By Maria Fonseca
God's Brave Women - Maria's Story
There’s a stigma associated with people when they are admitted to a psychiatric hospital. “Crazy” is the label people are given. I admit, I didn’t understand the importance of these places and I definitely never thought I’d end up in one.
However, my mind reached a breaking point and needed medical treatment just as much as my self-inflicted wound did. In fact, all of my parts, body, mind, soul and spirit were all in need of treatment.
I was eighteen the morning I woke up in the hospital after my suicide attempt. I struggled to remember how I got there, but it didn’t really matter. To my disappointment, I was still alive.
I’d have to face the consequences on the battlefield where I lost every day--the battlefield of my mind. I wasn’t crazy; I was hurting. This turned out to be the best place for God send me.
"I’d have to face the consequences on the battlefield where I lost every day--the battlefield of my mind. I wasn’t crazy; I was hurting. This turned out to be the best place for God send me."
For the first time in my life, I was in a place where I was physically safe. This allowed me the opportunity to allow some of my fear and pain to come up to the surface so that I could identify its source.
At first, I was too scared to say what I saw out loud. There would be more consequences in breaking my silence that not only I would face but my family too. I guarded a pain-filled secret, and everyone would feel it if I released it. Those who knew of it either coped with it, adapted to living under it or pretended that it didn’t exist. Yet, I knew that if I continued to ignore it, my next suicide attempt would be the last.
A woman was assigned to my case at the psychiatric hospital and during her first visit to my room she asked me, why? Why did I try to end my life?
In two words my guard fell. “The men,” I whispered
Maybe she suspected it, but I think God gave her the correct follow up question to ask.
“Did men do something to you when you were a child?”
“Yes,” I whispered.
I didn’t tell her the names of all the men who had sexually abused me. There were many. All I could do was cry uncontrollably.
She waited until I was calm, and it was the next thing that she said, that gave me the courage to face my childhood sexual abuse trauma.
“Maria, all the things those men did to you were not your fault. Your parents had an obligation to protect you, and they didn’t. It was not your fault.”
Time stood still as I allowed the woman’s words to sink in. The abuse wasn’t my fault. I was innocent. They were words of truth, which began to break the chains so I could be set free.
"The abuse wasn’t my fault. I was innocent. They were words of truth, which began to break the chains so I could be set free."
In John 8: 31-32 Jesus speaks about the power of truth.
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Truth then, would become the weapon that gave me courage to uncover the lies I believed as a child. The lies were weaved so intricately into my culture, I believed sexual abuse was normal.
"Truth then, would become the weapon that gave me courage to uncover the lies I believed as a child. The lies were weaved so intricately into my culture, I believed sexual abuse was normal."
I witnessed it happening to other children. There were also family members and friends of my family that witnessed me being sexually abused and they did nothing to stop it. I thought it was something I just had to cope with. I didn’t know it was a crime either, or that it had an actual name--childhood sexual abuse. I simply grew to believe that my sole purpose was to please men and in exchange I received love, acceptance and provision.
From that day at the psychiatric hospital, I became a seeker of truth through psychology and self-help books. I still struggled for years under the weight of the trauma though because I refused to seek God’s help. Having attended Catholic schools, I knew who He was. Why would I seek help from a god who could stand by and just watch me as young as the age of 4, get sexually abused? I was angry at Him.
Eventually, the psychology and self-help books became useful only to understand my behavior. I still struggled. They weren’t enough to help me heal. Then after years of doing my best to cope with anxiety, panic attacks and depression in my own strength, I stopped running from God. He was right there, waiting for me to give Him my pain and fears.
"After years of doing my best to cope with anxiety, panic attacks and depression in my own strength, I stopped running from God. He was right there, waiting for me to give Him my pain and fears."
I decided to give Him a “chance” to redeem Himself for his lack of protection. However, it was His redeeming love and promises that eventually allowed me to face my trauma so that He could actually heal me.
This journey hasn’t been easy. Nor will it be complete until I’m on the other side of eternity. But there is one thing facing my childhood sexual abuse trauma with God has taught me, and it’s this:
The heart of a sexual abuse survivor can cope and adapt to make itself feel safe, but God can heal, restore and set it free.
"The heart of a sexual abuse survivor can cope and adapt to make itself feel safe, but God can heal, restore and set it free."
By choosing to anchor myself in His truth about who I was through His eyes, I found courage and was set free.
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!
And by the way...
You are Brave!
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Maria Fonseca is a writer, abuse survivor and author of the book, Alone but Not Alone: Discovering God’s Light in Dark Places. She is on a mission to bring awareness to childhood sexual abuse and the spiritual, emotional and mental brokenness it leaves behind. Her message is to bring hope to adult survivors for healing and freedom through a relationship with Jesus Christ. She lives in Chicago and serves on her church’s Women’s Soul Care ministry. Her book is available for purchase in paperback and for Kindle by visiting www.mariafonsecawrites.com/notalone.