By Katelyn Collison: I thought I was holding the world in my hands. I was graduating high school, bound for my dream college, and dating a boy I was head over heels for. I didn’t expect the next two years to turn out the way they did.

It started with a breakup, just in time for me to move to college. And while the original hurt of the breakup faded pretty quickly, it took nearly two years to understand the depth of what that relationship had done. As understanding grew in me, I one day realized that the boy I had been dating was emotionally, verbally, mentally, and spiritually abusive. Looking back, it wasn’t what I wanted, and it wasn’t the love I had dreamed about. I wanted love that would put my world in motion or set a fire in my soul. Instead, it was a love that emptied my soul.

I have never felt so much taken away from me, as I did in that moment of understanding. I had been abused. I had thought my love was enough to protect me from all the hurt and wrong that could happen. But it wasn’t.

I tried hard – I mean hard – to pretend that the pain wasn’t going as deep as it was. At some point though, I knew I had to surrender and admit that something was wrong. A phone call landed me in my first counseling session, and as my pride and pain became one, I cried. Because for the first time, I had to be open and vulnerable enough to admit that I had let someone abuse me – and that the abuse had led me there.

After that point, things were a whirlwind. My pain had a name: depression. There were counseling sessions and medications, and I started trying to re-work my faith, which gave me something to guide me. Sometimes I felt like I had lost all control, and that I was never going to be the same. But I knew God loved me, and I held on to that.

Moving on wasn’t so easy. I was eager to love and be loved, and found myself surrounded by guys who wanted to use me up as fast as possible. No matter how many times I said "no," I was still left feeling like a whore because of what they wanted from me.

Finally, my school year ended and I moved to Nashville for a summer internship. The distance gave me the space I needed, and things finally started to change. I began focusing on my faith again. I looked at my heart, and accepted what it was: vulnerable. I gave that heart to God -- even the parts I had never let anyone touch. And in accepting my vulnerability, I began to experience healing. It ended when I woke up one morning without the fear or pain that had been my companion for the last two years. It was just gone, and I found a freedom I had never felt before.

Today, I’m not hurting. I’m not afraid to love or be loved. And I'm not afraid of my vulnerability. I have accepted that I was a victim of abuse -- abuse that was done in the name of “love”. But what’s more important is that I am a Child of God. He loves me endlessly, forgives me for my mistakes, and healed all the broken in me.

Vulnerability never felt so free.

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