I had first started trying to commit suicide at the age of 8. I told one of my parents and was blown off. At 17 I became emotionally non-functioning. I had lived most of my childhood in states of deep dark depression and anxiety with no one to talk to or get help. I began meeting with a counselor and asked her if there was somewhere she could send me so I could get away from the madness. I spent a month, at my request, in a treatment facility for emotionally troubled youth. I was no longer the weirdo outcast living some odd life.
Beth Tolliver was abused as a child and suffered silently. Until she took matters into her own hands and checked into a treatment facility at the age of 17. Though she attended church, sadly the pastors were not trained to handle severe traumatic issues and recovery.
She said, “There were times that I received great help from reading Scripture, and there have been times that I hurt so badly I couldn’t even touch my Bible. I humbly asked God to understand and for grace. The most help I got was from reading Christian “self-help” books. This became, and still is, a huge part of my healing journey. The first book I read as a teenager, that I bought with my own money from my first job, was called Search for Significance.”
It was hard to read the Bible and being close with God while witnessing her church-going Christian abusive parent and compliant parent reading the Bible every day and watching Christian TV. It caused a lot of caution and apprehension in her about God.
Could you imagine a child seeing an abusive parent reading the Bible at night, then inflicting terrible abuse on the kids? Wouldn’t this cause a lot of confusion, caution and apprehension about God?
It was difficult for Beth to understand. She was very scared of God and thought He put her there to be punished for being a ‘bad person.’
When asked what caused the paradigm shift in her life, Beth said there have been a few paradigm shifts in her life but the first was at age 17 when she was with a group of peers who were all dealing with troubled backgrounds in the treatment center.
Some of these kids had it worse than she did and some had parents who didn’t even want to visit them and didn’t want them back. Most were sexually and verbally abused.
At the treatment facility Beth had an eye opening experience and was able to process the years of repressed emotions. Most importantly she was told she didn’t deserve the abuse she suffered. She had a heart to heart encounter with God, a place where she was free to talk to God, not being judged or told to get over it. She received the assurance that there is a better future for her life.
Though the pain didn’t disappear right away, her faith and relationship with God gave her hope. Her parents were divorced by this time, but she was still having consistent contact with her abusive parent and that made healing virtually impossible.
She said, “I was living with the compliant/co-dependent parent; not being physically abused anymore, and not being sexually abused by another relative anymore, but still living with someone I consider guilty by association for letting the abuse happen and, at times, participating in it. It was a very suffocating environment where that parent just wanted to move on like nothing happened.“
Another huge paradigm shift was after she got married. Her husband was responsible in helping her see how unhealthy her relationship was with some family members. She learned to set boundaries. Living with boundaries had helped her discover peace and an emotionally healthier lifestyle.
Beth said, “At some point you have to realize that it is them, and not you. You are only responsible for your own health and well-being. You are not responsible for everyone’s feelings or making everyone happy or making everyone understand you.”
It was freeing. She realized the importance of placing her husband, son and her own well-being as her priorities.
Our conversation continues…
How does a faith-filled life look like for Beth now?
A faith filled life now looks good, but broken at times. I have found my own voice. I no longer have to keep silent about what happened to me to protect the images of the responsible parties.
I now know that God never wants people to be abused, violated, manipulated and controlled.
I stop putting so much pressure on myself, but have slip ups with that. I can never be perfect enough to make God happy or to fix everything, which is great because HE NEVER ASKED THAT OF ME!
If I could do it on my own, if it was all about me, then Christ would be completely unnecessary.
I still have continued struggles with fear that God will abandon and forsake me. I still have fears that God will not help me, particularly when I’m having a panic attack or severe anxiety (things I still deal with now in my late 30’s).
I used to have terrible fear that if I weren’t perfect, God would take everything and everyone away from me.
How does she get through these ‘struggles’?
Keep putting one foot in front of the other. I choose to trust, especially when it’s hard.
Do you still suffer from the lack of faith? If yes, what areas of your life?
Here’s the truth: I don’t know how to parent correctly because I wasn’t parented correctly.
I rely heavily on God especially when it comes to anger and fear. I struggled deeply with fear and anxiety of being a parent when I was pregnant and for the first year of my son’s life.
I was terrified of messing him up and hurting him. I had nightmares and PTSD that was exacerbated from a church we attended for a while. I still have my moments with that but it really gets better with time and walking through it with God’s help.
When I have a rough day, I give myself extra grace and self-care. There are days I have to get my husband on the phone and just talk it out.
Sometimes I sit and read, or I watch a TV show that is calming or uplifting. One of the best ways to combat fear is to focus fully on the present moment and find a way to laugh!
A faith-filled life means I don’t pretend that I’ve never walked through hell in my life. Being healed doesn’t mean pretending you’ve never suffered. It means you use what the enemy meant for evil and turn it around for God’s good!
It means writing about my life on the blog, sharing my testimony with those who need it. I find more healing by helping others to heal; by pointing them to the peace they can have in Christ. Opening up the dark places of my life is extremely hard, but I feel so much peace when I do it.
Being silent will keep you struggling and unwell. I finally found a church that I know is where I belong and that I am thriving in. It is a place of faith and freedom. I can feel myself getting healthier every time I go to service. I’ve come to know that healing is a choice to receive a gift offered from God.
Here are Beth’s thoughts on how to speak life into a negative situation:
I am a singer and love to worship, so I literally worship my way through negative circumstances. I speak life into those things and into myself as I worship. When you keep focusing on yourself, your problems and shortcomings, you can become immobilized with fear and panic.
During worship, I focus on Him as the answer to all things. He is everything I never had – it makes me cry just thinking about that.
When I sing, all I see is me and Him together, in a garden of peace. A couple of years ago I went through terrible trauma when what I call my main abusive parent was found dead. There was never an apology offered for the abuse and I had spent my whole life having to parent this parent.
My body began to have uncontrollable panic attacks. During this horrible time, I would keep sermons playing in the house and literally walk back and forth in the living room screaming out that I am not garbage, God loves me, the enemy will not have my life.
God will give you victory but girl you have to fight!!!
You are not destined to repeat your past. You are not destined to be an abusive parent. You are not destined for torture. There are so many days I have put my son down for a nap, or just take a break and go to my bedroom and speak out loud that I am not where I came from. I tell my son I love him all the time and I know he will never grown up not having heard that he was loved.
I was grown and married before either of my parents told me they loved me. Loving my son intentionally is life giving to everyone.
Beth’s mission is to encourage those who have gone through the rubble of child abuse and poor health to rebuild a life that is thriving and not just surviving.
Here are 5 helpful tips from Beth to help you build your faith and banish fear-
1. If you need help, there is no shame in getting it. It’s the strong who get help, not the weak. You are not weak for having problems! I know what it’s like to have to put on that church face. Please hear me when I say God is waiting to help you.
2. You are not living in the past because the past still hurts you! These are all lies of the enemy. The church world in general is very uncomfortable with abuse and trauma. And are generally ill-equipped in helping in those areas.
3. Find a certified counselor who is trained in trauma and abuse recovery, do what you can to utilize their services. I NEVER counsel with pastors anymore and will not unless they are trained to help in this area. I’ve gotten more hurt than help by getting poor, but well-intentioned church counsel.
4. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety or panic, there is no shame in taking medication if you need it. I can tell you there are essential oils that have helped me with anxiety. The emotional stress you’re under is depleting your body of nutrients. Make sure you’re getting lots of B vitamins and magnesium. That has helped me a lot, as does a good cardio workout.
5. Whatever help you need, whatever help works for you, do it! You owe it to yourself and your family.
Beth Tolliver has been married to Dean for 14 years and is a mom to a precious 3.5-year-old son. Beth’s mission is to encourage those who have gone through the rubble of child abuse and poor health to rebuild a life that is thriving and not just surviving.
Connect with Beth Tolliver at www.thethrivingmom.com.
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to diagnose, prescribe, treat or cure any illness or disease. It’s strictly for informational, educational, or entertainment purposes ONLY. The products I talk about are not meant to diagnose, prescribe, treat or cure any illness or disease. Any information I give you about them is for informational or entertainment purposes only. They have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA. Please seek the qualified health professional of your choice when making health decisions for yourself, your family and your pets.