Suffer In Silence

I’ve always hated crying. I think mostly, it’s because I don’t like feeling emotionally vulnerable. I have always liked to be the strong, tough girl.

It started back when I was 12, when my mom was first diagnosed with terminal cancer. At such a young age I was dealing with an incredible amount of sadness, grief, and fear. Those strong and overwhelming emotions were more than my little heart could handle at times.

So, I started to internalize things, and try to just silently suffer through it.

Mostly, I think I wanted to be strong for those around me who were also struggling; especially my mom. I felt like if I could be strong and not cry or show my fear, that maybe I could help her be stronger through it all too. I also wanted to be a strength for my twin sister, and my dad too.

It’s so interesting to me now, looking back, at how much that habit of internalizing my emotions has affected my life. Because it became somewhat of a toxic habit to silently suffer, and never ask for help or never let people in when I was hurting.

But, it wasn’t until I went to college that I realized how dangerous silent suffering could really be.

The Moment That Changed It All

I have briefly written about what happened to me when I was 18 before, here, but I wanted to bring it up again in this post for a specific reason. It’s difficult to do so, but I have felt very inspired to share my story in the hopes that I can help others who are going through something similar, or who might in the future.

As a freshman at Utah State University, located in the gorgeous mountains of Cache Valley, I was eager for what my future held for me. College is supposed to be fun, new, and exciting; and my 2 years spent in Logan definitely were all of the above.

However, there was one event that literally changed my life forever. Even now as I start to type it out my palms sweat, and I feel anxiety rising in my chest. I will never, ever forget those few moments. This moment literally poisoned my time in Logan with this thick, choking darkness that in the end forced me to move away and never return.

I made many friends in Logan, including athletes on various sports teams for the school. As an athlete in high school, and a lover of sports in general, I loved being around anyone else who shared my passion for sports.

One friend in particular was a hockey player, a very popular and friendly one at that. He had friends throughout the campus, especially since that year the hockey team was playing particularly well and the student body enjoyed going to the USU Men’s Hockey games.

We would talk often, and I trusted him. He was funny, charming, attractive, and an all around nice guy.

Spring break came around that year, and my sister and I and a few of our closest girl friends decided to borrow a mini-van and go on a fun road trip through Las Vegas, and then to Huntington Beach in California.

After spending a few sunny days on the beach it was time to return back to Utah, but our friend (Mr. Hockey Player) offered us a place to stay outside of Las Vegas on our way home at his parent’s house. We went with him to a local house party with his friends, and it was there that he told us he would not be returning to USU because he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer and was starting treatments soon, starting with surgery the next morning.

We were all upset for our friend. We ended up going back to his house early, while he stayed out on his self-claimed “last night of fun” before the cancer treatments. We went to sleep in the living room, but I was woken up around 3 in the morning by him when he came home. He asked if I would come talk to him for awhile because he was nervous and scared about everything, and I of course agreed, because he was my friend.

It was very clear he was intoxicated, because he was stumbling up the stairs to his bedroom. Still, I felt no danger and followed him. I was worried for my friend and wanted to talk to him and help him through whatever he was dealing with. As I walked into the room and turned to say something to him he came at me from the door he had just locked behind him, and pushed me forcefully onto the bed.

He was normally not aggressive in this way, and I was beginning to feel panicked. He was very drunk, and much larger than me, and I was starting to worry about being able to get out of the room. He kept saying things like “This is my last night, I want to enjoy it”. He was also becoming more and more physical, not allowing me off the bed, and when I started to push back against him to get up he eventually held me down by digging his elbow heavily onto my chest, while holding my my hands down above my head with his other hand.

Many times I begged him to let me leave, telling him we could talk in the morning when he wasn’t drunk. When my pleas went unanswered, I started physically trying to fight him back. The more I pushed and started to fight him, the harder he held me down. He tried to kiss me and I bit him as hard as I could. It made him angry, and more aggressive. I started to think he was literally going to suffocate me because I felt like I couldn’t breathe anymore. I tried to scream out but since my chest was being pressed upon so forcefully I couldn’t get more than a whisper out.

And then just like a scene in a horror movie, that you never think will actually happen to you, he quickly ripped down my sweat pants, held down my hands again, and proceeded to rape me. Everything hurt, my entire body was tensed in my fight-or-flight situation, and I prayed to pass out at one point from not being able to breathe so I wouldn’t have to consciously remember what was happening. I was living a real nightmare, pure hell that I would never wish upon anyone.

In one last effort to fight back I was able to slide my right leg up just enough that I could knee him as hard as I could in his stomach. It shocked him just enough that he let up on my hands and I threw a right hook across his face and then kicked both of my feet into his chest and pushed him off of me. Due to how drunk he was he lost his balance and stumbled back across the room.

I had no time, I quickly jumped up from the bed, pulling my sweats up from my ankles as I ran down the hall. I found a bathroom downstairs by where all the other girls were asleep, I locked the door, and shook violently on the floor fearing he would come after me and drag me back upstairs. I also feared he would harm the girls sleeping just on the other side of the wall.

After what felt like an eternity, I hoped he had passed out upstairs when I hadn’t heard anything. That’s when I threw up twice. Afterwards I tried to pee and was horrified with how much blood there was everywhere down there and in the toilet. I laid in a ball on the floor and cried. I was still worried about making any noise, so I tried my best to cry quietly. I wanted to scream and let it out but I couldn’t.

I finally emerged from the bathroom some time later, I’m not sure how much time had passed, but I could see the sunlight starting to come through the windows in the living room. I checked on my sister and the other girls, and they were all safely still sleeping there. No signs of my attacker.

In a delusional haze, I laid back down next to my sister, and I remember snuggling up really close to her. I wished I could wake her up but I didn’t know what to do. I never fell asleep I just laid there up against her, shaking and fearing he would come down any minute.

Eventually everyone woke up, and thankfully we had planned to just get up and leave. Some of the girls went to say goodbye to our host, but I of course did not and immediately climbed into the van to hide.

I know my sister knew something was wrong, but she didn’t ask me on the ride home. I was quiet, and tried to sleep through most of it. At one point when we stopped at a rest area I noticed there was blood on the front of my sweats. I felt nauseous, and it all felt like some awful dream.

The Aftermath

I hoped it would all just disappear. I did tell my sister what had happened when we got home, but I decided since he was not returning to school because of his cancer, that I could just brush it under the rug and forget about it all.

I stayed silent and told no one besides my sister; I was afraid to tell my parents because I didn’t want to hurt them. I was afraid to tell my church leaders because I worried about being blamed for what happened, or getting in trouble with violating the chastity laws I was supposed to abide by. Because of the fear and the shame I stayed silent.

But, as cruel fate would have it, the following fall semester my attacker did return to Logan. I didn’t know he was returning until I literally ran into him on campus. It had been almost 6 months, but seeing him face-to-face brought me immediately back to that horrible night.

I panicked and ran from him, not knowing else what to do. I thought maybe I could just avoid him, but unfortunately for me that would not be easy since we had a lot of the same friends. He texted me and asked why I ran from him, and wanted to hang out. I just ignored him and hoped he would stop.

He didn’t stop though. He persisted on bothering me, sending me texts, calling, and eventually ran me down on campus about a week later. I asked him as bravely as I could to leave me alone, that I wanted nothing to do with him. He asked me why and I didn’t want to answer, but when he kept following me and asking I finally snapped and said something along the lines of, “Do you really need me to tell you why? You should know why.”

With a confused look on his face he said, “Why, because you’re embarrassed we had sex?” It was like a knife was stabbed through me when those words came out of his mouth; so nonchalantly, so casually, as if that night had not been the nightmare I had been replaying in my mind since.

“We didn’t have sex… You raped me.” 

When I said that, something visibly changed in his stance, and he responded with;

“Yeah? Well no one will believe you, because

I’m an athlete and you’re a nobody.”

I walked away, shaken to my very core. I hadn’t been planning on reporting what had happened, but I thought maybe I should. I was worried he would come attack me again, or start spreading the rumor that we had consensual sex. I talked to my sister about it all, and to a few of our roommates. Somehow, a friend of a friend of a friend (who was not my biggest fan) heard my side of the story and decided to tell the hockey player.

That’s when versions of my nightmare story spread across campus, and that’s when I became the center of a witch hunt. Because this guy, this popular athlete who played on the hockey team with the winning season record, had so much support around campus, and according to him I was a “nobody”. So who would care what this nobody says? This girl accusing one of their favorite athletes of something so horrific, so terrible?

To make a long story short, the rest of that year I was bullied almost every day on campus and on my phone by friends of his. I was called a liar, I was called a slut, I was blamed for it happening – people said I wanted it and I asked for it. I even heard a rumor that I actually took advantage of him, because he was drunk and I wasn’t.

To say this was a living hell is an absolute understatement. I feared for my safety anytime I left my house to go to class, which became the only time I ever really left towards the end of the year. I was so belittled and so beaten down that I remained silent and I never came forward and reported the rape. He got away with it, while I eventually decided my only option was to move out of Logan, Utah and start over new somewhere else.

I was bullied and shamed into silence. 

Silent No More

I refuse to ever remain silent again. I was silenced for so long, and now I want to share my story in hopes that someone else out there will find the courage to not be silenced. I hope someone else out there who is reading this will find the strength to report their rape, to turn in their sexual abuser, or to tell someone about the person who is sexually harassing or assaulting them.

Silence actually has noise; it is filled with grief, pain, despair, loneliness, and everything hurtful that can be imagined. It’s filled with voices wanting to be heard, women and men who are being abused and mistreated who want to scream out for justice for what’s happened to them, and stories of people who just want to feel safe again.

When we succumb to the silence we allow the rape culture that has taken over our world to win, to continue to enable this toxic and corrosive way of living.

So I am refusing to ever be silent again.

This is why I became involved with The Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake City.

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It’s a wonderful sanctuary where anyone can go to receive help if they’ve been assaulted or raped – there is a 24/7 hospital team that accompany anyone.

There’s also a 24/7 crisis hotline with trained volunteers on the line waiting to help anyone who calls in. The number is:

801.467.7273

You can also speak to advocates at the office. Professionally trained advocates offer information and support to survivors as they navigate the impact of sexual violence on their daily lives.

Trauma therapists are also on-site offering help to survivors to address the long-term impact of post-traumatic stress on their health and wellbeing.

Survivors can also join in on a variety of group services, to help one another through the healing journey together.

This coming Friday (June 8th 2018) is the center’s annual Hope & Healing Gala, which I have been helping to organize the silent auction. All the proceeds go towards the services I have mentioned – it all goes towards helping survivors heal from the traumas they have been through.

If you would like more information about The Hope & Healing Gala, or The Rape Recovery Center please feel free to email me! aly.paintedwithgold@gmail.com

I am also here for anyone who needs help navigating their way through their own hellish nightmare like mine. I am here to help anyone I can, in any way that I can!

Breaking the Rape Culture

While my attacker will never be charged with what he did to me, I hope other survivors out there will be able to bring theirs to justice.

Once we as a society start making changes, then maybe the sickening amount of sexual assaults and attacks will diminish.

  • We need to hold the attackers accountable for their actions. No more victim blaming or shaming.
  • The trivialization of sexual assault needs to stop. No more of the excuse that “boys will be boys” that so often gets thrown around.
  • Too long have we become tolerant of sexual harassment. Why is it ok to treat anyone in such an abusive and demeaning way?
  • No more scrutinizing the way a victim dresses, blaming that for why they were raped. “She was asking for it, look at the way she was dressed.” It’s total BS. (I was wearing sweats and a t-shirt the night I was raped, definitely was not ‘asking for it.’)
  • Society in general needs to take rape accusations more seriously. So many times I have heard, “Oh, she probably made a mistake and slept with the guy and is trying to cover it up by lying that he raped her.”
  • Why do we continue to teach women how to not be raped? There are self defense classes offered everywhere. How about instead, we start teaching people TO NOT RAPE OTHER PEOPLE?

My list could go on and on.

Can’t Silence a Survivor

The #metoo movement was an incredible step towards preventing sexual violence, but it was not the reason why so many people have started to step forward. It gave survivors, like me, the strength and courage to finally feel brave enough to say something – because for once we felt like we had enough support on our side to do so.

That’s part of the problem too – so many people criticized the women coming forward with past assault and rape claims when the #metoo movement went viral online. Doesn’t that seem odd to anyone else? Instead of criticizing the people coming forward, maybe take a step back and see how horrifying it is at the sheer amount of people that have been silent for so long until now, afraid to come forward? That should be criticized.

Feeling that I have support from others, and knowing that someone else out there might also find courage to say something too – that’s why I chose to speak out now and break my own silence publicly.

I speak out for me, a survivor, and I speak out for anyone else who has also survived sexual assault and/or sexual violence.

If enough of us speak out, the silence of the survivors will become the loudest voice out there.

So speak out, find your support, report what’s happened to you, and start the healing process to let go of it all.

I continue to make progress towards never silently suffering again, and I invite all of you out there who read my words to do the same. You do not ever have to suffer alone again, in the toxic silence of sexual violence. Share your story, raise your voice, and be heard.

“You’re not a victim for sharing your story. You are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth, and raging courage.” – Alex Elle

 

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Photography: Troy Kolterman MUA: Julie Artistry 

 

Together, We Climb

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for quite sometime, and I have been going back and forth in my mind about it; what I should even say, or if I should even share it.

I must say, I am so humbled when I see that anyone even reads what I write on here. Mostly, I write for myself, for therapeutic release. But, learning that someone out there may get something significant from what I write down, continues to inspire me to share my thoughts and feelings.

So, here I go into another very deep and personal post; and I’m hoping maybe someone out there who is struggling with the same thoughts or feelings can find some sort of peace or strength through my words as I have through others’.

The Pit

Slowly, but consistently, I was pushed further and further down towards the bottom of a dark pit; one where I felt transparent and like I was nothing.

It all started when I was raped my freshman year of college by a friend. I explained all of this in this post  here so I won’t rehash those details; but that’s when my descent into the pit began. I can only speak for myself about how I felt after what happened, but I think anyone who has also gone through that sort of trauma can relate to my struggle with feeling confused, scared, broken apart, and lost.

After months and weeks of agonizing over the guilt and shame I felt, being told it was my fault and I was at blame, my spirit was weakened and I felt like I lost my worth. I felt like a car that had been driven off the lot, and immediately lost a significant amount of value.

In the years since, I have consistently noticed that I was falling into a pattern of trying to feel self-worth or validation through men. Society manipulates us into thinking we as women are nothing without the attention or endorsement of men. This goes back to my recent post about being whole and happy on your own, and not needing to rely on someone else to complete you. But to me, I was trying to fill in those cracks and open wounds that I had sustained with nothing more than water; which eventually evaporates.

Following my destructive cycle of finding myself attracted to abusive men, I was in a major relationship with a controlling narcissist in my early 20’s, and then of course fell into the false arms of my ex-husband. The path that led me there of course was well lit with the best of gas lamps and empty words.

Breaking an Elephant’s Spirit

I watched this horrifying video yesterday, about the abuse elephants endure to be used as tourist attractions for rides in Thailand. They are stolen from their mother’s as small babies, never to see them again. For the majority of the rest of their life they are isolated, abused, beaten, shackled in chains, and starved. All to be ridden by tourists.

The video showed how stressed out, heart broken, and alone they become. There was footage of a young elephant swaying back and forth, almost as if it was dancing. But, really, the baby was showing signs of incredible anxiety and stress from being alone, and especially being mistreated. It also showed an adult elephant reaching it’s trunk back and holding it’s own tail for comfort. That image literally made be burst into tears. These animals are such family oriented and social creatures, and they are literally being beaten and reduced to nothing. The video at one point described it as literally breaking the spirit of these elephants. (So please… do your research before you go to a country where you can ride elephants, or spend time with any wild creatures. 99.99% of the time they are being cruelly mistreated and severely beaten!)

I could relate in a way to those elephants, because my spirit too was completely broken from what I had endured from my own abusive life.

Among many things, I was told I was never good enough constantly, in any aspect: he thought breasts were too small, he often commented on how he hated the way I dressed and did my hair, he criticized my dreams and told me I would never succeed, he tore down my religious beliefs, he talked down to me and called me every horrible word and name under the sun, he called me stupid and spoke to me like I was inferior, and at one point he even told me I deserved and probably even asked to be raped when I was younger.

To say my spirit was broken, was an understatement. There I lay after escaping my marriage at the bottom of the dark, and lonely pit of absolute worthlessness.

Worthless

Among my constant unwanted companions of fear and depression in those first few months after my divorce, I have also consistently received unwanted visits from the darkest of them all, worthlessness; who in fact unpacked their bags as soon as they arrived and seemed to have no plans to leave anytime soon.

Almost every day, they poke me in the back of my mind and remind me, “Hey, remember how worthless you are? K, cool, just checking.”

I was contemplating feeling worthless again last night in fact, when all those familiar painful memories resurfaced like emotional vomit burning in my throat. Then, as I scrolled through social media to try and fall asleep I came across the video that had been posted of Oprah’s acceptance speech at last night’s Golden Globe Awards.

If you haven’t watched it, do yourself a favor and take the time to do so now. You can click here to watch.

Not only is Oprah the first black woman to win the prestigious Cecil B. de Mille award, but she gave one of the most inspirational and powerful speeches, to go along with her incredible achievement.

Last night everyone wore black to support and continue to raise awareness for the #metoo campaign that has been quickly rising with powerful force over the last few months around the world. Oprah reenforced this movement with her own words, all of which struck deeply inside my healing heart.

She spoke of Recy Taylor, a woman who was brutally abducted and raped in 1944, and whose abusers were never prosecuted.

She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.

Their time is up. And I just hope — I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on.

And she went on to finish with this powerful quote:

In my career, what I’ve always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave. To say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere and how we overcome. I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights. So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “Me too” again.

As I finished the video, and the tears rolled down my face, I was shaken with a strange new sense of strength and an urgency to make a change. Not just in my own life and perspective, but in the lives of others who are also victims, who also may feel worthless and lay at the bottom of their own despairing pits.

Together, We Climb

I know that in reality I am not worthless. But, feeling so victimized and beaten down for so long, it is difficult to shake such an unwanted emotional companion. But I am not worthless.

I am worth everything. I am the strong and resilient woman that my parents raised. I am worth fighting for; pushing against the dark tides that abuse and harassment of every kind carry in to drown us. And I am worthy to feel my worth; I will no longer let anything keep me down again. Because I am worth everything.

I have been progressing forward towards a new hope, and this new day as Oprah said. Or, should I say, I am progressing upward. I will rise from the ashes of the rock bottom of this pit and I will never return to it.

And this climb is one that many of us are making, many of which you probably have no idea. When the #metoo campaign first started across social media, I was completely heartbroken to see just how many people close to me posted about it, and I had no idea they were also victims of some sort of harassment, rape, or abuse.

Whatever it is that has led you to this overwhelming feeling of not being good enough, worthless, or carrying the heavy burden of shame or guilt for something that was not your fault; know that you are not alone anymore and that the climb is easier with another set of hands and feet helping you find your own footholds up and out. You are never, ever, alone.

I am excited and humbled to be able to help with a cause so near and dear to me in the next few months; my sister and I are helping with the upcoming Hope and Healing Gala for Salt Lake’s Rape Recovery Center. I want to help others, others who I have been where they are and have felt what they are feeling. If nothing else comes out of my own pain and suffering besides me being able to empathize and help someone else climb out of their own pit, then I am grateful to have endured it.

Again, in the words of Oprah, the time to live in the dark shroud of a world powered by manipulation, abuse, and harassment is up. And my old frenemy worthlessness? You are no longer welcome around these parts.

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Me… Before You.

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Lately it has become physically apparent to me that I have not been taking care of myself like I should.

I started to feel super fatigued, but it was more than just feeling ‘tired’ or needing a nap or something. I would get 8 hours of sleep and feel completely unable to get out of bed the next morning, literally feeling like my limbs weighed a billion pounds each. There was one morning I physically had to use my fingers to open my eyelids. It was a joke!

I would also be overwhelmed with headaches constantly, sometimes turning into horrific migraines that would leave me suffering in a dark room, writing in pain that was seemingly in-relievable. (You ever feel like your eyes are going to explode? Yeah… it was something like that.)

I had no energy, and was feeling “foggy” all the time; having a hard time remembering words or even recognizing people when I ran into them! I literally ran into my friend who I see all the time at Target and had no idea who they were for a good solid 20 seconds, and then I felt sooo stupid afterwards! He must have thought I was high on drugs or something!

I started to worry about what was going on, because this was more than just being tired. I was feeling desperate for answers and relief.

And apparently I watch waaaaay too much Grey’s Anatomy, and I was beyond convinced I had a brain tumor like Izzie did. (Except I wished I was seeing visions of Denny along with the headaches.. because Jeffrey Dean Morgan is sooo sexy! ha)

My first step in finding answered started with talking to my old fertility doctor, who had diagnosed me 2 years earlier with PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) because I thought maybe my symptoms were possibly related to that. Extreme fatigue can be a major side-effect of the disease, and she suggested trying to eat a plant based or completely vegan diet to help alleviate some of the fatigue. I read up on this here.

I tried eating vegan for about 3 weeks, and while there were certain aspects of my life that seemed to change in a positive way (apparently I am a little sensitive to dairy and I hadn’t realized…) I was not feeling any noticeable relief when it came to my fatigue or my headaches.

My next step in my plan was to get some blood-work done through my general doctor, thinking maybe I could have a thyroid issue, mono (I thought only teenagers got this?!), or maybe even something crazy like African Sleeping Sickness (because let’s be honest, we all do some searching on WebMD and think we have cancer or some super rare disease that only happens in Africa..)

My blood panels came back 3 days later and looked completely normal, which was great news but also not-so-great news, because I still had no answers. I literally broke down in tears on the phone because I was so frustrated! The nurse probably thought I was crazy.

I expressed my concerns and frustrations, with less tears, to my doctor and she suggested we do a blood cortisol test, which could test for something called adrenal fatigue. I had researched a bit about this preciously in all of my scrolling on the internet about my possibly sicknesses, and it seemed like it could be the answer.

Then, upon a meeting a week later, she was right. I did indeed have adrenal fatigue.

The relief of just knowing what was wrong helped me so much, because now I knew I could start battling the symptoms and work towards feeling better.

If you’ve never heard of adrenal fatigue, basically your adrenal glands produce a number of hormones including cortisol, which helps your body deal with stress. When you are under immense amounts of stress or go through a traumatic event, or even if you work out too intensely for a long period of time, you can deplete your adrenal glands’s ability to function properly and end up feeling fatigued.

The overwhelming fatigue has been sooo incredibly difficult to deal with and push through. But let’s shout loudly Hallelujah and praise the heavens that I finally had an answer, and it didn’t involve a brain tumor or some crazy illness from a fly bite in Africa!

To start treating the symptoms and the healing process, my doctor prescribed me to check out a number of different adrenal supporting supplements (I am trying this one and this one.) She also suggested continuing to eat a plant based or vegan diet for a few months to try and detox and reset my body, getting lots of rest and mediation, and of course plenty of sleep.

Her final prescription was to go on a vacation. Nope, I’m not making this up!

She literally prescribed me to go on a vacation and get away from everything, and even wrote me a doctor’s note to miss work. Isn’t that the coolest thing you’ve ever heard?? I wish she could write me a note to never work again… *sigh*

Considering all of the emotional trauma and physical abuse I’ve been through, it seems as though all of the repercussions are finally resurfacing and making me sick. She told me if I don’t start taking care of myself, I may literally have a nervous break down. And I mean… ain’t nobody got time for that!

So I took her medical advice and I booked a plane ticket that day to head to southern California with one of my best friends. She was already going for work, and we were so excited to have an adventure together! La Jolla wasn’t even gonna know what hit it!

“Place the oxygen mask on yourself

first before assisting others”

Here’s the thing, though. I hadn’t really been taking care of myself like I should have been. Physical and emotional abuse are very damaging and need to be treated like any other injury. There are things you need to do and can do, that can help your body, heart, and spirit heal.

In my mind I had just pushed it all into the back of the room, and hoped to just move on. I have always tended to internalize my issues, and just never process them. One of my major defense mechanisms is just completely disassociating with the trauma I am dealing with. Or in other words, I totally “check-out” from them.

Clearly, though, this was not working for me at all. I was literally making myself sick. I knew I needed to change how I was dealing with everything, and finally start taking care of myself. I needed to check back in to my issues, and once and for all process them. Yes, in the famous words of Queen Elsa, I needed to “Let it go!”

So last Thursday morning, there I sat on my Delta flight ready to take off for sunny soCal, I thought about the fact that we are instructed to place the oxygen mask on ourselves before helping others. It always seemed a little selfish to me, you know? Like:

“Hang on tiny, helpless human

sitting next to me; I’m gonna go ahead and get some

of that sweet oxygen flow going on me first

and then I’m gonna think about you.”

But that’s not the case! The reason you are told to do it this way is because, according to this article, unconsciousness can happen within a few seconds at those high altitudes without oxygen. So, if you don’t get your mask on and have that oxygen flowing, you might pass out. And if you pass out, you and anyone else relying on you is basically a   goner.

It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. For so long I was stuck in the mentality that I needed to take care of my alcoholic ex before myself, and make him happy and try to help him into recovery. All the while, I was ignoring my own needs and health. So if he and I had been in the plane scenario, he would be alive and I would be dead; which sucks.

You’re Still Only Surviving..

Not Thriving

My weekend in La Jolla was something I definitely needed. My heart needed it, as did my mind and my soul. Even my skin, guys, because I needed some good vitamin D and a little bit of a tan! (Except I always wear sunscreen, and so should all of you!)

I spent a lot of time by the water next to our hotel, La Jolla Cove Suites,  which was right next to this place nicknamed Seal Cove, so named because of the seals that like to congregate there in little nap, snuggle piles that I called “cuddle-puddles.”

The ocean waves are always so peaceful and calming; there’s some healing qualities about their consistent movements as waves come in one after another and curl up and crash against the sandy shores. The sounds, the smell of salt in the air… it was all so transcendent.

And it did just that, it helped me transcend from outside of myself and start to look more clearly at my situation. For too long I have been trapping myself inside this bubble, which I built up around me as a means of safety to protect myself from future harm from all of my trauma.

But, this bubble was actually affecting my inner-healing, and keeping me from leaving everything behind. It’s like when you breathe into a plastic bag, just like all the warning labels say to not do; eventually you’re going to run out of air and suffocate.

Here I am, talking once again about running out of oxygen. But that’s exactly how I have been feeling lately. I needed to breathe in fresh air, and free myself from the things I thought I was letting go by holding them in.

I had a conversation with my friend the morning after I took this picture of this incredible sunset in La Jolla Cove.

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I told her I realized this trip that I have only been surviving still, and not thriving.

My entire marriage, I was in survival mode. I did what I could to survive the day-to-day trauma and abuse. Fake it ’till you make it, as people say. (I’m almost positive those “fakers” are the ones who cry in their cars, thinking no one can see them, when really everyone can and it’s awkward. And, they’re really not fooling anyone.. it’s obvious they’re driving the struggle bus!)

And now, I consider myself a survivor of an abusive relationship, but looking at an outside perspective I am still only surviving from everything, and I am not thriving like I could be.

So how do I switch gears into thrive mode? Here’s what I’ve decided after my little prescribed vacation:

  • Take more trips. See more things. Travel has such a special place in my soul, and I will always crave it. I love new places, exploring, eating new foods, and meeting new people. In order to find those pieces missing from my heart, I know I need to see more of the world.
  • Meditate more. I love yoga. I also love sitting in a quiet place and doing some deep soul searching and thinking. I definitely need to get away from the noise of the world more often; unplug from social media and my phone and just spend some time with myself.
  • Do more things that actually bring me joy. Reading, writing, being in the sunshine, hiking, spending time with people who I love and uplift me, watching the sunset… these are just a few things that make me happy. I need to do them more, and fill my life with more joy.
  • Keep adventuring. I need to keep on with my goal to do things that push me, and scare me even. I need to be spontaneous and say yes more often, and go on as many adventures as I can.
  • Heal. I finally am ready to process everything, and let it go. I need to forgive those who have injured me, and let them go. Holding onto the darkness of the past, is continuing to harm me and hold me back. I am ready to heal, and I’m ready to let myself move forward.

Recovery takes time, and it takes work. It won’t just happen magically. I have to really take the time to do the things I need to, in order to reach that sunny, sandy beach of recovery that I know is waiting.

Have you seen Moana? That was a dumb question, I think we’ve all seen it and are all obsessed.

I read this post today, talking about the scene when Moana confronts the great lava monster Te-Ka. She sings the following words to her:

I have crossed the horizon to find you.
I know your name.
They have stolen the heart from inside you.
But this does not define you.
This is not who you are.
You know who you are.

Just as Kimberly points out, Te-Ka’s past pain does not define her, and it is not who she really is. When she realizes this, the fiery defense dissolves, and she once again becomes her true self, the Goddess Te-Fiti.

Kimberly ends her post with this quote:

You are not defined by your darkest hour. You are greater than what has been stolen from you. It is never too late to heal. It is never too late to make a fresh start. It is never too late to have your heart restored.

– Kimberly Poovey

I will also end mine on that note. I know I am not defined by my painful past, and I am ready to take those steps, and cross whatever horizon I have to, to  restore my heart, and find the pieces of it that have been lost or damaged. What has happened to me does not define me; how I choose to move forward does…

… and I’m ready to put my oxygen mask on first.

 

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