“You have such a beautiful smile, Patricia. And I just love your outfit!”

People have often commented on my outward appearance. Over the years, however, my smile and my style have kept people from seeing the real me—the hurt, broken, and fearful person beneath the put-together facade.

My internal pain was so deep that as an adult, I legally changed my name from Patricia to Solliah. Solliah more accurately reflects my life story: it’s an acronym for She Only Looks Like It Ain’t Hurting.

People with an abusive past understand. We find creative ways to keep others from knowing the depth of our pain. We cover our unpleasant life experiences with words, appearances, personalities, and habits. I successfully hid the horrific details of my familial abuse for decades. That is, until 1994, when my adult brother decided to pursue civil and criminal charges against our father for the sexual abuse he committed upon us as children.

I was working in a New York hospital when he called and told me his plan and asked me to join him. Horrified and terrified, I refused to be a part of the suit. I didn’t want anyone in our small town to know our family’s ugly secrets. I just wanted to move on and let the past be the past. I didn’t realize that until I faced my past, I could never move on. He then told me that if I didn’t join in the suit, he would subpoena me.

His words caused my whole world to cave in, and I had a severe panic attack right there in the hallway of the hospital. Thankfully, a doctor friend found me crumpled on the floor and immediately took me to the head of the psychology department. For almost two hours, I poured out the sordid details of my life for the very first time.

I knew my childhood had been difficult, but when I discovered that this doctor left our meeting and went directly to his psychiatrist to process the incredible facts of my life, I better understood the severity of my abuse and my need for help.

It’s by God’s grace alone that I not only survived my childhood but also remained in control of my emotions and did not take revenge on those who had hurt me.

That session was the beginning of a healing process that began the moment I faced my past and acknowledged to a trusted person that I had been abused. That process has continued for 25 years, during which my counselor helped me understand that the abuse I’d suffered wasn’t my fault. Understanding that stripped away the power the abuser had over me. My past could no longer hurt or control me.

My healing continued as I learned how to process the painful emotions I had run from for so long—fear, anxiety, guilt, anger, and shame. I also learned how to overcome habits I had developed to cope with my pain. I had to learn to trust people. I had kept people at a distance my whole life, reasoning that if my father, who was supposed to be my fierce protector, would harm me, everyone else would too.

I trusted only one person—me. And that did not make for healthy relationships with God or people.

I also had to deal with the pain my own choices had created. As a teen, I had left home to escape my life situation. But being on the streets brought more abuse and more poor choices I’d have to overcome.

Finally, I had to make peace with other painful life experiences, like having a breast tumor at the age of 17 and then losing my precious mother and several other family members to cancer. In fact, not one loved one in my family had lived past the age of 50, and the fear of this generational curse hung over me for years.

I blamed God for every terrible event of my life, especially for allowing my mother to die. In my anger, I said terrible things to Him. I tried to shut Him out of my life entirely. But the more I shut Him out, the more lost I became. But God is faithful, and He continued drawing me to Himself until, eventually, I realized that through all those years, through all that pain, He had not abandoned me. Nothing could change the fact that God loved me so much that ​

He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for me, to save me from my sin (John 3:16).

No, my life wasn’t perfect. It still isn’t. I’m still working through old thought processes, habits, and painful emotions, and I’m 64 years old! It’s incredible how abusers can commit horrific crimes and then just go on with their lives, while their victims are left to serve time in an emotional prison. Truly, I feel like I’d been served a life sentence, but with God’s help, I have finally been set free.

His love has saved me for eternity, but it has also kept me standing firm despite the trials I’ve encountered here on earth. I’m a living testimony of Romans 8:35, 37: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

God’s love has made me a victor, not a victim. His love took the shattered pieces of my past and wove them together into the masterpiece He calls my life.

But know this: when I trusted my life to Jesus, trials didn’t suddenly disappear. I just had more confidence to face them because this time around, I knew I wasn’t doing it alone.

God has brought me through countless life-threatening moments. There are so many reasons that I should be dead or mentally ill, but I’m not. God’s love and His mighty hand of protection have continually been on my life, even when it didn’t look like it.

For example, in 2012, I was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer. With my family history, this should have brought me to my knees in fear, but it didn’t. When my doctor told me I had cancer, I refused to think about what that might mean.

Instead, I focused on what has always been—God’s faithfulness.

I knew He would be with me, and if for some reason He didn’t choose to heal me this side of heaven, then I would be with Him. I would still have the victory because this earth isn’t where I belong anyway. Heaven is my home! (See Hebrews 13:14.)

So I gave that cancer diagnosis to God, told my doctor and my husband to get their faith on, and faced what had to be faced. Cancer treatments weren’t easy, but God saw me through every battle. And today, I am still standing, freer than ever!

Through that trial, God delivered me from the fear of closed places. I’d had severe claustrophobia from childhood, due to being locked in closets and even ovens as a form of sadistic torture. In my strength, there was no way I could enter those enclosed diagnostic machines. But instead of running from them, I faced them with God. I told Him about my fear and asked Him to go into those closed spaces with me, and He did. God made a way for me to do what I couldn’t do on my own.

The doctor had given me little hope to survive my diagnosis, but God did the impossible. He healed me. Today, at age 64, I am whole and healthy, and I am more sure and determined than ever that there is nothing in this life that can keep me down, because God is on my side. And if He is for me, who can be against me? According to Romans 8:31, absolutely no one.

Today, my head is lifted high. I smile broadly and still dress to the hilt—but it’s no longer to hide my pain or divert attention. It’s to share the joy I have within me. I want people to know there is hope! With God, anyone, including you, can overcome what has been and endure whatever may yet come (Philippians 4:13).

Put your life in God’s hands, and as He did for me, He will transform your victimized life to a victorious one. Let my life be proof that with God, nothing—and no one—can keep you down.