7 Pillars to Healing From Domestic Violence Introduction

7 Pillars HalfI woke up Christmas morning to what was perhaps one of the most horrible days of my life. I could feel the fear coursing through my veins and pumping into my heart, all I wanted was to take my 12 month old back to the shelter where I knew we would be safe. I rolled out of my sisters bed that we had shared that night and checked on my son. I honestly don’t even remember much more of that morning. I’m guessing we opened gifts and ate breakfast, although I do remember there wasn’t much for me or my son. Our Christmas was all wrapped up underneath the tree at my house, the one place I wanted to be the least. I decided to stay at my parents house that night rather than the women’s shelter I had checked in to 3 days earlier, after all, it was Christmas. I remember most how frightened I was that night that my then husband or father in law would find out where I was. I had visions of them breaking in through my sisters window in the middle of the night and taking my son from me. I had parked blocks away down a small forgotten street and carried my son through all the snow in an effort to keep them from knowing where I was. All I wanted to do was to get back to the safety of that shelter. There was a part of me that thought about my then husband, sitting in our house, all alone, with the Christmas tree and all our Christmas presents. My heart ached for him, a little. Still, I knew I was making the right choice and that going back was not an option. I had to turn off my emotions in a sense, and instead focus on survival. I couldn’t dwell on those thoughts or worry about him, not any more. My safety and future as well as that of my son were at stake.

I packed everything up and drove back to the women’s shelter. I walked up the four flights of stairs and in to the empty shelter, my son and I were the only ones who were currently seeking shelter. It was quiet and lonely. There was at least one intake worker at the shelter at all times, a woman could come seeking shelter at any moment, it wasn’t just a Monday through Friday type of deal. She asked where I had been, and I explained that I had stayed at my parents house for Christmas Eve. She berated me telling me that I could be kicked out for not coming back to the shelter before curfew the previous night. I fumbled around in my head and remembered checking in and being told of the 9 o’clock curfew. I honestly just thought that if I wasn’t back by curfew time, that I would have to stay somewhere else that night, I didn’t realize being gone past curfew was grounds for being kicked out. Luckily, she forgave me my misunderstanding and I was allowed to stay. She brought me several age appropriate toys that had been donated by complete strangers. She explained that usually the kids at the shelter only get one toy each for Christmas, but since my son and I were the only ones there, she gave us a few more. She asked if I wanted to wrap them. I don’t know if I wasn’t in the Christmas spirit or if it was just because my son was 12 months old and I figured unwrapping gifts wouldn’t be such a big deal to him. I declined and took the toys out of their packaging and gave them to my son. It was shortly after that that more women some alone, and some with children began to check in to the shelter.

In the four weeks I was there, I was the one who stayed the longest. Women and and children checked in and out of the shelter, some there for their second, third, or fourth stay. I remember sitting in a classroom full of other abused women, we were being taught what domestic violence was, how the cycle worked, how to recognize it, and how to avoid getting into another domestic violent relationship. I remember the teacher talking and my mind wandered. I was thinking ‘This is never where I thought I would end up. This is never how I thought my life would be. Now I’m going to be divorced and a single mom. My dreams of being a stay at home mom with several children running around are over. What am I going to do with my life? Who is ever going to want me? I have nothing. I have three days worth of clothes for me and my son. I’m considered homeless. This is never where I thought I would end up. What am I going to do now?’ Immediately the answer rushed into my head, and it was this answer that got me through some of the darkest moments, it is this answer that I think of on nearly a daily basis and drives much of what I do to this day. I heard a voice say ‘Brandy, you are going to be alright. You are going to make it through, and you are going to come back and teach other women what you have learned.’ 

Since that day, I have invested nearly a decade of my life, and thousands of dollars in to learning everything I could so I could truly help others, and I am continuing to do so. The 7 Pillars to Healing from Domestic Violence covers the 7 types of abuse, and how to heal from each one. I am continuing to expand on these 7 pillars and will be releasing an in depth program soon.

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3 Laws (& Assignments) for Successful Dating After Domestic Violence

Law 1: Individuality

Let’s face it. After experiencing living in an abusive relationship, you most likely don’t know who you are or what you want. You were probably told many times over the past few years who you are, what you should be and do and what you shouldn’t be and do.

I highly recommend staying out of serious relationships for at least a year. I know it’s hard. I know you long for that companionship and you may even have kids and would love for them to have a positive influence in their life, all of that will come, in time, when it is meant to.

The first three and a half years after leaving my ex were spent going through my divorce, dedicating my time to my then toddler and socializing. Yes, I went out. Yes, I spent time with men and with women. No, I did not date. Once I began to date, it was a year and a half of nothing serious with a lot of first dates with a lot of different guys. These dates were wonderful because I learned about myself and about what I want and don’t want. You can do it.

Now I am in a relationship with an amazing man who I met almost three years ago. I get to experience what a  healthy relationship looks like, feels like, smells like, tastes like and sounds like. It’s wonderful.

Assignment:
Guess what? Now is the time to discover who you are. Take time for yourself. Seriously. Date yourself. Go out to dinner and a movie. Go for a walk. Go bowling. Do fun things just for you.

Law 2: Vulnerability

Telling a person who’s been surviving most of their life by being guarded out of necessity for their safety is like telling them you have removed all the mines from a mine field and it’s safe to run through a mine field they have navigated for years. They know where each hidden mine had been placed and they still instinctively avoid stepping in those places, even with the knowledge that the mine field is clear. For them it’s a matter of life or death.

The tragic part in all this, is that in order for a person to have the happy, thriving, and successful healthy relationship they want, that vulnerability and trust needs to be there.

Assignment:
The best way to get through this is to be patient with yourself and allow yourself to experience the emotions. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, play some good instrumental music, and write (for at least 10 minutes) ‘I am afraid to be vulnerable because…’ and see what comes out. You’d be amazed at the insight this will give you into yourself.

Law 3: Love Yourself

This may be the most important thing you can do to help yourself. Often times people who experience abuse have fought a daily battle with their partner. And the daily message they give you that you are not good enough, not worthy, no one else will want you, takes a toll on even the strongest self esteem. Especially because it comes from someone you love and someone who should be lifting you up every chance they get.

The ironic thing about loving yourself is, once you truly get there, then the right person will just meander unexpectedly into your life at just the right time. The more you do to help prepare yourself for that time, the better off you’ll be.

Sure I can say ‘love yourself’ all day long, but how do you actually do that? It actually takes a little work and a little effort on your part.

Assignment:
For the next 30 days write down five amazing things about you each day. The best part? It gets to be something different each time. So at the end of 30 days, you’ll have 150 amazing things about yourself written down. These can be things about you as a person, a friend, in your work, your body, as a parent, as a romantic partner, anything you like. Just make sure you do it. And make sure you stay positive.

Reprogramming your brain is a lot of hard work. Don’t let that scare you though, you’ve already allowed it to be programmed the way it is currently if you want a better life, it’s your responsibility to take ownership and create it. You got this.