I have been out of my abusive relationship for ten years. It is difficult to put into words what the six years of abuse did to hurt my self-worth. It has literally impacted my life in every way. For many years after, I held onto shame, and a large part of me still felt responsible for the abuse.
The emotional and psychological toll it took on me was devastating. I tried to pretend it away by simply not talking about it. Everyone told me I was strong for all that I had been through, and to the outside world, it appeared that way.
About a year after the abuse, I spent ten days in the hospital for a suicide attempt. Clearly, in my heart, there was so much more going on. I turned to alcohol at one point to mask the pain, and I dated a lot of men. I also attempted to attend church to help me heal. However, deep inside, I had a pain that I was so scared to touch because if I did, I was afraid that I would not be able to control all the hurt that was sure to surface.
A Chance to Heal
After many struggles in my relationships, with partners and with my children, I decided it was time to face my demons and to try to love myself again. At first, I focused on respecting myself and not settling in my relationships by being honest and open about my feelings. If a man could not love me with all my scars, he was not worth my time, and that began my healing process.
I attracted a man in my life that loved me the right way, unselfishly, and my heart started to heal. However, the actual deep healing began when I came across Break The Silence Against Domestic Violence (BTSADV). It started when I followed a story about a young woman who had been stabbed multiple times and lived. I was so impressed with her message of forgiveness and courage; I sent her a message to tell her a little about my story. The next thing I knew, I received a message from BTSADV about attending a women’s retreat in San Diego.
I began following the BTSADV page on Facebook. It helped me find the courage to tell my story in its entirety to this organization that encourages survivors to do so in an effort to heal. This was the first time I had shared my story in all of these years. When I did, I began to reach those places in my heart that needed to heal. It was like an antibiotic that was placed on my open wound, and this was the exact medicine I needed. I was shaking the first time I shared my story, but I knew I needed to, and I was ready.
I attended a BTSADV Survivor’s Retreat in San Diego in May 2014 that literally changed my life. I was surrounded by women all over the country that had stories just like mine. I will never forget what it felt like for the first time to be around others who understood me and did not blame me for the abuse. Instead, they loved me and did not judge me. It was the first time that I understood that I was not alone. We openly talked about our experiences and cried cleansing tears together. It felt like a piece of heaven had comforted my shattered heart.
Healing by Fire
Our final night together was the most amazing experience I have ever had. We wrote letters to our abusers and share them in a small group as a way to rid ourselves of the feelings we harbored. It was a way to let it go and move forward. I sobbed as I read my letter; shortly after, we wrinkled our letters in a ball and walked them to a fire as a symbol of starting anew. As we stood around the fire, we threw our letters in the flames one by one, and we dedicated them to the people who have been killed at the hands of Domestic Violence. This hit home because it could have been my children or me.
Standing around that fire, I have never felt such a feeling of peace and love as I did at that moment. We listened to the beautiful music of Angel Will Soar, and I believe angels were there because I cannot put into words what happened to my heart at that moment. It was so profound and beautiful. It was like the layers of sadness were removed from my soul. I could soar again, fly and be free from the shackles of shame that held me for so long! At that moment, I knew my life would be transformed.
From Survivor to Advocate
I decided to dedicate my time and use my story to help others that may be suffering break free like me and learn to fly again! Until there is no breath left in me, I will use my voice for change!
Thank you, BTSADV, for helping me get my voice back! I love this organization more than I can begin to express, and I will advocate with BTSADV for change to educate and offer assistance to anyone who may be in need. Perhaps I might help save their life or heal their soul just like mine is. I am finally coming back around to the girl I was before the abuse, only so much stronger, with more empathy and compassion. It is the refiner’s fire, and I made it through!
I believe I found my purpose! BTSADV is a sisterhood, and I belong to that Sisterhood! The love I have for this organization, I will never be able to repay, but now I will pay it forward and extend it to the next person and hold their hand and help them up.