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  • Janyne McConnaughey, PhD

BRAVE: The Introduction

(There have been many times when readers stop and message me with appreciation after reading the Introduction to BRAVE: A Personal Story of Healing Childhood Trauma. I am grateful when this happens. I thought I would make the Introduction available at my Blog so it can be easily accessed or shared. It is also available in the Amazon preview material.)

“My brokenness is a better bridge for people than my pretend wholeness ever was.”

–Sheila Walsh

The most surprising part of my journey has been the number of people who have quietly said to me, “I was also sexually abused as a child.” This is not only true of women. The statistic is generally one in four (some say five). This means, if you gather one-hundred men, women, and children in the room, statistically speaking, twenty to twenty-five of them have been the victims of sexual abuse (childhood or otherwise). This is also true in a church gathering of one-hundred people. Yet, we live in fear of mentioning it—or if we do, we sense everyone wishes we hadn’t.

If you are aware of childhood trauma in your own life, you may have difficulty reading this book. Please seek professional care. My story is likely to make readers sad; but for those who have never received therapeutic healing for trauma, it may open up unresolved wounds. Then again, it may give you hope for a level of healing you never believed possible. This book is intended to increase awareness about the effects of childhood trauma, but professional help is necessary for healing.

Living above the pain is not all that effective. Clinging to scripture and the grace of God, while helpful, does not reach into the depths of trauma, which may include PTSD symptoms of anxiety, debilitating self-hatred, and shame. The abused spend a lifetime carrying the shame of their abusers as their own. In many cases, forgiveness (considered a spiritual necessity for healing) is only an illusion accomplished by repressing or suppressing pain. Pressure to forgive abusers circumvents the necessary process required for true healing.

I, like many others, lived behind a mask while hiding profound trauma and pain. My open sharing of truth will make some very uncomfortable, because it will try to grab the masks from their concealed faces. I was hiding in plain sight but was never alone in doing so. To some degree, we all wear masks, but the use of masks to hide traumatic pain is not a plan I would suggest. In my case, it was much more than a mask—it was the splitting off of parts of my being in order to live. All strategies to live above the pain will eventually fail. I am willing to tell my story if it can help someone—anyone—to seek help before this happens in damaging, uncontrollable ways. I came so close.

Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted, and this described me perfectly. All of me longed for healing. God had always guided and cared for me, so when prompted to make a therapy appointment, I never looked back. Nothing less than complete healing was ever going to satisfy me. All the other options had been tried and had proven to be imposters. Therapy was a terrifying, desperate choice but turned out to be God’s gift of love for all the fractured parts of me.

What you will find in these pages is a very selective retelling of my three-year therapy journey. What has been included is for the purpose of demonstrating the effects of childhood trauma and the necessary processes for healing. It is by no means a “tell all.” In a few places, there are minor changes for protection, but everything (even the parts which seem like fanciful children’s stories) is based on the processing of my memories—most of which were hidden under cover stories.

The story my mother and I share is important. It is only in sharing truth that we can expect to help the next generation fully understand the lifelong effects of insecure attachment and early childhood sexual abuse. The research documenting the effects of abuse within a young child’s brain is mounting every day. The repressed emotional memories stored in my body caused a life- time struggle with both mental and physical illnesses. It is possible to heal an adult who experienced trauma as a child, but how much better it would have been to have received the care I needed before I reaped so many tragic consequences.

What forgiveness and honor looks like toward my mother is an understanding that something happened to her which prevented her from being the mother God intended her to be. I tried to learn what happened to her as a child, but it will never be known. I was the recipient of her deep brokenness, but this does not discount whom she was created to be—or God’s love for her.

The following pages share the effects of both the abuse and my mother’s inability to provide emotional support. These effects include physical and emotional pain along with those things I came to incorrectly believe about myself. My complete lack of emotion toward my mother was always part of me, but I never understood why. The deadness inside of me was also inexplicable, but it is now understood as the result of one horrible week when I was three.

You may wonder, as you read, if I have truly healed. Some chapters include the raw processing which was necessary for healing. Thankfully, I am no longer there. To achieve wellness, it was necessary to go to the very core of my being. Healing is a messy, painful process and I have shared my journey with honesty and openness. Some might prefer I only share the results of healing and not the difficult process, but this would conceal the painful results of trauma. While I did not have a spiritual problem, I did wrestle with my understanding of God and evil. Some of this wrestling is included, but my spiritual journey is not the focus of this book. This is a book about the effects of childhood trauma.

My hope is for others to understand the psychological trauma incurred by early childhood abuse. The effects are not limited to childhood, and even those who appear to live above it, as I did, reap a life of inner anguish. The remainder of my life will be spent helping others to understand the importance of the mother-child bond and the effects of insecure attachment, which often causes the child to be susceptible to sexual abuse.

My father did his very best to care for his children and the wife he loved. My mother was unable to provide the emotional care I needed. I believe she was as dead inside as she caused me to be. She could have made different choices. I did my best to break the generational pattern while raising my own children. I am not sure this would have been possible for her in the cultural context in which she lived. I wish this were not true. I wish this story were very different. It isn’t.

The most important gift my mother gave me was tenacity. We were both “take the tiger by the tail” women. I took this gift and found the answers for which my entire being longed. Some believe it is possible to heal past generations through our own healing efforts. If that is true, then this book is my best effort at healing the wounds of my family. Each of us deserves honor for the lives we lived. Now it is time for me to share my story. I was brave and broken and now I am breathing. I am writing my own ending to my life as I embrace my wholeness and encourage others to be emotionally present for the children in their lives and if necessary to follow their own path to healing.

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