Month: April 2016

Forget Me Not: Crawling Out of the Darkness — Part 1


I have literally started this post several times over, but am determined to get my thoughts out in a clear and concise way. This week, I have read a number of posts written by those struggling with, let’s call them, negative feelings. As I read about each of your battles, I am reminded of the time I spent faltering in darkness. I remember it all too well, and sometimes to this day, I find myself dancing along the edge of a chasm that could engulf me if I allowed it. I don’t know that we are ever able to completely rid ourselves of depression, anxiety, guilt, bitterness, and frustration. I’m not sure if we are ever able to move on from our past hurts to a place where they can never affect us again. But, what I do know is that I understand where you are, and I can say with certainty that it does get better.

My goal here, however, is not to simply tell you that it will get better, wish you well, and send you on your way. I also remember that I really hated when people did that. My plan is to share with you how I got from where I was to where I am today. Each journey is different, and we each heal in our own way, but I’ve learned to pick and chose from what has worked for others to find a solution that works in my life. Perhaps this will help you to do the same.

Put One Foot In Front of The Other

If you ever watched the animated Christmas feature, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, you may be familiar with the song “Put One Foot in Front of the Other.” If not, please take a second to watch it, because the song alone should help put a smile on your face. This song has been somehow embedded in my head from the first time my therapist told me to take everything day by day. And, ironically, it worked. The song is sung by a young Santa Claus, who is teaching an old warlock to get past the bad he sees in the mirror and move toward good. No matter where you are, or how you envision yourself, the best way to get from bad to good is to put one foot in front of the other.

This may sound goofy, but I assure you that it is a wonderful first step. For me, one of the more difficult issues I have is focusing on the here and now. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the past, what could have been, what should have been, or what I want. And when I decide I want something, I generally want it now. This mentality feeds into depression and anxiety and makes them worse. When you are down at your lowest, it is hard to see past where you are.

When I was in the midst of my marriage, I couldn’t imagine a life that was different. I literally saw no way out. When I hit rock bottom, I couldn’t see any light in my future. I believed that my life was destined to be that way forever. The more I believed these things, the deeper and darker I fell, until I was forced to seek out help just to remain functional.

Learning to take it day by day was where I started. It was the very first step in finding my way out of the rut I was in, and onto a path to a brighter future. Every time my mind would start to wonder and I would feel the anxiety ramping up, I would tell myself “put one foot in front of the other.” Then, I would take a deep breath and ask myself what was happening right now, and that is what I focused on. When my mind would wonder to even the next hour, I would remind myself that this very moment was all that mattered. It took some practice, but soon I was able to keep my thoughts, more or less, centered on the very space in time that I currently occupied.

Once I managed that, I was able to learn new strategies and do more things with my life to get where I wanted to be, which I will address in upcoming posts.

In order to get out of the darkness, you must find the light. And when the light is not there, you must create your own. Be your own light, your own champion, and believe in the power you have to start taking control of your emotions even when you cannot control the circumstances of your life. This is the first step. Your turn…try putting one foot in front of the other. You’ve got this.

Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Forget Me Not: Why Should I Care?

It’s always good to have an honest friend. You know, that one who doesn’t filter their thoughts and simply says it as it is. This particular friend said to me, “Why should I care?” And he got me to thinking. He wasn’t necessarily talking about domestic violence, but he struck a chord with me. Why should he care about my passion? I’ve noticed that many people do not care about my passion for speaking against domestic violence. Getting friends and loved ones to do something as simple as like a Facebook page seems to be the equivalent of asking them to actually endorse physical violence against puppies. I see that the same people reading and liking my posts are the same people who support most causes.

Why is this? Well, I believe that as humans, we don’t want to see the more unpleasant side of life. It is downright depressing and so much easier to look the other way and pretend it doesn’t exist. We are all guilty of it. I’ve found myself scrolling past posts on cancer, or changing the channel when the ASPCA commercials come on. Is this because I have no heart? Because I don’t care about those suffering from cancer or abused animals? No. This is because it is difficult to deal with all the pain in our world and easier to look the other way. But, I should care. I should at least attempt to educate myself to the issues so that I can support those around me who are dealing first hand with those issues that do not affect me.

That is exactly how we should be dealing with domestic violence. Why should you care about domestic violence? Because someone close to you is dealing with it right this very minute. And if that is not enough to make you perk up to this far-reaching and devastating matter, then you may want to consider how it is actually affecting you personally, because domestic violence affects our society, our finances, our children, and our animals. Take some of these numbers into consideration.

The Statistics

In the U.S., 1 woman is beaten every 9 SECONDS. 20 people are victims of domestic violence every MINUTE.

1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 MEN are victims of some sort of physical violence, by an intimate partner in their lifetime. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men are SEVERELY PHYSICALLY ASSAULTED by an intimate partner.

Approximately 38,000,000 people have experienced domestic violence.

The Breakdown

2 in 5 GAY and BISEXUAL men are victims of domestic violence. 50% of all LESBIAN women have been victims of domestic violence in their lifetime.

70% of all women WORLDWIDE have been physically or sexually abused in their lifetime.

BLACK women have a 35% higher likelihood of experiencing domestic violence than white women.

Violent Crime

15% of all VIOLENT CRIME is due to intimate partner abuse. 20% of all intimate partner HOMICIDE victims were the family members, friends, neighbors, and individuals who intervened. THAT IS YOU.

72% of all murder-suicides are by intimate partners.

From 2003–2008, 142 women were murdered in their WORKPLACE.

3 women are murdered every DAY by a current or ex-partner.

Between 2001 and 2008, 11,766 WOMEN were killed by their current or ex-male partner. To put the in perspective, during the same timeframe, 6,488 TROOPS were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Animal Abuse

Victims who have entered shelters state that their PETS have been hurt, killed, or threatened by an intimate partner. One in three report that their CHILDREN have hurt the animals in the home.


1 in 15 CHILDREN are exposed to domestic violence each year. 90% of them witness the violence first hand.

BOYS who witness domestic violence are 2x more likely to abuse their future intimate partner and children.

Dating Violence

1 in 5 HIGH SCHOOL students experience physical abuse from their dating partner each YEAR.

One-third of ADOLESCENTS in the U.S. are physically, sexually, emotionally, or verbally abused by their dating partner.

43% of all COLLEGE students experience violent or abusive behaviors by their dating partners.

Financial Impact

Victims lose 8 million days of PAID work leave each YEAR. That is the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs.

Domestic Violence is the 3rd leading cause of HOMELESSNESS among families.

Approximately $37 BILLION a YEAR is spent for law enforcement, legal, medical and mental health treatment, and lost productivity.

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As you can see, domestic violence has far-reaching effects. It is affecting you. It affects your children when they spend time at a friend’s house, your daughter as she enters the dating world, someone in your family, a friend in your circle, your neighborhood, your workplace, and your pocketbook.

It isn’t a sexy topic and is just now getting attention by the media. But it takes you being aware, learning the signs, and paying attention to help protect and support those that you love and interact with. It takes each of us being involved for there to be change. We cannot throw money at it and hope that research will find a cure. The cure is you!

Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Forget Me Not: This Week

This week

This week has been amazing on so many levels. I’m not even sure where to start, and yet I know why I want to share this with you. You are the reason for my joy this week. I’m talking about my fellow survivors, those who are trying to help friends or family members, and those who are out there cheering on others daily. This week has been full of connections, hopeful conversations, and personal growth. And, I have you to thank for it.

I have been blessed to have had conversations with several individuals through this blog, social media, and in person. New bonds have been created with people I’ve never met, yet feel like I have known for years. I’ve watched you support each other, provide feedback on ideas, share your demons and your dreams, and raise each other up. We are so much stronger together than when we try to stand-alone.

This week I spoke verbally, for the first time, about my journey through domestic violence and healing. I stood in front of a room of people, without fear, and spoke my truth. I saw the looks of concern and the looks of understanding. We made a difference that day. Not just me, but all who took the time to put such an event together so that victims could be reached and their loved ones educated. It was beautiful to see emotion sweep the room as we watched Lady Gaga perform “Til It Happens to You.” And, at the same time, it was sad, as I could feel the heaviness of those reliving their own experiences.

I watched people wait in line to talk to me because they wanted to know how to help a friend suffering from domestic violence. They were full of concern and willing to learn. I learned that a woman sought shelter after hearing my story. I don’t know if it was my words or the words of the shelter representative, but she is on her way to healing because we came together and broke the silence on domestic abuse. I saw togetherness and it makes my heart swell with happiness and love.

This week I saw my blog climb to 359 views from 9 countries, the most it has ever received. It reinforced that in today’s world, our reach is infinite. I sit at my computer and share my thoughts, fears, dreams, and the lessons I have learned, and my words travel around the world so that they can be found by those whose lives I may touch. Thank you for reading. I believe, wholeheartedly, that I lived through domestic violence so that I can help others through my experience.

This week has brought me hope. I set out to bring to hope to others, and you all have brought hope to me. The interactions and support that I have received have given me the confidence, and validation, to carry on in my mission. Although we all come to these blogs, web pages, social media sites, and chat rooms for various reason, we will grow and blossom together. I look forward to continuing in our journey side by side.

Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Forget Me Not: A Letter from My Future Self

letter from future self

Dear Me,

It’s been thirty years since I last wrote to you. The year is 2046, and we will turn 70 this year.
I remember the turmoil in your mind as if it were yesterday.

Our gut instinct was to walk into work and declare that we were never coming back. We felt owned and controlled, a feeling that seems to continually haunt us. It’s not that they treated us poorly, but the job simply did not fit with our personality or free spirit. We didn’t feel as if we were doing good there. There is so much more to life than a 50-hour workweek and a paycheck. But we made good money and worked hard to be there. We would have been stupid to throw it all away. And, yet, we were miserable.

It had been several months since we started blogging again. The connections made there were heartwarming, sad, loving, and empowering. We had never spoken with so many strangers about such personal issues, and yet it was freeing in a way we never thought imaginable. It also reinforced that a job is simply that, a job. A job is not a life and it is not a passion. Writing, teaching, and helping others are our passion. This is where we were supposed to be at this time.

But on this day, like so many days past—even years—we struggled to live life on our terms. Fear had a grip that is unyielding. I can see you sitting there with stress creasing your brow and tears pushing toward the surface. We hate fear, don’t we? It is the one thing in life that keeps us trapped where we should not be. It kept us trapped with him for years. Now it shackles us to the unforeseen.

“What if no one wants to hear what we have to share? What if no one buys the book? What if we can’t make the non-profit self-sustainable? What if we can’t pay the bills? What if we fail?” There is safety in boring and secure situations, but they often lack joy.

I’m writing to you today to tell you to stop. Stop worrying about the future and what it may bring. The present is now. Life is short and precious. I know you. I am you. At 70, you will be happy with the good you did, the relationships you made, and the change you brought to others. It is time to make a change for yourself. My only regret is that I didn’t write to you sooner and implore you to allow yourself to be free. There is no correct box in which your life must fit. There is no path that you must take, and no one person who can tell you which direction to go. Only you can do that. Only you can release the chains of fear that are holding you back.

You will make the right choice and find a path that allows you to grow and blossom. The next 30 years will be full of love and passion for life. You will spend your hours helping others to avoid the pain you endured, and making connections with those struggling to find their path. You will grow together.

Some will tell you that you are crazy, but you will know that you are free. The anxiety will fade away. Your past will deteriorate into a story of hope and survival. You will greet the day with anticipation and use your time to create change. No longer will you be the woman who is trying to keep up with life, but instead, you will focus on health, happiness, and others. Love will guide you and peace will find you.

Your skin will wrinkle and your hair turn silver, but your heart will remain the same. In 30 years, you will look back on your life and say, “I did it right.” Follow your dreams. Your strength has brought you this far and will carry your further. Always remember what you say to others: “There is a beautiful life that can be had. Believe in yourself and find it.” It applies to you too.


Your Future Self

Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Forget Me Not: Why My Story Isn’t So Bad

Why my story isn't so bad

Sometimes there is a little voice in my head that tells me, “It really wasn’t so bad.” I start to wonder if I remember it differently than it was or exaggerate the details. There are so many individuals that have it much worse than I did, right?

The answer is clear. Of course there are those who have it worse than I did. Men and women that have no support system, have children to care for, lack training or a job, or have been beaten so badly that they are now in a hospital. Some carry permanent scars, are fighting for custody of their children, are being stalked by their ex, or are living in fear of their life. I cannot even imagine the pain and suffering they bear.

No matter our lot in life, there will always be others that suffer more. I recall a conversation I had with a man I ride bikes with, Hector Picard. He is a double amputee and is an inspiration to many in our circles. He competes in triathlons, winning medals for children who suffer from various physical ailments, and encourages the world to never stop living.

This particular conversation took place several months after I suffered a collarbone break that put me on the sidelines due to a non-closure. I faced several surgeries, months of therapy, and was feeling quite down over the whole situation. Hector asked me how I was doing and I shared my tale of sorrow, only to catch myself mid-story as I realized who I was talking to.

His response was just like Hector. Although I can’t recall his exact words, he reminded me that we all suffer differently and have our own struggles. Our struggles cannot be compared to the struggles of others, because no matter how big or small, they are very real to the person living through them.

Abuse is the same way. My experience with domestic violence was my struggle. Others suffer in different ways, but we all experience the pain that our situation brings us and must learn to survive and move forward. I have been blessed to grow from my experience, learn to deal with many of the long-term effects, and be in a situation where I can use my past to help others. Perhaps, had it been worse, I would not be where I am. The abuse was bad enough that I understand and can relate to the effects it has on victims, yet not so bad as to create a barrier which precludes me from being about to help others.

Our situations are our own, not to be compared to those of others and not to be downplayed. What is most important is that we find our way, never give up, and be understanding of others circumstances. Find your way to freedom and then use what you have learned to help others less fortunate.

Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Forget Me Not: How Do I Help a Friend That Is in Trouble?

friend in need

“I will probably never see you again. He’s going to kill you.” My mom said it sternly, yet lovingly, as she pulled away from me and got in the car.

This comment was made at the end of a very tumultuous weekend. It was the first time my mom got a glimpse of my husband’s true self, one that I’d managed to hide from her for almost sixteen years. She refused to stay any longer, as she feared him and what he might do. She had begged me to leave him and come with her, but I had refused. I tried to cling to her and my sense of loyalty to my marriage at once, something that was impossible and gut-wrenching. She left knowing that she may never see me again, but she also realized that there was nothing she could do to make me leave. She knew deep inside that she had to leave me, so that I could realize what I needed to do for myself. I cannot imagine the pain this caused her, but I do know that it was the right choice.

I’ve had several people ask me how they can recognize the signs of abuse and help a friend in trouble. Throughout these conversations I have seen two consistent factors. These individuals are confused about the warning signs of abuse, and they want to help but don’t know how. I can only speak from my experience, but I hope that this information proves helpful.

What are the signs?

If you are concerned that a friend or family member is being abused, there are likely small signs leading you to feel that way. Oftentimes, victims of abuse are good at hiding what is going on. They will say the right things, tell you the right things, and declare love and happiness with their partner. But something will be off, just enough that your spidey senses will start to tingle.

You may notice that the individual never has time for the things that he or she used to love. They no longer can participate in a friends night out, don’t go to the movies anymore, can’t grab a cup of coffee, or go to a get-together at a friend’s house. They may show up late, and leave early, when they used to stay for hours. They may make excuses why their partner cannot come a little too often, or cancel at the last minute. Over time, they may pull away more and more until you have little to no interaction with them.

You may find that they change the subject when you ask about them or take note of their demeanor. They may look tired and stressed, but not wish to discuss it. They may share small pieces of their life, like their disappointment in their partner’s actions, but ask that you not tell anyone that they spoke of it. It may seem that there are more and more secrets, but they will still smile and say how good everything is.

You may notice that their partner influences their choices. They may want to change their hair, but mention that he wouldn’t like it. Or, they may start dressing different, listening to different music, leave social media, or stop talking to friends of the opposite sex. Perhaps they may be more reserved, less opinionated, or appear unable to make decisions for themselves. You may also notice that if you, as their friend, make a negative comment about their partner, they will lash out or be overly protective (more than normal).

On a more obvious note, you may see that your friend has become overly “clumsy,” and suffers from a higher number of injuries than the average person. Also take note of the types of injuries your friend has. How many times can one forcefully bruise one’s own face? Be alert and take notes. Please remember, however, that not all abuse leaves marks.

You will know if something is amiss. It is all the small changes that don’t make sense that will make it apparent to you. So, what do you do about it?

How do I help?

This is the more difficult part. Once you get the feeling that your friend is in trouble, the best thing you can do is simply be there for them. I will start with the “do nots.”

Do not pass judgment. Do not criticize, put down, or demand your friend listen to you. Do not claim to understand what they are going through unless you have, in fact, been abused by a partner. Do not show frustration or anger if they do not take your advice. Try not to give advice unless you are qualified to do so. Do not confront their abuser. This is not only dangerous for you, but also for your friend. Do not walk out on your friend when they do not leave the bad situation they are in.

Do let them know that you will always be there for them. Educate yourself. There is a wealth of information out there on domestic violence in all of its forms (emotional, physical, sexual, financial, etc.). The more you know, the more help.

Do ask if they are ok and do not dismiss your concerns just because they say they are. If you feel something is wrong, it very well may be. Do tell them what your concerns are. Something less aggressive will likely be received the best. For instance:

“I am feeling like you are not yourself and am worried about you. It seems things are not as good at home as you say they are. I want you to know that if you need anything you have my support and confidence. I care a lot for you and am here to help.”

Don’t be surprised if they dismiss your concerns and change the subject, but know that they will remember your offer when they are ready.

Do check in on your friend even if they do not reach out to you. A simple text or phone call to just say hi will go a long way in keeping the doors of communication open. Many victims start pushing friends out of their life, sometimes harshly. This makes it hard to go back and ask those same people for help. Remember, you are safe to the victim. They may be unkind or harsh, but it is likely not your fault.

When a friend does start to open up to you about their situation, be a listening ear. Do not talk or lecture—just listen. Simply assure them that when they are ready to make changes, you are there for them.

A victim may not ever ask for help and they may never open up to you. Only they can make the decision to get help, to leave, or to make change. But having a good friend in your corner makes it a lot easier.

Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Forget Me Not: A Letter to the Family and Friends of Victims


Dear “You,”

You are the people that represent stability in a victim’s life, or at least you should. You are their parents, their siblings, their extended family, and their friends. Perhaps you are the friend or family of the abuser. Or, maybe you are the neighbor next door, across the hall, or down the street. You are the bi-stander that will witness the changes taking place in the individual you love. You are the acquaintance who works in the same office. You are someone to a person who has no one at home. This letter is for you.

Today something happened to me that reminded me how important it is that someone writes to “you.” Today I was scolded for not telling a family member what was happening in my marriage. I was told that I should have told them before, with implication that I owed them that. You see, I broke my silence and now everyone is learning the truth of my life. A truth they were unaware of for years.

This experience sparked in me the idea to write to those who may not understand, and those who do not want to understand. I speak for myself, but I guess I speak for the silent too. The silent still live in fear, share custody, or are still with their abusers. The silent cannot speak for themselves.

The victims of abuse rarely share their secrets. They may lie, rearrange their lives, cover up, and make excuses, but they will not tell you what is really happening in their world. There are very profound reasons for this that you may not be able to understand. I protected my husband because I didn’t want his reputation ruined. I had no plans to leave him, so I didn’t want my family to think poorly of him. I was going to change and fix everything. You see, I was the problem. He told me as much almost every, single day. I didn’t want my family and friends to know what a failure I was, so I just worked to make it all better.

Victims also live in fear. When I did tell someone that I fought with my husband, or simply that we had a disagreement on something, I paid for that. I was not permitted to discuss our family issues outside the home. They were no one’s business. I was expected to smile when in the company of others and never let on that anything bad was going on. If I messed up, he messed me up. He reacted with emotional abuse or battery, depending on how upset my actions made him. Fear is an amazing motivator to remain silent.

Oh, and I loved him. He was my husband. Don’t forget the strength that holds on one’s willingness to speak negatively about someone else, even if it is true.

There are a myriad of reasons that victims are silent, but my experience has taught me that fear—of physical attacks, of death, of financial insecurities, of losing children—and shame are somewhere near the top of that list.

This may sound harsh, but “you” need to hear it, and so does the victim. A victim does not owe anyone an explanation. No one. They did not do anything to deserve this life. They did not ask to be in this situation. They are not leaving because they feel that they cannot. And “you” may or may not understand where they are coming from.

It is difficult to understand why victims to what they do, or what they are going through, if you have not been in that situation. I can look back on my life and still struggle to explain why I didn’t leave sooner, why I let him do those things to me, and why I allowed him to torment me. It all has to do with where the victim is mentally at that time in their life.

I was not in a good place. My world was seen through lenses that he had painted for me. He had skewed my thinking so much that I didn’t trust my own thoughts and instincts. I was very broken. And it took years to get to a place where I can talk about it. It took seven years, a lot of therapy, a lot of support, and a lot of love to get to where I am right now. My own parents, who have supported me 100% throughout this process, are still learning things about my experiences through my writing.

A victim will not come to you because they owe you something. A victim will not come to you until they are ready to leave, and even then it will be a select few people whom they confide in. Don’t take it personally. Don’t press them for details. Don’t expect to learn everything about them overnight.

Instead, support them, listen when they want to talk, do not reprimand them, and do not worry if you do not understand. Tell them as much. Perhaps you say, “I know I cannot relate to what you went through, but I will help you in any way I can.” Be a shoulder to cry on and the stability they need at that time.

Know that they may return to their abuser. Know that they may yell at you. Know that they may seem certifiably insane. But, be a rock and know that it is not because of you. It has nothing to do with you. You are safe, or they would not be talking to you or yelling at you. Read up on what domestic violence looks like. Educate yourself on the signs and risks. You are their stability and they need you more than ever.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this topic or are looking for information on how to help someone you love who is a victim of domestic violence. I am here to help.

Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.