Ever since I was about nine years old, people have consistently misjudged my age; always expecting me to be older. This was unsettling when I was younger but nowadays, I accept the assumption because not many girls at twenty-five are married, own a home, and have a child. (Not for my generation anyways.) My go-to answer now, when people comment on my young age and maturity, is that trauma ages you.
Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience, and wow, does that definition resonate with so much of my life. The way trauma has presented itself in my life is through divorce. About 19 years into their marriage (and 20 years ago), my parents divorced. I was 5 years old. The majority of my life and memories reside in a split family.
So, trust me when I say this: divorce is the absolute pits. And by that, I mean straight from the pits of hell. You might think that the aforementioned statement is harsh, but if you do, then you and I simply have different views of marriage. The Christian view of marriage is a weighty one. It is not merely two people who feel strongly about one another and want to spend the rest of their lives together. Marriage is meant to be a tangible example of the covenant between God and/or His people. It is meant to teach us about God and how He feels about the ones He loved enough to die for.
Divorce, then, teaches something false about God, that He would leave His people. While the causes of divorce can be nuanced and complex and biblically allowed, the consequences of divorce are damaging in regards to divine implications as well as earthly living. No one emerges from a divorce unscathed, especially children.
Five-year-old Sana’ would look up at her parents’ wedding photo still hanging in the sitting room of her dad’s house before his remarriage, and think to herself: “If they loved each other before and don’t love each other anymore now, then you can choose to stop loving people. They could stop loving me one day. Anyone could.” Their divorce taught me to not believe that love could last. As I said, trauma ages you.
Divorce also left me with never really having one life. It was like someone traced a line on me going right down the middle where half would go to my mom, and the other to my dad. But, and no matter how hard anyone tries, you can’t divide a child perfectly in two. I couldn’t live that way.
It nearly killed me.
I lived most of my life trying to secure the love of those around me so that they would never choose to stop loving me. This largely applied to my parents and since they had stopped loving each other, I attempted to hide the parts of myself that could remind one of the other. I never felt like I, as a mix of both of them, was ever fully accepted or wanted. I began to struggle with being in the middle of them. There would be accusations of me loving one parent more than the other. There would be conflict between them.
It was exhausting.
I began to feel like a burden to my parents, like a constant reason for them to be forced to interact with each other. My thoughts grew darker and darker, l that everyone would be better off if I wasn’t alive anymore. I felt like I was a waste of oxygen and that suicide was my only solution. My only reprieve from my burdensome existence.
Praise be to God that He graciously and miraculously intervened a week and a half before the date I had planned for my suicide. He saved me. I began to understand that He had loved me and chosen me before he had created the world (Eph 1:4-5); that His love was unconditional and unwavering.
He would never divorce me. His love would last.
Since understanding God’s love and choosing to put my faith in Jesus, I have flourished in my faith – but that hasn’t meant that trauma has had no impact on my life. It has made me fragile, easily breakable and vulnerable. I struggle to believe that my husband won’t leave me, that human love can last too. I worry about my son feeling divided between his grandparents. Wrapped up in all this is a chronic diagnosis of anxiety and depression. My recovery ahead is going to be a long process of unlearning all that my trauma has taught me.
But God. He is “the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 CSB)
I can testify to the truth in these verses. So yes, trauma has aged me. But God has comforted me and comforts me still. And by His grace, I pray I can be a vessel of that comfort to others.
About the author: Sana’ Watts is a follower of Jesus who enjoys joining the ultimate Creator in creating worlds with her words. She is passionate about the intersection of faith and mental health as well as coming alongside people in their faith journeys. Sana’ was a local missionary with Power to Change and is studying for her Master’s in Pastoral Studies with a focus in Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy at Knox College. She is happily the wife of one husband and mother to a baby boy. She currently attends Church of the City Brampton. You can find her on social media at @skcnwatts.