Overcoming Childhood Trauma, Autoimmunity, and Discovering Life Purpose

An e-book about transformation, healing, and hope.

by Evelyn Hale
Dear reader,

I’m Evelyn Hale, a spiritual teacher and healer with a background in healthcare, nonprofit leadership, and personal growth and transformation. I am sharing my story with you because I believe stories are how we find the inspiration to heal.

My hope is that by reading this, you may be inspired to go deeper on your own healing path so you can move closer to your highest self.

This story was sitting in my heart for years before I shared it. I was hesitant to talk openly about my childhood because of the of fear judgement and criticism. I worried people would think that I exaggerated or overshared. I was afraid my mother would be upset with me for sharing things from my perspective, or that she'd remember things differently. I was afraid family members would read it and feel embarrassed or regretful that they didn't do more to help. Mostly I was just afraid that people would see what felt like a deep dark part of me and that they would be repulsed.

Thankfully, I've learned to walk directly into my fears rather than away. I hope through reading this, you can better find your own healing path.

with love,
Evelyn

**TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains stories of childhood sexual abuse. Please check in with yourself before reading if now is the right time for you to read this.**

Chapter 1: 1983-2002

When I was little, I was always afraid. Not of ghosts, or the dark, but of my father. He was a very hurt person and he abused my mom, my siblings and I. Despite the verbal abuse, violent threats, and constant fear, I grew up in a outward-looking normal middle class family. I recall hearing people say how charming and wonderful my dad was, meanwhile looking at them like they had three heads as I held our family’s secret in my throat. They didn’t know that at night when we heard my dad’s truck pull into the driveway, we would all run upstairs to stay safe from him. Our house was a container of secrets and shame.

Until my mid-30s, I had very few memories of childhood, except for the events and stories my family told me or I have pictures of. Trauma can wipe out a lot of your memories to keep you safe, and I'm grateful that my brain was smart enough to block me from consciously remembering a lot of what took place.

So how can I tell the story of my childhood if I have few memories of it? The body stores memories even when the conscious mind doesn't. So I've been able to access the body memories and to a small extent recover them consciously.
I'm originally from Liverpool, NY, a suburb outside Syracuse. I was a sensitive kid… the kind who picked up worms and moved them to the grass to save them from being crushed. I've always been able to feel others' emotions very very strongly. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I learned about the terms Empath and Highly Sensitive Person.
Here’s a picture of me standing on my front steps as a young child. I chose this picture because it captures how I felt all my life until my mid-twenties. Scared of my own shadow, scared of how others will react if I spoke my truth. It wasn't until in my late 30s that I healed my inner child and discovered how to give her the love she so desperately needed.
My dad fit the profile of an abuser to a T and that’s why nobody knew. My mom tried to leave seven times (which, fun fact, is the statistical average amount of times that domestic violence victims will attempt to leave before they are killed by their abuser). My dad kept my mom isolated from her family and she had severe postpartum depression after I was born. She told me that when I was a baby she would lock herself (or me) in a closet so she didn’t hurt me. I had chronic strep throat and ear infections and was constantly on antibiotics. My mom would leave me alone as an infant with my 2 year old brother and tell him to take care of me because she couldn’t cope with my crying.

Because neither of my parents were mentally well, no one was taking care of our house. Our dog constantly defecated in our house and sometimes it would be days before anyone cleaned it up or one of us kids would do it. We had maggots crawling on our ceilings and I’ll never forget the time one dropped down into my cereal bowl while I was eating breakfast. Our lawn was usually overgrown, we had a broken fence and broken garage windows, and a junker Mercedes in the driveway up on cinderblocks that was my dad’s “project” he never worked on. We were that house...the one everyone looked at and wondered why we lived like that. 

The threat of violence was always in the air. My dad kept his rifle out open in the dining room, as a reminder. Anytime he was angry (which was often), he would remind us of the other guns and knives he had. He said he would kill us if my mom ever left him. 

One of my memories was a time my parents were fighting and my mom locked herself in the bathroom because she was scared. My dad punched a hole right through the door with his bare hand and forced her to come out. This was a pretty regular occurrence.

My brother and I stood by watching, crying, knowing there was nothing we could do so eventually we started hiding to get away from the yelling.

The yelling was the worst part and for a long time I had extreme reactions to raised voices of any kind. My childhood home was filled with the sounds of anger, blame, and contempt. My father was brilliantly manipulative, and he made my mom and us doubt our reality, telling us we were the problem, that he was the real victim in all of the chaos. 

His emotions were volatile, like a volcano that could explode at any moment. We walked on eggshells around him to avoid triggering a violent outburst. The only person my mom was allowed to speak to on the phone was her mother, but if she spent more than a few minutes, my dad would blow up in a fit. 

My mom was very much an undeveloped child in the relationship. She couldn't keep herself safe and although she tried her best, she couldn't keep her children safe. I took on the role of caretaking for her. I acted as her closest confidant, hearing and witnessing things no child should ever have to hear.

I didn't know how to process everything that I was experiencing. I wet the bed until I was 12. I had a habit of picking at mosquito bites on my legs and arms until they bled, and when they scabbed over I would rip the scab off and let it bleed again so it never fully healed. In school I would suppress the urge to go to pee so much that I had frequent accidents. Sometimes while holding in my urine, I would pick the scabs on my legs until blood ran down into my socks, then wipe it on the insides of my pants so no one would notice. 

When I was 12, I started to mature physically and I have a memory of my dad telling me that I have to be careful around men because they biologically couldn’t control their actions. Around that same time, I was in the kitchen with my mom and she bluntly told me that my father forced her to have sex as payment for grocery money or for him to come to our school concerts. A couple years after that, I found child pornography on our family computer. I remember my dad looking at me in inappropriate ways and saying sexual things to me about my body. I later recovered a memory from possibly age three of being sexually assaulted, but I know know by whom. I had father-daughter fantasies for years and that was my deepest shame for many years. I buried that shame so deep in my subconscious that I believe it was a cause of my later-diagnosed autoimmunity.

So how does this awful story end? When I was a senior in high school, a social worker came to our house while my dad was at work and had a conversation with my mom about making an escape plan. For a few weeks, my mother, siblings and I planned in secret, deciding what we would take with us, knowing we could only pack enough to fit in one car. 

Feeling excited and terrified and in disbelief at the prospect of getting away from my dad, the day finally arrived. My dad went to work and the police came and stood guard while we packed my mom’s car full of everything that would fit. Somehow my dad found out and he came home just as we were about to leave. I thought for sure he would kill us all. But because the police were there, he couldn't do anything. My body shook the entire way to the safe house, and for months afterward, my body couldn’t settle. I’d have nightmares of my father finding us and killing us.

That was 1983-2002. And just like that, that’s mostly where the chapter with my dad ends. I saw him briefly one more time before he died of a heart attack eleven years later in 2013. (Ironically, I became the default executor of his estate after his death, which involved me in 5 years of legal drama with his sister, but that's a story for another day). 

Chapter 2: 2002-2006

After escaping my father and graduating high school, I continued my pattern of risky behaviors including binge drinking and eating, promiscuous unprotected sex with anyone who gave me attention, cheating and lying and stealing.

I was in and out of relationships, jobs, college, and just doing my best to survive.

I made it through community college and graduated with an Associates Degree in Business, then transferred to SUNY Binghamton to get my bachelors degree.

In 2005 I got involved with a new boyfriend who quickly turned out to be controlling and abusive. 
Me at 21
Let's jump in a time machine and fly back to 2005.

I'm 22 years old standing in the kitchen of my Pine St. apartment about to serve dinner to my boyfriend when it happens.

We had been fighting about something, and as I hand him his plate of spaghetti, he throws it on the floor in what feels like slow motion. I see the plate hit the floor and hear the shattering sound it makes as it explodes all over the floor and walls.

He looks at me with an accusingly, as if I made him throw the plate.

I can't believe what is happening.

I feel out of my body...

I want to make him stop yelling and accusing me but I know I am powerless against him.

I hide in the bathroom, paralyzed as I listen to him bang his fists on the door and yell at me to come out.

I knew he was the jealous type, but he's never been this crazy before...

As he starts grilling me on where I've been and who I've seen all day, my mind flashes back to childhood when I would listen to my dad interrogate my mom in the same tone. I feel so small and helpless.

I am confused, because things were so perfect.

I thought he was different. I thought he was The One.

Suddenly it seems like this great love story is unraveling and it's all my fault.

He's telling me he acts this way because of me, and I believe him.

A few months later we're engaged, and I'm happy again.

He must really love me to propose to me... I know I'm only 22, but I feel confident we know what we're doing.

But then, he starts withholding love and affection from me.

When we go to bed he turns his back to me and goes stone cold and silent, and I ask him, "Are you okay? Are you mad at me?" and he just ignores me.

I stuff my tears down and force myself to go to sleep.

Every day I try a little harder to win his love, but nothing seems to work.

One night, to clear my head, I go to the movies by myself.

When I get home, he's waiting for me.

"Who is he?" he demands. I start explaining that I was just at the movies but he doesn't believe me.

He calls me a whore and a liar and says I am cheating on him.

He demands my engagement ring back and when I resist he grabs my hand and pries it off, then barricades himself in our bedroom for the rest of the night.

I am stunned. I feel nothing and everything. But as horrible as it is, this all feels so familiar and even expected.

It's the same kind of chaos I experienced the first 18 years of my life.

I barely sleep that night on the couch. I'm worried what he'll do next.

In the early morning hours the next day, I get up and look for my keys so I can leave but I can't find them.

Panicking, I realize I left them in the bedroom where he is.

I go over and try to gently open the door but it won't budge.

I push harder and realize he pushed the dresser against the back of the door to keep me out.

"As if I am the dangerous one," I think to myself.

Over several minutes, I get the door to open a crack and slide myself through.

It's dark in the room and I can see his outline in the bed as the early morning light starts to shine through the windows.

He's awake, so I whisper, "I need my keys," and he reaches under his pillow.

I stand frozen, waiting, and he is just laying there with his hand under the pillow.

I ask him for my keys again and he is silent.

The panic rises in my chest and I am desperate to get out, so I walk over to try to get the keys and he pulls his hand out from the pillow and he's holding a large kitchen knife.

This was the moment I completely left my body.

I don't remember the moments after that, but I must have ran from the room and out of the apartment.

I still don't have my keys... so I'm standing on the sidewalk outside our apartment building and I call 911.

___

That day, I went into an intense state of distress. My body was numb, and as the days and weeks unfolded, I navigated through an emotional, physical, and legal battle to get my life back.

But the craziest part is that it all felt normal and familiar.

It was the culture medium I grew up in.

Of course I picked a man who was just like my father.

Of course I thought if I married a controlling, manipulative, narcissistic, violent person I could get them to love me and heal my childhood wounds.

Sadly, this man wasn't the first abusive partner I had chosen. But he was the last.

___

Looking back, I was so desperate to be loved that I settled for the same kind of "love" my parents had.

At the time, healthy love felt boring, and it made my skin crawl. I would go on dates with mentally and emotionally stable men and practically run screaming in the other direction.

It took this serious incident for me to see for myself that I had to make a decision to change my life or continue to be ruled by my past.

Chapter 3: 2006-2020

In 2006 my luck changed. I met the partner I would go on to spend 14 years with and I am forever grateful for his role in my life.

Together, we entered therapy to save our relationship, and we each spent 10 years working individually on ourselves as well as our relationship. I share a lot about the limitations of talk therapy, but I am extremely grateful for this time in my life because it helped me stabilize myself and move out of the extreme chaos my life had been up to that point.

This relationship grounded my life. I graduated with my bachelors degree, I went to grad school, I got married, and I had a kid all with this partner. This period of time was the most stability I had ever experienced up to that point in my life.

I'll share some of what I worked through during these years...

Things I’ve written in my journal over the years of healing:

“It hurts. I feel lost and wish I had actual parents. I am profoundly sad that I have never had parents who loved me for me. And even though my mother is alive she's not a mother to me. It hurts so much. I feel so alone and want so badly to be loved and appreciated for who I am and my accomplishments. It's so painful that my mom doesn't recognize or see all that i do in life. I want the pride and recognition of my parents. I want their unconditional love so that I can love myself. I feel like without that I can never truly love myself. The ones who raised me as a baby and a kid didn't love me for me. I was always the bad child. My mom loved me on the condition that I fulfill her criteria. My dad never loved me at all. I don't think he ever uttered those words in my life.”

“I feel damaged. Like I have a secret. Like I'm just passing for a successful person but in reality I'm this ugly monster inside who nobody loves. I must be or else my parents would have loved me.”

“If my parents loved me they wouldn't have said I was the black sheep. The one who manipulates my siblings. Lied. Broke things. The bad one. My mom wouldn't have left me on the side of the road to walk home. She wouldn't have written me letters saying she didn't understand me. That I was different. Said that I wasn't funny and that I was too serious.”
The things that I experienced as a child could have been worse. There's always someone who has it worse than you. I acknowledge that there are people with severe PTSD who have seen battle or had to experience torture and things like that, and I take that very seriously. We all have our lived experiences and my lived experiences gave me the strength to rise. Having experienced the chaos and the pain and the struggle that I did for the 18 years that I lived with my parents gave me an immense well of strength to dip into as needed, and to transform. Because of my experiences, I have an ability to transform and to go to the dark places within me, and within others.

And I've had help. I'm fairly certain that I could not have healed all this pain without help. This is not a self-made journey. Rising up from trauma you need many people around you who are reaching out a hand to help you up. Mostly you need to be willing to grab a hand, and be vulnerable.

I was very fortunate at having found a good therapist early on that I worked with for 10 years. She helped me see what was motivating my habits and behaviors and release who I had been patterned to be. Little by little over those ten years, I started to see myself beneath the layers of programming I had adopted. I started to see that the frantic fight-or-flight life was something I could change.

There were many times that I thought I was done and I wanted to wash my hands clean of the relationship with my therapist. There were times that I would feel that she was wrong for me or that I was done and I didn't need her anymore or that it was too expensive and I needed to save money and things like that. But despite the objections that were raised by my mind, something kept me coming back.

At the 10-year mark I decided to stop engaging in talk therapy so that I could devote myself to learning other healing modalities that would help me go deeper into physically, emotionally, and spiritually healing.

Seven years into my therapy journey, I was diagnosed with Hashimotos thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease affecting my thyroid gland. Through the path of seeking physical healing, and not finding that in the traditional medical system, I became aware of alternative medicine and I started to investigate how I could heal myself. I found some practitioners... some good and some not so good, and I started to try new things. I read a lot of books, I even took a leave of absence from my job to learn and rest and heal. At my lowest point I could barely function. I hit rock bottom where I was crying every day and questioning how I could go on. I was completely anxious and depressed and overwhelmed.

One day while laying on my couch, barely functional, I decided to try something crazy. As an atheist my entire life, I didn't believe in God. But I was desperate. So I placed my hands together, and said these words: "Dear God? I don't know if you exist, but if you do, I need some help. I don't know what to do. Please guide me." I didn't know if it would work, but the next day, I found a naturopathic doctor that helped me get my physical health back.

A little while after that, I found spiritual teachers who addressed the emotional roots of autoimmunity and I started to dive deeper into my childhood trauma. I went beyond analyzing the past to feeling into my body for the answers.

In 2019, I was drawn to Sedona, Arizona. I went to see a psychic and an aura reader, and they both told me I'm a "master healer." That gave me confidence that my life purpose is about helping others heal. Suddenly, my autoimmunity, childhood trauma, and the long winding spiritual awakening started to make sense. I learned energy healing and became a certified Reiki Master-Teacher. I took steps to get closer and closer to my purpose. I began seeing energy healing clients and I started to use my gifts of receiving messages for them. As I shared the messages that were coming through in sessions, my clients would cry, or say “Oh my God, how did you know that?” or “I know all of this information, but I needed to hear it from someone else.” These early energy healing sessions gave me confidence that I was on my way to my calling.


Chapter 4: 2020-present

In early 2020, I was sitting on the edge of an uncomfortable futon in the spare room of my house, where I had been sleeping for the past several months. I opened my phone and saw a picture of my 4 year old son and I started to cry, thinking, "This is the end of everything. You're going to destroy your life."

From all objective standpoints my life was perfect. People saw my marriage and they wanted that. They thought that we had the the dream life. I thought we had the dream life. So it was like waking up and realizing that I had everything I wanted, but I still wasn't happy.

It was a really painful awakening that my body started to bring up and out of me. My mind became very confused by what the body was saying, because the mind was like, "You've got it all," but the body was like, "But we're not happy. We're still very much living out of alignment with where we're supposed to be."

Eventually over the course of 2019 to 2020, my body just kept saying to me, you need to leave this marriage and you need to leave this life.

Looking back I would say that embodiment was the thing that made me lose my marriage and everything that I had built. But what I found on the other side of that was myself, my true self. And I started to become deeply attuned to what my body was saying so that I didn't have to get myself into that position again, so that I didn't find myself in a life that I didn't want to be in.

I started to see that the body was having a different experience than my mind and that I couldn't be truly happy and I couldn't be truly whole and integrated unless I listened to all parts of me.

That is what allowed me to get to the point where I am now, which I feel very in alignment with my truth. And I know 100% that I made the right decision, but it came at a huge cost of ending my old life. I am a completely new person. I have a new name. I live in a completely different place.

On the other side of that mountain of pain and grief, I have me. I am whole.

My family arrangement is different, but I'm also happier than I've ever been before in my entire life. My relationship with my ex-husband is better than it's ever been and our co-parenting with our son is so good. He's happy, he's thriving, and the teachers think it's amazing what we're doing with him as divorced people, because we have all found a way not just to survive but to truly thrive.

After the divorce I doubled-down on my healing. I learned how to work with my inner child to support and nourish her to feel whole and complete. I learned how to be alone, to be fully present with myself, and to be ALL of me ALL the time. The journey continues, and for now I will leave you with my favorite quote...
You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.     
-Rumi
This is a story about transformation, and that's why I am sharing it with you. I want to encourage you that inside your pain is a deep well of wisdom. Your healing path may be long and winding, like mine, but ultimately, you are you own best compass.


♥Evelyn

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