Tag: forget me not

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.

Forget Me Not: A Letter to New Survivors


Dear New Survivor,

Yesterday I wrote a letter to my younger self, but today I feel led to write to you. You are the individuals who recently escaped an abusive relationship. Some of you have felt the physical blows of your attacker. Some of you are scarred to the core from the emotional abuse your partner inflicted on you. Some of you have been abused repeatedly by different people over the course of your life. And some of you are still living in fear. With each story I read, I am heartbroken by the number of individuals enduring abuse at the hands of those who are supposed to love them. I remember feeling so alone in my struggle, and as I read your comments about your newfound freedom, my mind wanders to the time when I was newly free to live my life without him.

I remember the sense of peace that washed over me when I made daily decisions for myself, the strength I felt at feeling nothing when he begged me to stay, the numbness that overcame me as I watched myself drift through a process that terrified me. There was the day I laughed like a child, as I ran through the rain, knowing I was free to be utterly and totally myself. I recall the nights I danced in my apartment to the music I loved, knowing he could not turn it off or ridicule my behavior. I remember, all too well, the high I felt knowing I was free. There was nothing that could stop me as I ventured out to a life that was my own.

But there are other things I recall as well, such as my mom expressing concern over my dating again and my friends encouraging me to attend therapy. I remember lashing out when someone questioned my choices and declaring that I was fine. There was no time for therapy. I had a life to live, a job, and school. Anyway, the worst was over. I had left and he seemed to be leaving me alone. I was happy and moving on with my life. The last thing I wanted to do was go and talk about all the negative things that had happened to me. What good was that?

My high continued for almost three years. Of course there were sad days and angry days, but nothing I needed therapy for. I was in control of my situation and didn’t need anyone’s help to move forward. The past was the past and that was where it belonged. Little did I know that by not dealing with what had happened for the last sixteen years of my life, I was doing myself, and everyone around me, a huge disservice.

It took three years for me to start falling apart, and four years before I hit absolute rock bottom. It didn’t happen in the first week, month, or year. It happened when I least expected it. I had buried so much deep inside, not realizing the damage it could cause to me mentally and physically.

There are long-term effects to domestic violence. I tell everyone I talk to and would scream it from the rooftop, LIFE CAN BE BEAUTIFUL!!!! However, it is imperative that we face our demons. They are patient when ignored. They flutter around in the depths of your mind, and survivors are often great at attempting to ignore them. We focus on our new life, children, family, and anything else we can give ourselves to. We tell ourselves, and everyone else, that we are lucky and thankful to be alive and free from the hell we once lived. But deep inside, many of us are hurting and we don’t know when the pain will go away. When we least expect it, our demons come back with a veracity that can destroy us. PTSD, triggers, depression, anxiety, nightmares, failed relationships, anger, and so much more can torment us for years.

This letter is for you, the new survivor. It is not meant to discourage you, but rather to give you hope. Find the support you need now, even if you do not believe you need it. Your future self will thank you. If you are honest with yourself, you will see the signs. The moments of pain when the world is quiet, the negative comments you inflict on yourself, the poor self-image, or lack of inspiration. Your demons are your own, and you alone can control them. I challenge you to take control now. Don’t wait another day or lose one more moment of your life to the abuse you endured.

Take action and begin finding that beautiful life. Don’t remain a victim. Take your journey to the next step and survive as the fabulous individual that you are.


forget me not

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

Forget Me Not: A Letter to My Younger Self


Dear Me,

The year is 2016 and you will turn 40 this year. I thought I would take the time to write to you and share some things I think you ought to know.

Several people have told me that I’m having a midlife crisis or that everyone goes through what I am currently experiencing. I disagree. This is not a crisis; this is progress. I am finally becoming the woman I was always intended to be. Along the line, I got derailed by an abusive relationship. I stayed with him through thick and thin, and in the end I lost 16 years of my life, sixteen years of myself. But this experience has brought me back to you. It has brought me to a place where I can share what I learned so that, perhaps, you won’t have to repeat history. It is through this journey to healing that I have come to be exactly where I am today.

Don’t ever lose your spunk. You are sassy and difficult, and that is ok. When you get older, you will learn to use that for good. People will try to take that away from you. He will slowly manipulate you into giving up that part of yourself. You will no longer be able to think or fight for yourself. Thankfully, it is a permanent character trait and can resurface even if it has been buried for years. But, please, don’t let anyone ever take that away from you. You still have the choice to walk away.

Stay true to yourself. You will always feel the need to explain yourself to everyone, or more accurately, apologize to everyone. Unless you have done something hurtful to someone, you have no need to apologize. You are a beautiful individual who will see the world differently than many. You will be overly sensitive, you will be strong willed, and you will hold your own when it needs to be held even if it destroys you. Do not allow others to persuade you to be someone you are not. Educate yourself on the things that matter in life. Do not simply follow the crowd. Be confident in your beliefs and thoughts, and remember that it is ok to be an outlier.

Always maintain an open mind. Don’t ever forget that not everyone has walked in your shoes or experienced life as you have. They have experiences, joys, hurts, and struggles of their own. You do not have to agree with their opinions to show them respect and support. Be kind to them, hear them out, and if you have to, respectfully disagree. Show love to those who will accept your love and walk away from those who do not. You are not obligated to keep trying to get love from those unwilling to return it. It’s ok to walk away. The sooner you do, the sooner a person worthy of your time and attention will have the opportunity to walk in.

Your gut feeling is an amazing tool; use it. If you are bothered by something, speak up. But always remember to do so with kindness and respect. If the person at the receiving end does not acknowledge your needs, or is unwilling to discuss them with you, move on. If you are not being treated right, move on. Always be willing to have open discussions, hear people out, and work with others to make things right. But don’t ever allow anyone to change you, hurt you, or be cruel to you. If they are doing that, they have their own issues that they need to work on. You cannot fix them. You deserve kindness and respect from everyone you allow into your circles.

Don’t ever be afraid to leave. You are strong, and you will survive. You will be better for it.

You will always think that you can lose weight or fix some character flaw you believe you have at the time. Practice hearing the compliments around you. Take them to heart and be confident in who you are. Don’t dismiss kind words from others. Don’t put yourself down to anyone, especially yourself. Your body will grow and change. Your face will get older and your mind will sometimes wander down a negative path. Fight to stay positive. Love your body and mind in whatever form they happen to be in. You are you. You are a unique being, and you deserve a wonderful and happy life.

At the end of the day, it only matters that you are in a safe, healthy, and happy place. Always remember that, and always be kind to yourself.


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

Forget Me Not: Talking to Teens About Dating Violence


“He asked me out!” I squealed with joy. After two years of a high-school infatuation, he had finally asked me out. At the time, I was just shy of 16 years old and was on cloud nine. He could do no wrong and I would do anything to keep him happy and sticking around. It didn’t take long for the early warning signs to appear, but I was blind to them. Had I understood his behaviors for what they were, and acted on them, the next sixteen years of my life would have been very different. But I didn’t.

According to loveisrespect nearly 1 in every 3 adolescents in the United States is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse by a dating partner. 1.5 million students are physically abused by a dating partner each year. That is a lot of unkind behavior being dished out by those who are supposed to care for each other. Furthermore, 1 in 10 high school students have been purposefully hit, slapped, or physically hurt by someone they are dating.

In a world where there is a zero tolerance for bullying, it seems that something is amiss. How is it that we are teaching our children that bullying is unacceptable, but we have such high rates of teen dating violence? What makes a teen more likely to show aggression or use emotional manipulation against their partner? Are we teaching our teens that dating violence is a form of bullying, and something that is not acceptable?

Sadly, we may never know exactly what makes a person abusive or more likely to be a victim. Although we have an idea as to what might make a person more likely to succumb to one role or the other, there is no definitive concept that determines who we are as human beings. Childhood, home life, personality, and experiences all play a part in who are and what we deem normal behavior towards a partner. What is considered unacceptable in one home may be part of normal daily life in another. Quite honestly, we can sit here all day and piece together who is more likely to be an abuser, and who is more likely to be victimized, but the reality is that no one is safe from abuse. Some even fall into both categories as some point in their lives. There is no checklist or system for weeding out abusers before you get involved with them. Abusers and victims come in all shapes and sizes, all colors, and all education and income levels.


What we do have, however, is education and awareness. Silence and lack of understanding are how abusers thrive. Many simply do not know what they are looking for, especially our young men and women who are just entering the dating arena.

As a young girl, I excused away any behavior that was unsavory or questionable. All I wanted was for him to like me. It never crossed my mind that in the years to come he would strip me of my self-identity, physically batter me, and emotionally torment me. I didn’t see that after divorce I would have years of relearning to do, depression to deal with, and self-acceptance issues. All I saw were issues that could be fixed or were flattering.

When he wanted me to be with him, instead of my friends and family, I told myself that it was awesome he enjoyed my company so much. When he whispered negative things about my friends to me, I thought he was looking out for my best interest. When he didn’t want to hang out with my family, I made excuses for his behavior so that he would be happy with me. I did not understand what was happening, and with each year his abusive behaviors escalated.

The information is out there, but we have to be willing to find it, learn it, accept it, and share it. We have to teach our children what is acceptable behavior and what behaviors warrant addressing. We have to build our children up into adults that know how to treat their dating partners. We have to be willing to discuss the stuff that is uncomfortable and difficult.

It is said that nearly 4,000 women are killed each year as a result of domestic violence. I am lucky to be alive, but so many others are not. Educate yourself and talk to the teens in your life. Help them to navigate the dating world with the appropriate tools to protect them from potentially abusive partners. If we all work together, we can help protect them proactively from a life that no one deserves to be caught up in.

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

Forget Me Not: Coming to Terms with Triggers


My stomach tightens and tears start to sting my eyes. “But we have plans that week.” I try to say calmly into the phone. I tell them I will have to call back and hand the phone to my boyfriend. I’m angry and can feel myself cracking. Anxiety is taking over and there is not a solution on hand that will make me feel better. It is better if he talks to the person on the other end because I’m going to say something that will cause a problem.

I can see the look of confusion on his face. “Baby, it’s fine. Your parents can still come. We will work around it.”

But I’m still upset. His plans have been changed and I feel like this is not the time for my parents to visit. It just won’t work! I want everything to run smoothly. I don’t want them to feel like they are in the way, or for him to feel he has to entertain when he has other things to tend to. I start rambling all the reasons why it’s a problem and turn my anger on the office that messed everything up. He continues to reassure me. But, although I know my concerns are not warranted, the feelings I’m having about the situation tell me different.

The more I attempt to explain my reaction, the more I realize that what I’m experiencing is a flashback. A flashback, or a trigger, is something that reminds us of situations that caused us great stress in the past. That’s my simplified definition anyway.

Even those of who have managed to move on from a crippling abusive relationships can suffer the aftershocks of abuse—in other words, PTSD—for many years. PTSD from abuse is characterized by symptoms such as flashbacks, intrusive imagery, nightmares, anxiety, emotional numbing, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, and avoidance of traumatic triggers.
Psychology Today

In this instance, I was having a flashback to the emotional torment my husband would inflict on me anytime my parents wanted to come visit. Even when I lived close to my parents, my husband disliked their presence. He never wanted to visit them and made it very difficult on me when they came to see us. His behaviors ranged from changing dates around, to constantly questioning me on when they were leaving, to ignoring them when they were around, and asking me to lie so they would come later or leave earlier. Oftentimes, my parents could feel the tension and felt unwelcomed. In other words, he made their entire visit burdensome. And, if they stayed longer than planned or questioned his disengagement, he would make sure I was well aware of his discontent.

It may seem to be a minor issue, but it is one that still affects me. I was well aware of how unwelcomed they felt and how bothered he was. This put me in a constant state of unease as I tried to balance everyone’s happiness and comfort level. This went on for years and created an emotional reaction that would rise up in me every time my family wanted to come visit. I actually lost time with them because I would cancel trips, or not plan them to begin with, and avoid family functions because I didn’t want to deal with the pushback I got from my husband. Of course now I know that is exactly what he wanted.

Now, as I look back, I’m saddened by all that I have missed. It goes hand-in-hand with the lost time aspect I mentioned in Victim vs. Survivor. And, it is of no coincidence that this blog post follows so closely behind that one, as I’ve been battling my emotions for the past few days. This is something that happens now and again, although I still am unsure what brings it on. This time, I assume the cause is a mix of facing reality after vacation, dealing with being sick, and feeling an overwhelming need to catch up on everything. Suitcases and clothes scatter the floor, the house hasn’t been cleaned in weeks, work piles up as I’m too drained to go to work, and I feel the need to get everything on track. I’m honestly not sure if that need to declutter, and cross off the to-do list, is a personality thing or a trigger thing, as some things are so ingrained in me that I’m not sure where they started.

What I do know is that when life gets a little out of control, that is when I’m more prone to lose focus and slip backwards a bit. That is when I’m more likely to be triggered or to fall back to victim status. That is when I’m more likely to feel guilt for my past choices, even if they are not all my fault. That is when things get rocky. Although I cannot go back and change the past, I almost feel like I need to do something now to make better somehow now.

What is the point of all of this? Well, healing is a process that does not happen overnight. I write this blog in an effort to show that happiness can be found and life can be beautiful after abuse. However, it is also important to acknowledge the realities of growth. Anyone who has suffered trauma in their life will have fallout that they have to learn to deal with. It doesn’t fix itself. What is most important is that you learn to recognize it for what it is and do your best to address it. Get help if you need, seek out support, research the facts, and focus on the good. It may take time, but each and every day gets easier and you do get stronger.

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

Forget Me Not: Victim vs. Survivor


“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
—Mary Anne Radmacher

My thoughts are pacing the floor of my mind. Sometimes, even in the best of circumstances, I feel that I lack control of my emotions and perceptions. Learning to live with me and for me seems like a simple concept, and yet it is not always that way. Each year has brought me closer to finding my true self, but sometimes I still struggle with managing where I am versus where I believe I am supposed to be. Impatience takes over and I feel a sense of overwhelming urgency to move forward to a seemingly unreachable freedom. Even though I understanding that it is about the journey and not the destination, the concept gets lost in an abyss of fears, desires, and regrets.

It is on these days that I feel that life is fleeting. It is on these days that I put too much emphasis on the time lost; the time I spent with him losing myself instead of living my life. I find myself feeling like I have to make up for lost time and accomplish every dream right now. There is no more time to lose.

So I find myself, in front of my computer, trying to make sense of my thoughts through writing. Each thought that races through my mind is meticulously placed on paper and then rearranged into something potentially tangible. My goals are easily laid out. On a professional level I want to finish editing my book and get it to print, blog at least twice a week, make more contacts, schedule more speaking engagements, focus on developing forget me not into an agency that can bring change and hope to those in need, and start a peer-counseling group. On a personal level, I want a space to call my own, to travel more, to spend more time with family, and to live every second. I want to absorb all that life has to offer. I want to be free of someone else’s grasp.

But I struggle finding the balance. My day job pays the bills and requires my attention. The upcoming calendar shows less free time than the past several months. How can I make it all fit, the work life and the love of life? With every assignment for work, my mind’s voice spouts off bitterness. I start feeling controlled and held back.
And that is where the problem lies. It is a feeling that I do not own my life or control the outcomes. It all comes back to a gut reaction created by the feeling that my freedom is being stolen from me. It doesn’t have to be true, but it is a perceived notion that exists. In reality, no one owns me or controls me, yet my reactions are pulled from the past; a point in my life when I had little say over what I did from day to day. And it is from that belief that I begin a downward spiral.

I become a victim again; a person that struggles to reign in the out-of-control thoughts that wage war in my mind. I sense a feeling of loss and sadness. My body responds to a threat that is not there. Tears brim just under the surface, and I am very easily shaken. I am frustrated when others do not understand what I am trying to say. “Don’t tell me how to feel!” runs through my head, and sometimes out of my mouth, in defense to what I perceive as personal attacks.

It is easy to become trapped in this mentality, but I cannot allow it. When I find myself here, I have to make a conscious effort to make a change. Sometimes I have to walk, sometimes write, and sometimes just cry. In the end, no matter what I have to do to regroup, it serves to get me thinking in the right direction.

Right now, in this very instant, I am in control of my life. I am loved and cared for. I am strong and am no longer a victim. I will set goals for the freedom I crave, but in doing so I will remember that each step is my choice alone. My job is a means to make money, and one that will allow me to reach higher goals that are more aligned with my life’s purpose. It has provided me with experiences that made me stronger, it will be the source that will allow me to afford the space I want to grow in, and it will allow me to travel. It may take time to reach my goals but the journey involved will build the solid foundation I need to help others find success. Each struggle will help me understand others’ experiences better.

Each time I allow myself to fall to victim status, I will be better able to fight my way back to survivor status. I know it will happen again, as it is a battle I fight more than I wish to admit. But each time I spiral downward, I rise higher and stronger.

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

Forget Me Not: Finding Balance


Dancers moved in bare feet around the fire, pulling their energy from the hypnotic drumming of the circle. Like minded individuals who gain strength and centering, through nature, gathered to drum, dance, spin, and regroup in this quiet wooded spot on the west coast of Florida. This is where I am grounded. This is where I find peace and solace in a world that is oftentimes stressful and uncertain. Here, I can be the person I have always wanted to be without judgment or a need to impress anyone. I can absorb all that nature has to offer and refocus on my continuous healing. Here, I am free.

Earlier in this series, I shared that it took multiple steps to come from the woman in the “Just me” photo, to a woman who was determined to reinvent her outlook on life. It took therapy, strong friendships, and the physical outlet of biking to get me moving in the right direction. But something was missing. There was always a part of me that felt I didn’t belong. I was still trying very hard to be the person I believed I was supposed to be, and I was not complete. I was a free spirit and my soul was not getting the love it needed to thrive.


Now, as I sit and write, the sun is peaking through the Florida pines as a cool breeze blows through the camp. Around me, tents dot this small wooded area that serves as my home this weekend. My boyfriend plays guitar while a long-time festival friend plays one of his hand-made flutes. I am at peace. This is something I didn’t used to have in my life. This connection with nature and “hippidome” were buried deep beneath a belief that this sort of life was frowned upon. It simply was not an acceptable way for me to live my life.

My husband found my free spirit childish and quickly put an end to it. There was no room for such irresponsible behavior. There was too much to do in the home, and in our life, to be wasting time listening to music, camping, or simply being carefree. My love of nature, camping, travel, and music were not something we had time for. My long skirts, dislike of makeup, and unkempt hair were more items to be corrected than something to be celebrated. As these things were suffocated, so was my true self. I was placed in a box that signified who I was supposed to be and not who I was.

As part of my healing—on my journey to coming back to me—I have learned to appreciate these aspects of myself that he discarded. It took some time for me to be comfortable in my own skin, as his voice was always in my head telling me that who I was, as a person, was not acceptable. It took several years of slowly integrating pieces of myself back into my life. As I allowed myself to move more towards who I am drawn to be, I met others whose beliefs and interests aligned with my own. This led to more growth, more comfort with myself, and much more happiness.

I have found this to be one of the most important aspects of my healing. When you are happy with who you are, you are free. Maybe you love music or nature, as I do, or perhaps you are into sports or travel. Maybe you simply want to read more, volunteer, teach, or be free to watch you favorite movie. Whatever it is that makes you tick, that provides you with that sense of belonging and peace, that is what you should be focused on. Finding your true self, in my opinion, is the pinnacle of experiencing your personal freedom. It may not come right away, but I believe it should be a goal for anyone healing from domestic violence.

It is a very important part of the journey to finding your “me.”

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

Forget Me Not: Healing is an Ongoing Process


Just when I think I have a grip on my past, I learn something new. I came across two articles this week, both of which dealt with the mind games and brainwashing that occur in an emotionally abusive relationship. Now, it wasn’t that I didn’t know that he manipulated and slowly transformed me into giving up myself and my ideals on how life should be. There is a very clear transformation across the years I was with him. Each year, I gave up more and more, and strived to be the woman he wanted me to be. But, even as I have been working on my book, and reliving all of those moments, I could never understand why he would build me up at certain points.

He encouraged me to take the good job, he left the finances in my hands, he trusted me make large purchases such as our home and car, and he planted the seed and encouraged me to go to law school. When the man who continuously puts you down, slowly pulls you from your loved ones, and rarely has something nice to say, is also the one encouraging you to be your best, it can be very confusing. Each time he told me how successful I would be in an endeavor, or entrusted me with large financial decisions, it would make me question if he was really that mean to me.

In one of the articles, the author stated, “I wish this would come up on Google as often as the ‘If he checks your email and cuts you off from friends’ stuff does. Because it’s easy to tell yourself everything’s fine if you can’t find your exact situation. It’s easy to say you’re different.” 1

I have found, through my own experience, as well as conversations with other survivors, that many of us feel this way. In my situation, it started with emotional abuse and later escalated to physical abuse. No matter what happened though, I believed that my life wasn’t that of an abuse victim. After all, he never put me in the hospital or broke any bones. In my mind, other women had it much worse than me.

The second article really hit home. After reading this article, I was left wondering if there wasn’t a manual somewhere that teaches abusers exactly what to do in order to control their significant other. It was as if the author had taken words directly from my book and used them to write her blog post. As I was contemplating this, a message from my friend ensured I was not alone in my thought process. “What? Do they have a class in high school teaching guys how to be abusive without getting caught?” She was frustrated and floored, as was I.

What hit even closer to home was the cycle of abuse that was described in this article. For the first time, in the seven years that I have been scouring the internet without the fear of being caught, someone described my “exact situation” to perfection. Finally, I have a reference point that puts my final questions to rest. The article explains my relationship with my husband down to the letter. Why did he encourage me and build me up at certain points in our life? Well, this article lays it out down to the very words he used. It is worth the read as I can only address how it worked in my life.

My husband started by working to destroying my self-worth. Once I lacked the self-confidence that he once claimed to admire, he started blaming me for anything and everything. He blamed me for his behaviors and anything that happened that was not to his liking. Soon, I was apologizing for everything I did and, then, for everything that I was. Pretty soon I had no faith in myself, believing that I was innately a bad wife and person. When you doubt your own internal goodness, it is easy to start doubting your own mind. If he did something to hurt me, he acted as if nothing happened. If I believed something did happen, he told me I was the crazy one. Sooner or later, I was nervous all the time and constantly paranoid that I was not the person I needed to be; that he needed me to be. I believed I was going insane, living things in my mind that didn’t really happen.

But just when things seemed to be at their worst, he would build me back up in some small way. He would say the house looked nice, tell me my quesadillas could be served in a restaurant, or tell me that I was a good writer, and speaker, and would thrive in law school. The next paragraph is so on point, that only a quote will do it justice.

“The moment an abuser begins to feel the victim is “slipping from their control,” they will re-assault their identity. This will begin the process all over again. Victims continue to believe in the ideas of their abusers long after they have left the abusive environment. The new belief system has been so deeply rooted, it could take years to change.” 2

This idea hit close to home. It explained so much about what I didn’t understand. Even his perceived kindness was nothing more than another means of manipulation, and some of the ideas he planted even haunt me today. What is almost more difficult than hearing the truth, is accepting it fully. Even now, I want to believe that he was a misguided soul, someone who really didn’t intend to hurt me. But, as is the case in the healing process, some concepts have to be understood and developed as we are ready to deal with them.
It doesn’t matter if your story is the same as mine, or the same as someone else’s. You may not think that you are suffering to the same extent as another victim, or that you can check off the boxes on the “checklist of domestic abuse.” There is no checklist. Each story is different. There are guidelines and stories, meant to help steer you in the right direction. If you are concerned you are being abused, but you are not sure, reach out to someone who can direct you. Pick up the phone, write an email, or talk to someone you can trust. Silence keeps abuse in check. Start talking and you will find the truth and freedom.

1 I Was in an Abusive Relationship and Didn’t Even Know It
2 8 Steps that Explain “Why She Doesn’t Leave”

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

Forget Me Not: Bike Love


“You’re going the wrong way! Come with us!” someone yelled out. I just sat there, giggling to myself at this huge display of bike riders. Who where they? Where were they going? I had never seen such a thing.

Just a few weeks before, I had gone out and purchased a bike. I had come a long way in my healing from domestic abuse, but I still had a long journey ahead of me. One thing that was missing was a support system. In my mind, my family was my support system. But, as wonderful as they are, they are worlds away. I needed friends that shared in my interests, but this was proving to be a difficult endeavor. The idea of getting out and meeting people was overwhelming and terribly scary. I lacked the self-confidence required to put myself out there.

But this group, rolling down Las Olas, inspired me to take action. There were hundreds of people, of all ages, taking over my town on bikes. I had to know more. With a little research, I found out that the group was called Critical Mass. And, in addition to this one, large ride; there were several smaller groups that met throughout the week.

I researched diligently until I found one I thought I might be able to manage. It didn’t take long, however, for fear to creep in and rear its ugly head. What if I went and couldn’t keep up? What if no one talked to me? What if I hated it? What if they didn’t like me? My mind raced with all the reasons I should not show up to a group where I didn’t know anyone. But, for the first time, I quieted my thoughts. After all, this is what I had been working towards: breaking free of my fears.

It took me two weeks to build up the courage to show up. I rode my bike there, half excited and half terrified. A huge part of me was so very ready to try something new and make new friends, but the self-doubt almost caused me to turn around and run home where I would be safe. But I didn’t, and going to that ride ended up being one of the best decisions I had made in a very long time. That ride changed my life as I knew it.

Within minutes of arriving, Craig introduced himself. Craig was bubbly and super welcoming. He made me feel at ease within seconds. He asked me if I had ever done the ride, and I shared my concerns about not being able to keep up.

“Oh! Don’t worry about that. You’ll be fine. I’ll make sure you don’t get dropped or lost,” he said with a smile.

As people began showing up to the park, Craig made a point of introducing me to each of his friends and telling them I was new. Between Craig, Matt, and Allen, I never feared I would get lost and I was motivated to see the ride through. They rode next to me, encouraged me, and chatted me up, making me feel as if I belonged to this group of people I had never met before. Before the ride was even over, I was encouraged to come again the next week. They even invited me to the local taco hangout for food and beer after the ride, where I met more people.


It was in this group that I met some of my closest, dearest friends. It was in this group that I grew from a casual biker, to a competitor. It was in this group that I gained confidence and open-mindedness. I met individuals from all walks of life, and my inner circle grew exponentially. Our activities spanned from road biking to mountain biking, dinner to beach days, and movies out to house parties. We celebrated birthdays and holidays, we laughed together and cried together, and we still do.

It took pushing past my fear to see an entire world open in front of me. Making this one decision was the catalyst that brought me to an entirely new level of healing over the past couple of years. There are individuals from this group who have been my life raft on more than one occasion. I regained activities that brought me joy, many of which had long been suppressed or forgotten, such as singing, camping, snorkeling, and traveling.

And my return to myself, in large part, came from the many individuals of this group showing me that we are all beautiful and unique individuals. It didn’t matter what I thought of myself, how good I was at something, how I looked, or what I did for a job. They took the self-inflicted stress out of being me. I could be myself, learn to love myself, and be loved in return.

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