Through the Eyes of a Friend
That is me, Brenda J Wood through the eyes of Eleanor Shepherd
Eleanor Shepherd Award Winning Author
The Interrupted Life VI – A Consequence of Sexual Abuse
The story I want to share of an interrupted life this month is a difficult one. There are so many people whose lives have been put on hold because of the devastation that has come to them through abuse of various kinds. One of the most pernicious seems to be sexual abuse, because it is often linked with an abuse of power that takes advantage of innocence. That seemed to be the case for my friend Brenda, who shared with me two significant interruptions in her life. Many of her own reflections about her experience of an eating disorder are detailed in her book Meeting Myself: Snippets from a Binging and Bulging Mind.
My friend suffered from bulimia for years as a result of being a victim or sexual abuse from ages 11 to 14. Before she even knew that there was a name for her condition, it was well established, as her way of coping with the emotional and psychological damage that she suffered.
The abuse that she received caused a numbing of her emotions, and she tried to fill the emotional void, with food. Her eating disorder did not mean that the food brought any satisfaction. She just kept stuffing it in to try to fill the void. Then she tried to get rid of it, so her choice of self-soothing would not be obvious to others.
Unlike many of the interruptions in the lives of others, both the abuse and the bulimia were not sudden interruptions in Brenda’s life, but rather subtly crept up on her. They became elements in her life that crippled her relationships with others because she was unable to experience and express emotions and thus grow into the person that she was intended to be.
Fear was the only emotion that she was not able to keep down and it came to dominate her life. Her reaction was to battle with it by attacking her own body through an eating disorder. She wanted to be able to tell them about the abuse and the toll it was taking on her life, but fear and guilt convinced her that nobody would believe her. In a way, she was trying to punish herself for what she was doing, as a result of the guilt that accompanied her abuse.
In addition to all this, her eating disorder also caused Brenda to undergo two bouts with cancer and a syndrome that causes her saliva glands to work overtime.
With the burden of her bulimia, Brenda struggled for years to finally regain a healthy lifestyle. It was only after she entered into a vital relationship with Christ, and grew in her relationship with Him, that she was able with help to gradually find freedom from her eating disorder and to allow her emotions to become a part of her life once more. Part of her recovery involved forgiving the one who had abused her, and although he had been dead for many years, it was only then that his power over her life was broken.
Many people suffer from the long term ravages of abuse and although it is difficult, I would not be surprised if like me, you want to be willing to listen to their stories and accept them wherever they are on their journeys. We do not want to pry into people’s lives, in a way that is unhealthy, but simply be ready to listen, if and when they feel safe enough to open the door a crack. Perhaps we can help them to more quickly recover the years that have been stolen from them by abuse. Maybe we can do this for each other and grow together. I think that was what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he told the early Christians in Galatia that they were to bear one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6: 2). This key can help us to deal with our own interruptions.