This week, I’m talking more about the struggle in the aftermath of trauma, of reaching out for help, of being in this together.
Video is 7 minutes long.
Please join me every Friday for a new episode of Alive to Thrive! This video explains more.
Today I’m talking about triggers — what they are and how they happen. I’ll be writing more about this topic this month!
Video is 7.05 minutes.
Have you ever listened to someone’s story and found yourself shocked at how many times he or she was a victim of abuse or assault? Did you find yourself wondering, even a little bit, why they were victimized repeatedly? Or maybe it’s you — you have been hurt by many, like I was. You can’t figure out why you were singled out, even if you’d rather it have been you and not, say, a sibling or friend.
In the last year, I’ve received different pieces of advice concerning the work I am doing here. Many say that if I specialize and bring the focus in tighter on one subject, like domestic violence, the site will grow. As it is, they say, it’s too broad.
At first, I really considered what they were saying. But then this snippet of pretend conversation popped into my head:
“Sorry, you can’t assault/abuse/hurt me because someone else already assaulted/abused/hurt me before you got here.”
“Oh, I didn’t know. My apologies. Moving along now.”
Kinda silly, right? If you’ve been hurt once, no one else can hurt you. That almost sounds like a dream. But the fact is, many get victimized over and over. Many factors come into play as to how this happens (age, the level of the assault, etc.), but it does indeed happen. I am a victim of many different types of abuse, all culminating in what I can only term “a painful past.” I don’t specialize in one topic because my pain didn’t come from one place in one way. I was built from a foundation of hurt.
Let me tell you what I do specialize in. I specialize in healing, in taking back what was taken, in tearing down the walls built of lies and rebuilding from truth and strength and love. I specialize in holding my hand out for someone else, whether his or her pain is from one experience or many.
So many of us carry around a million pieces of pain that we’re trying to let go of, and the load is heavy. I don’t have easy answers for setting it down, but I do know that each day forward is another day of trying to heal. There’s no deadline to get there, to get as close to healed as we can get, but we’re trying — I’m trying.
My goal here isn’t always clear because I’m still trudging through mud. I’m in the shallow end, but it’s still a mud pit all the same. Every once in a while, it sucks me back in deeper and I cry and feel all the pains from long ago. But each step forward eases that pain a little more each time. And maybe just by sharing, just by saying I don’t know how to do this completely because I’m still learning, we can keep growing together and help others avoid becoming victims in the first place.
This month, I WILL focus on domestic violence, since it is once again Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and I will share pieces of my story and where DV weaves its way through the rest of my life. But it won’t look like one steady focus because so much leads to so many other pieces. As always, I invite you on this journey. Read, share, comment, or just nod silently. I know you’re there.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
People who hurt others — who hit, who touch, who yell, who control — we know they are liars. They lie and act and put on a show that they are regular, kind people. But we know they lie.
Someone once said to me, “There’s nothing I can do to help my sister. All she does is lie to me. I’m tired of it.”
There’s something you need to understand about victims and lying. Victims often lie for several reasons. First, it’s a defense mechanism against their abuser. We learn to say the right things, even when we have to lie. Whatever it takes to appease the abuser. Sometimes it’s something ridiculous, like what might have happened to the last glass of tea (“I didn’t drink it. It went sour. I wanted to make some fresh for you.”), and sometimes it’s more extreme, like saying you didn’t see a family member that the abuser has told you not to see.
Lying helps victims stay out of harm’s way, and yes, it sometimes backfires, but what typically happens is, the victim becomes a better liar.
Secondly, victims lie to the outside world for many reasons. Perhaps the abuser makes the victim do so, or maybe the victim doesn’t want anyone to know he or she is being hurt, or even that his or her decision to be with that person has turned out to be a bad decision.
Victims will also lie because it helps with coping. If things don’t sound as bad as they are when talked about, the victim can convince him or herself that everything isn’t that bad.
When stuck in a life of abuse, with seemingly no way out, victims will do whatever it takes to survive. That means a lot of lying.
[Tweet “When stuck in a life of abuse, victims will do whatever it takes to survive.”]
If they want out, you think, why don’t they just tell you the truth?
If it were that simple, they would. But victims fear their abusers. Abusers make threats that they often follow through with. The victims know this.
I was once arrested for my ex-husband and still kept my lips zipped and denied – and lied! – to the police officers because they didn’t have him in custody. And even if they had caught him, I knew he’d get out one day and know I spoke up. I’d be in trouble.
Fear keeps victims silent, and when victims aren’t silent, they are possibly lying. To maintain self. To keep their dignity. To survive.
It’s not about you. Don’t stop wanting to be there for them. Don’t let what you know is a lie stop you from being the person they can turn to, even if all they share is one big lie. When they’re ready, you’ll be there to hear the truth.
Go ahead –
Punch the air
Kick the wind
Do not –
Pretend it doesn’t matter
That it wasn’t THAT bad
That you are just fine
Stuff it down
You are –
Know who you are.
Know you were hurt.
Know that you didn’t deserve it.
Know that you should get it out.
Know you can heal.
Know it gets better from here.
Know you are not alone.
“I would never let anyone put their hands on me like that!”
The young lady sat on the front row of her school gym, her arms crossed over her chest. The look on her face told me she meant what she said. She, along with a hundred or so of her classmates, had just listened to an hour-long condensed telling of my story about being a teen mom and survivor of domestic violence.
“I hope not,” I said. “I hope you never meet someone who wants to hurt you, but if you do, I hope you can see it and walk away. I pray for that.”
And yet, what I know is, I also said I’d never…
Teenagers are often easy targets for those looking for someone to control. If they come from a background of abuse, that increases their chances of finding themselves in a whole new abusive situation. Often, they are looking for someone to take care of them — like I was — or someone who will tell them what they want and need to hear, even if they later learn it was all part of the grooming stage.
I was 13 when I met my ex-husband. I believed everything he said. Maybe he believed everything he said too (he came from his own cycle of abuse). I knew he meant it when he said he’d take care of me. I was flattered when he threw away my too-short skirts and when he threatened to hurt anyone who looked at me. I giggled when he said the words that later became a threat: “You are mine.”
All I wanted was for him to love me. I wanted to get away from the abuse at home. I craved his attention, his words, his everything. I was already a broken girl. I thought he could fix me.
[Tweet “I was already a broken girl. I thought he could fix me. #teendatingviolence”]
I wanted more than anything just to be happy.
I had no idea how much worse my life would get. As a young teen, I didn’t know what to look for. But now I do.
And now so do you.
Watch over the young women in your lives. Watch over the young men. Broken teenagers are prime targets. Protect them, love them, don’t let them get hurt. If you see it, step in.
NATIONAL TEEN DATING VIOLENCE PREVENTION INITIATIVE
Teen dating violence runs across race, gender, and socioeconomic lines. Both males and females are victims, but boys and girls are abusive in different ways:
Dear Former Self,
You’re going to go through some pretty ugly stuff in life. From the time you’re conceived, you will not know to whom you belong (father-wise). The man you think is your father will turn out not to be, and he will hurt you physically and mentally, and you will wonder what you could have possibly done to deserve it. You are just a wee child. You don’t deserve any of it.
There will be times with your mom that you won’t understand. Why is she acting like that? How can she say that? WHY does she DO that? You will fantasize that you are adopted, even kidnapped from your real mom. Just know that while she doesn’t change, you do. You will tune it out the best way you can, escaping to the fictional world. And you will decide that you will be a different kind of mother one day.
One day comes too soon when you meet him, the boy who will become your first husband. He will woo you and treat you with all the love you are sure you do deserve. But your desperation to feel loved will cause you to ignore other things, hurtful things, and one day you will get pregnant and it will be too late to get away. You will spend years feeling scared and trapped and like a failure.
By the time you’re 22, all of this past pain will come to an end. At least, that’s how it will appear. But the truth is, it will stick with you for much longer. The physical pains may be over, but the mental and emotional hurting will go on. You will try to bury it, to push it down, but it won’t stay down. It comes back again and again until you deal with it.
But here’s the thing: You WILL deal with it. You will take it out, mull it over, flesh it out, close it, open it, shove it, kick it, hug it and hold it. You will deal with it and you will be stronger than you ever have been before. You are not the person you were. You never deserved to be hurt. You are beautiful and wonderful and amazing. You are kind and giving and you don’t ever try to hurt people the way you’ve been hurt. You have come out of that mess doing all right for yourself. Your life NOW is beautiful. And I’m sorry you had to go through all that hurt to get to today, but here you are, a strong and beautiful person.
I’m proud of you. I love you.
Your Present Self
Onward. Sometimes a goal isn’t met, but ultimately, it was never about how far I could go. It’s always been about the journey. And so, it continues. See the video for more information and thoughts. Video is 5 minutes.
To the untrained eye, I appear to be obsessed with walking. Neighbors notice me take off several times each day now, versus the previous once, maybe twice a day. It’s December 3 and I still have over 200 miles to go before the year ends. Some have suggested that I should give myself a break, and I’ve entertained that idea. So what if I don’t make it to 1,000 after all. So what if the goal isn’t met. The journey has been what’s really important.
That’s true. So very true.
But it’s not enough. Almost doesn’t cut it here, not this time. I can accept and move on from many things without reaching my original goal. “Close enough” often satisfies me. But not this time.
This means something to me. Something huge. I knew it would be hard. I knew I was biting off a tad more than I could chew. I knew life is busy and some days I would feel too horrible to even say the word “walk.” And yet, I pushed on. I knew I fell behind months ago. And yet, I pushed on. I know as I stare down just 29 walking days left that I COULD fail. And yet, I push on.
If I don’t make it, the world will not end.
If I don’t make it, I’ll get over the disappointment.
If I don’t make it, I’ll keep going.
But the question really isn’t, “What if you don’t make it?”
The question is: “What if you DO?”
That’s what drives me. The very idea that each mile means something, and reaching 1,000 in the year I set to do so opens the door to more conversation.
“You walked 1,000 miles in one year? Why?”
Yes, let’s talk about that!
Recently, someone reached out to me to give me an update. I walked for her daughter in the summer, and she wanted me to know how much better things were. My heart swelled with this news, not because I think my walking changed her life but rather because this girl’s mother wasn’t alone. She and I made a connection, even if ever so briefly, while she is on a journey. For just a little bit of time, I was walking with her, not just for her daughter. That means everything to me. Everything.
I will reach 1,000 by the end of the year. It seems impossible and crazy. But I kind of thrive on impossible and crazy ideas. And surviving and healing from a painful, abusive present or past can seem impossible, but I know that too can happen. So, onward.
We can do hard things!
If someone walked right up to you and punched you in the face, you probably wouldn’t like them very much. But an abuser usually isn’t that obvious. (Video is approximately 6 minutes.)
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