Testimonial – I Can Only Imagine

I never thought of myself as pretty or attractive. Growing up in a small farm, I was constantly teased by my siblings and peers about my appearance. My parents didn't come to my defense. They were ordinary people working very hard to support a family of 5 children. We all had to help out with farm work and chores. Otherwise we were beaten. Oh, how I resented the fact that I couldn't sleep in or simply play like other children around us.

Though I didn't think they were horrible parents, I wish I was born into a different family. We had our food and clothes, but there was very little affection, guidance, support, encouragement and affirmation. We were seen, but not heard. My parents fought constantly on almost every single issue. The house just always seemed noisy and chaotic. I used to retreat to my room to get away from all the shouting and fightings.

I fancied to have a place of my own. When I was 15 years old, I moved out to attend a college in a big city. College life was lively and colorful, but it was overshadowed by my low self-esteem. I was embarrassed by my farming background. Though I disguised it well and often appeared confident, deep down I often thought " Who will love me? I am ugly". I was very conscious about my body and felt awkward around boys. I felt insecure, out of place and alone.

Even after I was well into my adolescence, I was often haunted by nightmares. My dreams were mostly about people trying to hurt or kill me. There were also frightening images I saw from TV when I was a child, such as murders, ghosts, zombies etc. I was fearful of being alone in the darkness. The slightest sound would make me jump. Only last year was I able to let my hands or legs hang loose over my bed.

My life took a different turn when I met my husband years ago. I knew he is the one from the moment I met him. I was very attracted to him. He was gentle, funny, affectionate and caring. I felt loved and appreciated. I was fresh out of university. I never had a boyfriend before. He understood me and made me feel attractive. I felt safe around him.

My wedding day was the happiest day of my life. I was marrying the man of my dreams. None of my family were there. My mom was not thrilled about the wedding. She had not met Carl and she felt "this guy" had stolen her daughter. Needless to say, we didn't have her blessing. But, that didn't dampen my spirit. The wedding was small and intimate. It was like a fairy tale to me. We didn't wait long to have children since we both were crazy about being parents. When Kyle was born, I quit my job. I enjoyed being a mom and often cried when I looked at him. Two years later, we welcomed Kate. I could not believe I am a mother of two. Our life was forever changed. It was an emotional roller coaster ride mixed with joy, tears, exhaustion, happiness and anxiety. I was overwhelmed by the role of parenthood. The work was never finished.

When Kate was diagnosed with special need, we were devastated and heartbroken. There were lots of banging and screaming noises from both of them. I tried very hard to be a good mom and not to lose my temper. I made sure meals were made, children were dressed and house swept clean. My family was my love and focus. Yet part of me felt lonely, unhappy and trapped.

Depression crept upon me. I didn't have time (or I didn't want) to think about what happened to my marriage or my life except feeling every day was work with little joy. I became bitter and resentful with all the responsibilities. I became impatient with my children. My happy moments were often replaced quickly by anger and frustration with my husband for something he forgot to do or didn't do right. We often argued and fought. My children were fearful of my mood swings and explosive behavior. They ran and hid themselves when they heard my thumping footsteps approaching. Carl described his life as "walking on the egg shell". He never knew what mood I will be in when he came home from work. He dreaded coming home to face me. Most weekends, he took the children out to stay away from me and to give me some peace. Whenever I became too frustrated and angry to handle my own emotions, I retreated to the bedroom to separate myself from the rest of the world. I didn't like the person I was becoming. Yet I felt so powerless to do anything about it. The idea of not being able to control my own emotions frightened me. I felt helpless and hopeless. I was constantly exhausted despite long hours of sleep.

I kept asking myself questions "Why am I so impatient with my husband and the children? ", " Why do I get angry so easily? ", "Why am I so controlling?", "Why do noises irritate me so much?", "Why do I feel so trapped and unhappy?", " Why am I not content?", " Why can't my husband follow simple instructions?", "Why can't I enjoy my family?", "Why can't they appreciate my effort to be a good mom and a good wife?", "Why can't Carl love me more?" etc. All the why's without answers were driving me mad. Life was a mess and I didn't know how I got there. It hurt me deeply that our children would rather live with their father than me. I loved Kyle and Kate so much, yet they expressed so little affection towards me.

I eventually realized I needed help. The anti-depressant worked wonders for me. Carl was relieved. I was calmer and much easier to live with. Things that used to annoy me didn't bother me as much. It seemed like there was light at the end of the tunnel. I laughed more and started to hang out more with my lady friends. One of them introduced me to dancing and it was very attractive to me. It had been years since I had so much fun. I felt young and carefree. I loved the attention men gave me. I put on my make-up and the sexiest clothes for them. All the years of working out and keeping fit had paid off. My beautiful body compensated for my insecurity over my looks. It was my confidence and my weapon to attract men. Life was no longer just about children and husband. I felt good......so good that I quit my medication. I didn't want to have to depend on it for the rest of my life.

In the eyes of our friends, Carl is a great husband and father. His priority is always family first and work second. He gave me freedom to exercise and dance whenever I wanted to. He took on the role of a dad and a mom when I was out. After years of being a wife and a mom, the dancing scenario was definitely more exciting. I began to act like single. I wished to go back to where I had left before I met Carl. My self worth was based on the number of men asking me to dance and the amount of attention I received from them. The more attention, the more attractive and confident I felt. I appeared to have it all going on the dance floor, yet, at home, the struggle with my husband and the children began to surge again.

Carl pleaded with me to get back on medication, but I was determined not to. I occupied myself with more exercises and dancing. I was out almost every night to give myself a break from being with children all day. Despite my effort to be a good wife and a mom, I failed. We were back to square one with fights and arguments. I was starving of love and affection at home.

I never thought I was the type to have an affair, but I did. Jim gave me the love and affection that I couldn't get from my husband. Three months into our affair, Carl discovered about Jim. I denied everything and convinced Carl that I never slept with Jim. I suppose Carl was too afraid to face the truth and what he needed to do with that truth that he simply turned the blind eye. He chose to believe me. I continued to see Jim behind Carl's back and soon realized I was pregnant with Jim's child. I was so infatuated with Jim that I couldn't stand the thought of not having him in my live....But, there was no way we could have this baby. I didn't want Carl to find out about my affair. I told my doctor that I wanted an abortion and he referred me to an abortion clinic promptly. The staff at the abortion clinic went over some paperwork and briefly described to me the effect I might experience after abortion, such as nightmares. A few days later, the abortionist and a nurse carried out the procedure and "it" was terminated. I didn't have time to think about what happened. I was glad I covered my tracks and I just wanted my life to go back to the way it had been.

Months passed, I continued to see Jim. It was nice to have a place to go to when I needed it. But, I realized he was not someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Every time I stepped out of his house, it really hit me. I realized I had neglected my children and the house. Nothing got done and the day would get worse from there. I had manipulated Jim into falling in love with me and now I didn't know how to break away from this affair without hurting him.

When Jim was away traveling, I met another man. I didn't intend to sleep with him, but gave in anyway. Thinking back, my self-esteem was so low that I was willing to trade sex for companionship and affection. My life was full of deceptions and lies. What kind of person have I turned into? I even cheated on the man I had an affair with. I had bitten off more than I could chew. Everyone wanted a piece of me. I was pulled away in all directions. I was so tired of pretending to be someone I was not. I had very little to offer Carl. I just wanted all the pains and hurts to go away. I wanted to disappear. But, where and how?

Carl was at his wits end. He was also starved of love and affection from me. It was then I turned to my family doctor again. I couldn't hold it together anymore. My family doctor recommended me to see a psychiatrist and I was put on a 6-month wait list. When I was called for my first appointment, I was tempted to cancel it. What if I am really crazy, I thought. I was scared to find out what's wrong with me. A friend of mine said," you have waited so long. Just try it and see what happens?" So, I went and my life was never the same.

I had a few one-on-one sessions with the doctor and had gained some insights into some of the questions I had. I confessed about my affairs and claimed they were over. In truth, my affairs were not completely over. I was still seeing both of them occasionally. I didn't tell the doctor about my abortion either. I didn't think it was relevant to my marriage problems. A few weeks after, I committed myself to 30 sessions of Hope Alive Group Psychotherapy. The group had two sessions a week and each session lasted two hours. Then there was 10-12 hours of homework each week, which was designed to guide our thinking.

The group started out with informed consent and a commitment to one another to attend and participate every session. We took turns to discuss our homework and did role-play when necessary. Through observations and interactions with the group, we learned to understand ourselves better. Our feelings were validated.

About half way through I was shocked by another pregnancy with Jim. I was devastated. How stupid am I to allow it to happen twice? It was the last straw. I ended my affair with him immediately after my second abortion. And I ended the other affair too....

After second abortion, I regressed and became emotionally unstable. I would fly into rage with Carl for something trivial. None of the group members knew about my abortions, including the doctor. Little did I know the information I was withholding was detrimental to my treatment and healing process. I fell apart. Not only was I filled with shame, sorrow and guilt, I was tormented by horrible nightmares. I just couldn't live with myself anymore. On one occasion after having a fight with Carl in the car, I wanted to jump out of the moving car. I had lost all the hope to live. Death seemed the only way out. Yet the thought of how much damage it would do to my children if they were to witness the incident stopped me. I couldn't do that to them. I uttered under my breath that "I just want to die". He held my hand and the warmth his hand provided the comfort I needed.

It was not until we were on a homework dealing with pregnancy losses-particularly abortion that I completely broke down and confessed to everyone in the group what had happened. One night I woke up from another terrible nightmare. I started sobbing . I fell on my knees and prayed to God for the first time in my life for the pain and suffering to go away. It was then God found me and comforted me with His presence. I knew from then on I would be fine. I didn't know how I was going to do it, except knowing He would walk the journey with me was enough. I didn't feel alone. It was a beautiful moment I would never forget.

Now that all my group members knew about my secrets, I was faced with another challenge-- to confess to Carl about my affairs and abortions. I kept telling the doctor I wasn't ready and I didn't want to burden Carl with this secret. It's over anyway. Perhaps someday I would tell him. Yet, part of me also knew the secret was eating me away. I wasn't sure if I could make this marriage work with all the lies I had created. I continued to struggle with this decision. Deep down, I wanted to come clean with him, but I was too afraid that he would abandon me. Yet, in the end, I knew what I had to do. The secret was too awful for me to handle alone. It would just drive us to divorce. I came to realize that the only way to save this marriage was to tell him the truth so we could possibly have a fresh start. I was ready to accept all the consequences of my confession. I needed to have closure with Carl before I could ever go on living, with or without him. I just had to find the right time to tell him...

One day after counseling, I heard a voice telling me "Now is the time." Amazingly I was ready. I confessed my affairs and abortions in a Letter of Reconciliation that was part of the group process and e-mailed it to him the same evening. I felt a sense of relief. The truth set me free. I didn't want to tell lies ever again in this relationship. That night, I waited dreadfully in bed while he read the letter. I was frightened of what he would do to me. He came in and said, "This is too much for any man to take". He left the room. Moments later, he came back in and said that he would keep the promise he made to me, which was to support me and not to leave me in the cold through the whole counseling process.

No doubt I had hurt Carl deeply. No doubt he was angry, but strangely, the confession also changed our relationship. There were no more lies and suspicion. It was all out in the open. Carl said that he admired my courage to tell him the truth as a person and that he needed time to forgive me. I realized then how Carl truly loved me. I never thought I deserved to be loved so much by a person. Carl had opened my eyes to see the quality in him that I had never discovered before and shown me what "love" is.

It's been several years since the counseling. Carl and I are closer than ever. It was a long hard process of healing and establishing trust again between us, but God has been faithful with His walk with me. In Him we both find strength to change and mature.

My relationship with my children has also improved tremendously. I sent them Letters of Reconciliation and asked for their forgiveness for how I had hurt, confused and frightened them. Months after, I also confessed about the affairs and abortions to them. I asked their forgiveness and allowed them to express their anger and confusion. I explained and answered their questions honestly. There shouldn't be secrets in the family. I just feel its better they learned it from me than from someone else.

On one Mother's Day, Kate wrote, "I love you for not killing me". I cried over this statement. I knew I was one of the contributors in the death of two innocent babies. The effect of the abortions is much greater than I could ever anticipate. I have had childbirth dreams about them. I am still haunted by nightmares of abortions. I often feel pregnant before my menstruation and wish I was really pregnant. How can we say abortion is not killing?? I killed part of myself when I had abortions. I remember distinctively about this dream where I saw myself pregnant and was dying on a hospital bed. I never had an out of body experience in real life, but that's what happened in this dream. I was floating up in the air and screaming "I don't want to die, it's not my time to go".

The entire process was emotionally draining and difficult, but the support and encouragement from the group made it bearable. Hope Alive Group Counseling helped me identify my key conflicts. It gave me insights into where my conflicts originated and how these conflicts were played out in my life. I learned to analyze my behaviors, looking at the fear behind the fear and sorting out my feelings. It helped me recognize that my unrealistic expectations of myself and others led to repeated disappointments, frustrations and anger.

I became aware that I was trying to get my unmet childhood needs met by my husband. I saw how others detected my vulnerabilities and manipulated me. It shed light on why I was not content with my roles as a mother and a wife and why I wanted to be single. It gave me the chance I desperately needed to deal with my abortions and initiated the grieving process. There were other griefs too, such as the loss of the family/parents I should have had, the loss of childhood I should have had and the loss of person I should have become. It's not about laying blames on parents or others for what had happened or not happened. It's to simply acknowledge the fact that as a result of unmet childhood needs, there are deep damages.

I am grateful that God used the doctor to help facilitate my healing and that I was given a second chance to live a fuller and more joyous life. The power of forgiveness and reconciliation has freed me from many bondages. It was also the most difficult homework for me. I am learning to accept me as I am, with all my wounds, warts, weakness and limitations.

To say that I am all healed and I have no more problems and struggles would be a lie. Some damages/relationships were irreparable, such as the innocence that died with abortions. The difference is that I am now more equipped to deal with difficult stressful situations in life. Each day as I practice the skills learned from Hope Alive, I get better at it and I can make better choices.

The healing process will continue. The growing, knowing and maturing will not stop as long as I have God in my life. One of my favorite phrases is "If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it. Happy moments, praise God. Difficult moments, seek God. Quiet moments, worship God. Painful moments, trust God. Every moment, thank God".

Our whole family has come to know Jesus. He has lifted me up so many times when I felt helpless and discouraged. He has been walking alongside with me through the good times and the bad times. He has been faithful with His promise of never abandoning me in this life. He is my light and hope. God bless all.

By Phoenix 15/06/09

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