Will the Real Ella Hicks Please Stand Up?

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May I have your attention please?
May I have your attention please?
Will the real Ella Hicks please stand up?
I repeat, will the real Ella Hicks please stand up?

Change can be weird on all accounts. When I first started social media I knew it would be a big risk for me. Putting myself out there in the public arena is not exactly safe for a woman/mother who is living in “hiding” from her abusive ex-husband. No more stalking please! Getting “out there” and sharing my story was the only way I figured that I could stay sane and make some sense out of what my life had become. So I took a leap and started a blog and called it Rebel Thriver because I was determined to not get to comfy in my survivors coat. I wanted to upgrade to a thriver and in order for me to do that I needed to be a bit rebellious and speak out in a public way, even though I knew there was a BIG risk factor involved.

So the name came easily, Rebel Thriver. Who is Ella Hicks though? Do you realize how many times in a single day a blogger, writer, or public figure will show their likeness publicly? What was I to do? I knew I couldn’t show mine so I decided to adopt Brigitte Bardot as my public face. Besides the fact that we both have a mop of blonde hair, I admire her for many reasons. She is a fearless activist for animal rights in France. Animals are so often the unspoken of victims of domestic violence. They are often tortured in an attempt to hurt the human victim even more. I am so grateful for the work she does. She was an incredible beauty when she was younger and has been slammed in the press for not “aging” well. The reason is that she has opted to grow old naturally is so her money is used to help animals, not her vanity. Instead of being praised for her selflessness she is so often ridiculed and it’s heartbreaking.

As Rebel Thriver poises to grow I knew that the day would come that I would have to find another “face” for myself. Ella Hicks needs her own identity other than a photograph, and so the search has been on for years. As luck would have it the other day I came across a painting that was spot on. Immediately I knew that this was the perfect representation for me and so I contacted the artist Elizabeth Mayville and explained to her in a nutshell my colorful and complicated conundrum of a story. Not only did Elizabeth agree right away to allow me to use this beautiful painting of hers as my public “face”, but she waived the fee she usually charges because she supports what I am trying to do with Rebel Thriver.

So today is the unveil of the “new me”. I simply love it more than words because it really captures my day to day vibe. I want to thank Elizabeth Mayville from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to use her amazing piece of art and for having such a generous heart. You can see more of Elizabeth Mayville’s work at http://www.elizabethmayville.com or shop https://www.etsy.com/shop/ElizabethMayville

I know it’s going to take some time for me to get used to not seeing Brigitte everyday, but it’s time for a change and I am going to grow with it! xo Ella

Endless

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“Love. It will not betray you, dismay you or enslave you. It will set you free.”
– Mumford & Sons

I used to have a warped idea about love. I believed that if I loved deeply and intensely with all of myself I could change the world. My ex-husband walked into my life-like a black hole. He sucked everything that I had out of me and then he demanded more. Everyday I paid a toll for being alive and it wasn’t cheap. He took everything I had to give, spit it back into my face, and then took more. I loved him though. I just kept scraping up what I could find of me to give to him. Little pieces, tiny shards of myself, were all I could find in the end. Never have I met another who could find so much to take from so very little. I left him as a shell of the person I had met him as, but I also left him with so much more than I had come to him with.

My world has never been the same. Even after years of separation he is with me everyday. How can you turn off love? I have my moments of anger and regret, but my love for that incredibly sick and imperfect man is still there. It’s changed in scope and I don’t respect him, or speak to him for that matter, but for a fellow human, hurting and damaged, I still have love. As a child I was raised to love and turn the other cheek. As a wife I learned to survive. As a single mother I learned to fight back to protect my young. We live so many lifetimes over and over in this single life we are given. And we have the potential to love many times over. When my marriage crumbled I thought that was it. Party over. The ship sailed. I didn’t think that I could ever have the capacity to love another person in that way again. Love taught me differently though.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8

After my marriage exploded I focused on what I knew would never fail me; the love for my children. Pure and unconditional love knows no deeper depths than that of a mother for her children. I poured myself into them so that they would know that I could love them enough for both their father and I. I alone was going to be enough for them. That was going to be enough. I was going to be ok. And as time passed I realized that love was not a one way street. If you loved the right people then love could come back to you as well. Loving people has always been easy for me, but It took me a long time to get comfortable trusting someone enough to allow them to love me back. To be able to believe in that love and accept it was something  I had to learn.

I learned, that I needed to love myself first, way too late into the game. If I could love myself then all future relationships had a chance of being balanced and healthy. It’s somewhat impossible to have a solid relationship with another person if you don’t love and respect yourself. People throw the word love around like its candy. Love, true love, is so much more than that. It is layered, rich, and runs deep. It has a foundation of trust, loyalty, and an innate desire to bring happiness into another’s life. If you can have that kind of relationship with yourself how can love fail? True love is complete freedom to be you while sharing your life with another. It is fail proof because even if you part ways, love finds a way to carry on.

In our youth it is hard to comprehend the magnitude of love’s depths. Love has a very narrow view. We know love for family and then we know the Hallmark version. As we grow, get hurt, heal, and deepen our personal awareness we learn that love can be so much more than that. We humans get so hung up on the idea of romantic love to come and save us and it’s a sham. Love is peddled as an industry generating millions each year. It starts with Valentine’s Day and continues through, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and funerals. Our society spends so much money trying to buy and capture love when in reality true love is free and it is endless.

Love is not something we buy in a store. It is living, breathing, alive. It has the ability to change the course of your life. Love can end wars and change nations. If we want this world to survive than love is the only thing that can save us. Love is stronger than any kind of hate. Love endures and love is the only thing truly worth fighting for.  Love is boundless. And if  love finds you worthy then you must be prepared to love in return. Love is not one-sided. It is patient and it is kind. Love is long-suffering, humble and loyal. It will be the sunrise and the sunset of your days. Embrace it and cherish it. Give it space to grow and nourish it. Just know that true love can crown you and crucify you, but if you want to love then there is no half stepping. Love is endless…it goes on and on and on.

xo Ella

Incremental Growth

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I don’t do New Year’s resolutions and I don’t believe in diets. I don’t think that quick fix fads work, and I believe in buying quality over quantity. I often find myself at odds with the rest of the world, but it wasn’t always like this for me. In fact, there was a time when I lived in the fast lane and was all in. I had a long list of goals tucked safely into my passport. I was on the move and I wanted to do it all.

I have changed since then and doing it all just doesn’t feel as enticing or thrilling to me as it used to. The fear of missing out or not keeping up has dissipated, and I am living a much different life than I could ever have dreamed of before. That’s the thing about your dreams…they need to be flexibile. If you don’t have flexibility in your life you will inevitably end up feeling like a failure. It’s much better to set out with a goal paired with an open mind & heart and just see where life will take you. Life is always changing and I find it so much better to flow with it than feel like I am being dragged by it.

How do we adjust our sails as we live headlong into heartbreak and defeat? Life is full of it and it can’t be avoided. If you think you can avoid the heart breaks then you are in for a rude awakening one day. When I go to see my therapist I occasionally get handed a questionnaire to answer before I go in. It’s a benchmark guide to see how I am doing compared to past visits. I’m given statements and I have to rate where I feel in that moment. One of them is, “I feel like a failure.” Another is “I feel like I am being punished.” Each time I read them I hear a voice in my head say, “You have every right to say ‘YES’, but it’s simply not your truth.”

What is my truth? I don’t believe in failure. I believe in learning lessons, and sometimes those lessons are harsh. For instance, there was that time I married a man who I thought was my soul mate only to realize that he would be my biggest life lesson. I don’t feel like I failed because I chose to learn from it instead. How was I to know that my soul mate would be mentally ill, and abusive? I followed my heart and I gave it my all, but it didn’t work out. In fact, it ended very badly for all involved. I could have stayed down on the ground, and quite honestly I don’t remember getting up. The point is that I got up and I don’t see myself as a failure.

When my marriage blew apart it honestly felt like the apocalypse had snuck up and screwed me from behind. I had been living in a prison and when the door opened I ran. I didn’t see it coming, but when it did, it exploded into a fire-ball and left a lot of collateral damage. Some people may have felt like they were being punished, but I simply don’t believe in that.  I could choose to blame myself and label myself a failure, but I know that I did the very best that I could, so how could I be a failure? When I look back at the charred Earth and all the loss I often wonder why I don’t. I know it is because of my audacious hope.

I don’t know what I am doing any more than the next guy, but I do know that I give a shit. And I truly believe that here in this moment is where my life is happening. I take a daily inventory. I check in with myself. I make sure that I am taking care of myself, and I am really grateful for my life. It’s not easy to have the bottom drop out on you. It’s not easy to pick up the pieces and sort through the debris. It’s been years, and I am still sorting through it. Healing and self enlightenment don’t come easy. It’s not for the faint of heart. Accepting where you faltered and what you should have done differently isn’t easy, it takes a lot of honesty and patience.

There are so many choices to make and each choice that we make brings definition to what will be our life story. It goes a long way when you can accept that you will make mistakes and yet still believe that when you come up on the other side it will be okay. It has taken me a lot of practice and patience to be understanding and compassionate with myself. Every single day I put that into practice because the world keeps telling me the opposite. It takes hard work to break down the all the armour we spend years building throughout our younger years. The beauty is that redemption is possible. It’s there for the taking.

xo Ella

I Choose Joy

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Christmas magic is silent.  You don’t hear it ~ you feel it. You know it.  You believe it. 

I am so blessed to have grown up in a home that celebrated the Christmas season with healthy gusto. As soon as December came around my mother would spin into action. Like a racehorse in the starting gate she was ready to take off at the shot of the gun. Boxes were pulled out of the attic and I would watch her take down the Fall decorations to ready the house for Christmas. It was hands down my favorite time of the year, and that was because my Mother made it magical.

When I grew up and had my first child it happened to me. As December approached I could barely contain myself. I had a list of things on that first Christmas To Do List. I wanted my child to know the kind of magic that only comes round one time a year. We picked out a beautiful tree and decorated it with ornaments; some of our choosing and some handed down from my mother and Grandmother. As Christmas cheer pulsed through my veins I quickly realized that I was becoming my mother.

It’s amazing how once we have kids we start seeing ourselves in our parents. It can be comical actually. Every mother has her own odd ideas of what is precious and shall become a tradition in their home. This is the first year in my home where Santa is no longer a larger than life figure. I have to admit that it takes the excitement down a notch. The Elf on the Shelf is out but he isn’t participating in our daily life as he has in seasons past. In some ways it’s a relief and in other ways I am trying to think of something we can do in his place.

When I left my husband it was on a freezing cold night a couple of weeks before Christmas. I had young children, nowhere to go, and I was terrified for our lives. That was a tough Christmas, but I had to make a decision that year about how I was going to proceed. Although I could barely think straight enough to eat,  I made it as magical as I could with the kids. My mother was there and dove right in to help me with that. That was the toughest time in my life and it happened during my favorite time of the year. In the end it was lovely because I was so grateful to be with my family. I may have even seen my 5-year-old smile that day.

I learned from my parents that Christmas is so much more than just a day. It’s more than presents. My parents celebrated the birth of Jesus and that was the reason for the season. The pre-Christmas busyness of planning, baking, wrapping, and shopping gave me a high. Seeing others happy is just about the best thing in the world isn’t it? I seize this opportunity every year to spread around some Christmas magic of my own.

I know a lot of people who hate this time of year. Perhaps they don’t have good childhood memories, perhaps like me, something happened to them that time of year or perhaps they just didn’t have anyone to truly celebrate with. I know it can trigger depression in people and I get that. When the middle of December comes around I get triggered too and I have to remember the choice that I made in my first year of freedom.

I wasn’t going to let the memory of my ex throwing out the Christmas tree with the ornaments away in the trash like the Grinch steal me of my Joy. I wasn’t going to let the fact that I didn’t have a home, a job, or any money destroy Christmas holidays yet to come. I was going to fight for what I loved. And so every year around this time I have to make a choice…do I allow the past to creep in or do I focus on creating some magic for those around me? I will always choose the latter.

If you are reading this and one of those people who struggle with the holidays I want to suggest that you focus your heart on being grateful. Because being grateful for my life, my kids lives, and the freedom to simply be able to celebrate Christmas is far more powerful than anything anyone can throw my way. Christmas spirit is a real thing, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Some of us have to make a conscious decision to be happy. I chose Joy, because sometimes it really is as simple as that.

xo Ella

Love One Another

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I was born into a large Irish Catholic family. I attended Catholic school and have been fully indocrinated with it’s teachings. I’ve studied the Bible, and I know that I prefer the New Testament to the Old, but that they must stand together to be whole. I don’t go to church anymore, but all these years later there are two things that I lean upon in my daily life. They are a part of my personal foundation and ironically they are both attributed to Jesus. 

“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Luke 6:31 (The Golden Rule)

I have studied many religions and philosophies over the years. From Buddhism and Toaism to Rastafarianism and Wicca.  I have come to believe that it is not religion that makes the person, but rather the heart. I prefer to think of myself as a highly spirtiual person rather than a religious one. It is my relationship that I have with my God that is what is most important to me. No laws made by man can ever change what I hold in my heart and soul. I know my truth. 

It is a wonder to me that after all I have learned that the two things that I return to time and time again are the simple words of Jesus Christ. It’s honestly a wonder to me, because growing up in a house where religion was crammed down my throat, I chose to reject it all for many years. I was angry and I thought it was bullshit mind-control. One day my high-Catholic school history teacher tried to make sense of it to me. He said,”No matter what anyone says, I challenge you to read about Jesus and find one thing that you truly disagree with.” And so being the rebel that I have always been, I took his challenge and I read even more.  I learned that this man that walked the Earth so very long ago was of my tribe. He hung with the outcasts, the beggers, the downtrodden, prostitues, drunks, and lepers. He didn’t judge on outward appearances. He loved, because love was what he was sent to teach us how to do. 

Whether you believe that Jesus walked this Earth is up to you. If you believe he is the son of God then that is your truth (I would like to believe that, but I am honestly still on the fence.) I do know that this man is the greatest example of what Love incarnate is to us as humans. His words, examples, and life sacrifice have stood the test of time, and the world is forever changed by him. 

Today I awoke to the tragic news of a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. A man full of hate targeted a gay dance club and opened fire. By now you all know the horrid details. I tried to stay away from the news, but I have been drawn to it. I lived in NYC on 9/11 and I know this kind of hate and the fear it breeds. I have tried to stay away from social media because the there is so much anger and hate which is breeding more anger and hate. It’s a vicious cycle that is going to get us nowhere. We cannot attempt to destroy an ideology no matter how much we try for it will only breed more hate. The only solution is love. 

This is what I know. The only true path is LOVE. In order to truly love you need to be able to forgive. To love is to live your live with compassion and empathy. It is to be tolerant, even those who do not align with your beliefs. To hate the sin and not the sinner for we are all marred by the weaknesses of the human condition. I didn’t ask to be born an American, but I am so grateful that I was. My life has not know the kind of war that so many other people have been born into. We are products of our environments and not all are blessed to be raised in peace. Ultimately, we all have to choose our path. We must think for ourselves and stand up for what we believe to true. I know that fear is stronger than hate. And I know that if we could all just learn to drop our anger, biases, and fears then perhaps we could one day know peace. As a realist I know that as humans war is our Earthly tradition. Who ever does not control will be controlled and we can see this played out over and over again throughout the centuries. Power is mighty drug.

In spite of all of this madness I will hold onto the philosphy we were all created equally. That the only true way is to love one another and treat each other as we would like to be treated in return. It’s really so simple, but we make it so complicated. In the end love is the only true path to freedom. Love is always louder than hate.

xo Ella 

Honor the Truth

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In 1991, a 35-year-old professor named Anita Hill was brought into the public eye when she testified to a Senate Judicial Committee about the sexual harassment she had endured by her former boss, Clarence Thomas. Thomas now proudly sits on the Supreme Court of the United States. I was a young professional at the time of the hearings and I can remember clearly feeling that she was telling the truth. Why would a woman, a women of color at that, want to face off with a panel of white men in power without good reason. I just finished watching the HBO movie, Confirmation, which attempts to tell the story from a different perspective then we were provided back in 1991. I believed her then, and I didn’t need to watch this movie to confirm it, but I am glad I did. 

“It’s going to take undoing centuries, if not longer, of devaluing women — all women. Adding race to it only makes it harder to overcome. I think today we’re in a better position to do that, by listening to women’s experiences and honoring the truth of our experiences and putting aside all of these myths that we’ve heard about women in these situations and what we’re supposed to believe versus looking at the reality.” – Anita Hill

It is amazing to me that people to this day can still argue the existence of sexual harassment that women have had to endure. I was a young single woman in 1991, just starting my career and men ran the businesses back then. In my first job I was an assistant, which meant a lot of color copying and errand running. Not very glorified for a recent Cum Laude graduate, but I was determined to climb to the top. One day while I was in my (male) boss’s office I was asked to bring some files into a board meeting that was taking place in another building. At the same time, my boss had the conference room, which was filled with all men, on speaker phone. When he said, “I am sending Ella over with the files” a male voice came through the phone and responded with, “Good, I hope she isn’t wearing any underwear.”

That was my first job as a professional. A job I had busted my ass off in college for.  My mouth dropped open and my boss turned red as he laughed and hung up the phone. I quickly told him that I wouldn’t be taking the files over. He told me I was being over sensitive. One of the women in the office stood up for me and said, “Joe, you can’t allow this! You can be sued for sexual harassment!” What I did next I still regret. I took the files and I walked across the street into that conference room and handed them to the man in charge. My cheeks burned red as the room got quiet and I felt the eyes of a dozen men upon me. 

I went home that night shaken and disillusioned. I can remember calling my father and telling him. We spoke about my options, but we both knew that my career would have been over if decided to sue. I most certainly would have been fired for some ridiculous reason, and then what company would hire me with a reputation for calling “sexual harassment” on its owners? I felt defeated, diminished, and shamed. That experience opened my eyes wide to the realities of the workplace and as I watched Anita Hill testify I new as well as any other woman that she was telling the truth. 

A lot has changed since then and I am grateful, but we have a long way to go. There’s a Sexual Harassment Law that is supposed to prevent this from happening in the work place now. The reality is that it still does. It happens everyday. I am sure that now the script has been flipped and there are women who harass men as well. I am not saying that this behavior solely belongs to men. However, men still have the majority of leadership roles in this country and the “old boys club” is still alive and kicking. I know that it is still an issue with young women trying to further their careers….play ball if you want to get ahead. 

These scenarios are still going on in all manner of business be it corporate or not. Power is a thirst that some people need to quench. There’ and old adage that many people out there believe, ‘he who does not control will be controlled.’ This is demonstrated over and over again in world history. What happens when a person stands up to the controlling party? The controlling party pushes back and discredits the attacker. Look around the world today and you can see that this is systematic of patriarchal societies. Women have always been the ones burning at the proverbial stake. 

I want to make it clear that I love people be they men or women. I have never had a prejudicial bone in my body. My heart aches for the oppressed and the disenfranchised. My mind fights against other people’s prejudice, hate, classism, bigotry, and sexism everyday. It is everywhere and it is abundantly clear who is leading the ranks. My heart breaks for Anita Hill and for all the women who have had to deal with this degradation in the workplace after fighting so hard to get where they are. Harriet Tubman was just declared the new face for the $20 bill and the derogatory comments I have heard about it in passing are so upsetting. What an incredibly BRAVE and loving human she was. It’s wonderful that she will be honored in this way. 

Times are changing and Ms. Hill is right, it is going to take a long time for things to change, but we are in the process. Our voices are our most powerful asset in this fight. By listening to women’s experiences and honoring the truth of our experiences things will begin to change. We’ve come a long way since 1991, but I still think that the majority of people will hold a man’s opinion over a woman’s.  As a survivor of abuse I know how this type of culture not only exists in the workplace, but permeates into the home as well. We must make sure we raise the next generation of men to understand that this is a human issue…not an issue of sex or power. It’s about being human, kind, decent, respectful, and fair. 

xo Ella

 

Rebel Thriver Q & A

DontGiveUp

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Recently, I was asked to do an interview for an online magazine about Rebel Thriver. I am thrilled when people are interested in what I do and what drives me. Not only does it get some important lifesaving information out to people, but it reaffirms what I want to continue building with Rebel Thriver.  xo Ella

                              “We’re all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass

 

1) Who is Ella Hicks?

I’m first and foremost a mother of a couple of incredible kids. I am a trained artist, mentor, surfer, and a peddler of hope. I am a survivor of many things, however my biggest battle came during my 12-year marriage to a very sick abusive man. It’s amazing how one relationship can change the entire trajectory of your life. I had to run for my life with my young children on my hip and leave behind my home, kick ass career, colleagues, and friends in return for our freedom and safety. I believe that everyone survives something in this lifetime and that we’re all in this together; we don’t have to settle for feeling like we lost the lottery. With some deep soul work and determination we can change our thoughts and how we perceive things; we can change the course of our lives. You just need to be open for a positive shift to take place in your life…we’re so often more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. We are here to do so much more than simply survive our lives; we must give ourselves permission to thrive and to truly live.

To read more about how I rebooted my life check out my blog, Rebel Thriver: www.rebelthriver.org


2) What is Rebel Thriver?

Rebel Thriver started as an online blog as an outlet for me to get my thoughts out there and to connect with other survivors of domestic violence. The name Rebel Thriver came about in a two-fold way. I was really tired of being labeled a survivor, even through I am forever grateful that I am one. I felt that the weight of the word was holding me back. I wanted more for myself. I wanted to live a “thriving” life again. Where did “Rebel” come from? As a result of the domestic abuse in my own life I must always be extremely careful about putting myself out there in the public eye. Like so many other survivors once we leave an abusive relationship it doesn’t mean that it is over. Often after we leave it becomes even more dangerous. Many women are stalked and hunted down by the abuser, so for a woman like me simply writing a blog is a rebellious act. Shortly after starting the Rebel Thriver Blog I created a Facebook page which started off our social media campaign. We call ourselves a “tribe” because no matter where you are in this world there is always a hand that can reach that far and give some comfort. We literally span the globe.


3) Who does this organization reach out to?
Rebel Thriver is for everyone who has left a crisis zone and is ready to reboot and reclaim their life. As I have said before, we are all survivors of something in this life. Trauma is trauma no matter what it looks like. So while I may speak more directly to survivors of domestic violence and rape there are many other voices that speak with me. There are four amazing women who help me run our Facebook page and another who runs our Instagram page. I am so blessed to have the support of these empathetic and compassionate women. They volunteer their time because they know what it means to struggle and they want to help rise up in their own lives. We are growing by leaps and bounds daily because every person needs to be reminded that they are not alone and that they matter. There is help out there and people do care. 

4) What are the goals of Rebel Thriver?Ultimately, the goal of Rebel Thriver is to become a Non-Profit Company. This is something that I am working very hard on right now. I want to be able to offer valuable resources to people who are looking to reboot their lives, such as workshops, life coaching, a retreat center, legal advocacy, and so much more. Since we are international it’s a big undertaking but I know that with many small steps one can walk miles. I am undeterred and ultimately I dream of community center in every country in which we are present. That would be amazing!


5) How has Rebel Thriver empowered survivors?

First I will speak for myself  because in my attempt to help others I have empowered myself. In the process of reinforcing a positive message of self-love and self-worth I began to walk the talk (no one likes a hypocrite). This has changed my life in so many ways. I am so much stronger because of the people who I am blessed to help. Not a day goes by where someone shares with me a personal triumph. Perhaps they left their abusive partner or their shitty job. It might be that they were thinking of suicide and chose not to because of the message they received at “just the right moment.” There are many women that have left abusive relationships and have moved onto to healthy happy lives now as a result of being a part of the Rebel Thriver Tribe. “Freedom” and “Believe” are important words for us. I am no different from anyone else. I don’t have a magic wand to make things all better, but I face my challenges everyday and I’ve made a decision for myself to always rise. I never thought that my horrid experience would make me a role model for others, but watching another person succeed is powerful medicine. Especially, for someone who is just starting to try to figure it all out and rebuild their life again. 

 


6) What is your definition of domestic abuse?  

Domestic abuse affects many. It can be child abuse, spousal abuse, or abuse between other family members. It is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse. Domestic violence encompasses a spectrum of behaviors that abusers use to control their victims.

How can we recognize the signs objectively?

We refer to the signs of domestic violence as “red flags.”  Many people in retrospect admit  that they saw the signs early on in their relationship, but didn’t think they deserved better or by the time they realized it they were in too deep. It needs to be said that abuse is never the fault of the victim. It can be hard for many reasons to end the relationship with an abuser, and safety is on the top of the list. If you experience these “red flags,” please confide in a friend or reach out for support from a domestic violence advocate. If you believe a friend or relative is being abused, offer your non-judgemental support and help.

Some examples of “red flags” are:

  • A new interest wants to move too quickly into the relationship.
  • Early in the relationship they flatter you constantly, and seem “too good to be true.”
  • They wants you all to him or herself; insists that you stop spending time with your friends or family.
  • Insists that you stop participating in hobbies or activities, quit school, or quit your job. This is all about isolating you. 
  • Does not honor your boundaries. 
  • Is excessively jealous and accuses you of being unfaithful. 
  • Wants to know where you are all of the time and frequently calls, emails, and texts you throughout the day. 
  • Criticizes or puts you down; says you are crazy, stupid, and/or fat/unattractive, or that no one else would ever want or love you. 
  • Takes no responsibility for his or her behavior and blames others…a “victim mentality.”
  • Has a history of abusing other people and/or animals.
  • Blames the entire failure of previous relationships on his or her former partner; for example, “My ex was totally crazy.” 
  • Takes your money or runs up your credit card debt. Has no accountability.
  • Rages out of control with you but can maintain composure around others.

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Abuse is never the fault of the victim and it can be hard for many reasons to end the relationship with an abuser, and safety is at the top of the list. If you experience these “red flags,” please confide in a friend or reach out for support from a local domestic violence advocate. If you believe a friend or relative is being abused, offer your help and non-judgmental support.

 

7) What is the pattern or cycle that battered women or men go through?

Domestic violence is often generational. It is cyclical and repeats itself over and over. It can become learned behavior for children involved. The cycle of violence is best explained through a graphic chart. I like the one supplied by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (below left) and we also use a simplified one to get the info out there in a more basic way. The cycle can be broken!

 

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For more help and information:

 

How can readers support Rebel Thriver’s message?

The best way to help Rebel Thriver is to get our message out there by sharing our posters and blog posts. We have over 171K followers on Facebook and the community there is amazing. We also have an amazing Instagram community of over 55k. Join in the conversation. Share our posts and encourage people to come join us as well. This year we will be offering our first online workshop open for the public as well as life coaching sessions. If you know of anyone who is struggling to find their way please tell them to hold on. Let them know that there is help and there is hope.

 

8) How has creating this organization shed light on your artistic qualities?

I love this question because I am a trained artist and before I had to flee my abusive marriage I was blessed to have a career that I loved and was very successful in. Abuse can destroy entire lives and leave people feeling like they have nothing to live for. Many like myself have to walk away from everything and start over completely. For me this meant that I had to leave the career I loved so very much behind, along with my friends, and colleagues. When I started writing the Rebel Thriver Blog I could barely string three sentences together because my brain was in such a fog. I signed up for a creative writing class at the local college as a challenged to myself. I got straight A’s and the blog was born. In addition to the writing I also love being able to make all the inspirational posters that we use on our social media sites. They are a big part of my therapy and usually they coincide with my daily struggles and triumphs. Finally, we started a merchandise line recently at the request of many people. All of the profits go directly back into helping Rebel Thriver grow into the awesome nonprofit company that we are working so hard towards.

If you would like more information on Rebel Thriver you can contact me, Ella Hicks, through our email: rebelthriver@gmail.com 

We would love you to join us as well on our new website: www.rebelthriver.org
There you will find links to our Blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr pages as well as links to the Rebel Thriver online shop.

 

A Rogue Wave

Sometimes

There have been times in my life where sadness has hit me like a rogue wave that sneaks up from behind bringing with it a wicked undertow that tries to pull me out deeper. The wave plants me on my ass in a mess of sadness and despair when it comes crashing down…there are things in life that can derail you. There are things that have tremendous momentum even though they may seem to appear out of nowhere. There are things in life that no one is prepared for. 

Recently, I found out I was going to have another child. The news sent me reeling. Getting pregnant has never been easy for me. My two children are my precious miracles to this world. Sadly, along my journey I have lost three angels. I bear witness that a miscarriage is a horrible experience. If you have experienced one you might find that you want to hide yourself trying to avoide telling people that you are pregnant out of the fear of what is or isn’t to come. Having a high risk pregnancy brings a weird mix of excitement, fear, and isolation.

This pregnancy definitely caught me off guard. It was the last thing I expected to happen in 2016. I prepared myself for a wild ride this year, but nothing could have prepared me for this. That being said I embraced it immediately even though my partner and I have been walking a rocky road recently. I am always an advocate for a woman’s right to choose and I chose to have this baby regardless to what was happening in my life. This child was being sent to me for a reason and I was going to embrace it with all of me. 

What you don’t know until you experience it is that losing a baby is a massive trauma to your body, your mind, and your soul. Sure you move past it and hopefully are able to conceive again, but that feeling never quite leaves you. Growing a life within you is an amazingly awesome and incredibly weird experience. The minute that I find out I am with child everything in the world shifts for me. Out goes the caffeine & the alcohol, and in comes all the goodness. I STOP and take a full inventory. I commit to taking pristine care of myself as the incubator for a new life. I am in 100%, sleeves pushed up, saltines in hand, and ready to roll. 

When I realized that I was losing my baby a few weeks ago all I wanted to do curl up and hide. 

NOT AGAIN. 

I was sad and I was angry at God for allowing me to have to endure this yet another time. I felt broken. I felt like my body had failed me and I was devastated.  I felt like my body had let my baby, and my partner down. I laid in bed for two days and just went back and forth between crying and staring into nothingness. I was arriving at numb quickly. 

Thankfully I had told a couple of friends. THIS is not something you want to go through alone. It’s a tragic situation and you truly are helpless. My mind was screaming to the baby inside of me to “hold on”.  I was begging God to spare my child. I felt like such a failure every time I looked at my partner. The worst part was that as a mother I was unable to prevent my  baby from dying inside of me. A crushing experience that is beyond any words. 

I decided to write about this for the same reason that I write about my experience with domestic violence…to break the stigma. There is always such a “hush hush” about these issues, and for what? The silence is isolating, and in situations like this you need support from loving people. It’s hard to go through something like this and carry it alone. Women have been dealing with these issues from the beginning of time and yet I find that it’s still taboo to speak up about them. I am opposed to shutting it down, hiding it, and just moving on. Stuffing your trauma doesn’t help you to heal and move past it. It just leaves it festering for another day to explode into your life unannounced in another form. 

Life is happening all around us. People are born and people die every single day. It is the great circle of life and we are as much of a part of it as the next guy. No one gets to run away from nature as much as they would like to think that they can. We are all here dealing with the same human conditions. Life is going to push you. It is going to stretch you, and it is going to hurt you, but just as this is true it is also going to reward you. You cannot seek out only the good for life is made whole with the balance of both. The duality of life. We must embrace it all and appreciate the good when it is here and understand that the pain comes as our teacher. Understanding of this is helpful in accepting your life as it unfolds…perfect or imperfect. Joyful or sad. This is your life. 

I lost this baby at eight weeks and It was my 4th miscarriage. It doesn’t get easier, but you do get stronger. Understanding that it is natures way and that some life is just more viable than others is critical. Trust me, nature is not out to punish you. Through this I’ve learned to embrace life as it is thrust upon me and I am learning to let go of it when necessary. Learning to trust the timing of my life and having faith in the outcome is what sees me through. Life has taught me that acceptance and release is all about flow. You can’t stop it…you have go with it. When life hands you this kind of pain you embrace it as a gift and know that it has the power to transform you. 

xo Ella