My vision for My Big Fat Bipolar Life has always included the creation of a safe, interactive community where the mentally ill—and those who love them—could share their stories and find encouragement and hope.
It has always been my goal to share the stories here on my blog and in my Facebook community, The Light Brigade.
It has been an honor to share a handful of these stories in The Light Brigade, but today marks the first time I have the privilege of sharing someone’s mental illness journey in a full-length blog post.
The story I share today is of my dear friend, Shermane Reed. If that name sounds familiar to you, it’s because I recently wrote a blog post reviewing The Talk I Never Had, a God-centered book on puberty she co-wrote with her daughter, Jordan.
You may also remember her name from the blog post I wrote about my experience with childhood sexual abuse. Shermane provided the platform for me to share my testimony and begin the journey of finding my voice.
Today you will read the story of the abuse Shermane survived, how it affected her mental health and how she has harnessed the power of her testimony to change lives and empower women.
Hi. My name is Shermane. I was born a very quiet girl. I loved to read, write and color. My mother was a single mom with two children when she met my stepfather. I was three months old.
We were a religious family, but as soon as the church doors closed and we returned home, our nightmare began. My stepfather was an alcoholic who physically abused my mom and molested me. By the time I was 11, multiple individuals had sexually abused me.
I felt isolated, and the quiet girl turned into a furious girl with fits of rage. I told my family about the abuse, but they silenced me. That led to more isolation.
Experiencing abuse at such an early age caused my brain to shut down. I could not process the adult situations I experienced.
There were moments during the abuse when my mind checked out, and it felt like an out-of-body experience because I was no longer mentally present in the room.
Mental Health Effects
Every day I had to fight for my life. At 11, I began cutting, and by twelve, I was suicidal. I told no one about the thoughts I was having.
As a young girl, I remember my family brushing off my abuse and mental health issues and joking about it. They said I was a “nervous” child.
I was the jumpy one—the one who was always a little off. I always had trouble sleeping because I had racing thoughts, sometimes about bizarre things. Instead of getting me help, they gave me sleeping pills.
Even when I made my escape and went to college, the aftermath of the childhood sexual abuse I endured followed me.
Getting Professional Help
I battled extreme sadness. I went to counseling, but that ended quickly because I had to go to work and used every excuse to get out of going to therapy.
I got married when I was 24. Within two years I delivered two stillborn babies, and my husband had an adulterous affair that produced a child.
It was then that all the unhealed effects of the abuse came back to me like a flood. I descended into a dark pit.
I didn’t want to get out of bed, and then I found out I was pregnant again. I took mild antidepressants while I was pregnant, but I didn’t have the heart to tell the doctor they weren’t working.
My daughter was born premature, and that’s when my mental illness became out of control.
I went to an inpatient facility and my psychiatrist diagnosed me with PTSD and major depression. Eventually, my doctor found the right combination of medications, and I finally felt stable, but I still hadn’t addressed the childhood sexual abuse I survived.
I began attending church and was introduced to Mending the Soul. Mending the Soul is an intense Bible study that helps deal with the aftermath of all types of abuse. This study transformed my life. It was here I started to unpack my trauma and began my journey of healing.
I fell in love with God, and He swept me off my feet. As I focused on my walk with Him, He restored my marriage by first restoring me.
“He who is seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new'” (Revelation 21:5 NIV).
Paying it Forward
I started facilitating Mending the Soul Bible studies at my church. I shared my testimony with the group, and God opened the door for me to share my story at Celebrate Recovery programs at many local churches.
In June 2016, God gave me the vision for an abuse survivor’s conference for women that would show them the power of their testimony. I heeded God’s call, and that vision came to fruition when I hosted the Still I Rise Women’s Abuse Survivor Conference in January 2017.
The conference has become an annual event and has led to me forming a nonprofit organization, Determined to Rise Ministry. Determined to Rise Ministry is dedicated to empowering female abuse survivors to restart, restore and reclaim their lives in safe Christ-centered environments.
I believe our mission is important because the most powerful healing I found was in group settings.
Creating a Platform
Safe, Christ-centered environments focused on the healing of abuse—especially sexual abuse—were lacking in my community, so I created my own platform in the Still I Rise Women’s Abuse Survivor Conference.
The conference is for women 18 years and older who have experienced childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, physical abuse, domestic violence, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, childhood neglect or abandonment.
I love that each year a variety of church denominations unite, set aside religious differences and focus on Jesus Christ and the healing at redemption He offers us.
2020 Conference Information
The theme of this year’s conference is YOU ARE NOT FORSAKEN. It continues the overall theme of healing wounded hearts while giving a voice to abuse survivors. I am excited that this year’s conference will give a voice to the forms of abuse that people minimize: verbal, psychological, and neglect/abandonment.
The 2020 Still I Rise Women’s Abuse Survivor Conference will be held January 31 through February 1 at The Bayou Church in Lafayette, Louisiana.
If you live in the area and would like to attend the conference, click here to purchase your ticket. For more information on the conference or to connect personally with Shermane Reed, email her at [email protected]
Shermane Reed’s complete faith in God and her obedience to Him have enabled her to rise above her struggles and use her experience to empower others. She reminds us we don’t have let our past define us.
You have the choice to stay stuck in the past that hurt you, or you can move forward in faith—confident that God has a bigger and better plan for you. You can share the story of how you survived and overcame your struggles to remind other women they are important, they are stronger than they think, and they are not alone.
Never underestimate the power of your testimony. It just may be the key to unlock someone else’s prison.
If you live in Lafayette, Louisiana or the surrounding area, here are two local resources:
Faith House is a domestic violence crisis center based in Lafayette, Louisiana whose mission is to provide shelter, safety, empowerment and advocacy to survivors of domestic violence in Lafayette and seven surrounding parishes. They have a 24/7 confidential hotline (1-888-411-1333). Click here to visit Faith House’s website.
Hearts of Hope is a nonprofit organization that responds daily to those affected by the trauma of sexual violence by providing education, advocacy and empowerment services and programs. There services are available to the Acadiana area. They operate a local rape crisis hotline (1-337-233- 7273). Click here to visit Hearts of Hope’s website.
RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the Natural Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE) which is available 24/7.
RAINN partners with 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Safe Helpline (1-877-995-5247). For more information on the DoD’s Safe Helpline, click here. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. Click here to visit RAINN’s website.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) and it is available 24/7 or click here to visit their website. Click here to find resources available by state for women affected by domestic violence.
Mending the Soul provides a biblically-rooted approach to walking abuse and trauma survivors through the healing process. For more information on Mending the Soul, click here.