For nearly a month words failed me.
It was as if a light turned off inside of me on December 14, 2012 and for countless reasons I withdrew…I withdrew from myself, my family, friends, social media…and for a while I really felt as if very little mattered.
It was a dark period.
Feelings of hopelessness overtook me I was disparate if not heartbroken…in other words I was lost in the depths of depression. The state of the world and our country consumed me; I wondered where we had arrived and where we were headed. I stewed and stewed. At one point it occurred to me that if I was of childbearing years right now if I would consider having kids. I thought about everything that was wrong…and for a while…I really couldn’t find my way back to what was right. But all along I kept asking the same question everyday…how can I begin to heal from this?
Given I do have children and cleave to a long held belief that in order to heal one must look inward. I began writing…and writing…and writing. And while writing…words failed me over and over again.
Before December 14, 2012 I had invited guests to post a piece about their healing journey on my blog—beautiful personal pieces by Vanessa, Nina and Stephanie were published, and a few posts were waiting their turn in the queue…but inside I couldn’t reconcile continuing with the healing theme without finding my voice amidst the tragedy of Sandy Hook.
Worn down by the darkness, I turned to my own previously published thoughts on healing in an effort to re-ground myself:
“Even the smallest fissure allows light in. Much like an internal beacon, the radiance that drew me out of the darkness that enveloped me began as a twinkle, a nearly imperceptible ray of brightness at the base of my core.”
And there in my own words I found light. I continued to read…
“And when the cloak of darkness slips over my shoulders from time to time—I breathe in—how do I best honor what I am feeling?
Feel it, be with it. Let go of self-deprecation, have patience, dignity—breathe out.
Honoring my myriad emotions helps me to continue the warm embrace I have for the woman I am. The pain leaves me and slowly is replaced with renewed sense of worthiness—what a gift.”
Paying homage to my emotions is a way of honoring the woman I am and in a way that affords me the grace of honoring others too.
Thanks in part to a nudge from my friend Ana Lewis of Women on the Verge finally I was able to write a piece called, Missing, it still does not fully encapsulate all that I think and feel but it was and is a beginning. As a group we spoke about Civility on Blog Talk Radio (scheduled to air on 1/16/13)…again inspired by Ana, and when we hung up, I felt it, that thread of a renewed sense of hope.
Although I remain haunted by the violence in our world, I know I must continue to question and seek answers, the only way to continue is to move forward, to fuel that sense of hope…the hope that is born from healing and sharing. It is imperative that I take action, to find others who also share the notion that our future generations deserve better…
Beginning tomorrow I will once again open my blog up to guest posts about healing, if you are moved to share your own journey with healing, simply comment on this post and I will provide you with the guidelines.
“I want to live where soul meets body and let the sun wrap its arms around me, and bathe my skin in water cool and cleansing, and feel what it’s like to be new.”—Death Cab for Cutie
Life after abuse is possible. Though it has been said that time heals all wounds, that has not been my experience. However accepting myself along with the vicissitudes that emerge from living life completely helps me to feel whole and, in many respects, new.
Wounds leave their indelible marks on our bodies, our psyche, our soul. Some are visible—ridged reminders felt in our touch. Other scars elude the observer. Invisible to the naked eye, they are felt at a visceral level from the inside out.
For me, healed, was not a destination. I never expected to one day feel as if I were the way I was before—to wish that would be the equivalent of denying my past. My own recovery has been ongoing, more of a verb than a noun. In a state of healing, one has the ability to feel complete, despite the scars.
Throughout my journey forgiveness has played an enormous role in my achieving a sense of wholeness—forgiving first myself, and later my abuser for who he was, liberated me to end my victimhood. Before forgiveness I stood on the back of my past abuse as if a martyr: What I had been through no one could understand– All my life choices that dead ended were the fault of my abuser—I could never trust another man because of the abuse I had suffered—the list of defenses was long. I had become a master at self-deception and the stories I told myself were perpetuating pain, anguish, blame and resulted in self-sabotage.
Love begins inside. Until the time where I could truly feel love for the woman I had emerged as, I remained emotionally arrested in a state of perceived worthlessness.
Even the smallest fissure allows light in. Much like an internal beacon, the radiance that drew me out of the darkness that enveloped me began as a twinkle, a nearly imperceptible ray of brightness at the base of my core.
The further I walked from blame and shame the closer I was to home—home within myself, in my own skin, standing on my own feet, wrapped in the love for the woman I saw reflected back at me.
And when the cloak of darkness slips over my shoulders from time to time—I breathe in—how do I best honor what I am feeling?
Feel it, be with it. Let go of self-deprecation, have patience, dignity—breathe out.
Honoring my myriad emotions helps me to continue the warm embrace I have for the woman I am. The pain leaves me and slowly is replaced with renewed sense of worthiness—what a gift.
Healing from trauma is a journey, a journey that in many cases if you are the one in the thick of it, others may become impatient with. It seems to me in our 24/7/365 society that people become uncomfortable when a friend or loved one remains in a place they perceive as “stuck” or “unable to move on.”
But there are no rules of the road when it comes to making ones way down the healing highway, it is individual.
If only there were a list one could check off much like grocery items on a shopping checklist: 120 hours of grief, CHECK. 90 hours devoted to forgiveness, CHECK. 60 hours of therapy, CHECK…and now I am cured and around the corner I see it that wonderful destination called closure.
No, it simply doesn’t work that way and from my own perspective that is okay. Healing isn’t about holding on to the past, it is about safeguarding the future.
Many years ago while in the infancy of my own journey I had an epiphany during which I discovered I was the only one who could truly take the steps to feel whole again. That single realization found me giving myself permission to naviagte at my own tempo. Truly I have come to believe that healing is a verb, it is on-going.
I can’t always predict what may trigger a memory but I do know this, when I pay homage to the emotion, allow it to wash over me, feel it, be with it, I find myself moving through and forward.
An excerpt about healing from my memoir, Tornado Warning:
“New questions skip through my bloodstream like a pebble on still water. Do we really “get over” wrongs that have been done to us? How do we know we are “healed”? The diameter of the the rings grows wider in my blood lake. I can almost see the ripple appear beneath my skin. Maybe “healed” isn’t the objective. What if it is “healing” as in on-going, like the ocean in a constant ebb and flow? the rolling of the waves begins to settle over me, giving way to a more lucid view of the past that has shaped me. It is as if introspection serves as a ceremonial ablution and through that ritual the chokehold of shame is rinsed clean and makes room for me to see that I am not a victim. I am a survivor, but there’s more. I need to thrive, share, prevent. I can no longer stay quiet in this world, I have a voice and I feel it reverberate off my internal walls, making its slow climb upward until its melody can be heard all around.”
I invite you to share what you have discovered about healing, this is a subject I am writing more about and love to hear from others about their own experiences with it.
Even though decades have past since I left Derrick I still remember at a visceral level how alone I felt back then. The one thing I can say without hesitation to anyone suffering in an abusive relationship is this—you are not alone.
Not only are you not alone, you are stronger than you feel.
And guess what…that is exactly what the abuser wants, for you to be disconnected from your strength because when you feel weak…he or she feels strong.
I remember wondering when I would actually feel what I understood.
I understood it wasn’t right to be emotionally, physically and sexually abused—what I felt back then was a sense of worthlessness. I was ashamed, scared and felt very trapped and none of those emotions were empowering. But until the thought of staying grew more frightening then the prospect of leaving I was emotionally paralyzed. *He threatened to kill me, kill my family, kill himself and our dog…all those threats were very real.
Leaving is hard. It hurts. And it will hurt for a while…but there will come a day when it won’t.
Look into your own eyes, center yourself…the fact that you are enduring, surviving and reaching out across the Internet looking for examples of people who have made their way out from the hooks of an abusive relationship is a clear demonstration of strength—your strength.
There are very few things we are entitled to in this life…but your emotional and physical safety? You are entitled to both.
Feel your strength, you are not alone.
The Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
*Make sure you employ a safety plan before leaving an abusive relationship. Although the decision to leave is yours there are resources and people who can help you take those steps with an eye on keeping you safe.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Upon My Devotion
Upon my devotion
you spread your anger with the world
I now suffer
You thought you were safe
or perhaps you thought
I wouldn’t stop kidding myself
Memories well up
your ice-green eyes bulging
your once soft hands twisting,
my body…my mind
Close to three years fear bound me to you
Fear of being alone,
fear of losing
all I had invested in “US”
Close to three years
I was the butt of your anger
-my instinct was first to protect you-
I believed in your promises
My belief has deteriorated
and an even greater fear
has pulled me away
Losing sight of myself
I always put you first
I leave you yes
but that is a far less sacrifice then leaving myself
I am not capable of being responsible for you and me both
This time… I choose me Forever
-Elin Stebbins-age 19