In 2005 I was sitting in a Human Services class at Schenectady Community College listening to my professor explain the cycle of abuse. She described how a woman (or man) returns to her abuser an average of seven times before permanently leaving the relationship. She explained how the abuse would, at some point, be internalized and woven into her belief about her worthiness. She told us how external abuse often turned into self-abuse – willingly allowing manipulation, fear, and guilt to guide her life, accepting emotional crumbs instead of expecting support and love, and punishing herself physically and emotionally.
I sat there, lifting as far out of my body as possible, in a state of numb realization. In that moment my only thought was: run. Rage and terror and grief boiled beneath the surface. In a moment of self-preservation, my sunny exterior took over with a Stepford-eque vengeance. Faking it a majority of the time felt like negotiating between life and death. I had a grip on my role, on my smile and laugh and amiable personality, that could break a neck. I had a death grip on my mask, because the second I let it go there’s a chance I’d fall apart. There was a chance I would turn to dust or burn up. Or worst of all, the world might confirm that I was as worthless, ugly, weak, and disappointing as I had been lead to believe.
I’ve spent the last twelve years peeling away the layers of my mask, wading through the pain and scars and lies, reclaiming my beauty and power and radiance. That process brought me to the brink of my life, unsure if I could take another breath. It brought me into skin-tearing, raw-throated, sweat dripping, broken hearted suffering that felt endless.
On the days when I couldn’t feel or think or see the light, or breath, I let God move my lungs and limbs. I struggled. I fought. I anchored my entire being in the knowing that love always wins and it would win in my life and the world around me. I freed myself, wound by wound, from a mind that had been turned into a prison.
I’ve reach a mountain peak in my life. There are certainly more valleys and more mountains ahead, but right now, the view is spectacular and there’s more light than I could have ever imagined. I’m safe and loved and so are you. Joy washes through me with every breath because something became clear:
No matter how much rage you have right now, no matter how deeply your grief cuts or your pain digs, your suffering carves out a greater capacity to love and heal and contain this wild world.
Your wound is your medicine. So let this cut a little deeper, let this take you further into your ferocious truth, into your capacity to love yourself, to forgive, and let that love gush and overflow to the world. You’re here to heal, Beloved. We are here to heal.
If your heart says it’s time to go deeper, let’s talk.