|This Sister May Have Reassured Shelton|
DERRY, NH—Area woman Hannah Shelton, though a victim of still painful childhood sexual abuse, is a fabulous mother and wife and doesn’t even realize it.
“Oh, I work hard not to dwell on the past, you know, and I just try to do what I can,” said Shelton. What Shelton does not realize is that her heroic and faithful efforts to deal with that past have helped to make her the loving, compassionate, and courageous woman that powerfully blesses the lives of her 5 children as well as her husband.
Researchers over the past decade or so have seen more and more overlap with victims of childhood sexual abuse and traumatized soldiers returning from battle. Some of those common symptoms include long-term consequences like a higher incidence of depression, intrusive flashback memories, hypervigilance, maladaptive coping skills, dysfunctional social skills, and an overactive stress response. One would think that such weighty obstacles would destroy someone, but it some ways those very obstacles have helped sister Shelton grow.
It is common for Shelton to express apprehension at how often she feels “blue” or how she just struggles trying to do everything she thinks she should do. But for someone with a much higher risk for depression, Shelton tries to do what she can, and then accepts what she cannot do. As she commented during a recent Relief Society lesson, “you know, sometimes I feel so discouraged, and then I try to get quiet, you know, all over, and have faith enough to hear my Heavenly Parents tell me how much They love me and how they accept the offerings I can make, even if my efforts sometimes seem like the ‘widow’s mite’.”
Shelton also has to battle with intrusive flashback memories and hypervigilance. This has affected her relationship with her husband Matt. Said Hannah, “yah, it has been a very rocky road at times with Matt, and I worry, deep down, that he might be better off without me.” Wiping away a tear, Hannah continued, “we’ve had lots of talks and he has always been patient, kind, and loving, especially when I have had the courage to confide in him.” Hannah continued that, “we’ve had to develop some code words that let him know, um, where I am and what I need. One night, for example, I really needed to be held, you know, just held, and he was watching a football game that was a big deal to him. Well, it took some time, but he could see that I needed him, so he turned off the game and snuggled with me. For some reason, the code word I say in similar situations is ‘Omaha, Omaha’.”
Hannah worries constantly that her fears will have a negative impact on her children. In this, she has learned to trust Matt, and, working together, they do their best to combine Matt’s easy-going nature, seemingly eternal optimism, and confidence with Hannah’s eagle-eye for potential dangers. Matt works hard to always be loyal and supportive of his wife around the kids, especially the teenagers.
For his part, Matt has never regretted his marriage, relationship, and friendship with Hannah. As Matt put it, “I only wish she could see how amazing, how powerful, how faithful she is! I could never be that strong, and I’m glad I get to do my small part to support her. And I don’t think I’ll ever meet someone with a testimony as powerful as Hannah’s of the power of Christ’s atonement.”