Sometime after elementary school, my relationship with my father drastically changed. He no longer knew how to interact with me because I was no longer a baby or just a little girl. I was growing up before his very eyes. Not only was I getting up there in age, my body was changing, my mind was developing and I was able to understand things and come to my own conclusions.

Most children who come from a healthy home environment would continue to experience a positive relationship with their parents and siblings. For me, it was the exact opposite. From the 6th grade all the way up through my first two years in college, I was verbally abused by my father. He won’t remember this because he can’t remember it due to alcoholism and self-denial. However, it is very true and the wounds that his words lacerated my skin with cut into my flesh, my heart, my very soul, deeply.

When I finally started dating around the age of 18, I seemed to end up attracting men who wanted to control me, use me, abuse me and cut me down. So far, in my before Christ days, I have had two long-term relationships spanning a couple of years each. One of them was a very unhealthy, controlling and also mentally abusive relationship.

Through the years, I also started to pack on the weight. As my size increased, the insults from my man at that time in life also increased. Out in public and amongst his friends and family, I was the apple of his eye. He bestowed lavish compliments about my character and who I was as a person. As long as his male friends thought I was a gem or were attracted to me, he was pleased because in his mind I was his property, I belonged to him and he owned me.

He often lied to his family and adopted family telling them how well he treated me and what special things he did or got for me. None of it was ever true. It was actually quite the opposite. He was a taker. All he did was constantly take, take and demand more from me. And if I did not freely give it to him, including my body, he took what he wanted by force. This was supposed to be my first love. The love of my life, the man I told myself I would spend the rest of my life with.

This is how messed up I was not only as a woman but as a person. I was walking around with such low self-worth and low self-esteem that I was too blind to see that I was in a severely unhealthy relationship. I started to slowly come around when I realized that while he wanted to shine and be in the spotlight like a celebrity or some make believe baller, he would make sure that ALL of his needs and wants were met, from materialism, domestic life, sex, to his plans for my time to do what he wanted me to do for and with him to even his emotional support.

While he wanted me to build him up as a man, he had his foot on my neck and was tearing me apart as a woman. Instead of adding to me or building me up, he used every opportunity he had to speak against my goals, my desire to get closer to the Lord, my physical appearance and any area he felt he could find fault or lack in, including my sins.

Needless to say, even after parting ways with him, for many years afterwards, I would purposefully avoid getting close to others, I would purposefully walk with my head down and not make any eye contact, I would purposefully stay locked up in my home when I wasn’t at work. I didn’t smile any more. I still did not know what joy felt like. I didn’t even know who I was or what I wanted for myself and in my life anymore.

While I was estranged from him, the Lord helped me to re-establish my relationship with Christ that I was in route to deepening before I fell backwards by getting reinvolved with the ex I previously mentioned. During this time of separation and isolation, the Lord started to slowly heal my heart, my wounds, the marks left behind from the lacerations of verbal and mental abuse I had endured a life time.

It’s been a long road in life for me to come from out of darkness and boldly desire to walk in light, to walk in love, to want to both give love and also receive love graciously. It’s such a joy to go from someone who had such incredibly low self-esteem to someone who now feels highly esteemed because I know who I am now, I love who I am now and no one will ever be able to distort my vision and identity again. If I can do it, even at the age of 34, I know that many others out there who struggled with the same things that I once have, can experience their freedom and breakthrough thru Christ, also.

Even if you can not relate to my testimony, do me a favor and esteem (encourage) someone today simply by smiling at them, giving them a hug or telling someone you care about that you love and appreciate them.

By: Violet T. Berry