abuse

On Being Blessed

“Live your truth. Express your love. Share your enthusiasm. Take action towards your dreams. Walk your talk. Dance and sing to your music. Embrace your blessings. Make today worth remembering.” 
― Steve Maraboli

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There are not too many people who can say they have been blessed with a second chance at life, but that is exactly what I have had.  I don’t just mean with my marriage either.

The funny thing about being in an abusive relationship is that you never realize just how bad the situation is while you are in it.  If you are a naturally upbeat person like I tend to be, then you focus on the positives and try blesseddifficultiesto rationalize or ignore the bad stuff.  Even when I was with my abuser, I still believed I was a lucky person.  I thought my abuser and his family loved me.  It was what I wanted to believe, so I did wholeheartedly.  It wasn’t until the day of the wedding when he and his family so blatantly disregarded my feelings that I could no longer make excuses or ignore the truth.  That awakening is what escalated the abuse. (If there’s one thing an abuser can’t handle it’s getting called out on his bad behavior… even when done in the meekest fashion possible!)

Had the abuse never progressed to being physical, I’m not sure that I would have gotten out as quickly as I did… or at all.  My abuser had done such a great job of manipulating the truth that it was hard to believe even what in my heart I knew was wrong.  From the second he put his hands on me, though, it was black and white.  He was the one with issues who couldn’t control his temper.  Up until that point, he had found a way to blame EVERYTHING on me.  He would twist the situation until he suited him; however, despite his best efforts- there was no turning this situation around.  When he did try to rationalize it (and make it my fault), he claimed he was being mentally abused by me and I drove him to it.  That was when I realized he was completely NUTS.  All this time he had me convinced that I was the crazy one, and now here he was grasping at straws letting his true colors show.  That is when I closed the door to us and started putting my life back together.  The fact that it was such a difficult lesson to learn does not make it any less valuable.  I didn’t stand up for myself.  I let someone walk into my life and tell me what I was worth and how to live it.  No one has that right. It’s not a mistake I’ll make twice.  

My point is if my abuser had never beat me up, I might have never realized how awful my life had become.  I had been essentially pigeonholed by my abuser for years, but because he did it so slowly over time, I never realized how much ground he took from me.  I gave up my power, my identity, and I let him control my life. I was watching everything I said and did to avoid settling him off or being criticized.

Once I was out from under his thumb, it was as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders- a weight I blessed-life1previously never realized had existed.  I was on cloud nine for about three months before the PTSD symptoms kicked in and put my life in upheaval for months on end.

While I may never be rid of my PTSD symptoms, I have gotten a lot better at recognizing and dealing with them.  They still rear their ugly head at the most inconvenient times… like when I trying to go for a relaxing run on vacation and end up panicking about being abducted or attacked by bears… Yeah that’s a good time.  I used to resent having to deal with them, but now I feel like they are a small price to pay for everything I have gained from the experience.

Despite any lingering effects, I still feel incredibly blessed to have gone through the whole ordeal and come out of it a better person.  A person deprived of sunlight will appreciate it like no other- the same applies to someone deprived of the freedom to be herself.

The fact that I have a husband now who loves me unconditionally for who I am, and not who he wants me to be is just icing on the cake.   My life is no longer filled with people who knock me down and disregard my feelings.  Instead, I choose to surround myself with positive people who are more interested in encouraging and uplifting blessed-quotes-13others than tearing them down.

I am beyond fortunate to live the life I have now- on my own terms without apologizing.  I have to say it feels pretty darn good.  I am lucky to have the ability to finance my goals because running marathons isn’t cheap and triathlons are going to be even more costly.  I am also blessed with an incredibly thoughtful and supportive husband who not only made sure I got the bike I fell in love with, but also made sure I had a road kit to change a flat AND a flashing back reflector so I’m visible to traffic.   He’s the kind of guy that doesn’t cheer from the sidelines; he runs along side me… even when it’s clear that the pace is painfully slow for him.

As awful as my life was back then, that’s exactly how wonderful it is now.  I appreciate my life now in a way I never could have before.  Furthermore, I appreciate my husband and marriage  more because of everything I’ve been through.

I only wish I could let every person in an abusive situation know how much better life can be- richer, fuller, happier, fulfilling.  People going through abuse are made to believe that they are weak and helpless, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Before I was in an abusive relationship, I always thought that abusers were aware of what they were doing.  However, having spent years with my abuser, I can honestly say that he didn’t believe he was abusive.  Instead he blamed EVERYTHING in his life on EVERYONE ELSE.  I just got the brunt of it because I was closest to him.  He truly believed that I was everything wrong with his life because he was too weak to accept responsibility in his own life.  Abusers are weak individuals who need to blame their problems on other people.  They are the ones who can’t handle life, not their victims. Anyone who is able to endure abuse day in and out is stronger than any abuser out there.  The problem is, they aren’t aware of it.

My goal is to make victims and survivors aware of just how strong they are… and how much better life can be.

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I Need Your Help!!!!

“Beautiful people don’t just happen.”

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Alright Everyone!!!!

I need your help! I’d like to start by saying thank you for all the wonderful warmth and feedback you have left in your comments!!!  I am sorry I haven’t had a chance to reply yet, but I can assure you that I read every one.

The favor I need to ask everyone has to do with my friend Kelly (from My Time Is Now).  Most of you are probably pretty familiar with her name by now (and hopefully you have also checked out here awesome blog…conveniently also located in my blogroll).  Kelly and I met through boot camp.  We bonded pretty Imagequickly and came to discover we had more in common than we ever could have imagined.  She has been an amazing friend to me, and an inspiration to those of us who know and love her.

For almost as long as I have known her, Kelly has been going through the process of extricating herself from an abusive relationship- all while dealing with her mother having cancer and trying to be the best mom and healthiest version of herself possible.  She has busted her tail at the gym and lost over half of herself, and through the process has become a whole new person.  She has worked so hard to rebuild her self esteem and reclaim her identity, and she truly deserves every happiness in life.

In case you didn’t know, she is also the girl who ran the Color Me Rad as a “trash the dress” session.  It took a significant amount of courage and strength on her part to put that dress on and run.  Going through a divorce (or any break up) is hard enough, but to go through the mental and verbal abuse she’s been through and still be able to say “THIS IS ME” and pick up and carry on is just unbelievable to me.  I WISH I had that kind of strength when I was in her position.  This girl is SO MUCH more amazing than even she realizes.

This weekend I will be doing the Relay for Life with Kelly in honor of her mom and would really like to raise some money on her behalf.  Anyone willing to donate it would be greatly appreciated.

ImageHowever, the REAL reason I have requested everyone’s help is that Kelly has been dealing with a lot of unnecessary drama recently, including some surrounding the now infamous dress trashing (some people apparently have a burning need to stir up trouble… what ever happened to behaving like an adult and minding your own business?).  I have tried to explain to Kelly that I went through some similar drama with my divorce.  Some people are just inherently threatened by strong, motivated individuals, ESPECIALLY when those individuals seem happy in times when they should be falling apart.  They feel the need to take it upon themselves to tear them down.  Bullies ARE OPPORTUNISTS and can smell vulnerability a mile away.  I know she is smart enough to realize that when people are cruel and vicious toward her it truly comes from their own misery; however, it doesn’t make it any less hurtful or exhausting.  No one wants to deal with the ugly side of people, and no one should ever have to.  I am sure that as soon as she is in a better place, those haters are going to scatter (and with any luck, hide under a rock), but right now she is still vulnerable and doesn’t have the energy to stand up and fight back that she would otherwise.

Kelly didn’t believe me when I told her how many people were inspired by her dress trashing at Color Me Rad.  I think it’s hard for her to see what a gift she has for touching other people.  What I am asking is for everyone who has a spare second to go over to her blog and show her some love.

 

Oh It Hurts so Good!

“Clear your mind of can’t.”

-Samuel Johnson

I got my butt kicked (again) tonight… and I loved every second of it

It’s funny how I can feel my mood start to dip when I get tired.  Yesterday I got called in to work the overnight shift because someone had called out (yup, I missed boot camp- TRAGIC!) Luckily I had already worked out once that morning, but didn’t get a chance to nap before going in due to the short notice.  I slept a couple hours when I got home this morning; but I could tell I was still dragging.  It’s funny how my anxiety/PTSD has a way of rearing it’s ugly head when I’m even a little sleep deprived.  For example, today I ordered broccoli pizza.  I specifically picked a new restaurant because I wanted white broccoli pizza (ricotta, garlic, etc), which our typical place doesn’t offer.  Well, they showed up with a regular pizza with broccoli on it, and I kid you not– it almost ruined my day.  I think this is partially because I was starving, but even at the time I thought it was RIDICULOUS to be so upset over a pizza.  Besides, the sent me a new one when I called, so I got a whole pizza for free which should have made me happy.  Instead, I was in a bit of a funk the rest of the day….

Until boot camp.  Boot camp always lifts my spirits.  It’s the perfect combination of exercise and meeting up with friends. 🙂  It’s about conquering challenges and  instantly makes you feel good about yourself (if you survive the workout ;)).  Tonight we did intervals of exercises with the goal of going as hard as possible.  By the time we got through to end of each round, my quads and calves were outright refusing to function.  I attempted to just focus on my breathing and keep pushing.  It was definitely rough, but I knew I couldn’t stop.

1) Mike would have totally called me out, and I am secretly (or not so secretly) terrified of him (jk…sort of)

2) I knew everyone else was suffering as much as I was- probably even more in the case of the new people!– and I didn’t want to cheat.

3) I HATE giving up.  It’s just not an option for me.

Maybe it’s the joint experience of absolute misery (have I mentioned how much I hate intervals?)  that has the group so bonded, but there’s definitely a tight-knit support system- which is a  real comfort when you’re struggling!

In the past, I would have stayed home and avoided people if I felt my mood dipping.  However, now I know better and use that as even further motivation to drag myself to the gym, for a run, or to boot camp.  I’m glad I have gotten to a point with my PTSD symptoms that I can feel them coming on, recognize the source, and do something about it. I am pretty certain that I will never get rid of my symptoms completely, but at least I have gotten better at coping with and managing them.  Everyone has his or her own battle or struggles in life, and I certainly could have worse problems to deal with.  Instead of focusing on how much happier or healthier I could be, I remind myself of how blessed and lucky I am to have not only survived everything I’ve been through, but overcome it.

Sorry I’m so late actually posting this! It took me forever to edit. I hope it’s finally in English!

Preparation

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
Alexander Graham Bell

Lately, I have been doing something out of character- I haven’t been running (and it’s making me a little nutty…).  Well, that’s not completely true- I did a miserable 2.5 miles on the treadmill to test out my new paisley running shoes.  However, I have not been doing any crazy, long runs.  After the Tough Mudder -and even before- I had notice my body was getting pretty beat up.  My groin was KILLING me; and for a while, I had considered that I seriously pulled something.  When I tried to run, it was a constant struggle.  Nothing wanted to move the way it should.  My limbs were like lead.  Plus, every boot camp session involved some muscle feeling like it was going to snap.  First it was my groin, then my right glute, now I’m back to groin (thankfully, not nearly as bad).  It got me to thinking that maybe cramming in this last 20 mile run is not that important.  I mean, it’s not worth getting injured (or risking injury) when I have already prepared so much.

I have been training for months now.  It’s involved sacrificing a lot of time (and the ability to walk normally at times…).  I have logged hundreds of miles; and honestly- I don’t think that 20 mile run is going to make or break my performance.  In fact, I think it is far more likely to hinder me than help.  I know that marathon is going to be hell.  I know what it is going to feel like to have to fight through the exhaustion.  I’ve done it…okay maybe not for 26.2 miles, but you get my point.  I’ve pushed through the walls.  Mentally, I know I can do it.  I”m hopeful my body will cooperate.  I truly believe that my best bet right now is to take it easy and recharge so I’m running on a full battery when race day rolls around.

I asked Adam how many miles he ran before his first marathon, and he told me 17 or 18, which is right about where I’m at.  I have done tons of trail running, hills, gym workouts, cross training, and even did a Tough Mudder to prepare.  I have spent the last several months running and training with a weighted hydration pack to improve my strength and endurance.  I’ve primary run in vibrams to improve my form.  I am absolutely as ready as I will ever be.  All I can do at this point is try not to do anything stupid to hurt myself, put it out into the universe, and hope for the best. 🙂  Oh, and try not to drive myself crazy in the meantime while I avoid my typical form of stress relief!

As much as I know how much work I’ve put in, it’s still hard not to worry about not being able to finish.  It doesn’t mean I’m not prepared or not capable- it’s just something I have a habit of doing before any new distance or challenge.  I was terrified before my first 10K (and the subsequent 2), my first 15 K, and the Tough Mudder. I sincerely doubted my ability to complete to each- that’s right just finish, I’m not looking to set any new records here! 😉  After the fact, I was always surprised at how much worse I anticipated it would be than it actually was.  I have a feeling,however, that the marathon will be exactly as horrible as I am anticipating, but I am determined despite my anxiety and lingering doubts to get across that finish line.

The good news:CT-ALIVE  has already received it’s first donations for the Running for the Color Purple Campaign! (I will sleep soundly tonight knowing that even if this race kills me, it will not have been in vain; and my ultimate goal to make a positive impact on the world will be achieved…jk…sort of…) Plus, I am optimistic that there is plenty more to come!  I would encourage anyone to check out the CT-ALIVE page and consider making a donation to help victims of violence rebuild their lives.  I would also like to say THANK YOU to those amazing people who have already donated and to all the wonderful readers who have left comments and subscribed!

 As always, thank you for reading!  Comments and feedback are welcome and appreciated- you can also email me at runningthriver@gmail.com.  Feel free to share any information on this site, just please give credit back to this blog.

I hope everyone has a very peaceful and restful evening!

A Day of REST

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”

Etty Hillesum

view of Lake Tahoe

Today I decided I am going to be a bum– not forever, just the rest of the day. 🙂  I have already cleaned the house (including the windows!- a clean house is crucial to my ability to unwind!), put out all my fall decorations, and taken care of the dogs; so I think it’s time to RELAX.  Originally, my plan was to do a 20 mile run today- my last long run before the big day.  However, my body has been really beaten up; and I am just flat out exhausted.  Between the traveling, training, working, -and general sleep deprivation- I think I’ve pushed myself to the limit.  Recovery is as important as training, and it’s about time I took it more seriously.  I am tired of trying to push my body when everything hurts and it’s too tired to cooperate.

As important as logging mileage and building stamina is, I need a day of rest.  If I continue to push myself the way I’ve been doing, I am going to risk getting injured.  So although I intend on still going to boot camp tonight, and may even venture out for a short run- the rest of the day I am going to be a bum. My 20 miler will have to wait til the weekend. 🙂

I hope everyone has a wonderful day!

Rise Above

Optimist: someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it’s a cha-cha. 

 ~Robert Brault

I finally finished “The Happiness Project” on the flight to California.  I had started it several months ago and have been so busy, I hadn’t had a chance to pick it back up until now.  It is interesting for me to read because I have already been doing so much of what the author recommends in her book.  When I first started it, I was still struggling with criticizing myself and feeling bogged down by guilt and negativity.  It was not that long ago, and yet it feels like it’s been years.  I have had so much personal growth in the past 2+ years since I left my abuser that I feel like it’s not only been a major turning point in my life- but the greatest single event to date.   My life is now divided into 2 parts: before and after abuse.  I believe the Hatford Marathon (in just 4 wks!- yikes) will likely be another life altering moment, and I have to admit that it will be a relief to measure my progress from a new, more positive starting point. 

I am writing this post not only in my typical theme of reflection, but also as a vehicle to do something I never rarely do (hold your breath people!)- give myself a little credit.  I know- shocking, right? But, it’s true!  I want to give myself credit for getting out of a terrible situation; letting go of the guilt and blame that kept me tied to it; for committing to make a happier, healthier life for myself; for starting a blog in the interest of helping others- despite the fact that it meant opening old wounds and making myself vulnerable and open to criticism; for taking my life back; for pushing outside my comfort zone; for embracing other people- including new ones- without fear of betrayal or acceptance; and for accepting myself. Wow that was a mouthful! 

The truth is that I am happy- not only happy, but grateful.  I have so many wonderful, positive people in my life, and I know that I have been doing something right to attract them.  I am learning to balance looking for the good in people with not letting them take advantage of me; and I have made a commitment that I will continue to be a happy person even if it does make me vulnerable. 

Even before the abuse, my cheerful disposition made me a target of unhappy people.  I suppose there is not much more irritating to a discontented and pessimistic individual than someone who appears to float merrily through life.  I would take the snide comments, yelling, and bullying in stride- reminding myself that it wasn’t personal, just a sign of his or her own misery.  This worked well until the abuse started, and I no longer had the energy to brush it off.  However, now I feel like I do have the strength again; and I refuse to be dragged down by grouchy people looking to pollute others’ moods with their poor attitudes.

I don’t need others’ approval or acceptance because I know who I am and accept myself.  I have struggled with anxiety, trauma, and abuse and have emerged an even stronger, more compassionate, and self-aware individual.  Most surprisingly- I am happier.  I was a happy person before, but I am happier now.  I know the depth of my strength and resolve.  I value myself now more than I ever did; I appreciate my life more than I ever could have before.  Any good day is a terrific victory- and by good I don’t mean exceptional, just free from anxiety.  I don’t regret what I’ve been through.  I am not angry.  I don’t resent my abuser.  If anything, I feel pity for him and his family.  I feel sorry for anyone who feels the need to drag others down.  Making other people miserable only perpetuates your own misery, just as helping and showing others kindeness will increase your happiness.

When others lash out at you, take it for what it is- a sign of unhappiness and low self-esteem.  People who go around picking others apart do so because they are unhappy.  They are equally critical of themselves.  Happy, self-accepting people don’t treat others poorly.  Only people who lack self-love put others down.

You can’t control other people, or how they treat you; however, you can control how you react.  Sure it’s upsetting when someone takes an undeserved shot at you; but ultimately, it’s not your problem- it’s his or hers.  You will go on with your life and continue to be happy and well-adjusted.  The bully, meanwhile, will continue to be irritated by everyone and everything.  It’s a miserable existence.  It’s not a life anyone strives to live- bogged down by anger, self pity, and self loathing.  Rather than focus on their attempts to bring you down, instead be grateful for who you are.

On being a smarter optimist

“And maybe I’m a little smarter now than I was before for all the stupid things I’ve done. “
Herb Brooks

Before I met my abuser, I was a happy, upbeat free-spirit.  I looked at the positive in every situation, and over-looked other people’s flaws and chose to recognize their good points instead.  I was always smiling and cheerful.

After the abuse, I felt my optimism had betrayed me.  It helped me  fail to recognize cruel and self-interested behavior in people I had cared about. I had minimized their faults in favor of focusing on their better qualities.  Perhaps that is why it’s been so difficult for me to get back to my happy self.  I am afraid of overlooking the negative.  If I shrug off insults or bullying without standing up for myself then I will remain a doormat.

However, there is no reason I can’t be a happy and optimistic person and stand up for myself.  Setting boundaries doesn’t make me mean or unapproachable.  It has taken a conscious effort to accept that being optimistic may make me more vulnerable to unjust attacks, but it is the only way I’d choose to live my life.  I will not live in fear any longer.  I am breaking out of the confines of self-doubt and taking on the world (with my rosie colored glasses).  I am the only person capable of holding myself back, and I am not going to do it anymore.

I am going to finish the Tough Mudder- water tunnels, electric shock, and all.  I will finish that marathon.  I will not only finish, but will do it all with a smile on my face- because that’s just how I roll.  I will also do it with the knowledge that I am raising money for a worthy cause and inspiring other victims to move on from the confined existence of abuse.

Thanks for reading!  These posts are going to come in a flood now that I am back home with a computer.  Sorry for anyone whose inbox is about to be flooded!  As always, comments and questions are always welcome and appreciated. 🙂