When Anger Claws at Your Ribcage

“You’re miserable”, he said, choking back tears.  I looked at him with a confused expression as I processed the words that he spoke.  

“No, I’m not!  The only person who’s miserable is you!” and then I stomped off reluctantly into my grandmother’s house for a family birthday gathering, the last place I wanted to be.  We spent the next two-hours fake-smiling and small-talking about the same things we always did, which seemed to be on repeat every time we’d get together, “So, how is everyone?  How are the kids? How is the business?” all the same, redundant questions at every family gathering. I’d answer with the same blanket statements as usual, which was always expected.  No one wanted the truth. “Yeah! Everything is great! Kids are doing well… Oh! And my husband and I are arguing like cats and dogs. How are you?”

My husband’s words spun round and round in my mind, keeping me more distant from the present than normal.  Was he right? Am I miserable? I didn’t feel miserable. The only thing I felt was tired.

My life was full as a 33-year-old woman.  From the outside looking in, I had it all.  Four beautiful, healthy children, a husband that loves me, a loving home, and a close network of friends and family to do life with.  But something was missing, underneath the surface was always a nagging question, like a dull toothache that wouldn’t go away, “Is this really it?”

My life was a byproduct of hard work.  I was an RN turned stay at home mom turned children’s director at my church.  I was doing all the right things and following all the rules, but I couldn’t shrug the thought that something was lurking inside me, like a ravaged beast caged and starved for too long.  I worked hard to keep her hidden in the deepest, darkest portions of my mind, too scared to ever let her emerge, fearful of the destruction she would cause. That small, whisper of a voice that stirred inside me was the holy spirit breaking the chains of silence and nudging me toward a life that would free me to use my voice.  

What I failed to realize, was keeping her silenced was causing the opposite.  She wasn’t going away, she was growing. Her anger boiled to an all time high.  There were days I felt her anger clawing at my ribcage, demanding to be let out.  All it took was one fateful trip down memory lane, in the place where she was birthed, for her to rip through the walls I had built around her, freeing her from confinement.  There was no holding her back. As I drove through Littlestown, PA to show my husband and kids where I spent four years of my adolescent life, I passed by the field where I was attacked at 13.  No one in the van knew why the smile on my face turned to a distant glare, but they all felt the atmosphere shift. I knew I couldn’t keep her silenced anymore and I was terrified, hiding behind a tough outer shell.

The next several months were a nightmare, in the literal sense. Flashbacks and night terrors haunted me and unraveled my pretty, well-kept life.  I cried. I got angry. I retreated from almost all responsibilities, barely drudging up energy to get out of bed and care for my children. That small voice pressed on, “It’s time to rise.”

Unpacking all that grew from suppressing the painful memory of my attack was like enduring a secondary trauma. It hurt more than I could describe, and it has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure.

Sometimes being silent speaks the loudest, especially to those who know us the most. Breaking free of the pain of my past allowed for the authentic and genuine portions of my soul to emerge, and nothing has ever felt more freeing. Allowing the beast of my past to emerge allowed me to put her where she belonged, in the past. Her voice was finally heard, and I realized that’s all she really wanted.  

I’m thankful for a God who never gave up, even if I gave up on Him. Listen to that small voice inside you, nudging you toward change. If you answer, it can break you free from the bondage of silence and heal even the most tattered pieces of your heart. You are worthy, you are valuable, and you are worth the work. Break the silence and move freely into your future.God will be present, even when it seems He isn’t.

Nikki Godsill
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