In my religion we are taught that we chose to come here to earth so we could gain a body and learn all we could. We were given agency to choose how to treat ourselves and the people we come into contact with. Unfortunately that also means that often we are impacted by the poor choices of those around us.
I was raised in a home where my father (named Eric) was physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive. Those outside our family had no idea. Eric was a doctor with a warm and funny bedside manner, a respected teacher in our church, and generous to those that needed his help. This made it almost impossible for my mom to convince anyone in a position to help who her husband really was.
I wore clothes from the thrift store that were ill fitting and completely out of style. Showers were limited to ten minutes twice a week. At least once a week I was beaten with his special 2X4 that had holes drilled in it so that even the air couldn’t slightly cushion his blows. He called these beatings “spanks” but I think we can all agree spanks that leave your back, butt, and thighs covered in purple bruises are not spanks at all. The things he said were more damaging than the bruises. I won’t quote him directly because a direct quote wouldn’t impress you with how cutting and painful they were. The words tore me down. They confirmed that I was repulsive and ugly. They whispered to me every day that I was not worthy of love from anyone who actually knew me. They testified with confidence that the blessings of the atonement were unreachable for someone as sinful as me.
When I was fourteen I did something that pushed Eric over the edge. All my belongings were taken from me. I was given my moms old clothes to wear and I slept on the floor of my brothers room in a sleeping bag. Every night for a month I was beaten 20 times. I wasn’t allowed to talk or sit with any member of the family. One day as I was waking up Eric came in and angrily told me to get dressed and get in the car. I walked to my parents’ bedroom where my mom was doing the laundry and told her that Eric and I were going on a drive. I hugged her and said, “ Goodbye Mom. I love you so much.”
She broke down crying and said that I couldn’t go. She ran into my baby brothers’ room and scooped him out of bed. She yelled to Eric that she needed to run an errand real quick then hissed for me to quietly get in the car. Armed with the cash in my mom’s purse and the clothes on our backs we left our home forever and drove to her family in Utah. Later I learned that when I said goodbye the spirit testified to her if she didn’t do something that would be the last time she would ever see me alive.
So what happens when our suffering is over? There is a time of trial in every persons life where they struggle and pray for the pain to pass them by. What do we do when the clouds part and the sun comes out? Do we remain a victim or do we press forward? No matter what uncontrollable events happen to us we have the ability to choose our attitude. We can choose to learn from our experiences or let our experiences extinguish who we truly are.
After several years of anger and confusion I finally decided that I wasn’t going to be a victim. I chose to be grateful for the lessons I learned and use those terrible memories to build something beautiful. I found a gentle, loving man and we have two angelic children. I went to therapy. I cultivated hobbies and enjoy watching my babies explore the world. Eric is no longer a looming part of my life. Things aren’t perfect but compared to what it was it’s a paradise.