I was up late with a huge pile of laundry. With nine kids, you can guess how big the pile of laundry could be. I was 43 years old. I was listening to a lesson that really hit home. I grew up with faith my whole life but at this particular moment and time, it struck me in a way that I had been subconsciously waiting for my whole life.
How do you know if God really loves you?
The speaker I was listening to shared an experience of giving birth to her son. I have done it nine times, so I really connected with her story. She mentioned that when she gave birth to her son, she was enveloped with such love. Then, she realized that he hadn’t done anything to gain her love, in fact, he had pooped on her.
At that moment, I suddenly understood something I had never understood before. We don’t have to earn love, but we are loved because we have life. Through that life, we have light and through the light, we can guide and share with others.
I had experienced this exact feeling nine different times, but I hadn’t recognized that unconditional, immediate, flooding love for no specific reason was connected to something specific.
At this moment, the nine deliveries flashed in front of me, and I realized that automatic feeling of love. With that, I understood the depth of the love God felt for me. I knew I was worth saving and all of my hardships happened so I could understand the love God felt for me and that he never abandoned me. I knew that sometimes he was very quiet, but now I really knew he never stopped loving me.
I quickly started writing.
My name is April T. Giauque, and I am Kintsugi.
I am a middle child and since I was little, I observed more than was usually observed. I felt that I had to say, “I am here--I am here, please notice me.” Overall, my family life was great. We had lots of projects around the house. My father taught us the value of work. I never heard him say that doing all these things we did around the house equated to him loving me but in my mind, as a child, I felt that way. This is how I understood love, that it was dependent on my behavior.
This belief caused a problem, because if you can’t perform then you feel that you are not as loved or lovable. I became fixated with performance; I believed that was the only way I would be loved. I succeeded in things and loved the attention. This cycle continued into my 40s.
Trauma at an Early Age
My neighbor had a trampoline, and I was a fearless gymnast. I would do anything, especially if I could get attention for it. I used the trampoline, which was always free for my use. One day, I discovered that someone was watching. When I realized I had an audience, my performance became more daring, more intricate. I flipped and did all kinds of tricks; this would become a routine. The person watching would praise me for what I was doing, and I was thriving. The pattern of grooming had started, but at that time, I was unaware of that grooming led to molestation. I was eight years old.
Something felt very wrong, and I felt deep shame. He said it was my fault, as I had tempted him with my showing off, so I was to blame. At that time, I made a decision that I would only show my skills and talents to those who deserved it. I stopped doing some of the things that I absolutely loved out of the fear of the consequences, a feeling that I was not worthy of anyone’s love because I let this happen took over me. If I loved myself, I would have screamed. So, it was obvious to me that I did not love myself.
It was a lot of emotional trash I was hauling around.
Throughout my teenage years, I continued doing gymnastics competitively but only at the gym where I felt safe. I started feeling pressure that if I could do things better, maybe I could earn more love from people. I knew I had so much power: my body was strong, and I was strong, so I thought if I could control my weight I would be noticed more.
Weight Control to Gain Control
I wanted to take control, and thus I began to control what I ate. I was very good at hiding my eating disorder. Then, my mother became sick with mental illness, and she was sent to a hospital for a month.
I did not see this coming. My dad told me I had to take care of our home, as my two older siblings had moved out of the house. As the next in line, I had to take care of the house, my father, and two younger siblings.
My world was getting out of control, but I knew that if I didn’t do what I was supposed to do, I would not deserve my family’s love. I battled with the shame shadow. He was pretty loud in my head.
I only ate when my family was around. No one saw me the rest of the time, so they were not aware that I was not eating. The charade didn’t last too long. Suddenly, I realized that it was not just a matter of control. The inner voice would say, “Really? You are going to eat that much?” It was taking control over me.
I helped my family get through those challenges, and I was on my way to college. I had taken on an identity as the “strong one.” I was independent, and I had a “can do” approach to things. No one knew the pain that I was experiencing. No one knew about the abuse.
Connecting with God
Once at school, my college offered 10 free sessions with a therapist. I learned a few skills which helped me release some guilt. Still, I was not releasing all of my negative feelings, and I had some of my “favorites” that I kept and held on to them for dear life. It was very toxic.
I decided to join a religious mission. I took 18 months to serve God. One of the lessons I learned through this time is that we all have the agency to choose. We can make better choices, but it was not forced on us. It was a great lesson for me. I felt better and was looking better as well. My control issues were better managed, and I was feeling better overall.
Building My Family and My Dream
I knew I wanted a large family, as many members of my family had. I was strong and could do a lot of different things. I just needed the right guy. I thought the mission had healed me, and I had never felt this well. The only thing that I couldn’t let go was the feeling that “I was too much.”
I felt that I was still not absolutely worthy of love. I knew I could be liked and could have love in some areas but not in all. I was stuck, but this didn’t delay me in my goals of starting a family.
I got married. We started having kids. I began noticing that my husband was struggling with mental illness that I didn’t know he had prior to getting married.
He was an artist, he could build anything, and he was so talented. Being a contractor, the job really fit him well. He did all the projects himself and could build an entire home. I felt he was the Michelangelo to wood, and he did it all without a college education.
Then, the economy took a hit. Between the stress of mortgage payments and kids to feed, it was surely a trigger. He was not securing many houses to build. He started to drink, do drugs, and date other women. I did not know about the other women at that time.
I knew I could survive because I was strong. I also knew every marriage had its trials, but I thought that we would fight it together like fighting an illness, but I realized then that we were not together. The relationship became very destructive.
I had learned during my mission days that you can’t force anyone to do anything or feel anything, which everyone had their agency to choose. I wanted to keep the family together, and I was going to do what I could. But I couldn’t fix it myself.
I saw him having conversations with people who were not there. I justified that we talk to ourselves at times, but he was having involved conversations. When I showed up to job sites, he would say, “Oh, you just missed John.” John was his “business partner.” I had never met John. At that moment, I realized that John was not real. He had never been real, and I could never meet him, but he had so much power and influence on my husband.
At that time, I had five children and three of them had special needs. They are autistic. I was at the brink of a breakdown, but I was acting strong because that is what I needed to do.
I categorize abusers as either hunters or cage animals. Most are hunters. They prey, groom, and camouflage to pull the victim. My husband was like a caged animal. He didn’t know when I was approaching him if it was to help or to get him. The paranoia was terrible.
One day, we were watching TV, and he started screaming, “Where are the cameras?!” He grabbed me and started shaking me. He was digging so tightly that I started bleeding. He was looking for cameras. He was screaming that he was that contractor on the show and that how could they possibly know what happened to him at work. Obviously, the show had been prerecorded; it was in a different state and had nothing to do with us. For him, it was real. It was about him.
He suddenly stopped, shut down, and passed out. I was left shattered, not knowing what to do, thinking that I must make a plan, as this will only worsen.
I was feeling shame. I would be the first divorcee in my family. I would be a single mom trying to raise kids. I only had a degree is in English and that would not be enough. I was trapped in the ocean of shame, and I agreed that this would be my lot. I don’t know what else to do, and so I will have to keep surviving. At the end of these conversations, I would say to myself, “You see? You are not worthy of any love, because if you were, you would be able to help your husband. This would not be your life.”
Storms & Lighthouses
Light started pulling me from the abyss. Messages from my college days were popping up. I needed to get out and take the kids with me.
I separated from my husband. Then, I returned because he needed help. I quickly learned that in the middle of a storm, when you take a boat to go out to help another in danger, you end up in the same storm. So, your own boat can also capsize. I didn’t have the right skill set, and I couldn’t save him.
I could be a stronger light if I was on safe ground, and I could shine my light to bring him toward me. If he wanted to return to my light, it would be his choice.
He had spent time in jail. It was at this time I had left and was by my parents, but I had gone back. The abuse worsened, and I knew I would have to leave. So, the planning phase began. When you empower yourself, Gold comes to the rescue and also brings you people to help. But you need to choose.
When I left, my oldest was eight years old and my youngest was a 15-month-old.
A stranger had reached out to me to inquire if I could join a board for a school of kids with autism. I said yes without hesitation; then, I was filled with fear. What could I do when my husband was so drugged? Beating us and didn’t allow me to speak to others?
I knew I had to do it. In the beginning, it was secretively. I started getting assignments, and I was good with lists. I was able to do what was asked of me. I got a counterbalance to the negativity. I heard thank-yous for doing this and that, so I started believing that I could do things. This gave me the strength to make a plan.
Sometimes, plans don’t work exactly as you hope but you need a plan to leave. I was isolated and financially trapped. I was having a challenge with my own self-worth.
I needed to become more financially independent, and the kids needed so much help.
Someone on the board offered me to become a teacher to their 5th grade. I was interested and terrified, but I had to play a game against my husband. I had to take his crazy and use it to our advantage.
I used his paranoia to help me. He didn’t want the kids in school. I told him I was approached by “your” people, and I created a story. He was buying into it. I was saying that the kids could get information for us. Then, he allowed me to go to school, and slowly I convinced him to allow me to teach there to get more information. I played the game.
I found a way, and it was all part of my exit plan. He didn’t know I was making money. My bank account was hidden from him. My bags were packed and hidden, and I created a network of people whom he didn’t know, and he couldn’t manipulate them as he could those whom he knew.
When I finally decided to leave, the logistics were intense. I was still studying and working and trying to figure things out. An incident happened which gave me a 10 minutes window. It was all I needed.
Quietly, I buckled all the kids in the van; I pushed it out of the garage silently. It is incredible the strength we have when we need it. I couldn’t have any noise or my plan could fall through.
I fired it up when I was out of my driveway. I escaped, and we took off. I didn’t even have a home.
We would hotel hop until a friend offered a basement for a while. God made up for the shortcomings in my plan. I had made the decision; I was going to leave. I had made a plan.
I created a network, and they would not ask questions. They would just help as first responders do. They were not judging.
Then, I found an advocate to get a protective order. I used it every time he violated it. He violated it seven times. Five times, he went to jail for it. I was scared, but I knew that what was on the other side would be worst
Hope is the Key
I stayed single for over two years. I grew stronger, and then I was ready to thrive. I felt so strongly about being a victim until a friend posed the question about thriving. She asked me, "Don't you want to thrive?" After being insulted, I realized that I did. I did not have to do “life” on my own forever.
I met my best friend, and we married. We had four kids together, two of whom are deaf and one of them is also autistic. I learned so much about not trying to fix them, that they are perfect as they are. I knew the most important thing would be communication.
Today, I teach at a school for the hearing impaired. I write my stories in books to inspire and empower other women who are in similar situations. Helping others helps me heal and give my life meaning.
In healing, I understood it was a journey and not a checklist. When you are traumatized and victimized, the identification of being a victim, when you label that, it’s a hard pattern to break but writing helped me the most. Adding a true connection with God has been vital.
If you are left with no hope, there is nothing left to do. My realization is that with people who struggle with challenging abuse, behaviors, and addictions is that if they lost hope, this is when they lose the battle. It’s not the vice, but it’s the hopelessness that is the worst.
You have survived your worst day.
Every day the sun comes up, and you are given something to make better, to make different choices. Even just a tiny hope is enough to catapult you from the abyss. I kept making progress, and it was a journey. I had to remember all the hours in the gym and falling and getting hurt. I had to remember what it took to get to my goal. It was intense work, commitment, and pain but always getting up again.
My name is April, and I am Kintsugi.
April Tribe Giauque has a passion for showing stories, and how they connect humanity together. She is a writer for hire in ghostwriting, editing, and coaching. Speaking from the heart, her powerful story captivates her audience about surviving and forgiveness. She is an action taker that blesses the lives of victims of many types of abuse. Her published works, Pinpoints of Light: Escaping the Abyss of Abuse gives real hope to anyone in domestic violence to know there is a way out, and with Out of Darkness, healing wholeheartedly is possible.
If you are in an abusive relationship and need help contact the national abuse hotline 1-800-799-7233
Your loving comments are always welcome. If you have a story to share please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org