Growth Necessary

I started Rebel Thriver a few years after I fled an abusive 12 year marriage because I was  isolated and needed to know I wasn’t alone. I fled one night with the clothes on my back and two small children on my hip. I left my home, career, colleagues, car, identity, and my life behind. And just like that I found myself broke and broken with nowhere to go. I have a supportive family, but I was afraid to put them in harm’s way. I was on the run and I had lost myself in the process. What most people don’t understand is that domestic violence is the systematic breaking down of one’s self. When you step outside of that reality you are lost. I found little or no support in any outside organizations to help with the process of rebuilding myself or my life. When I could not find connection locally, I looked internationally. I knew that there were other people who would understand and would want to join into a positive and supportive conversation with me.

Enter Rebel Thriver.

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What I didn’t realize at the time was that Rebel Thriver would grow into a vibrant worldwide community. For those of you who do not know my story, I still live in fear of my ex-husband finding us which is why I cannot post pictures of myself. I am still in harm’s way, and yet I won’t let this stand in the way of the work that needs to be done. This past year was incredibly difficult on a personal level and I questioned everything that I was and wasn’t achieving in my life. I decided that it was time to commit myself to serving this community of survivors with all that I am.

Once I made that decision things started to connect in miraculous ways. As a result (Following Breadcrumbs Blog Post ), I am now part of a year-long international Business Freedom Mastermind Group run by Eric Edmeades. I am heading to Estonia in March to participate in a week-long intensive business conference that will help me to be able to achieve my ultimate goal. That is to open a retreat house that will be able to help people learn how to re-connect with themselves, and to each other, so that we can heal, grow, learn, and find support; a place that will help in all areas needed to live a healthy life. I won the ticket to Estonia (Value $4k) because my pitch for Rebel Thriver laid out why I believed that this conference would help me to make the greatest impact on this community (Sweet Lemonade Blog Post ).

Now this is the hard part for me. I have taken a leap of faith and I have already started the Mastermind, but now I have to raise the money.  For almost 7 years I have worked daily to provide insight, inspiration, education, and support for many. I have run women’s groups, workshops, coached, counseled, and even helped some women leave abusive relationships. This is all because of my love for you and the burning desire to help. I have never asked for a money, but now I need help to further my dream to be able to serve all of you better. I need the education and the connections that will help me to achieve my goal of opening a Retreat House to teach people how to reconnect, reboot their lives, and thrive.
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I am raising money to cover the cost of the year long Mastermind and for my lodging and airfare to Estonia.  I want to be able to serve you better and this will take time and resources. Invest in me and so that I can serve you better.

Thank you for taking the time for reading this and thank you in advance for your generous help.

Love, Ella xo

Fundraiser Link: Rebel Thriver Fundraiser

Blog Posts Mentioned:

https://rebelthriver.blog/2018/08/28/sweet-lemonade/

https://rebelthriver.blog/2018/09/09/following-breadcrumbs/

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

13256494_1057993907616031_3195574131118398619_nWe 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?

xo Ella

Following Breadcrumbs

“We rise by lifting others.”
-Robert Ingersoll

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.

944443_480424378706323_1885200404_nI 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.

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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 rebelthriver@gmail.com.

Sweet Lemonade

Twelve years ago I walked away from my very sick and abusive husband. I literally walked away with a baby on either hip and the clothes on our backs one freezing winter night. I walked away from my hugely successful dream career as a creative Design Director in NYC, from my home, my friends, and colleagues. Just like that, life as I knew it disappeared.

11219135_843428145739276_5399162458993067994_n.jpgIn the last 8 years I started a movement called Rebel Thriver. I have run private groups, workshops, and done personal development coaching all for free in an attempt to help women (and men too) learn how to rise above the mentality of survivor to become a thriver. I also have a team of 8 women who volunteer to help me do this. I knew what it was like to live isolated and alone. I knew that support just didn’t exist once you were out of the initial triage phase (after leaving abuse). I wanted to reach out to help others because there was none for me when I needed it. I wanted to create a community for myself and others.  Today the Rebel Thriver Tribe has grown to almost 300K and we span the globe. They are an achingly beautiful group of people.

My situation is extreme. My kids and I had to change our names and social security numbers 3 times in order to stay alive. It was in this time that I started to DREAM about opening up a beautiful “camp” for people to come in order to learn to heal, connect to self, and be educated on self connection, self development, healing, nutrition, etc. An escape for women (and teens) to connect to their inner voices in order to create a path to self love. I want to help these women who have been systematically broken down to lay a brand new stable foundation for them to start over and build onto. I want to help them find connection, a new family, and happiness. A place where they can feel like they belong. That their story matters. That they matter.

I desperately want to do public speaking (high schools, corporate gigs, Ted Talks, Mind Valley, etc), but  I cannot put my face out in the public sector yet, as I still have a minor child and it is not safe for us. So for now my dream is to build this beautiful sacred space (in the islands somewhere) as a place of healing and new beginnings. This is where I will start my speaking and teaching practice in order to prepare for the day when I can branch out publicly.

In the process of all of this I will create a new level to the Rebel Thriver Tribe. A place where I can help people find employment and create a healthy life with positive human connections where they can help others to heal and grow. There are so many people who need to overcome trauma (domestic abuse, sexual abuse, recovery from substances and emotional abuse). While the situations are different the way back to living a healthy life is all very similar. There are SO many people who need help and guidance and I want to be the one to give them a chance.

I am currently taking a business seminar called Business Freedom, by Eric Edmeades. He is offering a free Business Freedom Week Seminar this year that I just know would help me to achieve my dreams to help others (AND i do need help). It would give me a way to connect with other business leaders and learn from the best. It will help me to really focus on my business plan and come up with a blueprint as to how best to make the dream become a reality. This seminar will help teach me so that I can in turn help others on a grander scale.

I am an extreme example of learning to thrive whilst my life is still being shadowed by control and abuse of another. I am able to show others what thriving looks like, and that they don’t have to wait to start living. Domestic Violence helped me to learn to embrace my life and be even grateful for my circumstances…for so many reasons. I know how to turn lemons into lemonade many times over.

I am loving this class. Thank you Eric so very much for your generosity. Eric is also the creator of Wildfit of which I am currently a Wildfit participant (this class is helping me keep my mind off of Bread!!!!) Check out my blog post My Journey to Wellness to follow me on my journey with Wildfit. Stay tuned and thanks for your support.

Cheers,
Ella Hicks

http://www.rebelthriver.org
http://www.rebelthriver.blog
http://www.facebook.com/rebelthrivers
http://www.Instagram.com/rebelthriver

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

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