‘I met a guy. He was unlike any person I’d ever met. We fell in love hard and fast. Slowly, he earned my trust.’: Woman credits husband for helping her overcome childhood abuse

“I call myself a suicide survivor. Because one day, 12 years ago, I woke up and I just knew I was going to kill myself.

I’d lived through a decade of relentless child abuse, stress, self-hate, CPS workers and domestic violence. I was exhausted. Drained. And had completely lost all will to live.

I woke up the next morning, shocked that my attempt had been unsuccessful, and I decided something: if I was going to live…then I was going to LIVE. I was going to change my life. Change my world. Make different choices. Have fun. And find joy.

I prayed every day for God to give me the strength. And he did.

Two months later, with shaking hands, I said yes to a small get-together and that ‘yes’ changed the trajectory of everything.

I met a guy. And he was unlike any person I’d ever met.

Courtesy Alicia Dean

We fell in love hard and fast. He was kind and genuine, hilarious, friendly, hardworking, and he respected me. We got married a year from the day we met. Johnny and I have been married for almost ten years, and we have three incredible kids.

I think the biggest gift Johnny gave me was safety. When you’re a kid growing up in a tumultuous home, safety is all you want. Things go from 0 – 60 in minutes. From family dinner to the cops showing up in the blink of an eye. You are always on alert.

When we got married, I had no idea how to relax my body. How to communicate without completely shutting down for days. I struggled to show emotion, to be vulnerable. And it took about 4-5 years of marriage for me to fully believe that Johnny wasn’t going to hit me when he got mad. He’d gesture while making a point, and the simple act of raising his arms triggered me and made me flinch.

Slowly, he earned my trust.

Courtesy Alicia Dean

We read books. Went to marriage conferences. Talked to friends. And we set firm boundaries with toxic people. We are still working on things!! The roots of child abuse and trauma go deeper than I ever realized. But we refuse to give up on each other and we refuse to settle for a mediocre marriage.

I’ve learned that love adds value. If it doesn’t, it’s something else.

Our kids will NEVER know what it’s like to be told they are unlovable, incapable of being treated with any sort of value. They will never know what it’s like to live with debilitating nightmares that their own parents are trying to kill them.

Courtesy Alicia Dean

You can change everything about your future! And the choices you make will reverberate for decades and decades to come.

I never used to tell my story. The shame of it was absolutely debilitating. For years and years only two people ever knew I’d attempted suicide: my husband and my best friend.

I’ve struggled A LOT over the past decade with depression, anxiety, and PPD. I’ve had some really dark seasons, and I’ve had to fight for my own life… to fight against all the lies that were spoken over my childhood and young adulthood. I’ve taken steps forward and back…but I always fight to regain forward ground and take it even further. I’m not content with mediocre. I want to THRIVE!

If I could go back 12 years, to that room, I would reach my arms all the way around my own broken shoulders and hug so tight and I’d whisper, ‘There is so much ahead for you. There is so much love ahead that your heart won’t be able to contain it.’

I have found my voice. And now, I speak for those who cannot put words to all the pain they carry.

Childhood abuse is horrific. It teaches you that you are absolutely worthless, incapable of being loved, incapable of value. And these lies have deep roots inside our souls.

I want people to know that healing is possible. I want survivors of suicide and depression and abuse to KNOW that NO ONE defines your worth. Value of personhood is not earned. It is intrinsic. And it never fades or lessens.

You can do this! You can fight for your own life. Love is big enough, and it doesn’t stop when it gets to you, like somehow, YOU are the one person on earth who is incapable of being healed.

Love doesn’t always look how we think it will. Start by deciding you are going to do something new, something different. Small steps forward add up over time. Maybe your heart will beat fast and your hands will shake: do it anyway. Because that’s how you change your life. That’s how you change the world.

And I pray there is so much love ahead for you that your heart will not be able to contain it.”

Courtesy Alicia Dean

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alicia Dean, 33, of the Pacific Northwest. Follow her on Instagram hereDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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