hurt for those in it with me. That eating disorders or any addictive behavior is just an effect of the real issues. But unless I crossed this bridge first I would have never gotten to today.

Thank God I’m still here. I felt ashamed for quite sometime that I had to enter a treatment facility to regain my life. But it saved my life and opened the door to learning how to live. Shame stole so much from me. It even tried to steal my recovery. But  I am grateful for it all and especially for today.

To anyone who reads this. Thank you for joining me on this new beautiful journey.

A new day has come.