warm reflections by katrina madsen berg, 16x20 oil on wrapped canvas
I was sexually abused when I was little.
There. I've said it.
The experience has resulted in some of the earliest and by far the most vivid memories I hold.
I was four and it was my babysitter. The one who used to spend the night when her father didn't come home... the one that would sleep in my bed with me... and tend me when my parents were out.
We are told that our character is built or broken as we learn from and react to life's experiences. I hope one day I will be a stronger person because of what happened. Mostly, I feel as if I have merely pulled a convoy of baggage behind me my entire life.
Now, twenty-eight years later, I am beginning to truly feel the healing powers of the Atonement. And it is beautiful.
I wish I could say that the experience was a bad one and that I moved on. At least that is what my loving parents had hoped for me and what I had convinced myself deep inside. But like most of life's experiences, it has greatly affected me since.
1. I am leery of babysitters. (OK. That's a given, right?) We have been very careful of where we take our children, who watches over them, and ultimately, we are rarely apart from them.
2. The designer (my husband) and I are always seeking to show abundant and appropriate love for our children. I want them to know what it feels like to have righteous affection.
3. I greatly dislike doctors. (OK. Where did that one come from, right?) I am just beginning to understand this one, but shortly after the abuse incidents, I was diagnosed with an extremely rare bone disease. My brave mother took me everywhere. A great deal of my childhood was spent traveling all over Southern California to look for a cure. I was prodded, poked and touched all throughout my childhood. Though it was in an effort to heal me, I, of course, was mortified and utterly embarrassed. I felt feelings of guilt every time I had to remove my clothing and be looked at or touched, most likely associated to the abuse I had experienced. This is probably one of the reasons I have chosen to have our children at home... but that, of course, is a novel in itself. :)
4. I was leery of intimacy. I kissed my share of boys, but usually broke up with them shortly after. This is not a bad thing, right? I consider this one of the only blessings of abuse. It's hard to get into trouble when you are scared of intimacy. The sad thing is that I was uncomfortable even hugging some of my best friends. Of course, I didn't realize I was even doing this until I was in college.
5. I have difficulty trusting others' intentions. Once again, a no-brainer. This is a yin-yang for me. I love people and feel they are amazingly good, but at times, there is a part of me that is always left wondering.
6. My past has affected the intimacy in our marriage. A love that is shared so deeply and felt so acutely should not have the past haunting and looming overhead.
Healing emotionally, mentally, and spiritually aren't the only challenges I have faced. I have spent much of my life facing the challenge of healing physically as well. Up until the past six months, I have suffered a great deal from allergies: seasonal allergies, food allergies, and environmental allergies. I began to have even stranger reactions like migraines every time we were around a large body of water. (I know... another story.) For the record: I'm not a hypochondriac. And now I often wonder if some labeled as such are dealing with real issues, too.
My good friend, Stacee, had been taking her son to an allergist and was finding great success. She knew I had food allergies and suggested I go as well. I had no idea how much good it would do to me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
During the past six months I have seen ZD Chudyba, an allergist, alternative medicine & acupuncture practitioner. With my long history of medical intervention ("Forrest Gump" leg braces for four years, three orthopedic surgeries, and a lifelong dependency on Western Medicine) and my aversion to doctors, I have become open to trying new health avenues.
Though NAET may not be for everyone, I have had an amazing amount of success with ZD. My food allergies are slowly disappearing, my anxiety is lessening, the pain in my legs is diminishing, and my burdens are lifting.
What I have come to is this conclusion: No matter what direction we take in our healing process, we have to be open, willing, and trust those healing us. We have to choose.
I ponder the woman dying of a blood disease who took the last strength that she had to reach out and grab the robe of the Savior (Matthew 9:20-22):
20 ¶ And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:
21 For she said within herself, if I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.
22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.
The woman was made whole. She had the faith to be healed. And she allowed His virtue, love, power, and Atonement to heal her.
(I love that He called her daughter . . . He loves us so much!)
The first time I went to ZD, I prayed with my whole heart that the Lord would help my body accept the treatment and begin to heal. I truly began to understand the depths of His eternal Atonement. As I envisioned myself giving up the burdens I was carrying over to the Lord, I saw His burdens also becoming lighter. And that, my friends, was one of the greatest gifts I feel I have given the Lord - ensuring His selfless act was not without purpose. By using His Atonement and trusting in Him to heal me, I could feel His love, His power and His joy.
We all carry burdens: those of pain, fear, anxiety, loneliness, maladies, disappointment, feelings of abandonment, failure or even hatred. We've been abused or have abused others verbally, mentally, emotionally or even sexually.
If we want to heal, we have to have faith, but more importantly, we have to choose to use that faith - faith like the dying woman Matthew wrote about, faith to reach out to the Lord and ask him to heal us and to make us whole, and faith to allow the Savior to guide those healing us.
How long have we been holding sickness and pain within ourselves? 12 years like the woman in the scriptures? Like me, could it be longer?
May we choose this day to use the Lord's everlasting Atonement. May we make the choice to go to our Doctors, Psychiatrists, Counselors, Bishops or Health Practitioners with questions and be ready for answers, change, and action. We must allow our Savior to heal us once and for all. By doing so, we too may help others to heal and be whole.
As I was lying after my treatment this week alone, listening to the peaceful music in the darkness, I opened my eyes and saw a blue light in front of me. It was a large light, an essence of sorts. It was blue, a deep blue, but full of light. When ZD returned to remove the acupuncture needles, I told her about the light. She said it related to my liver. (We have worked much on my liver.)
I am healing. It is the beginning.
And that blue light? To me, it is a symbol of hope.
katrina madsen berg is an artist living and creating in Midway, Utah. She is a creator of home, a lover of the designer, and a nurturer and teacher of 3 small souls in the daylight. As the day turns to night, she creeps in to her studio and paints till the designer tells her its time to sleep. You can read more about her quest for beauty and to create at the daily delights, or check out more of her art at the wasatch back artists online gallery.