One decade ago, I was lying in a hospital bed in great physical discomfort as I was birthing my daughter.
This day is sacred to me unlike no other. My child’s birth was my rebirth. For this reason, her birthday is even more special to me than my own. She woke me up to the possibility of a new life and a new way of being.
She ignited a fire in my heart that I followed: a fire which burned through
I took the ashes from this fire and buried them. I built walls to prevent me from veering off the path. I knew the new pathway I was creating required a significant commitment to growth, courage, and love–both for myself and for my child. I knew it was going to be hard, but that the reward would be great.
I am not being dramatic when I say Aliana saved my life. That statement is both a beautiful and ugly truth for me. It’s beautiful because it was because of my love for her that I took responsibility for my life. It is ugly because no child should have to enter the world, bearing a burden of such consequence.
The world of domestic violence is a dark one. People who live in it experience warped realities and emotional and physical trauma. There were three things that saved me: my love for my daughter, getting professional help, and about two people who knew my story and never gave up on me. Those two people told me everyday that I was strong and smart and that they believed in my capacity to do hard things. They reminded me of who I was when I forgot.
But if I hadn’t had that trifecta–I may not have left.
I feel that I am one of the lucky ones. Some people live their whole lives in an abusive relationship. Some get out, but they never heal or understand how they got there in the first place. They continue to repeat the patterns or form new addictions.
When you decide to take the pathway to healing, you will discover that it is simultaneously incredible and also brutal. You must be willing to be ripped open and dissected and put back together. Not everyone is willing. But I do believe everyone is able if they allow it to happen.
But they must really allow it to happen. All the beauty and all the terror– to allow it to wash over them, as Rilke says.
Today, people sometimes write to me and ask me for advice about how to help a friend or family member who is experiencing abuse and what I usually tell them is this:
- Affirm their feelings
- Accept their decisions
- Set boundaries when necessary
- Encourage the victim to get professional help
- Acknowledge that leaving is very hard but it is the only way their children will know the love of a parent who has the capacity to love with her whole heart.
I am not a therapist nor do I know if the advice I just gave is the best or not. But I do know that conquering an abusive relationship is similar to conquering an addiction. That’s because all these crazy neural pathways are formed in your brain during trauma bonding. Research it. It’s a real thing. Stockholm Syndrome and stuff.
But if you actually DO it–if one actually leaves the abuse, the amazing thing is how quickly one can heal when you
- Take responsibility for showing up in your life
- Allow justice to be served by setting boundaries like you’ve never known before.
I am so lucky. I am so grateful. I will never ever EVER stop feeling grateful for my trifecta: my daughter, the professional help I received, and my two people who believed in me nearly a decade ago.
But it all started with my daughter. With me looking into her eyes and me saying to her, “I don’t want you to live like this.”
Beauty and truth. It’s what’s being served in our home, one decade later.
I love you, Aliana.