I sat across from a complete stranger. A man. He was looking me straight in the eyes and telling me how amazing I am. Telling me I am strong and beautiful and a warrior. That I have a great mission to accomplish on this earth. My eyes were brimming with tears. I knew I was safe as 50 other couplings were doing the same thing. My job was to listen and not say a word. At the end of his minute, we all stood up and moved down the line to the next person. I looked at the person sitting across from me, and though the room was filled with men and women, again sitting across from me was a man and he began telling me all the good things about me. As that ended, there was a third rotation and even though it was slightly uncomfortable and scary I again sat across from a man with nothing but amazing things to say about me.
And that was part of my healing journey. I was taking a class designed to teach us all how to be trainers. I was on my path to becoming a trainer and speaker so I could teach others and help them overcome their experience with abuse. And I was healing along the way in unexpected ways.
I cannot tell you fully the effect on me it was to sit across from these three strangers, all men who spoke so highly of me. And who were in awe of me. I know it was a gift from God to experience that. The best I can explain it was I could feel the broken and hurt pieces of my heart being stitched together.
Some people tend to think that when a woman is abused she just stands there and takes it. ‘Why doesn’t she just leave’ has been in the media a lot. It’s harder to leave than you might think and for reasons you may not even ever fathom.
There were times as my abuser sat on top of me pinning my 5 foot 10 inch frame to the floor and holding my arms down so I couldn’t move that I would say to him ‘You can’t treat me like this. It’s abuse.’
His reply? ‘No it’s not.’ Many abusers have an invisible line in their heads of what abuse is and isn’t or even what is not okay for others to do, but okay for them to do. His ‘line’? He wasn’t hitting me. But he frightened me and he terrorized me. Day in and day out.
And after living that way for so long, stuck in this world where I felt spider webs were being spun around me in every direction, constantly moving and breathing as if they were alive, where no matter what I did I would be caught, where men were only these forces in my life to be obeyed and to be feared. Where it was safer to conform than to be myself lest I be caught and eaten alive, I developed a fear of men.
I have been blessed to overcome that. And it’s taken some basic steps as well as time and patience and a little bit of work on my part.
1. Write a Note to God
This was the beginning of me healing my relationship with men. I wrote a letter to God. Telling him everything. All my worries and fears, my anger, resentment and bitterness. How I felt toward Him and felt I had been betrayed by Him. I wrote it all.
After pouring my heart out, I got another piece of paper and wrote a letter back to me from God. Words flowed to me and through me and I felt nothing but love, acceptance and understanding from God in return as the words filled the paper.
I forgave my ex, I forgave his entire family. I forgave the person who sexually abused me when I was a little girl. I forgave my family. I forgave my friends. I forgave strangers. I forgave God and I forgave myself and on and on.
Anyone and everyone who had ever done anything big or small to hurt me. I forgave them. And I continue to forgive people as life goes on. This is one of the most freeing experiences of my life.
3. Be Vulnerable
I hate this one. I really do. Alright. Wait. I am learning to be aware of my words and that what I say creates my reality. I have struggled with this one. It’s like I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which actually is probably true and fairly common for people experienced any trauma including domestic violence.
I have had to work at this one. It’s been tough. And oh so worth it. Brene Brown gave an amazing talk on the power of vulnerability and as I have sacrificed the walls of security and safety I created for myself, I have opened up myself and my life to infinite possibilities. To a stronger connection with my son. To an amazing relationship with my boyfriend and to building my business to teach and mentor others to shift from surviving to thriving.