If My Wounds Were Visible

For narcissistic abuse awareness,
survivors have been asked to use the words,
“If my wounds were visible…”
to tell how our lives might have been different.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

When I was seven years old and all the letters had finally come together, I was reading my paper in church when my father took my stories away. He told me to be quiet, but since I had a short attention span, I forgot and whispered to my younger sister. Strong arms pulled me to the other end of the church.

In the children’s room where I got the stories, in the very place I met with Jesus, he took off his belt and holding it by the middle, he belted my legs, hitting me with the buckle end as well as the other. I cried out in pain, but no one came to my rescue–not even Jesus. He told me to be quiet or he would give me something more to cry about. Then we went back to the sanctuary while my white fuzzy tights hid the 27 bruises forming on my legs that I would later count in my bedroom.

No one saw those bruises but my mom and me. If her wounds had been visible, I might have seen the sadness on her face when she brought my lunch to my room and allowed me to eat my dessert first. If my father’s wounds were visible, perhaps someone would have offered him some help. Maybe they would have told him. “Your kids don’t have to have perfectly quiet in church for you to be a good dad.” I know he loved me back then and I don’t think he planned to harm me. He thought he was doing his religious duty to be a good father and discipline his children to be quiet in church.

My physical wounds faded like bruises often do, but the hidden wounds on my heart in relation to God and using power-over me would fester for another thirty years. And that was in part because I hid my spiritual wounds.

Oh, how many wounds have been hidden in church? How many people hide their pain, addictions, envy, lust, and revenge behind the façade of being a good Christian? At the heart of the most damage often lies a term that is loosely used and often misunderstood–narcissism.

Have you ever heard someone jokingly say, “My work is so secret, I don’t even know what I’m doing?” Well, the narcissist’s pain is so obscure they don’t always know what they are feeling. Sure, some do, but for many, their wounds have been hidden so long they can’t even access the ability to clean them out. Many narcissistic people have buried their own shame so deep that they try to diffuse it by shaming and harming others. This is why invisible wounds are so damaging. Those once damaged often hide their wounds and inflict more pain on others.

For narcissistic abuse awareness, survivors have been asked to use the words, “If my wounds were visible…” to tell how our lives might have been different.

If my wounds were visible, I wouldn’t have had to lie to cover up for my abuser.

If my wounds were visible, relatives, teachers and church members might’ve noticed my pain and stood up for me.

If my wounds were visible, someone might have told me it’s OK to say no and that I don’t have to people please or apologize until I feel sick.

If my wounds were visible, someone might’ve taken me away and allowed me to go to high school.

If my wounds were visible, my advisers in college might’ve realized that I only had a sixth-grade education, was sheltered and naive and had no clue how to act around other people.

If my wounds were visible, someone might’ve helped me figure out how to use food for strength instead of medicating with it like a drug to numb the pain.

If my wounds were visible, people probably wouldn’t ask me why it’s taken so long for me to find healing.

If my wounds were visible, I might’ve remembered every time I looked in the mirror instead of going back for more abuse.

If my wounds were visible, the teller at the bank might have put a hold on my account, so I would stop giving all my money away to buy self-worth from my abuser.

If my wounds were visible, I might have been sent to a counselor years ago instead of waiting until I felt no hope for my life.

If my wounds were visible, people wouldn’t mistake me for a victim; they would recognize that I am a survivor and they would admire my wounds because they reveal the strength it took to get through the battles I’ve endured to learn to thrive and enjoy life today.

If my wounds were visible, I would open up and show you my worst scar because it would reveal just how strong I had to be to get this far.

If my wounds were visible, you would see them and know that I am safe for you to show your own wounds to me. Kindred spirits, we would be.

If your wounds were visible, I’d gently caress them and tell you to remember that you are stronger than you think, then I’d whisper, “Be strong and carry on warrior. You are worthy of revealing and healing your wounds.”

6 comments

  1. This is so powerful and true, Cherilyn…

    Thank you for your courage to share…

    Wishing You Peace In The Space Between…

    David Holan, MA, RP, RCC 226-868.4220

    >

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Beautiful post Cherilyn. I do believe some of the unseen wounds are now becoming evident in our culture; all the violence and division, the Me Too movement and voices like yours helping to raise awareness and giving us a way to talk about all that’s gone unseen for too long. It makes me feel hopeful. Peace and healing to you my friend. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is very powerful. Thank you so much for sharing your heart, Cherilyn.

    I find that these kinds of wounds are often visible, if you are looking for them. Yesterday, my stepdaughter and I were walking through a mall, when I noticed a young man walking in our direction. He was staring vacantly ahead, not making eye contact. His face looked like a tight, blank mask. I could sense that he was in deep pain and trying to hide it.

    Although he was not looking at me, I figured that he could see me in his peripheral vision. So I smiled at him and said a cheery “hello!”

    He immediately averted his eyes completely off to the side away from me, and quickened his pace to get past me. But that was ok. Even though me looking at him and speaking to him had obviously spooked him, I still felt like he benefited in some small way by being seen and spoken to in a friendly manner. I hope he did, anyway.

    This is one benefit that has come from my own invisible wounds. I have gained a greater awareness and compassion for the hidden wounds of others. And I have learned, through the occasional kindness of random strangers, the healing power of a kind smile and a friendly word.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Linda Lee,

    It seems to me that being one with others and God and the Universe or whatever our beliefs is to have empathy and compassion for others as modeled by your smile in this story. We can’t force others to open up or accept our friendship, but we can offer it and something it is simply the offering that they might need. I agree with you that our own wounds have given us a greater capacity to see and sense the wounds of others. It is a gift. It reminds me of that saying by Mary Oliver: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” Our boxes of darkness have given us gifts to share with the world.

    Peace and freedom,

    Cherilyn

    Liked by 1 person

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