This I Believe

Lise - Roanoke, Virginia
Entered on April 26, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: change, family, love
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This I believe….

I believe in the power of perseverance and healing.

I was abused for most of my childhood, experimented with drugs, made destructive choices, and treated people horrendously in my life. I have been blessed to have come through those hardships as I know many do not. I had the good fortune to be blessed with people in my life who would not give up on me. However, on person stands out as my biggest supporter. My husband of 18 years, Keith.

I married and had children at a very early age hand to mouth for several years. Keith always worked hard. After our first child was born, Keith found seasonal work as a landscaper, and began taking classes. He also worked the night shift in a 24 hour convenience store in a bad neighborhood. I worked in several area restaurants so that one of us would always be home with our daughter. We could hardly pay our bills and relied on public assistance to get us through. With unending persistence, my husband earned a bachelors degree about six months before our second child was born.

It seemed as if things were coming together. I was married to a man who loved me and supported me unconditionally. Shortly after graduation, Keith found employment with insurance benefits and we were able to free ourselves from public assistance. We purchased our first home together and I gave birth to our second daughter. For the first time we had a steady income that allowed me to stay home with our children and home school my oldest daughter. We were safe, happy and healthy and for the first time in my life, I felt stability. This is when the darkness set in.

I always struggled with my past but with this new found peace in our lives, I felt unsettled. I began having nightmares and experienced intense guilt and shame. I also suffered from depression and anxiety. No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake it. I was convinced that I was a horrible person, mother and wife. I spent all of my energy blaming others for my pain and I pushed many people out of my life. I began therapy and entered a support group for adult survivors of sexual abuse. For years I participated in these sessions and always felt unworthy of the healing but with the never ending support of my husband, I kept pressing on. There were times when the pain was so deep, that I felt as if my head would explode. I would have episodes in the middle of the night where I was convinced that everyone in the world was against me and that I was ruining our family. Keith held me and would stay up with me. He never gave up on me even when I was ready to give up on everything.

Keith finally convinced me to go to college. It took over ten years but I graduated. Shortly after, I got a job at the Department of Social Services working with victims of domestic violence. Eventually, I began to transfer my feelings surrounding my mother’s choice to live with an abuser onto my caseload. It became clear that I was no longer able to advocate for women in the way that they deserved and I reluctantly gave up that position and once again I was ready to run and hide. Nevertheless, with the never ending support of my family I was able to take a foster care social worker position in the same agency.

When I took this job, I did not think I would ever be able to handle it. I knew I would be working with children who were just coming out of experiences like mine and many who’d had it much worse. I quickly realized that it was a blessing to be able to work with children who have been through unthinkable atrocities. While I still have many difficult days, I have learned to experience the beauty in the world and I want to share my sense of hope with them. I believe that we all have the inner strength to persevere. Yet, this process is facilitated with much more ease when someone believes in you and supports you unconditionally. I feel that I can look into the eyes of these children that have been cast away and without a doubt believe in them with all my heart just as Keith has done for me. I see their strength and I know the truth lies within. I don’t need to say it to them, they know it is there. All I have to do is believe…