Survivors of complex trauma, such as domestic abuse, have a lot to learn about what’s happened to their brains and nervous systems in order to understand what it is that they are trying to heal. The study of trauma is relatively new. It was only in 1980 that the American Psychology Association added PTSD to the DSM-3 (the guide for medical diagnosis), and then it was mainly applied to veterans who up until now were considered to have “shellshock”. In 2014, after 32 years of studying trauma, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk wrote, The Body Keeps the Score, which has had an enormous impact at how we look at trauma. It is now on the New York Times Bestseller list for the last 96 consecutive weeks. It’s interesting that a book about trauma is on the bestsellers list isn’t it? We are collectively becoming aware of the effects of trauma on the neurobiology of the brain.
When something triggers us (known or unknown), our Amygdala (part of brain responsible for emotions), acts as the “smoke detector” so to speak. It warns us of a threat, and it sets off a chain reaction in our body/brain that leads us into fight, flight, or freeze. This is a trauma response. What happens next is that we react, but without the help of our frontal lobe (behind your forehead) which is our thinking brain (reasoning, problem solving, verbal expression, memory of events, and facts). Instead, we react with our Reptilian Brain (brainstem is at the base of the head/neck) which is non-thinking, but rather instinctive. This is when we often feel that adrenaline dump (adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure, and boosts energy supplies).
When we have a trauma response we react without the help of our “thinking brain’. This is the hard part about trauma, we cannot think our way through a response because our prefrontal cortex goes “off line” and as a result you cannot ‘talk’ your way to healing. You CAN however practice new ways to respond. The brain is amazing and has neuroplasticity*, which means that it can create new neural pathways, and thus new habits.
This is what works for me and for many others. It’s called box breathing.
Inhale deeply and slowly for 4 seconds (can do 5 or 6 seconds if you prefer). Hold breath for 4 seconds. Slowly exhale your breath for 4 seconds. Rest for 4 seconds. Repeat.
This can become your default setting when you become triggered, but you need to practice it in order for it to become a habit. Start out doing a series of 4 deep breath cycles, 3 times a day. I took it a little further…everytime I hit a red light I would practice box breathing. Everytime the phone rang I would practice…..so forth and so on. I can’t say exactly how long it took, but my body started to automatically switch to box breathing when something triggered me. When my body automatically switches into box breathing mode, my mind is able to address what is happening sooner. It is then that I start saying to myself “It’s okay. You are okay. You are safe.” This has really helped me more than anything else.
For those of us with severe post traumatic stress (CPTSD) things can get better, but that won’t happen by just giving it ‘time’ or through talk therapy. You must take an active role in your healing. The above may sound complicated, but it’s really not. The abuse I endured was intense and my body skips fright or flight, and goes directly into freeze mode. My first response always is to stop breathing when I am triggered, which of course makes it even worse. Box breathing has given me a sense of control back, and I cannot express how life changing this can be. When you begin to heal you may feel that you are trapped within yourself by all of the uncontrolled responses and reactions that are happening around you, and within you. You are far from powerless though and with practice you too can learn to help ease some of your own trauma responses. There is hope, but you must be an active participant and student of your own experience.
I started educating myself about the effects of trauma (domestic violence) because i was absolutely lost. I had no idea what was going on within me. I had left the abuse, but my mind still felt like a minefield, and my body kept betraying me. I went to therapists, doctors, tried EMDR, but no one explained to me why I was feeling the way I was. When I learned about the neurobiology of the brain and the effect that trauma has on it, as well as the autonomic nervous system, everything changed. I was able to see what I could do in order to help myself recover from a trauma response. I realized that I was not just being pushed along by the currents, but that I in fact had some control over the experience. This was life changing for me. I encourage you to learn more about yourself and how trauma has affected you, because it helps you feel a little more whole.
**When looking for a therapist make sure that they are ‘trauma informed’ and that they are trained in EMDR therapy. For some people, including myself, I find that medicine helps me greatly. I am a healthy, clean eating woman that doesn’t like taking any medication, however, sometimes it is the right thing to do for you.
* Neuroplasticity: The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.
My name is Sooshmita and I am a survivor. Before I share the story of my arranged marriage, I would like to begin with my childhood, and how I used to be as a young woman. I was born in Birmingham, UK and brought up in London. I remember being very quiet, reserved, and I hardly used to speak. When I was five or six my teachers were worried that I may have speech difficulties and suggested to my mum to take me to a speech therapist. After a number of sessions at the hospital they concluded that was able to speak, but just very shy and quiet. As a child I can remember not being able to express my needs, and I suppressed my emotions so that I could fit in with others. As a result, I had many negative experiences in both primary and high school
My parent’s marriage had been arranged for them in their mid twenties, and they migrated to the UK from Bangladesh in l979. They both had strong cultural values. A year after my sister was born my mother got a job, and my father had started his own business. I had a very simple, but sheltered life. After school I would just go straight home and do my homework. Any socializing events were usually with family or relatives, but I was not encouraged to have a social life outside of my family, especially if there were different ethnicities or races involved. Although my parents were traditional, I do remember my father would always help my mother with cooking and taking care of us, and I saw an equal partnership between them.
In my culture and religion (Islam) women get married straight after graduating, usually at 22 years old. She would be lucky if she was able to go to a university. My sister is five years older than me, and when she was 22 my parents started to look for a potential partner for her marriage. There were quite a few men with professional careers who met my sister, but when my sister turned 25 my mum started to panic because of her age. Rather than encouraging my sister to excel with her job my mum kept saying, “Why is God not helping you to get married?” My father wasn’t as worried as my mum was though. I was 19 at the time, and one of my friends shared that her cousin’s friend was looking for a potential partner for her brother. It seemed that the description of my sister was a pretty good match for him. I introduced this potential partner to my parents, and once they met, my sister and brother in law got married six months later. My sister has the conventional beauty that is recognised by most people from my culture. This means she is fair skinned and tall. I believe we are all beautiful in our own ways, however I do not fit the conventional type as my skin is not fair. I remember in my childhood being asked by my relatives why my skin was dark, this of course affected my self esteem because I believed I was not as beautiful as my sister.
The traditional path for most women in my culture is to get married and have children. I have quite a few female cousins the same age as my sister who have been looking for spouses since the 2005, but they are still single because they have not been able to find the right partner. I remember turning 20 and hoping not to end up like my older cousins who have been single for too long. Although my mum had been working since the year 1980, she did have a very traditional mindset in relation to the roles women and men play in our culture. Once she said to my cousin, “Men should have careers and women should have beauty.” Looking back I understand why I had toxic false beliefs about gender roles, and I see the negative impact of this throughout my life.
At the age of 19 I was not sure what to study, however my parents had this notion that if you do not have a degree then you are a failure. Randomly, I chose to study criminology with law only to later regret this. After graduating it was my turn for my parents to find me a potential marital partner. I was 23 at this time and the business of exchanging photos and bio-data began to be exchanged between families. At times “Aunty” would introduce me to a guy’s mother, who would either find me pretty or not good enough. At this time my self worth was being tossed around. When I would hear how some men rejected me I would feel crushed, and the agony of waiting to be wanted by someone was painful. Seeing my older cousins still single also added to my anxiety and fear of getting old and still being single, even though I was just 24.
My mother had a friend who suggested a potential partner for me who was living in Bangladesh. He came to England with his family for his cousin’s wedding. My mum shared the details with me, and since I knew it was time for me to get married, I agreed to meet him. My mum and sister accompanied me to meet him and his parents. They left us alone to chat, and while he was being friendly and nice, I could see that there was a vast difference between us. I felt a cultural barrier since he was born and brought up in Bangladesh, but most of all there was no physical attraction. I did not want to be rude so we did have a friendly conversation about each other’s hobbies and interests. Once our families returned the “Aunty” who introduced this proposal kept telling us to exchange numbers. I did not want to give my number, as I did not like him, so I stayed quiet and was hoping my silence would be taken as a hard NO.
Once I got home my mum was very happy and kept repeating that this man was perfect for me. She kept emphasizing that his father is a professor and that his mother has a master’s degree. This man was not bad looking, and he is a doctor. The medical profession is my mother’s favorite, she really admires men and women who become doctors.
I kept telling my mum that I did not like him, and that I was not attracted to him emotionally or physically. He was a big tall man, but my mum kept saying he would lose weight, and that appearance is not important. She believes that career and family status are the most important factors for a good marriage. At this point the third person who was a mediator, another “Aunty”, called my mother and kept emphasizing how this man was perfect for me, and that the family liked me. This encouraged my mum to keep trying to persuade me to change my mind. She shared with my brother, father and uncle how perfect she thought this match was for me.
This is when I began suppressing my emotions, and started to abandon myself for my family’s validation, and what they thought was best for me.
I met my ex-husband in June 2010, and once they went back to Bangladesh we spoke a few times on the phone. I got a job as an administrator, but I was struggling to concentrate knowing that at some point I would be getting married to this man. One day on my way from work he called me and said that he was coming back with his family to the UK the next month, meaning September 2010. He said the Nikah (Islamic marriage ceremony has been planned for September 8, 2010). I rushed home and was in shock when my mother said they had agreed with his father to have the Nikah. I told my mother that they were rushing the marriage, and that I need more time to get to know him. My mum said that their holiday visas were to expire in November, and that his father was worried that if we waited, it may not be easy to get granted another holiday visa. Therefore they wanted to come to the UK for the marriage ceremony before the visa expired. My mum and uncle supported this and I felt ignored. Before my marriage, my uncle visited my soon to be husband and his parents. He gave my mum positive feedback about them, and this made my situation worse as my mum continued to pressure me to accept this marriage arrangement.
They all came back to the UK from Bangladesh, and my marriage ceremony took place at home on September 7, 2010. Prior to the marriage, I was distraught and emotional. I kept asking myself why, just 3 months earlier, I had even agreed to meet him and his parents in the first place. Had I known about the pressure campaign that would follow by my family, uncle, and 3rd “Auntie” to meet my future husband and his parents, I would never have agreed to meet him. I found myself in a situation where I felt helpless, and so I married him. I was so good at hiding my emotions and pushing my authentic self deep into my unconscious mind, it was as if I was wearing a mask from the day we married.
Although I was not physically attracted to him things were okay at the beginning. However, intimacy was very hard for me as I did not want him to get too close, nor did I want to be touched by him. There was no one that I could share this with either, because in my family we were brought up not to speak about anything sexual or intimate, it is considered taboo in my culture. I felt ashamed for feeling like this as I was his wife. I was unable to share this even with a friend because I felt so ashamed that I allowed myself to get into that difficult situation in the first place, and now I did not know how to get out. My friend told me later that when she asked me about intimacy in my marriage, and I said everything was okay, she knew I was not telling the truth, but did say anything because she didn’t want to make me feel even worse than I already did.
In January of 2011, I traveled to Bangladesh for my second marriage ceremony, and to help him apply for his spousal visa so that he could move to the UK with me. I felt like my marriage was a business transaction; he would get to live in the UK and my family would gain a medical doctor. I asked him if he had agreed to our marriage just for my British citizenship and he said no, which was a lie. I found out that the reason he was pressured to marry me was for my British status. Prior to traveling to Bangladesh I was consumed with sadness and despair, but I accepted it, and tried to focus only on the good parts. As I had never traveled anywhere alone due to my sheltered life, I found that traveling to Bangladesh alone was exciting. They lived in the capital city, and I welcomed the new experience of seeing another lifestyle in a country that was so different to my own.
Once I arrived there I just wanted to run back home and tell everyone I made a big mistake. It did not feel right, but I tried to make the most of my time in Bangladesh. I would go shopping and to restaurants so that my mind was occupied with good things. But then one night he attacked me as I was sleeping. I was just in shock. When I asked him about it the next day he said he had a bad dream. I believed him, because at that time I had no idea that he had a mental illness that affected his sleep. I stayed quiet and thought maybe I should not make a big issue as he was not showing any sign of remorse or apology. Then I packed it away in my mind and forgot about it until he moved to the UK in February of 2012.
When he arrived in the UK I was applying for jobs without any luck, and that meant I was home most of the time. My duty as a wife was expected from both him, and my mum, and life was hard. During this time he was studying English for his UK medical exam in order to qualify as a doctor and he was unable to provide me with anything. Our accommodations and food were provided to us by my parents. Living with my family, and with a husband who was not providing anything, was painful. I always saw other husbands providing and taking care of their wives, but not him. I was the traditional wife taking care of all his needs, but I was not receiving anything in return. My mum would say to me, “Be patient, you will have everything once he is a qualified UK doctor.” So I waited whilst playing the role of the good wife. I was hoping I could get a job so that I was not home with him everyday, but cuts in the job market made it hard to find a graduate job. He would sometimes study at the library, and when he would return home I would have his dinners ready. I would clean up after him, as he never had to do this in Bangladesh either. In Bangladesh, families will have a maid to do this. I accepted my new life hoping that I would find some joy, at some point. My mum taught me that you don’t always love a man before marriage, that the love begins and grows after marriage. I was hoping I would learn to love him. I began waiting for things to change, but I felt trapped, so I stayed silent.
At this time my nan (grandmother) was diagnosed with dementia (Alzhiemer’s). I had never heard of dementia or what the condition was like until I saw my nan’s symptoms. Out of curiosity, I began to study books on neuroscience and decided to go back to university at the age of 27. My family could not understand why I wanted to go back for more education. They kept telling me to just get a job, and questioned why I wanted another degree. Nevertheless, I went back to university, and I am so glad I did! I met peers from all backgrounds and ages. I didn’t feel ashamed to be studying again at the age of 27. Being at university and studying a subject I loved was the only form of happiness I had at this time. I had absolutely nothing in common with my husband, and we were totally different people. I was interested in living a healthy life, and he was the opposite. His doctor advised him to lose weight for his physical health issues. His life was mostly studying, and then his father would send him money for his exams. It did not bother me that it had been two years since he had come to the UK and yet had not passed the medical exam, as I was focusing on me and my own passion.
Sexual intimacy with him was very hard for me. Every time we would have sex I would detach and imagine myself as a sex worker, and he my client. My imagination helped me to get through it, as it made me feel powerful to have a little control. Looking back, I think that feeling like I did, not having any power over my life choices, but being able to feel somewhat powerful through my imagination of being a sex worker helped me to survive.
Symptoms related to his illness were starting to show, but I had never met anyone with mental illness. I was not aware that all these issues that were starting were a part of his condition known as Psychosis with severe OCD. His self care was very poor and I could not understand how he could live like this. He would not shower despite me telling him many times to have shower. He smelled very bad, but it would take my parents telling him to have shower to actually get him to do it. I was so confused by all of his behavior. During my second year as a Psychology undergraduate I was studying with my peers and we were discussing various mental illnesses as a group. There was this case study where a man kept showering due to his OCD, and I can remember thinking that I wish my husband would do this.
A few days later his exam results were to be released. He told everyone that he did not pass, but the truth was that he did not attend the exam. It was then, after 2 years, that he told me that he had mental illness (Psychosis and OCD). I was completely shocked to hear this. I was studying psychology, and now I had a husband who had a mental illness. This was obviously my golden chance to escape, but I was trapped by his emotionally manipulative words. He said marriage is about supporting spouses through good and bad times, and that if I had mental illness how would I feel if he left me? I realized that he must have had this illness before we got married, because it didn’t make sense that it would have suddenly just surfaced. He emphasized how people take medication for this sort of thing, but said that he never took medication prior to our first year of marriage because he was well. I had no evidence that he was lying. I could not say anything, but I desperately wanted to leave.
The constant manipulation and guilt kept me stuck, even though by this time my mother and sister were telling me that I should leave him. His emotionally manipulative words about abandonment in a marriage due to illness made me feel that I could not walk away. It was at this point that things went from bad to worse. I was studying, but it was so hard to focus and I was becoming depressed. I was trapped in a bad marriage. Thankfully, I had a friend at university who was giving me support. Long story short, I was emotionally, physically, and sexually abused and neglected by my husband. My dream of a happy marriage was far away, and I ended up as his carer or what felt more like a life of a slavery for me. I attended all his medical and psychologist sessions with him, but nothing helped him as he was not willing to help himself. After finally passing the medical exam on his third attempt, his illness got worse, and he was again at home. He wasn’t applying for any jobs, nor was he following his treatment plan. I unexpectedly became pregnant because he raped me. I ended up having a miscarriage, and that was followed by surgery which was extremely traumatic. In 2016 I decided to separate from him, as my emotional and mental health were being adversely affected. He went back to Bangladesh to live with his parents, and I tried to focus on my final year’s thesis at the university.
There are a lot more details that I hope to be able to share in the future. I found evidence that he had been diagnosed with mental illness, and that he had taken medication for it prior to, and after we were married, and I felt somewhat vindicated. I knew that he would no longer be able to manipulate me or make me feel guilty, because I finally had evidence of his mental illness. This gave me the strength to leave. I graduated in the summer of 2017 with a second upper class degree. I was still in shock, but I was happy to know that I achieved this degree despite the challenges, and the darkness that I had endured.
After graduation, I traveled to Sri Lanka and worked with children and adults with learning disabilities for eight weeks. I made a plan that once I returned to the UK I would proceed with my divorce. I was hoping my family would see the evidence that I had, and that he had lied and betrayed me. I hoped they would also see that I tried to support him as a wife, but that I couldn’t live like that anymore. My family, especially my mum and sister, continued to pressure me not to get a divorce. At this time I told my husband to give me my dowry back, as it is stated on our Islamic marriage certificate. In Hindu religion the women’s parents pay the man who will take her as a wife, however in Islam it is the opposite, as the man gives the dowry as a gift to the woman. This dowry is stated on the marriage certificate so that if the divorce occurs he must pay her that specific amount of dowry back. When I asked my ex husband for it back, he refused. The Imam, who is like a priest at the mosque, also said to my ex-husband and his parents that as he never provided anything for me, and as they kept his illness hidden from me, than they should give me the dowry back, as its my right as a muslim wife. They of course refused to follow this Islamic marriage law.
I started my master’s program in September 2018, but it turned out to be a bad idea because I was distracted by the divorce I was so desperately fighting for, and from living with depression. I was finally diagnosed with Complex PTSD and clinical depression, and was put on a long waiting list to be seen by a therapist. I started taking an antidepressant to help me during those times when my anxiety would overwhelm me. In May of 2019, I finally got my diviorce certificate, but rather than feeling liberated I was in shock from the entire experience; my arranged marriage, his mental illness and lack of responsibility as a husband, the neglect and abuse I endured, but mostly because of the lack of support and love from my own family. I had been deceived by my ex-husband and his parents.
In April of 2020 I came across Rebel Thriver. At this time I had decided to take a study break, and I started teaching at a school for children with special needs. Working with children whilst going to therapy really helped me on my healing journey. I was still feeling shattered and lost, so I decided to sign up for Ella’s coaching program. It helped me to find confidence in myself. In Ella I found a coach who not only inspired me, but I trusted her because she had walked a very similar path as I had. She is a great role model to have. I now know that I will never settle for simply being a man’s wife again, I want so much more.
It was exactly at this time that I lost my beloved nan who had suffered with dementia for many years, and five weeks later I suddenly lost my father to cancer. The support and love from Ella and other women in the coaching group, who have now become my close friends, helped me to get through the bereavement. A year before I lost my father he started to understand how much my ex-husband and his parents deceived and lied to me and my family about his mental illness. My father asked me for the medical evidence so that he could travel to Bangladesh and file a case for the return of the dowry. My marriage caused so much trauma, and I told my father to forget the dowry, as they all will answer to God for it in the hereafter. Now that I have healed, I do regret not supporting my father with his decision to fight for my dowry. This is a battle that I may consider taking on in the near future because I i have legal rights and I want justice.
Marriage is meant to enrich your life, not enslave you. The worst thing in life isn’t being single, but rather being married and forced to live an unauthentic life, one that does not match your personal values. We shouldn’t worry if we feel that we do not fit in with others because the right people will always find you. I am currently working with children and have gone back to university to complete my postgraduate studies. It is tough to do both at the same time, but with amazing support from Ella (my coach and friend) and my mentors who are trained psychologists I am willing to endure this tough journey to achieve my goals. My dream is not only to be a clinical psychologist, but a psychologist who stands up for the justice of women from ethnic minorities who are not able to come forward for support. I want them to know that their voice matters, and that I will hold a safe place for them to heal. When you help others heal you are also helping yourself. I do not know what the future holds. A doctorate in clinical psychology is a very competitive career, but I would rather try and give it my all than be consumed by my fear of failure. Happiness is a journey, and not just a destination. As I strive for my goals I am discovering who I am meant to be.
Everyday I am learning how to make myself a better person, and how to transform my pain into a purpose. I will use my pain as fuel to make a better future not only for myself, but for women of all backgrounds. Life will never be perfect, but we don’t have to settle for less than we deserve. We can choose to seek the light even when we are stuck in the darkness.
This year I was hoping to write about my experience, but I can’t find it in me to be honest. The truth is what I saw and experienced on this day 20 years ago, may never find a voice from me. The weight of the sorrow holds me back. I don’t want to feel the pain.
I was in Manhattan on September 11, 2001. I was living in an abusive marriage to a mentally unstable, and very scary man. That day was terrifying, and he was even more terrifying. It’s hard to talk about it, because it was just too much. The tricky thing about trauma is that it screws with your memory, and the truth is that I’ve not had it in me to try to face them. I buried that day within me while it was still alive.
It’s been 20 years. My first baby was one years old in 2001, he’s now a 21 year old young man. What I can share today, is a window into how trauma presents itself, even after 20 years: I am numb. I can’t turn on the radio or tv because I cannot bare to hear a word about it. I have a heavy sob stuck in the center of my chest and I am terrified to let it out, but I desperately want to. AlI I want to do is forget, and leave it buried. But we can’t forget can we? Nor should we, people deserve to be honored. There is a film reel playing all the time in my mind. I cannot stop it, because I cannot access it. Perhaps one day I will be ready to. Perhaps I won’t.
There was not a cloud in the sky on that crisp September day. We had no idea what was coming when the bottom dropped out. It felt like the city crumbled around me. We were a city of zombies, everyone in shock. I have yet to process what happened, but once a year I am reminded that I need to. Maybe one day I will be able to speak more about it, just not this day. To those of you who were personally touched or lost loved ones, parents, friends, and colleagues I send you my love. It is my belief that the 2,997 that died that beautiful September day are dancing in another realm, untethered from the weight of their human bodies.
Today was a hard day for so many, but we survived.
I find myself at a loss of words over the Supreme Court decision that in short tells women what they can and cannot do to their bodies. Oh, and basically deputizes citizens to turn in their neighbors. It feels like we are in 1942 Germany or in the Soviet Union in the 1980’s. I have dedicated my life to working with women. I help them find their path to healing and I help them find their voices. What happened today pushes back against all of this. It’s a push back against women themselves. There are a lot of ways I could write on this subject, but I’ve decided to tell you my story, what I have learned, and what I know.
I was raised in a born again Christian household where we were forced to go to prayer meetings, church, etc. During my middle school and teenage years I watched as my parents marriage changed as a result. My father became even more controlling than he already was, my mother more submissive, and as a result, unhappy children. This was a formative time for me because I learned exactly the kind of parent I did not want to be.
When I was 15, and still a virgin, I was raped. I was traumatized and terrified, but I couldn’t tell my parents. What if I was pregnant? They were so pro life that I knew they wouldn’t be on my side in this situation. When I finally got my period I was beyond relieved. I then proceed to promptly stuff that memory into a dark corner of my mind, and I kept going. At 22 I decided to finally tell my mother about it. She ended up breaking down and took to her bed for 3 days. She cried and begged me for forgiveness. She wanted to know why I didn’t just tell her. Then she made me promise that we would never tell my father because it would kill him. Imagine if I had been impregnated? What then? I stuffed it back into the dark corners of my mind, and went about the business of living the best I could.
When I was in my mid twenties I met a guy. Our worlds collided and we fell madly and deeply in love, and got married. This is where it gets a little more personal. I have always had an unpredictable menstrual cycle. Sometimes I won’t get it for months, and then there are times when I have it for months. It’s just how it’s always been. I had an amazing career, and I made good money, so we decided not to use birth control. After 5 years of marriage I finally got pregnant. I didn’t know I was pregnant until I was 7-8 weeks pregnant because I continued to have my period. In fact, I had my period for the entire first trimester for both of my kids. I had NO IDEA I was pregnant at 6 weeks with either of them.
We were married for a total of 11 years and during this time my career was exploding, but my marriage was crumbling. I was being abused by my husband. Now just to explain a little about domestic violence…it is not a straight line. You live in a cycle of abuse. There is a period of time where the tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife. You walk on eggshells, and try to avoid the tension from building, but no matter what you do it inevitably leads to an explosion. Abuse is abuse. Period. To those of you who are wondering if you are being abused because you haven’t been hit yet, the answer is if you are feeling it then most likely you are. Don’t use physical abuse as the benchmark for getting help. Now back to the cycle. After the explosion of abuse there is a period of calm much like after a big storm. This is when the Honeymoon phase begins. The abuser will love bomb you to try to smooth things over. They will tell you what you want to hear. You are so exhausted by this point that you are just grateful for the peace, and you promise yourself that there won’t be a next time, but here always is. I was married to Jekyll and Hyde. As evil as he could be one day, he could also be the amazingly intelligent and funny man I fell in love with. It got to the point that I didn’t know who I would be talking to on any given day.
Over the next 5 years while living in the exhausting and chaotic cycle of violence I became pregnant a couple more times, but I miscarried. I desperately wanted more children. When I finally did get pregnant again I didn’t know until after 6 weeks, because I continued to menstruate. At about the three month mark into the pregnancy, Mr. Hyde showed up and decided to kick Dr. Jekyll out for good, and took up full residence in our home. This is when the nature of the abuse took a turn; I was being abused while pregnant. I was having a hard time gaining weight, I couldn’t sleep, and I was trying so hard to keep the peace. My baby came early as a result of the abuse. It was if he couldn’t tolerate another moment inside of my traumatized body. It was during this pregnancy that I accepted the truth about my situation. I needed to get out, but how?
The next two years my life were a living hell. I was a nervous wreck. I went from a size 10 to a 2, and didn’t even realize it. It was during this time where my personal rights were challenged. I was isolated from my friends and family. The only thing I was truly allowed to do was work, and as a result it became my salvation. Someone had to make money and it certainly wasn’t going to be him. He was a nasty drunk most nights. He threatened me with his fist, and a big old butcher knife. I woke up with his hands around my neck so he could tell me that he could, “snuff the life out of me”. It was bad. It was intensifying, and he was threatening to hurt my mother. He told me that he would never let me leave him and take the kids, that he would rather take them out of this world. That is why I stayed until that one miraculous night when the opportunity presented itself, the door opened, and I ran through it as fast as I could with a baby on each hip.
I have never been in a situation where I have had to really consider an abortion. But I know that I would have wanted that option after the rape (even though I know my parents would have made me have it and put it up for adoption). I have experienced the loss of my freedom. First as a kid in a conservative Christian home, and then as an abused spouse. It wasn’t until I lost my freedom as an adult that I realized how precious it was. I was caged and I wasn’t allowed to make decisions for myself. It’s not hard to understand why my favorite word is freedom.
What has happened in Texas is terrifying. I feel like it is the beginning of Gilead (Handmaid’s Tale reference). There are over 29 million people living in Texas and 50% of them are women. The other 50% is made up approximately of 74% white men. (1) For me this is not just about the right to choose, because that is just a boundary that they will attempt to push out again in order to take more rights from women. As a survivor of abuse this feels all sorts of wrong, and I know this is triggering many other women survivors. No one has a right to take away your choices for your own body. And it is especially worrisome that the majority of men that are doing this in Texas are white. What’s it going to be next? What state is going to follow suit?
Women who have money and seek an abortion in Texas will be inconvenienced by having to go to another state. Women who do not have a means will have children that they are not emotionally or financially prepared to care for. Women who are in abusive relationships that are repeatedly raped will have no recourse. It’s hard enough trying to get out of an abusive relationship, but the more kids you have the harder it will be. Do you see where I am going with this? In the state of Texas they have been fighting for their rights against mask mandates, but they think it is okay for the government to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her own body.
It sounds just like abuse, but now the government is taking a piece of the action. Women should have guaranteed dominion over their own bodies. Full stop. If this is taken away then women are not free in this country, and women of color will have it all the more harder. This is resoundingly unacceptable for all women, regardless if they are pro-choice or pro-life. And on that note I want to remind you that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk collecting dust. Without the protection of this law women are at risk. My understanding is that the hold up is over gun rights. They added into the law that anyone found guilty of domestic violence will lose their right to have a gun. Imagine that?
One in four women will experience domestic violence in their life. The Domestic Violence Hotline receives over 20K calls a day in the USA. (2) Over half of all intimate partner homicides are committed with a gun. A woman is 5x more likely to be murdered when her abuser has access to a gun. In order to protect women and reduce the homicide rates for domestic violence we must insure that people who abuse their partners or family do not have access to firearms. (3) Again, this is just another example of women losing their freedom because men are not willing to give up control.
I am very scared about what is going to happen after this. I am scared for the women who live in other states because you know it’s only a matter of time before similar laws are passed in them. Women are not confused. We do not need men (or Amy Coney Barrett) to tell us how to take care of our own bodies. They don’t want to wear masks, they don’t want us to take away their guns, but they want to take away a woman’s right to decide what is right for her own body. This is the Patriarchy in all its white glory. It will continue to do what it needs to in order to retain power and hold all women and men of color back.
I’m thinking of moving north. If I see Handmaids in their red capes walking north in orderly lines from the south I want to be able to run across the border to Canada. Just as all the Anti-maskers in Texas are crying “My Body, My Choice, My Rights”, so are women shouting the same thing, but apparently no one gives a shit about that.
Do not wear your body as an apology. Wear it proudly. Be in awe of your form, for what it is or where it gets you, for what it allows you to feel and do.
– Bianca Sparacin
Wear it proudly, my loves! You know that saying “Youth is wasted on the young”? I think of all the ways I “wore my body as an apology” when I was younger. Looking back I see how beautiful I was, in my own unique way, but saw nothing but flaws. I wish I could reach back through time, grab my younger self by the shoulders, and make her see sense. While that’s not possible, what I can do is make sure I speak to my inner child and live my message now. I see my body as my sacred vessel, and I am grateful for all the ways it fights for me, carries me, and allows me to feel and interact with the world. My freckles, stretch marks, wrinkles, and whatever else society says needs fixing, I now know is just another paint stroke to the masterpiece painting that is me. Love your beautiful self, and that includes your body; every inch! I hope you recognize how remarkable all that makes You up is, and that you see it now, not in hindsight. Free yourselves from the illusion that there is anything wrong with your body other than the story you’ve been telling yourself, about how there’s something wrong with your body.
“I began to shiver. There was a wind blowing through me; I felt like an empty room with all the windows shattered, terror blowing through me, no comfort left. That was how I felt consciously and distinctly.” – Frederic Prokosch
This is how domestic violence feels at times. It guts you and leaves you feeling utterly alone and isolated. A shell of your former self. There is no comfort to be found in it and when you do find a moment of peace you are always preoccupied with the fear of it ending. You are never able to fully relax. To experience the relief of being able to collapse into yourself. No fear. No worries. You are on guard and vigilant 24/7, walking on eggshells and always praying that it won’t happen again. But it does. It always happens again. This is the cycle of violence and what makes it so incendiary is that it always circles back on itself. It runs deeply infecting one generation to another. Unless the cycle is broken. . The road back is not an easy one. It is riddled with road mines and much strife. But we the survivors are strong and must never forget to celebrate that. Freedom becomes our favorite word and courage our middle name. Day after day you must take steps forward and find support that you can lean into. Find role models of women who have walked your path before you and who inspire you. The path to healing is where you will learn to rebuild yourself on a solid foundation and begin the process of discovering who you are again. No longer will you feel like an empty house with shattered windows. Instead, you will feel a fire rising up within you declaring that you are worthy of so much more. You are so very worth the effort it will take to rebuild. You deserve a peaceful happy life. Healing takes time so you must tend to your garden with much love and self care. 🦋Ella . Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233 (United States) The hotline.org . ✨ If you are interested in life coaching please reach out to me at Ellahickscoaching@gmail.com or you can get more info and book your sessions at ellahicks.com.
After I left my husband I had a hard time finding a path to healing. I didn’t know anyone who had lived through domestic violence. No one spoke about it at least. It felt shameful. It was as though I had arrived at a cross roads in my life. Do I hide behind a mask or do I choose to be my authentic self…scars and all. I chose the later and decided that I wanted to help smash the stigma that surrounds domestic violence. The shame that the survivor feels is due to societies perception of it as a whole. People understandably will feel sorry for you, but in doing so that can trigger feelings of embarrassment/shame. Here’s the thing, the survivor did absolutely nothing wrong and the shame should be placed squarely upon the shoulders of the abuser.
Abusive people are a plague on society. Period. They infect the same invasive sickness from one generation to the next. Without education and support there is no way to end this cycle. The abused becomes the abuser. I want to impact the lives of others through Rebel Thriver. I want people to be aware of the red flags. I want to be a part of the public discourse about DV as there is with the #metoo movement. We cannot be afraid to be honest. We cannot be afraid to use our voices. The shame is not yours so lay it down.
Where do the feelings of shame come from anyway? Is it because you didn’t walk away sooner or because you went back time after time? Often a person will endure abuse quietly for years. I wore those shoes. Now think about how you got there in the the first place? Was it because for some insane reason you didn’t think you deserved better? That in and of itself is an entire other chapter. You are enough. You have always been enough.
What happens when you combine a person with low self worth with an abusive controlling partner? An intense psychological game begins that slowly breaks the victims sense of self down as the game is played out in increments. Once you actualize the situation your realize how hard it is going to be to get out. My husband threatened to kill my kids, my family, me. What do you do when you are literally a captive, a hostage in your own life. It’s hard to break free. I lived that life for years and when I finally got out I know that people thought, ‘how could a woman who looked like she had her shit together be living in such duality?’ When your reality is skewed you can find yourself just struggling to survive around the daily landmines. Survival becomes the game. Later, my mother told me that I deserved an Academy Award. My father told me that I earned a Ph D in domestic violence. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
Back to standing at the crossroads. I chose to not give a damn about what other people had to say. I’ve taken my life back. I declared that I am not what happened to me, and I have learned some serious lessons. I am a deeper, wiser, more empathetic, and a very soulful person as a result. This is the time to heal. If you are holding space for your own healing be open to asking for help. It is a hard path to walk alone. You have lived in scarcity and fear for far too long and you need to learn how to rewrite the script that is in your head. You need to realize that not only can you move on, but you can live a thriving life.
Rebel Thriver has been my voice piece. It has allowed me to step up in a public way to tell my story and educate people to the fact that there is no discrimination with domestic violence. It can control the life of a highly paid, college educated, executive just as easily as it can any other person. It’s hard to shine a light on the fact that the person I loved with all of my heart had chosen to treat me like an enemy. I lived a life of “normalcy” during the work week, but once I left the office it was back to the cage. Trust me, if it can happen to me it can happen to your sister, your child, your mother, your best friend, your brother, your uncle, etc. Domestic violence is intrusive not only to the victim, but also to their entire universe.
The sooner we start to smash the stigma and speak out about our experiences the sooner we will be able to educate and shift peoples perceptions of what domestic violence truly is. When the laws change to hold abusers accountable in a real way then maybe we will see change. As for now I want to use what I’ve learned to help others begin to heal and live again. Shortly after I got divorced older women would say, “You’re still young with a pretty face and you will find another man, don’t worry.” As though that was what I wanted, a another man. Some will jump from partner to partner trying to fill that void. They never stop to take a breath, thus never healing or realizing that they are enough unto themselves. A personal relationship with oneself induces healing and can bring about transformative life changes. I lost my marriage to domestic violence, but in the process I found myself. I won the game.
Hi everyone, I would like to introduce to you my friend and fellow writer, Joseph Dittrich. He shared this with me and I just loved it. He followed a writing prompt on Reddit and here is the story he wrote in tandem to it. I hope you enjoy it like I did. xo Ella
PROMPT: One day, you’re approached by a rather annoyed angel, who takes you to a warehouse filled with nothing but thousands of bottles. Turns out, every time you’ve bottled up your emotions, it’s literally filled a bottle of that exact emotion in the warehouse, which is nearing capacity… RESPONSE:
Real men don’t cry.
That’s how I was raised. That’s how my dad was raised, and my grandpa, and my great grandpa, and probably every man in my family forever.
Real men don’t show emotion. Well, happiness is okay, and anger if it’s controlled. But sadness? Crying? Never.
So when they said my six-year-old daughter had leukemia, I stuffed it. Every time I took her for treatment, every time I saw the pain she was in, every time someone asked me how her recovery was going, I stuffed it.
And when she died three days before her eighth birthday, I stuffed it. The worst of it is, I wanted to hurt. Well, I know that doesn’t sound right. But I think you know what I mean. I wanted to express it. I wanted to be sad. I wanted to cry. I wanted to be angry, but I knew I couldn’t control it. So I stuffed it all.
I became cold, impersonal, antisocial. Nothing was good enough to make me happy, to make me smile, to make me laugh. I wasn’t proud of anything or impressed by anyone. I had no interest in anything that I had once enjoyed. I was just trudging through life. My hopes, my dreams, my only child. All gone. Even my wife left me. She said she’d rather be miserable and alone than miserable with me. And I stuffed it.
After the divorce, I sold the house and moved a thousand miles away. I wanted a fresh start, away from everything and everyone that reminded me of what I had lost. I rented a crappy little one bedroom apartment. I got a crappy job. I bought a crappy car. And every crappy, miserable day, I stuffed it.
But you see, the problem is that no matter where you go, you take you with you. My little girl would’ve graduated high school this past spring. So, yeah, I’ve been stuffing it for a lot of years. It’s not like I could go talk to a therapist or anything. That was against everything that my father had taught me. You handle your own problems. You don’t bring them outside the family. You don’t show signs of weakness like that.
Anyway, a couple weeks ago I got a visit from someone claiming to be an angel. I don’t really believe in that sort of thing, so of course I was skeptical. They always tell you that angels are dressed in white and have huge wings and they’re beautiful and they carry harps and they sing and all that stuff. Well, my supposed angel looked like she was pulled from the front row at a Rancid concert. Red flannel shirt, ripped jeans, black spiky hair, tattoos and a nose ring.
She didn’t float down from a cloud or anything like that. She popped up in my backseat after work one day and told me to drive. I couldn’t figure out who would want to carjack me, or what part of my crappy life gave anyone the idea that I was worth kidnapping. She started to laugh, but I couldn’t.
So as we were driving, we started talking. She didn’t have a real or official name. She went by whatever people called her. I asked her if it was OK if I called her Sweet Pea, because, you know, my daughter’s name was Piper and that was my nickname for her. She told me that would be OK. She started to sob a little, but I couldn’t.
After what seemed like forever, we pulled up to a giant steel building. There was a huge lock on it with 16 spinners. She told me the combination was the best day of my life followed by the worst day of my life. That seemed simple enough. I rotated the dials so they showed the day Piper was born and the day she died.
I pulled on the lock, but nothing happened. I looked at Sweet Pea, but she just shrugged her shoulders. There was no better day and no worse day. I tried the day we found out she was sick. I tried the day the doctors said there was nothing more they could do. I tried the day we buried her. I tried every horrible thing I could think of. Still nothing.
I sat down on the ground in front of the door, staring at the lock. I had no idea what it could be. After what seemed like weeks, it dawned on me that I had to be there for a purpose, for a reason. I spun the numbers so they read today’s date. Well, the last date I knew it was, the day Sweet Pea appeared in my car.
A knowing smile began to crawl across her face. I did the same with the first eight digits and cautiously pulled on the lock. It finally released. I shoved it in my backpack, not even considering the fact that I wasn’t wearing it when I got out of the car, or the fact that I didn’t own a backpack.
I pulled open the doors and we went inside. The building was massive, somehow larger on the inside than on the outside. It was full of shelves, floor to ceiling, wall to wall, each row maybe three feet deep and three feet apart. And every shelf was packed with glass bottles. They were mostly clear, some green, blue, brown, and a few red. They all had a strange glow inside them.
I turned toward Sweet Pea to ask what was in them. For the first time, she looked serious. She said they were my emotions. Whenever I bottled up what I felt, they appeared here. She told me the red ones were a recent development. They were emotions like despair, regret, loneliness, anguish, and hopelessness. They were the ones that usually took the place of sadness and anger and were a sign that someone was about to give up completely and try to end it.
Now, I had never considered the possibility of taking my own life. But everything that she said made sense. I can see that I was heading down that path. When I asked what to do, she told me that I would have to either take a taste from every single bottle or smash them one at a time.
It seemed easy enough. I reached for a brown bottle on the shelf next to me. Sweet Pea snatched it out of my hand and placed it back on the shelf. I felt something ugly welling up inside me. An orange bottle appeared next to the brown one, then a blue one and a red one as I tried to regain a sense of calm.
She then explained to me that they had to be eliminated in the order in which they appeared in the warehouse. She pointed to the three new ones, labeled confusion, despair, and rage. Three more bottles in less than a second. For the first time, I realized how difficult a task this would be and how quickly they could accumulate.
We climbed up dozens of stairwells and walked along miles of catwalks and scaffolding to reach the very first bottle. I was barely a year old. My brother had just been born, and my mother was spending all her time with him and ignoring me. I watched my father telling me to just suck it up and deal with it, that no son of his was gonna be a wimp, that I’d better not cry because crying is for babies.
I could feel the jealousy and the anger and the frustration all over again. I could barely reach the pale green bottle marked jealousy on the end of the shelf, but I knew it was the first one. I removed the cap and took a sip. It was bitter, as I somehow expected. It disappeared from my hand as I grabbed the second bottle, this one with a pinkish tint. As much as I like spicy food, I was no match for the fire from anger that hit my tongue.
Every emotion that I had never felt burnt my lips, tore down my throat, seared my insides, torched my soul, and fried my brain. Even joy in its sunny yellow cask felt bittersweet. The worst part was that as I was going through the old ones, I knew that new ones were appearing. I was exhausted, I was frustrated, but I was determined to get through this.
It seemed like months had gone by since that first taste of jealousy. I had never been on such a painful journey in my life. Dealing with the death of my little brother, all my failed relationships, the roller coaster that was Piper’s last couple years on earth, and ultimately the deaths of each of my parents. I cursed my father’s memory hundreds of times because of the way he raised me. I never should’ve had to go through this.
We finally reached the doorway. A pearl white bottle stood alone on the threshold. She told me this was the last one, that it was something no one would ever consider. Happiness, joy, satisfaction, they all fade away. Anger, frustration, regret, jealousy, they can kill you. Ignorance, apathy, hatred, they can kill someone else.
No, she said this one was special. I picked it up and examined it. It was unlike all the other bottles. It had no label that I could see. No markings, no etching, nothing. Sweet Pea looked serious.
“It says peace,” she stated. “But you can’t see it unless you drink the contents. Obviously, a sip wouldn’t do the trick. You would have to drink the whole thing. Dumping it, breaking it, that won’t work. Neither will leaving it alone. Everyone drinks this one, but no one realizes it until it’s too late. I will tell you this, though. You don’t have to touch it, at least not yet. I told you what you needed to do to clear this place out, but this last bottle…I can’t tell you what to do.“
“I’m not quite ready,“ I replied, stumbling over the words. I turned to put the bottle on the shelf and was stunned by what I saw. The entire room was maybe twenty feet in each direction. I could reach the top shelves while standing on the floor. They were narrow, with wide aisles between them. “What the…?“
“You finally dealt with it. You finally allowed yourself to feel. You finally realized that it’s OK. You finally accepted that your father was wrong. Don’t ever forget what happened here, and please, don’t ever give yourself a reason to come back.” Sweet Pea smiled and walked out the door.
“Wait! I still have so many questions for you.“ I ran through the doorway after her and found myself standing next to my crappy little car. She was gone. I climbed into the driver seat, leaned on the steering wheel, and for the first time in my memory, I cried.
We are in the cross fires of a political situation that shouldn’t be political at all. I know there are people who will call me brainwashed and misguided. They will say that George Orwell is turning in his grave because 1984 has come to fruition. I know these people well. Some of them have my same blood. Some of them know what happened to me back in 1984.
I was taken advantage of by a guy from a prep school. He locked me in his room, laid on top of me and hurt me. He took my virginity. I cried for him to STOP! He didn’t. When he finally got up, he put his pants on and leaned against the wall of the darkened room, the candle light was flickering across his evil face as he said in a very flip way, “What do you expect? I have wanted you for over a year?”
I was staying with my best friends family at the time. I was bleeding heavily. I was terrified. However, I didn’t call my parents. I didn’t tell them when I got home. I didn’t tell anyone. I tucked that experience away inside of me for years and “forgot” about it. Funny thing about trauma…it likes to pop up every now and then in the worst of circumstances. When I turned 22 I finally told my mother. She took to her bed for 3 days and cried the entire time. My father doesn’t know to this day because I saw how my mother reacted and I just knew it would kill my father.
People have been blaming the victim forever. Seriously, it is the culture of the world. A victim can be your mother, father, sister, brother, child, friend, and yes, even you. To add insult to serious injury it is also made clear that the victim is in someway responsible for the attack. This creates a wall of isolation and shame. This wall can barricade a victim behind it’s tall chalky cold walls for years. Sometimes for life. The mind is a mysterious thing. We have learned some about what trauma does to a persons mind though. I can speak to this because I am not only a survivor of rape, but of domestic violence. In an attempt to protect you, your mind will selectively shelf memories. It’s as though it opens a door within and shoves the trauma into it, and then it slams the door. Sometimes the door opens up again. Sometimes it doesn’t.
I live with debilitating PTSD. If you were to ask me what I struggle most with day to day I would say, my memory. I have big blocks of time missing due to domestic violence. I can’t remember much of my child’s first years. This is because during this time his father was so abusive to me that in order to survive my mind shut the memories away. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
I am not mad about my situation. Rather I have chosen to channel that into helping other women recover, reclaim their lives, and move on after abuse and assault. This is how I heal. I run Rebel Thriver and this has become my life’s work. One of our agreements is no politics and no religion. This is because we know that this type of trauma doesn’t discriminate. I do not want to alienate any survivor over a political opinion or a religious belief. I believe that a victim needs to be heard no matter how long it takes for them to find their voice. And when they do finally speak they should not be shamed for it.
You do not know the path another has walked. We really need to start taking a step back at how things have been so that we can make changes and learn to move humanity forward in a more positive way. I believe that education is the only way. People can learn to become more understanding, better listeners, and develop empathy. We are capable of re-framing our thinking and doing better than the generations that came before us. We need to move towards coming together to tear down the old ways that allow isolation and victimization. We need to try to make this a better place for our children.
All I can do is continue to help the people who are trying to rebuild their lives and heal after trauma. I do not take political sides. I will never make a victims story divisive. It’s hard to stay out of the firing line these days. I pray the truth comes out and that people in powerful places are no longer able to wield their power to hurt others. Perhaps I am a bit idealistic, but that’s how I am and I will never give up striving to do better. My calling in this life is to help heal the wounds of survivors. It’s not fancy work, but it is everything to me, for how can we heal the world if we don’t work on healing it’s wounds?
For those of you who follow my blog then you know already that I started the Wildfit 90 day Challenge 6 weeks ago. Wildfit is a program that helps you to find your way back to how we evolved to eat. In the last 6 weeks we have cut out everything but vegetables and proteins. Sound horrible? It’s not. Eric Edmeades, the founder of Wildfit has this program down to a science and because so much of it is psychology it doesn’t allow you to really feel deprived. Of course I miss my coffee and my avocado toast, but let me tell you about how I feel. I feel incredible. My energy levels are soaring and my skin is glowing. My allergies have been diminished and I am losing inches. It’s working.
A few weeks ago I was cruising Instagram and an invitation to join a free three day seminar on Business Freedom popped up. The facilitator was none other than Eric Edmeades from Wildfit. Now I am a trained artist/designer with commercial experience, but never have I been trained as a business person. Most of you know that my dream is to one day open a retreat for women and children who have survived domestic violence. I feel like I am treading water though because I just don’t know where to start. Aside from the complexities of my personal life (needing to stay on the down low for safety) I need help. So I decided to sign up for this live three day Business Freedom seminar and see what it was about.
I had the benefit of “meeting” Eric through Wildfit already and I knew that he has a communication style that resonated with me. Perhaps he could actually talk business with the same effect. For 3 hours a day, 3 days in a row, I was glued to my computer for this live seminar. It wasn’t boring at all. I understood everything that was being presented. It got my blood pumping and my mind churning for all the possibilities. I started re-working my vision board and I stuck this image in the center of it.
I created this little image back 2015 when I first started toying with the idea of creating a place where women could come again and again to reboot, recharge, re-connect with themselves, and re-energize. A place where healing could begin after domestic violence had ended. You see there is help to get you out of the crisis. Shelters, domestic violence advocate organizations, churches, etc., have programs to help you to safety. But, after the triage is over you are left alone with someone you don’t really know. Domestic violence is the systematic breaking down of a person over time. It is not easy to just start over when the person you used to be is lost and you don’t recognize the face staring back at you in the mirror. I know this because I lived this. In fact, this is why Rebel Thriver was born over 8 years ago. I was isolated, scared, and completely lost. If I could connect to one person a day I would have felt successful. I knew that there had to be other women out there who could relate to me, I just didn’t realize how many. There are thousands of us from every walk of life around the globe. Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate against social economics, education level, gender, or religion. Domestic violence is all inclusive, and whether you realize it or not there is most likely someone in your life who has been affected by on some level. True Story.
On the second day of the business seminar we were told that there was going to be a giveaway of two tickets to the Business Freedom five day intensive conference in Tallin, Estonia (March 2019). I needed to write an impact statement as to why I thought that this would help me with my business (Rebel Thriver). You can read my impact statement here: Sweet Lemonade. I wrote about the retreat that I want to create so desperately to help other survivors so that they can reclaim their lives and learn to be thrive again.
On the third day the winner was called. I knew that my chances of winning were slim to none. I knew that there were hundreds of others from around the globe in this group who already had thriving businesses and knew exactly how they could make an immediate impact. I prayed to God right before the winner was chosen. “God, if you want this dream of mine to become a reality then I need help. I need this help. Give me a clear sign.” Then I heard my named called out as the winner! It came to me as though through a wind tunnel. Out of nowhere the girl who cannot cry started sobbing. I couldn’t have gotten a clearer sign from above. Divine Intervention? I am sure of it.
I started following the breadcrumbs that have been left for me, and now I am going to Tallin, Estonia in March to learn how to turn this dream into a reality. I am also starting a year long Mastermind Group next month to make sure that I stay on track. I will be meeting and working with so many other amazing talented people who are going to help me make this dream a reality. Now part of the reality is that there are going to be costs associated with the travel and the Mastermind. I will be starting a fundraiser to cover these costs and I will ask all of you to help me. Help me help Rebel Thriver. Help me help you.
There is so much work to be done, but I don’t feel overwhelmed about it anymore. I know that it’s going to come together. One day Rebel Thriver is going to have a Hotel for the Soul. Until then we will keep supporting each other the way we know best, through love and understanding. xo Ella
* If anyone reading this feels that they might have a skill that can help me along this journey I would be thrilled to connect with you. I cannot do this alone. It takes a tribe. You can reach me at email@example.com.