The darkness will lift: Lessons from a barren season

It recently hit me that I’ve made so much progress in the last couple of years. I could even say that I am the happiest I have ever been in my entire life. Who would have thought? Me? The same person who concluded that her life had ended after being sexually assaulted in 2013.

The memory is still fresh in my mind. I can still see the 24-year-old young woman who was crying profusely after being violated and screaming at the top of her lungs. “I will never be able to live after this. How can I live with myself,” I repeated at the time. To me, this was the worst and most unexpected thing I could have ever experienced. How could things change so drastically in a matter of minutes? What the hell did I do to deserve such an attack?

Will I be normal again?

It’s really funny how life works. At the time, I really was convinced that there was no way I would ever have a “normal” life again. But here I am – six years after I was sexually assaulted – living, loving and being the happiest version of myself. It hasn’t been an easy journey for me. I will even go as far as describing the last five-six years as the darkest period of my life.

There were so many moments where I was angry, confused, paranoid and hopeless. I’d wonder if life was even worth living. I had hit rock bottom and was experiencing the driest season of my life. Imagine being in place of dryness and barrenness for years! A time where you’re depressed most of the time. You don’t feel like anything will ever make sense again. You’re alone (and maybe lonely) most of the time. Nothing makes sense. You feel isolated and like nobody understands what you’re dealing with. As much as your family and friends are there, it still feels like you’re all you have. Truly disheartening.

Growth and lessons

However, now looking back at that season of my life – yes, it’s “that season” because it has passed (thank you Jesus!) – I can truly say that it was very necessary. It might not have looked that way at the time, the last six years might have seemed like hell, but I honestly wouldn’t trade any of it for anything. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I would have chosen to go through the trauma of being raped again, I certainly would never. But I would not change the growth and lessons that have come with that season.

Although it was painful most of the time, I learned so much about God. I learned that He is my healer, provider, comforter, friend and so much more. I learned about God’s love for me. You know, I’m still amazed by God’s love for me. I sometimes weep when I think about it. His love has taught me what love is and what it looks like. I may never fully get just how deep His love is for me, and I may never even be able to love the way He loves, but I now have a better understanding of how I should love myself and others. It is through His love that I’m still here.

There is strength in weakness

That season has shown me how strong I truly am as a person. I usually tell my friends that I don’t like being called strong because it puts a lot of pressure on me to appear “strong” all the time. However, right now I am owning the fact that I am strong (through Christ). I have made it to the other side of what seemed to be a never-ending nightmare. My pastor always says we must ask for the strength to endure. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing in the last couple of years.

I have also come to a place where I know who I am. That journey has led me to a space where I’ve had to peel off layers of myself; who I thought I was. It has led me to who I truly am. I can now confidently say that I know who Siyathemba Zimkhitha Ben is. I am still adding new truths to my life, still removing things that I no longer identify with as a person. I am happy that I have not only discovered my truth, but I also have the pleasure of living my truth.

I know that there will always be moments that overwhelm you in life, moments that make you wonder if you’ll ever get to a place where you’re happy again. But trust me, the dark times don’t last forever. The darkness will lift. It might not seem like it when you’re in that hopeless place, but believe me when I say the darkness will lift!

Photo by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash