The Sixth Street Bridge

The Sixth Street Bridge
At the tender age of 17, I walked across this bridge, alone, into Downtown Pittsburgh, with $300 in my pocket that my mother had given me to get an abortion. I went into the Fulton Building (in the picture) and did what I was told to do. I didn't have a choice - if I did, I wouldn't have chosen abortion.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Not only postabortive, but...

Recently on a forum that I visit there was a thread from a gentleman who had married a woman with a "past" and he was asking for advice on how to deal with his wife's "past" which he admitted he knew about before he married her, married her, and now seems not able to deal with it.  I didn't respond to the thread because I probably would have been less than kind and not everyone can be as saintly as my dear hubby.

Over the holidays I had come down with a horrible cold during which time said hubby sent me to bed and took over the household.  Right before the holidays, I had a few anxiety ridden events and hubby was right there to support me, motivate me and kick me in the $#% when necessary.  Over the last week or so I've heard more than a few stories of women completely unhappy in their marriages, one or two to the point of filing the papers.  The point is, my husband gives me daily reminders (usually) of how extremely blessed I am to have him in my life.  No, he's not perfect and also has the ability to drive me completely crazy leading me to threaten physical violence.  (I'm kidding - well sort of, I wouldn't really be able to inflict any real pain). 

One would think after so many years of marriage with a saintly hubby and the blessings he brings that I would be grateful to the point of doing anything and everything for him - and I am and I do, save one thing.  Sex.  That's not to say we don't have it or our marital relations are suffering in any great way, but there are stretches of time where I attempt to completely avoid it all together. Over the span of this healing journey of mine I've come to realize exactly why I do that - it's not sex with my husband that I'm avoiding - it's the anxiety before, it's the mental gymnastics leading up to it, it's the fall out afterwards.  A happy marriage should naturally lead to a happy and satisfying marital sex life.  It's the one thing that husband and wife hold as their own, through all of the every day chaos, the one thing that is theirs to cherish together.  The one space in time where their only purpose it to love and be loved. 

For us, it is as I describe, but for me it only remains so for a precious bit in time.  Our marital relationship does make me happy and loved and truly blessed ... and then the darkness surrounds me, but not entirely, more like a cruel, thick fog that allows me to see just enough to torture myself with - see this is what you can have - but you can't because you are evil and you don't deserve it!  The marital act is haunted by my past and not because my hubby can't deal with it, but because I can't deal with it at least not without it being exhausting and downright painful.  It becomes a fierce battle while I try to tramp down thoughts of my past, images that cloud my mind, memories that float in that I try to push aside. 

All of this is not just because I'm postabortive, it's also because I'm postabortive with a "past."  I've written before in my story about the lack of youthful preparation for any kind of sex life at all and how I never was told my worth from the beginning.  In God's great wisdom, he sent an angel in disguise for me who absolutely knew the importance of sex and the value of it so much so that my hubby has no "past" to speak of except the one we've created together.  Never once in our entire lives together has he ever uttered a cruel or unkind word about my life before he arrived.  Not only that, but he makes himself available for me to talk about my past whenever I need to.  I don't know if I could even do that. 

In my story - I talked about how one would think that after my abortion that my promiscuity and general lifestyle would have changed, or be changed for me by my parents - but it wasn't.  It remained status quo with just as much freedom as I had prior and perhaps even more.  All of that freedom coupled with my now destroyed self esteem led to all kinds of moments over the next few years where boys took advantage, not just sexually, but emotionally and physically, and made me feel like less than nothing.  It was like I had a target on my back for all the wrong boys.  It didn't help that I was most likely looking for the punishment I now felt I deserved.  I sought out people that would fulfill that need and oh did they find me. 

My fear now is that I'm trying so hard to heal, so hard to become closer to Jesus, that snares are being set up to tangle me up in my past.  My hubby isn't tempted to torture me for my past but I sure am.  So I try to pray it away.  I try to pray away all of the feelings that creep in of my unworthiness.  I try to be grateful that God sent me this husband not only to give me life anew, but to slowly repair all the damage that had been done to me.  At Mass last evening, after communion. I sat and prayed as the Eucharist melted away that each tiny piece, each minuscule fragment of Him would fill the cracks in my soul and heart. I prayed that He would replace the memories of my past with gratefulness and love. I prayed that time spent with my husband wouldn't have to be spent battling my ugly past.

It worked for a while until later last night with hubby sleeping peacefully beside me and as I lay awake in the darkness.  I still feel broken. I still feel used. I still feel unworthy. I still feel damaged. Will all of this ever be healed entirely?


  1. First: how far back does your sexual abuse go and who first abused you? The younger you were, the less likley you can change the effect of what happened. Second: where's your therapist? Third: with your history, you may be entering early menopause and that can lead to mental/emotional rollercoasters.

    Having said that, my advice is: stop "trying to heal." Doesn't work, beyond our power. Pray, live, get some professional assistance and if God does not heal you, accept that as His Will for His Purpose. Accepting our suffering is a powerful act that leads to the saving of souls. Not ours so much, as others in similar situations not graced by Faith. Being alive in your pain joins you to Christ, your very existence in this state brings healing to others if you accept God's will for you.

    1. Excellent advice. I know for a fact that the counseling helps.

  2. If you've been to Confession and received absolution then you are forgiven, through the blood of Jesus' Passion. He is risen! Having serious sexual sins in my own past which I had reason to be angry with others over, I found that growing to have a true sorrow for my sins both helped me to grow closer to God and helped me to forgive my own parents especially because it set me free from the victim mentality. Although I exist within human society and a family which formed and influenced me, I myself do the evil I do in this life, AND by the grace of God I myself do the good that I do. Modern psychology often dismisses the idea of personal sin and guilt and actually keeps people from real healing and thriving and love. Pope John Paul II said that if we are simply influenced by circumstances and nature and not truly capable of evil, then we are not truly capable of good, of virtue, either. But, he said, we are capable of evil and of good and our life has this real drama. We are called to be holy, really deep down thoroughly holy and good. Jesus was born and died and rose again for that, for love of us.

    Especially if what seems to you to be a low frequency of marital intimacy is not causing conflict in your marriage, I don't think you should worry. Sexual continence is a virtue and married people also can practice it from time to time. The procreative meaning and purpose of the marital act is also important, I think spouses should always approach this with a love already for a child that may be conceived (and considering post menopausal women in the Bible who conceived surely this can also be in the thoughts of older women). Do you pray the Angelus? That is a wonderful pro life prayer, I myself am a celibate but that has become important and very healing for me in daily saying "yes" to life and mean it from my heart. For spouses, I would think this same yes in the context of their intimacy can also be healing.

  3. Metaphysical Catholic - the whole saving of souls thing is new for me even though I'm a cradle catholic - but it's more than three times I've heard it in the last week. I never said I was sexually abused though. I've been taken advantage of, I've been physically abused and tormented emotionally, but I wouldn't say sexually abused. I can't own that title, I won't allow myself to. Elizabeth's words ring true for me too - the victim mentality - I won't allow it, I could easily, but I won't. Thank you both for your thoughtful words and time spent sharing them with me. The journey continues...

  4. You are blessed with a good husband and God wants you to enjoy the chaste beauty of sex in marriage. Ask for Masses on your behalf. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass can be for YOU directly, and as a couple. We are meant to offer our will, intellect and memory in the Name of God. You can have your memory freed from the trauma of that love-less-lust. Truth remains but the sting of memory disappears from God's consolation. He died on the Cross for YOU, to free you! Don't let the tempter put memories where there is a completely different PRESENT time to live... marriage and life are sacred and belong to Our Lord. You will be in our prayers! C

  5. Dear, dear Grace

    A few suggestions:
    #1 stop talking to your husband about your past. He's not your confessor, he is just a man not superman. Don't drive him away, cherish him by making your family life happy, with great memories/plans for future. This need to relive the past is a temptation tailored to YOUR HEART, that's why it's irresistible. Whenever the past comes creeping back, IMMEDIATELY banish it with concrete plans for the future.

    #2 Prayer life: Daily Rosary with your husband, this devotion can protect you from the evil that will try to assault your family when you begin to get control over the temptations that have ruled you. While praying the Rosary, meditate on your union with your husband & family as modeled by the Holy Family. You are no longer that single girl but are now a part of a triune unit. As bread & wine are transformed into the Body&Blood of Christ, in the sacrament of Marriage, two people become one & together are united by the third conceived in love. That young girl is gone, let her go, you're busy with your holy family.

    #3 Your "feelings": broken, used, damaged, unworthy? There is a flip side to every single one of these adjectives, please realize that in the eyes of God, your perceived "weaknesses" are actually your most beautiful strengths. Be the rejected cornerstone that the builders chose. Your husband chose you to be his wife & mother of his children, because of your strengths not in spite of your weaknesses. Why do you question his judgement? God specifically chose YOU to be mother to your children BECAUSE of who you are not in spite of who you are! You are worthy, you have value beyond measure, you have the strength & integrity that have been tested and survived. You think you have failed the test, but you need to realize that the test has just begun. Your difficult lessons are finally over and now you are in the examination room.
    This is not to say that you should be proud and brag about your past but use these lessons for the BENEFIT of your family. Protect them from danger & the very real consequences of the behaviors that you will not tolerate in your children. When you describe the horrifying emotional consequences, ensure that it is not about you, feel free to put lessons into a third party experience for their benefit but help them to understand the emotional landmines that can destroy the lives of young people before they are even mature enough to live their own lives. Keep your children close with a safe and loving home where they know they are loved.

    #4 The future: Be too busy to agonize over the past, just absorb the lessons that need to be learned & start applying the knowledge in preparation for the hard decisions that need to be made in the near future.
    Concentrate on your children's education, a peer group that will confirm your worldview rather than challenge it (until they are older) at the same time exposing them to the wonderful diversity of life and, in my opinion, most importantly, a small family business is preferable for teaching life skills, independence, economics and integrity than working outside the home for teenagers.

    #5 Marital life
    Your body no longer belongs to you as you know by now. Let go and share with love and joy. Thank God for your fertility & share it. Go forth & be fruitful.

    #6 Finally
    You'll experience at least one crisis when you realize that your past has actually perfectly prepared you to protect/prepare your children. Please resist the temptation to relive every detail of your past life with them. They are not your confessors & cannot grant absolution. They don't want to see the misguided girl you were. So be wise & loving, watchful & wary, firm & gentle, protective & nurturing.