“Finding Who We Are” Entry #21: Finding Beauty through Abuse

Awareness is raised by bringing light to the darkest parts of our life and then sharing it for the entire world to find. It’s hard. It’s scary. It’s worth it. It’s especially worth it when you find that it has affected a life for the better.

Finding Who We Are continues to roll through the internet captivating people’s hearts and their attention. This week, I have the pleasure of sharing Ashley Cunigan’s story with you.

She and I went to school together, attended many of the same counseling classes, and have both expressed to each other some of the most difficult times that we have faced. She has been a great encouragement to me and I pray her story will be to you as well!

When I first started going to church with my family it was in the early 2000’s, I was in 7th grade. I was so excited about making friends. I grew up homeschooled so I didn’t have many of them.

To say I wasn’t accepted is a bit of an understatement. I felt outright rejected, and I was. I went to my “small group” of girls for about a year before I walked out for good. As much as I told myself I was there to learn about God, my heart couldn’t take it.

I thought the church was the one place I should be accepted, but I was young and naïve. I didn’t understand that the church is made up of people who are deeply flawed, like me.

From the time I started going to church until the time I graduated God brought in the best friends I could ask for; just one at a time though, it seemed. It was as though these people came into my life to help me through a season, and then they had to go. Regardless, God provided for me.

As I graduated high school I met a guy. It turned into giggles and butterflies, but it was also long distance because he lived in Tennessee.

Before I went to college I was given a book, “How to Stay Christian in College.” I thought it was kind of silly. I was the typical good girl and I wasn’t going to let college change that.

A few months into college I became so homesick and deeply depressed that I’m only leaving my room to go to class and eat. The great, albeit long distance relationship, had shattered for different reasons, and I had never even written an essay before.

Needless to say, I was overwhelmed and cried myself to sleep often. I only had one friend at that point and it was my roommate.

 Not long after, I got into a relationship with a guy who seemed completely harmless. I admit that I rushed into this relationship hoping to fill a gaping hole that the last one left.

Not long into it, he started to change. He grabbed me roughly, he yelled at me in front of our friends, and he kept me up until four in the morning telling me things are all my fault and that I’m selfish for wanting to go to bed.

I put up with it because I lost the person I really wanted to be with so I was just an empty shell crawling along.

He came from an abusive family, and I always shook when I went to his home over breaks.

He took an internship at another school for a semester, and in that time my grades improved. I hung out with my girlfriends and life seemed to be a lot better.

I started going to clubs with my friends. I knew it wasn’t me, but I just wanted to have fun. I danced with strangers I didn’t know. I quickly realized that I wasn’t the girl who left home, but I’m falling faster than Alice down the rabbit hole.

I couldn’t slow down.

All of my friends told me that I should break up with him. They wondered why was I even with him? I knew that they were right, but I was afraid to leave him.

He stalked me on campus.

He constantly put me down.

I turned to cutting because I didn’t know what else to do.

When summer break came, I went home and I finally broke things off. He threatened to drive down so I threatened a restraining order.

Eventually, he did come and we exchanged our things. I gave him back the ring that had weighed on my finger like bricks.

During that season, I got a call from the long distance boyfriend, and we reconnected like we had never stopped talking. When he found out that I was in the middle of a breakup, he backed off and we didn’t talk for months.

Finally, when I felt ready, we start talking, then we started courting, and he moved to my city to go to school.

Because of circumstances in my life, I’ve had moments of deep depression and anxiety. I experienced panic attacks so horrendous that I just sat on the floor and waited for it to pass.

When my medication and insurance ran out I was forced to go cold turkey on my meds. I had the darkest thoughts I’ve ever had. I handed all my pocket knives to someone I trusted, I turned my closet into a “prayer closet” and begged God to help me through it.

 I was so anguished about passing my last class and life after graduation that I started thinking harmful thoughts again. I met with my pastor and honestly asked him if he thought I needed to be watched, as in, admitted to a psych ward.

 I was at the end of my rope and mentally exhausted.

 I’ve learned that if there was ever a time that God is present with us, it’s when you hit rock bottom.

 He uses pain as a megaphone to get our attention.

Throughout my earlier days in college, all of my pent up anger over circumstances that I found “unfair” in my life built up in me and I began hating God.

I fell susceptible to the selfish thinking of “why me” and “if God is so good…” I learned that if God never did anything else that I asked that I would be ok.

 He already gave me the one thing I need that I could never get myself.

Looking back, it was never God who turned his back to me, but I turned my back on him repeatedly. The verse that I focus on to help calm me is Philippians 4, it sets my sights on God and my heart at ease.

If there is anything I can stress about my life looking back it’s that there is nothing wrong with being single. Loneliness isn’t fun, but it’s better to be single than with someone for the sake of not being lonely.

This may be the only time you are single so find out who you are, do things you want to do while you are single, and don’t stress over it. I wish I had not gone through such a terrible relationship, but I know that God had a use for it.

It made me strong and confident in who I am. It helped me clarify what I wanted out of a relationship.

When you hit rock bottom that is when God meets you. When you have no fight left in you that is when God is carrying you.

I recently got a tattoo that, in Greek, means God’s workmanship/creation/masterpiece. I got it over the place I used to cut and it reminds me that God is still working in me.

 I have a lot left to give.


Thank you, Ashley! Being able to see how far you’ve come is a great joy and it was a pleasure working with you this week! Thank you for sharing!

 I would love to meet you and hear your story. Feel free to comment down below! Subscribe at the top of the page if you loved what you read.

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You are loved.

You are valued.

3 Replies to ““Finding Who We Are” Entry #21: Finding Beauty through Abuse”

  1. This is my first time visiting Finding Who We Are, and I really like the idea of sharing people’s stories as well as the power that can be found in doing so. Ashley’s story is very moving and well written. Thank you sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. It is very brave of someone to share their lives in an era of hyperjudgement. Due to the challenges surrounding my autism, I’ve decided not to be in a romantic relationship. I have been hurt by enough people, from peers to authority figures, so I am fine with not having too many friends. It would be overwhelming. My 1 good friend is 45 years older than myself. Quality over quanity. May God continue to bless and guide you.

    Liked by 1 person

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