What is self love?? I’m glad you asked the question.
Honestly, My mind is weary so I had to look it up:
Self-love means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness. Self-love means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others. Self-love means not settling for less than you deserve.
That was a hard concept to learn growing up. I’m sure many of you can relate. Words like, you’re not wanted, I never wanted you in the first place, you don’t deserve it, you’re worthless etc. you know the drill. They pack a wallop and leave scars that at first feel like they will never heal. Then you throw in being taken advantage of physically and your well being gets smaller and smaller as if you become almost invisible. You let their words and actions speak louder than your heart. In your heart you know there’s got to be a better way, Please let there be a better way. Your path is laden with pot holes that you keep falling into until one day it’s possible: you start only tripping over the holes, then you start walking around the holes and finally you realize it’s time to take a whole new path. Some people find it on their own, some through a spiritual connection. I found my path to freedom through my hope and faith in God. My ex husband said let’s go to your friends church “ one day. You’ll never guess what the sermon was about? Dysfunctional relationships /Abusive relationships. The minister asked anyone who had been a victim of a form of abuse as well as anyone who had been a perpetrator to come forward for prayer. Everyone, including me, went forward except for one man. Yup, you guessed it. my ex For me seeing over a hundred plus people go forward spoke volumes and I began to talk to the pastors’ wife and others. They gave me books to read and said they were praying for me. Long story short, within a short time I was placed in a safe house with my daughter. He eventually found us, somehow and at the very moment he pulled in, the pastor of the church did too. That was the first true day to my journey towards freedom. He argued with the minister and the minister fired right back at him. So he went away more or less. Fortunately Through the love and counsel I received, I began to know that unconditional love was possible and the first person I needed to forgive and love was myself. I found a home at the local motel where they let me live in exchange for housekeeping work. Eventually I learned to care for myself enough to try front desk work then was promoted to manager then on and on toward finding my freedom. Today through special funding via NH Community Loan Fund, I now own a very modest Mobile home and I share it with my family. I’m blessed to work close by and have a peace that I always knew in my heart of hearts was out there. I’m so very thankful for my freedom and for those that have been a stepping stone along the path to get here. I’m convinced that I’m definitely not done going forward and that God continues to have an awesome plan for my life. Take heart dear ones, your path to freedom is near at hand. Take your first step. Learn to love yourself, step out !!! YOU are so worth it. Happy February ❤️💕🌸🎈👏🏻🎶🤩🎉🎊😍🤗🥰😘❤️🎈
Positive self-talk We all have that voice in our head that tells us all the horrible things we dislike about our self. This internal dialogue can cause havoc to our self-esteem and self-worth. To help change this, every time you catch yourself using negative self-talk, change it to something positive. Examples: I am kind. I am enough. I am beautiful. I am powerful. I am worthy. I deserve the respect of others.
Have Compassion For Yourself It is so much easier to have compassion for others, but you are worth the same love and compassion you give to others. If you were to step back, and imagine someone else had lived the life you have, or been through the things you have, I bet you could find empathy, love, and understanding. This was a big Ah-ha moment for me. It allowed me to understand my situation with much more compassion. Instead of thinking I wasn’t strong enough, or it wasn’t “that bad,” I was able to understand how strong I had been. No one is perfect, don’t be so hard on yourself. Give yourself some compassion.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone For people who have lived in trauma, self-love isn’t comfortable. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, and allow yourself to love YOU. If at first you don’t succeed, keep getting uncomfortable and try again. You are worth the uncomfortableness to realize how amazing you truly are.
Tell Yourself “I Love You.” Every time you walk by a mirror, stop and say, “I love you.” If that feels a little too weird at first, start with saying, “I am enough.” Every time you see your reflection, whether it is in a storefront window, on the side of a shiny car, or in the mirror, stop and say it. Look at yourself in the eyes and say the words you tell others. Say them, and then work on believing them.
Practice Makes Progress Practice your self-love practice everyday. The more you do it, the more you will start to believe it. At first, it might feel a little odd, but you are worth it. You are important. You matter. Now, get to work, and start loving your beautiful self.
The best way to seek revenge on all the people who hurt you, is to love yourself. If they taught you to believe you were unlovable, prove them wrong. When you love yourself, everything else falls into place. Self-love is the first step to taking back your power.
Be gentle on yourself. You’ve got this. You are worth it.
What is self-love? Doesn’t sound like a hard question, right?
When someone has lived in chaos and trauma, self-love is not something that is learned. In fact, it is furthest from reality.
You’re nothing without me.
You’re a waste of space.
Have you looked at yourself lately?
When you hear the same things over and over again, you begin to believe it. How could you not? Subliminal and not so subliminal messages are being fed to you on a daily basis. How can you stop the negative self-talk, when you do not have any other frame of reference. You use all the strength you have just to make it to the next day, there is nothing left to fight the thoughts that make up who you are. How can you love someone who seems unlovable?
When someone told me I had to love myself in order to love others my defense went up. I was angry at the thought. How dare they say that to me. How dare they tell me I have to love myself. In that moment it was an impossible ask. I was not in a place that I felt I deserved love. I thought it was my job to love and take care of others. I did not even make it on my list of priorities.
The next time someone said this to me, I took a step back. Maybe there was something to this. I watched others around me, and noticed our differences. I looked for small ways I could try to put myself first. The small steps pushed me to grad school, and that was where the real magic happened.
Each month I felt myself come a little more out of the haze of the illusions that surrounded me. The more steps I took out of the fog, the more I was able to see how I wanted to be treated by others. Before this, I didn’t think I had a choice. If someone wanted to take advantage of me, I didn’t say no. When I started to see my worth the people around me didn’t like it. It wasn’t as easy to push me around like they used to. I slowly learned how to say no.
Self-love was a long process for me. I had years of reprogramming. Years of clearing out the spaces that had been filled with violence and fear. The excuses poured in from every direction. The what if’s filled the air.
Some days I was able to push them under the surface, while other times I wasn’t as successful. The fear and doubt won. But, I didn’t give up. I kept trying to fight my way through the thick muck of self-loathing and self-doubt to the land of self-love.
Abusers use these weaknesses they see in us. They feed off of our self-doubt, and assure us we are all the bad things we can conger up in our minds. Self-love takes our power back. When we don’t believe the awful things we used to tell ourselves any longer, we won’t believe when they say them either. When they put their hands on us, we know we don’t deserve it. We know we are worth more. We are worthy of love; our love. We are worthy of safe love. We are worthy of happiness.
We. Are. Worthy.
Do you have a story of your self-love journey you would like to share? I’m looking to share stories of self-love this month. Send me a mesasage at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share your self-love story. The best weapon against domestic violence is education and sharing our stories.
We will make a difference. One voice at a time.
Can you think of ways you practice self-love? I’d love to hear about them! I’ll share some ideas in the next blog.
Since awareness is key to helping end domestic violence, I want to share a story each month with a different focus. There can never be too many stories shared. Sharing replaces hopelessness with hopefulness.
Since this idea did not come to me until late into the month of January, I thought I would start with my story. I did share my story in October 2019, as well as in my memoir, The Monster That Ate My Mommy, but there is always room for more details and more insight. My hope is that sharing my story, even on repeat, it will reach the right people to make a difference. If one person is helped by my suffering, it was for something.
The first three years of my life I did not have contact with my father, and as far as I know, neither did my mom. She brought baby girl Aiken home to her mother’s house from the hospital with the father’s name on the birth certificate blank. From the start she knew she didn’t feel safe around my dad, and maybe for the first time in her life, she listened to her gut feeling. During those three years she kept him away from me, and because he was not named as my father, without a DNA test, he did not have any rights to me.
The plan had been to name my brother’s dad as my father, and I was going to be given his last name. He agreed to this plan, and as far as I knew, he was my dad. He was loving and kind, and fun to be with. Before this plan could be put into motion, he became very sick, and died. I am not sure if it was this alone that changed my mom’s mind about my dad, or her wish to give me a father, or the hope for a family, but he was welcomed into our lives. My birth certificate was changed to list him as my father, and my last name was hyphenated to include his.
Within days we were moving into a new place as a family, and the abuse came creeping back in. Some of the scariest, most traumatic moments of my life came from the three short years we lived together. I witnessed my brother’s beatings, so severe, I was not sure he would live. I watched as my parents had violent sex in the living room, and saw my dad inches away from ending my mom’s life.
I was a watcher. I watched and observed everything. I wanted to be prepared for what might happen. Every sound awoke my adrenaline as I waited for it to escalate, and spiral out of control. Even at four years old, I knew I had to think fast, and be ready for what might come. I knew I had to be strong and step in for my mom or brother when their beatings became too much. I’d cause some sort of distraction to take the focus off them, hoping the belt across my bare bottom would be enough for him. If they could have a break, maybe they would be strong enough for the next time.
I knew there would always be a next time. I knew that even when we were laughing and having fun, it would end as quickly as it started. My guard was never down, and it wasn’t until recently that I understood the impact this has had on me.
Some things are easy to see what they were caused by, while others take time to fully understand. My newest development came in a counseling session where EMDR therapy was used.
The goal of the session was to understand the reason I don’t feel at home anywhere. The last place that felt like home was my gram’s house, the same house I was brought home from the hospital. Even though I moved out of this home when I was three, every time I went back, I knew I was home. It wasn’t a big surprise to me. It made sense that my gram made it feel like home; she was home.
My problem was I have not been able to recreate that feeling since. It was not due to feeling unsafe or unloved. I didn’t understand what was the route of this lack of connection came from. In the past abuse and neglect made it was easy to see why I didn’t feel like I was home. My life is no longer filled with either and I wanted answers. I wanted to fix it. I wanted to find that feeling.
Some of the factors that lead to this decision were the boxes I have not unpacked for over ten years. They follow me, all the things I have carried with me throughout different moves, and do not find a permanent place inside the building I reside. I do not decorate or make an effort to make it feel like “home.” I thought it was because I was lazy…or busy…but lately, I knew there was more to it.
During my session I had to go back in time to a memory that may have caused this. Going down memory lane I counted 20 moves in my lifetime. Most all of them had a negative connotation. There were two that stuck out. One was when I was 14 and first in foster care, and the second, the one that I worked on, was when I was six and going with my dad for visitations.
Tears began to roll down my cheek as I thought back to thirty-two years ago, to my six-year old self with my rolled up brown paper bag full of my clothes gazing out the window, waiting for my dad’s car to arrive so I could slip out the door before my parents had a chance to interact. In those moments I dreaded these weekend visits. I wanted to go to my gram’s, but on his weekends, I couldn’t.
As I worked through these emotions and memories I realized what had been keeping me from feeling at home. It was the lack of fitting in, the lack of having a safe place, the lack of belonging, the lack of having a solid foundation.
How does this all relate to being a child witness to domestic violence?
All that fear, and waiting I experienced followed me. I’m ready at a moments notice to throw my belongings into paper bags, or garbage bags and throw them into my car to get to safety. I’m ready to make my escape, because to me, home was not safe. To me, home was where I went to be hurt and watch others be hurt. It was a place that held all the secrets and horrors that no one else was allowed to know. It was filled with loud voices, swears, insults, and bruises. It was the space between going to school, and my gram’s house, where safety wasn’t questioned.
Watching my dad hurt and threaten to kill my mom changed me. It instilled a fear in me I thought was part of my existence. It gave me an altered view of what home and love were supposed to look like. It ate away at my self-esteem. It robbed me of self-love.
It changed me.
As an adult, who found my way to my own house of horrors, it took me a while to realize it was not normal. I didn’t believe I deserved anything other than what I had always known. I recreated a “home” that mimicked the one I had grown up in. On guard for the next incident to happen, I never had time to get comfortable. I didn’t know what comfortable was.
Recently, I thought something was wrong with me because I can sleep through my husband’s alarm clock. I know now that there is nothing wrong with me. For the first time in my life I feel safe. Safe enough to sleep soundly. Safe enough to let my guard down. Safe enough to figure out what home is.
It’s time to start living. Existing is exhausting.
If you have exposed your children to domestic violence, please don’t feel guilty. We all do the best we can with the information we have at the time. Each day is a new day to make a change. Tomorrow is a clean slate. Don’t let the past keep you somewhere you never belonged.
I don’t share my story for pity, I share it for awareness. Awareness is the key to ending domestic violence.
In October of 2019, the Stand Up to Domestic Violence project helped over thirty survivors share their stories. Every day of the month a new story was shared to spread awareness. Awareness is key to helping end domestic violence. The more we talk and share, the more people know they are not alone. When the stigma is removed from domestic violence, more people may come forward for help. More friends and family members may spot abuse in relationships of their loved ones. More teens will be able to spot the signs of abuse sooner. More children may understand what happens at home is okay to be talked about; it will give them the power to share secrets they may otherwise carry with them for decades.
When these doors are opened, they shine a light on the abuse. With knowledge comes power, and safety. When we share our stories we learn that someone else may have been through what we went through. The words that were used to keep us prisoner may lose their power when we hear how many others were called the same names, told the same lies. When we talk, we grow, and when we grow, we see the world around us differently.
So many survivors I have talked to have told me, “I didn’t know it was abuse.” “I didn’t think it was domestic violence.” Time and time again, I heard stories of cruelty being brushed away because it was just how it was. Women were raped by their husbands, but they didn’t think they had a choice. Men and women lived in fear, because they just thought that was how it was supposed to be. Doesn’t every relationship include threats and violence?
It wasn’t that many years ago I didn’t think what I was living through every day was abuse. I questioned my sanity. I did not see my value, and I could have sworn I had no worth.
“It’s not that bad.”
“At least he doesn’t hit me…everyday.”
“It only happened a couple of times.”
“He said it was my fault…I know what buttons to push.”
“He’ll take my kids away…he’ll prove I’m crazy.”
These thoughts kept me stuck. I had no idea that the lies I was fed were verbatim the same words others were being told by their abuser.
Word. For. Word.
As soon as I was able to break free enough to get a glimpse of my value, I was able to see. I didn’t deserve to be talked to like that. I didn’t deserve to be raped. I didn’t deserve to have my money stolen from me, or my credit destroyed. I didn’t deserve to be physically assaulted. I didn’t deserve to hear death threats. I didn’t deserve to live in fear.
The power this knowledge gave me was paramount to my survival and escape. Had I not seen the glimmer of hope, I would still be stuck. It was as simple as knowing life didn’t have to be that way any longer. My goal is to help as many men, women, and children understand their worth. It starts with you.
Do you have a story to tell? Do you know someone who does? Do you need more information? Knowledge is power. Help me take back our safety, our bodies, our minds, and our hearts. Share posts on social media, talk to whoever will listen. Have facts, or real life experience, and share…share…share! Together we can make a difference. Let our voices be heard, let them shake the ground under the abusers who use power and control to harm others. Leave them powerless over the ones they are so good at hurting.
The beginning of a new year brings lots of thoughts about the past 365 days. As I started to think back over the last year, I realized not only did January 1st bring a new year, it also brought a new decade. I tried to think back to the start of 2010, and where I was in my life, and I couldn’t believe the changes that had taken place. So many so that it is hard to remember who I was. A stranger in a strange land.
2010 brought with it the continued grueling, agonizing grief that came from the loss of my grandmother. It would bring the year anniversary of the most painful loss of my lifetime. It would also bring the push I needed to seek counseling when the pain became too much to bare. unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at what followed, the counseling did not help. It was the reminder I did not want that I could not trust counselors, and the reason I had not stepped foot in an office since the court order had ended when I was in foster care. By the end of the year I knew if I wanted help, I would have to learn the skills to help myself. I met with admissions counselor at Springfield College to talk about the Masters in Mental Health Counseling program…and applied.
2011 began with an acceptance letter into the graduate program, soon followed by a full-time caseload of classes, because my motto has always been “Go big or go home.” Chaos was what I was used to, and this sure helped fill that requirement. Receiving As in my first few classes gave me the reminder that I was good at something. The year also brought hell to my son as the bullying continued. He started to get physically sick when we took the road that led to our house. No one wanted to help. The way out was found with the loss of our home; taken by a fire that destroyed everything we owned. Life had to start over; there was no other option. The insurance company gave the option of rebuilding in the same spot or finding a house somewhere else. The choice was an easy one, and we found a house down the road (less than a half a mile) from where some of the worst physical abuse of my life occurred.
2012 brought strength. As the kids’ lives started to settle down in school, I began to find myself. For the first time in my life I was able to see how I had been treated. The fog from the gas lighting started to lift. I took the new found strength and purchased tickets to see Tom Petty live in concert in Orlando, Florida. My first time to see him and my first time on an airplane. I didn’t know it then, but this would be one of the major stepping stones of my healing journey. If a lifelong dream could come true, anything could. I held on to that belief as the journey continued. The year also included a shakeup in my career. As my degree was getting closer and I learned more about ethics, I knew I did not want to stay somewhere I felt like I was settling. I left a job I held and had loved for six years to pursue something more; more money, more responsibility, more chaos.
2013 changed my life, maybe even saved it. As I learned who I was and what I didn’t need to deal with I knew what and who I didn’t want in my life. The year brought another Tom Petty concert, this time in Saratoga Springs, New York. It brought new friends, courage, and more strength than I knew I could handle. Three days before graduation my now ex-husband was arrested and removed from the home for physically assaulting me. The arrest gave me the protection I needed to get the divorce papers started, and set the motion for a safe life for my kids, pets, and myself. Safety did not come right away, but I knew I never had to allow him to put his hands on me or the kids again.
2014 was the year I got my name back! The divorce was finalized on May 30th. My first time at Fenway Park happened on August 31, 2014 to see my third Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concert. This was the year I also started writing my memoir. I wrote 25,000 words and had to stop. I knew I couldn’t write my truth while my mom was alive. It had always been my job to protect everyone else’s feelings…this was no different.
2015 changed my status from lifetime Vermonter. A move I never thought I would make moved me across the river to New Hampshire. This was the year I started on my healing journey. A friend told me I needed to clean my third eye…I didn’t know what she meant, but I knew who to ask. I met with Sali Crow, which started the process of uncovering years of my buried trauma. Through this process it made sense to meet with a therapist. There was way too much to leave unattended. This was also the year my world went black, crashed around me, when my youngest daughter told me her father had been molesting her. Suddenly, I was that seven year old girl who was being molested again. While I protected my child, the hurt, anger and rage seared my skin as I thought about my seven year old self, and how my mom blamed me for the abuse…how she watched the abuse happen right in front of her. This nightmare sent me into a deep depression, and brought back every unresolved issue I ever faced in life. This was the year I found out what I was made of.
2016 put me in a position to learn Reiki, so I could continue on my healing journey, and help my children with theirs. It was the year I was able to see and acknowledge the abuse and trauma my mom caused me. I took a step back, and put some distance between us, so I could began healing old wounds. It was also the year I felt at peace with my gram’s death. On April 20th, ten days after the seventh anniversary of my gram’s death, my mom took her last breath. I was able to be by her side when she left this world. I was also able to tell her that I forgave her (and I meant it). The last words she spoke to me were, “I love you.” And for the first time in my life, I believed her. After my mom died, I sat at my computer and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I finished the first draft of my memoir by June, submitted it to an editor and waited. When it returned I read through the corrections, but I didn’t have it in me to go back to those places I needed to go. I was emotionally exhausted. My reward for completing a life long dream was an overnight trip to New York City to see Mudcrutch. I was the closet I had ever been to Tom Petty, and the night was magical. A small venue with acoustic music, that was a trip I am grateful for.
2017 brought the time I needed to rewrite my memoir. It also brought a trip to Nashville, TN to see Tom Petty with some online friends I had been talking with for years, who understood my love of the band. It also brought four more concerts. Two of them with front row seats, and a few guitar picks from the band (and Dana), one tossed right from Tom’s hand after he finished playing Free Fallin’. My memoir was published in September, and my book launch party was scheduled for October 20th, Tom’s birthday…October 2nd brought heartache when we learned Tom passed away. I was not sure how I would get through the event, but I pressed on, and honored the man who help save my life so many times with his words. The year finished out with a proposal from the only man who had ever shown me love and respect.
2018 was stated off in an airplane headed to Los Angeles, California to appear on the Dr. Phil show. I had been lead to believe we were going to be talking about my memoir, but soon learned that not to be true. My sister, step-father and I talked about the sexual abuse we experience as children. He admitted the abuse he had done to my sister, although in a twisted, victim blaming way, but denied what he had done to me. This experience brought many things with it. Clarity, healing and understanding. It also brought a trip to Tennessee where I spent a week at Onsite in their Healing Trauma workshop. This would not have been something I ever would have been able to do for myself, and it gave me the understanding of how many people there are who know what it’s like to live a life of trauma. I understood that I am not alone. And for the first time in my life, I understood my strength.
2019 introduced me to EMDR therapy, and helped me process many of the traumas that left me with PTSD. Luckily, I responded well to this type of therapy and it helped mend many years of hurt and self doubt. I had many break through in my sessions. It was the year I married a man who has loved me and never hurt me emotionally or physically. It also helped inspire me to help others share their stories and bring awareness to domestic violence. The year ended with the loss of our sweet dog, Belvedere, who taught me that the love was worth the pain.
After going through the years and events, it is easy for me to see I am not the person I used to be. I have learned so much about myself and the world around me. The healing journey is one that does not end as life twists and turns. I look forward to the years ahead to see what adventures and lessons they have in store. Here is to the next ten years.
“I was with my bf for about 3-4 years total, off and on. The whole relationship was rocky to begin with. I never figured it out, then one day it clicked. He didn’t want to work, help support anything. Everything was to make him happy. My father was dying and he had to be stuck to my side to “be there for me”. I didn’t want him there and neither did my father but he had to follow me. Out of respect for dad I couldn’t go see him or I’d have a shadow, and disrespect him while I was there. Anyone I was close to left me. They didn’t like him and I couldn’t see why. We have a child together. He used him as leverage to keep me when I finally had enough of feeling depressed and lonely and never good enough. Told him I didn’t love him. He told me I’d never have my son and he’d make sure of it. I stayed. I tried to leave him for 1.5 years before I was finally able to. The last few months when I finally made the decision I had to leave regardless what he said. We fought. Told me I’d never be good enough for anyone else and no one would want me. I’m a useless, waste of air. Said he wished he was a female so he could beat he sh*t out of me and get away with it. Literally push came to shove sometimes. I’m 5’3 and he is 6’4. We were nose to nose a couple times. He’s told me I should kill myself and wreck my car and make everyone happier not to deal with me. A few days later the brakes went in my car. He called Child Protective Services on me a few times, and brought me to court numerous times trying to make me look unfit. For my birthday I went out with my so called close friend. I ended up being drugged, carried out back of the bar and left there. I’m not sure who or how I got ahold of him to get me but he came. Child Protective Services woke me up the next day. Said I was accused of being an alcoholic. Come to find out my friend was fooling around with him and helped him drug me and make me look unfit. I slept with a knife under my pillow for a long time. The last couple court dates I had an escort out to my car. The court guards actually asked me because they seen him hanging around outside. Before I got out of the house I had at least 2-3 CPS visits and at least one court date started. Since then, I moved back to my mothers house. Got a better stable job. A man who picked up the pieces and helped me grow. He built a house for us. Things have done a complete 180 for me. I feel loved and wanted again. Something for the longest time I didn’t think I was allowed to feel.”