Domestic Abuse

You Deserve Better

“We should not give away a moment to anyone who does not deserve it.” 
― Deb Caletti, The Secret Life of Prince Charming

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This post is dedicated to all the women in my life and everywhere who settle for less then they deserve.

You are kind

You are smart

You are important

And most of all

You are deserving of LOVE.

I have been both blessed and cursed in my life with the gift of compassion and empathy.  Reading other peoples feelings comes easily to me, and with that comes the ache of knowing when and how much some one else if suffering.

I am truly lucky to know MANY amazing, bright, wonderful, and caring women.  Women who would do anything for the people they Imagelove.  Women who are passionate about making the world a better place.  Women who are leaders in their field.  And yet, my heart aches for them.

Why?

Because many of the women I know settle for less than they deserve.  They pursue relationships with individuals who do not respect or appreciate them.  They waste their energy on people who only love them when it is convenient rather than unconditionally.  They believe the unworthy individuals who tell them they are undeserving of love.  They only see the flaws pointed out by others rather than the beauty they possess.

I want to cry for these women.  These are people I know and care about.  I want to shake them back into reality.  I want to tell them the truth.  I want to make them believe.

They deserve better.  They are kind.  They are smart.  They are important.  And most of all, they are deserving of love… and not just a love that is convenient: Love that is unconditional and unwavering.  Love that is as deep as what they offer in return.  They deserve to be cherished and adored because, despite what they have been brainwashed to believe, THEY ARE WORTHY.

ImageAnd that is what got me thinking about why we as women settle.  Why do we settle for unhealthy and abusive relationships?  Why we put our needs behind everyone else’s?  Why do allow ourselves to be doormats?

I am not hear to answer the why, but rather to give all the women out there permission to stop.  Stop settling.  Stop apologizing.  Stop living small.  It’s a big world! Take up all the space you need!  Most of all, though, don’t settle.  Don’t waste your time on someone who doesn’t appreciate you.  You are beautiful and lovable.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar.  Anyone who follows I love you or a compliment with the word “but” or some kind of condition is also no good for you and a liar.

Take the time to love yourself first.  Find your happiness within, and the right people will come to you.  Don’t get caught up on the amount of time you’ve already wasted or the mistakes you’ve made in the past.  Today is a new day.  It’s a new year.  Start living for YOU.  Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.  What people say about you behind your back is none of your business.  If someone has a problem with you, it’s their problem.  Let them stew over it.  If you’re busy living life to the fullest, what does it matter anyway?

I know what it’s like to have someone slowly steal away your happiness and shrink your world. Image I also know what it’s like to waste years with the wrong person while trying to please everyone but myself.  I was a doormat.  I’m not anymore.  Now I know how it feels to be loved unconditionally, and it doesn’t EVER involve put downs and criticism.

Any relationship in your life that makes you feel badly about yourself (or question your sanity) is not a healthy one.  You deserve better than that.  In fact, you deserve all the best life has to offer.  The type of life you live is entirely up to you, so choose the one that makes you happy.  And don’t ever settle.

YOU DESERVE BETTER

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Short and Long Term Goals

“Anyone who thinks that they are too small to make a difference has never tried to fall asleep with a mosquito in the room.”
-Christine Todd Whitman

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For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to help.  It didn’t matter who needed it or what it involved, I just wanted to be useful.  Maybe that is why I picked a career in medicine.  What better choice for an occupation than to take care of people all day who need it?  Yet, even spending my days taking care of other peoples needs and having the occasional opportunity to help save a life were not enough to calm the feeling of needing to do more to make a difference.

I have never been quite sure of what type of difference I’m supposed to be making in this word exactly, but what I do know is ImageI wake up every morning with a burning need to do more.  After the abuse, I channelled a lot of this energy into raising money and awareness for victims of domestic violence through CT-ALIVE and the Running for Color Purple Campaign.  While working with CT-ALIVE has given me an opportunity to do some good, I still feel like it’s not enough.  I don’t want to just raise money for victims of violence, I want to interact with them and give them hope.  More than that, I want to prevent women from becoming victims.  This has lead to me really evaluate what I want to do with this blog and my life.

I have the luxury with my current job of having 4 days off from work a week.  That gives me plenty of time to work with for accomplishing my other goals and dreams.  I know I want to make a difference in the world, and I specifically know I want to make a difference for victims of domestic violence.  What I need to workout is a game plan.  My work with CT-ALIVE and this blog have been a good start, but I think it’s time to branch out.  For starters, I have been putting more energy into my blogging and have recently begun putting myself out there.  I joined Team Tough Chik, which I am actually pretty excited about, and have also applied to be an ambassador for Fitfluential and RunKeeper.  I think all of these offer a great opportunity to get my message out there as well as get connected to companies I already utilize and believe in.

The other thing I am looking to accomplish is to put together a talk/program about dating and domestic violence that I can give at local colleges.  I met my abuser in college and knew nothing about domestic violence or the warning signs at the time.  If I can share my story and prevent young women from walking blindly into a dangerous situation, then I will have accomplished something truly fulfilling.  I think educating the masses about the myths and misconceptions of domestic violence is essential erasing the stigma of abuse and preventing more victims.  Abuse thrives in silence, and my goal is to Imageshine a spot light on it and open some dialogue.

Therefore, dating/domestic violence awareness talk has been added to my list of short term goals, along with improving my swimming and cycling, and training for a Half Ironman.  While these things may seem completely unrelated, for me, training and abuse are closely related.  After all, training for races is what made me feel empowered after abuse.  Gaining strength and endurance helped me build my confidence and feel safe again.  Plus, pushing myself through training and exercise while overcoming my past abuse is what I started this blog about in the first place.  Although at most times this blog is more about kicking ass than dealing with abuse, the history of abuse is part of who I am and what drives me to be a better, stronger, smarter woman.

If I am able to complete the Half Ironman, and someday a full Ironman, it will be at least in part due to the strength I’ve gained from my past experience with domestic violence.  It will also serve as a further example that anything is possible in life even after abuse.  My ultimate long term goal is to write a book about my experience with overcoming abuse.  I think finishing a full Ironman beforehand would make the message even more powerful… Not to say that if I never get to the point of doing an Ironman that I wouldn’t still write one, but wouldn’t it be awesome if I could?

In the meantime, I will get back to swim classes and spinning… and maybe writing a talk. 🙂

I Had Another Nightmare

“I have had dreams and I have had nightmares, but I have conquered my nightmares because of my dreams.”
-Jonas Salk 

Last night I had a dream about my abuser.  It is not something that happens frequently anymore, but it happened.  Maybe it was because I spent so much time raising awareness and thinking about domestic abuse last month, maybe it was the Halloween candy giving me nightmares, or maybe it was because Halloween was his favorite holiday.  Regardless, he was there last night invading my peaceful sleep just like he used to… except things were different.

Unlike any previous nightmares related to my ex, this one took place post-divorce.  In fact, it was as if it were happening in our current lives.  He was trying to win me back after his second marriage failed.  I distinctly remember that he was driving a Lexus and working at a job where he was making significantly more money than he used to.  He was also paranoid, desperate, and completely out of his mind.  The funny thing is, none of this surprised me.  Yes, I thought he was absolutely crazy, but it was not out of the realm of what I would expect for him. He was raving about his manager at work being “out to get him” and mentioned how he had hired a lawyer.  He said he had to use his divorce lawyer because he couldn’t afford “a real one”, and I remember thinking that he shouldn’t own a Lexus if he was worried about money.  Anyhow, despite his full on delusional state and preoccupation with recording meetings and using me as a witness to support his case, he was also trying to get back together with me.  However, this time around it was not in the romantic wooing technique, but rather outright telling me what I needed to do. 

The one thing that was different about this dream was that I wasn’t buying it.  I didn’t feel powerless.  Instead, I was distracted by the fact that I loved Adam more than I ever loved my ex. I just kept thinking that Adam was the person I wanted to be with and I didn’t belong there.  I woke up before I had a chance to express this in my dream, but I was proud of my subconscious for turning around what otherwise would have been just another awful nightmare.  Even with the improved outcome, though, it was still disturbing for me to dream of my abuser.  In fact, it was as unwelcome as if I had run into him in real life.  He’s not someone I ever want to see again, even in my sleep.

The good news is, I feel like even if I did run into him today that at least I could handle him.  There isn’t anything he could say to me anymore that is going to make me feel badly about myself.  In truth, if one of us was going to leave an interaction feeling embarrassed it is more likely it’d be him than me.  After all, even if he still blames me in his twisted mind for pushing him to the point of physical abuse, he is still the one who lost control and put his hands on me.  Even someone as adept at manipulating the truth as he is still has to have some level of guilt or remorse regardless of whether he chooses to act on it. 

Although Domestic Awareness Month is over, I still felt like it was worth sharing this experience.  While there may be some people who get tired at times of my preoccupation with spreading the word about DV, the truth is that those people have the option of not reading my posts.  They can choose not to deal with domestic abuse or pretend it won’t affect them.  I and other survivors of abuse, meanwhile, cannot escape our pasts even if we don’t live there anymore.  Domestic Violence has left an indelible mark on our lives which will linger regardless of how fully we choose to live after abuse.

Please take a few moments out of your day and watch to video above and share it.  Domestic Abuse can only thrive where there is silence.  Help to put an end to the violence. 

Bimbler’s Bluff Recap

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
-Colin Powell 

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I am a firm believer that with persistence, anything is possible.  That might have been what lead me to sign up for the Bimbler’s Bluff 50K in the first place.  It seemed to be one of those things where the planets are in alignment and everything just falls into place… although I never could have anticipated upon signing up just how true that would be.

I needed a race to run as a fundraiser for CT-ALIVE this year, and having done attempted the Ultra Beast last year, it had to be something that would test my limits.  Ever since the Ultra Beast, I had considered doing an ultra.  I had already done a marathon, so it seemed like the next logical step.  Plus, the Bimbler’s Bluff was a bargain at $50!

BLQ-tommy-lasordaDetermination-Quotes-for-Blog-300x300Since I was not super successful with my fundraising last year, this year I redoubled my efforts.  I made an event page, sent emails, and continuously begged for money on Facebook.  The fact that I had selected a race roughly 33 miles in length worked to my favor as I had people who offered to make donations in my memory just in case I didn’t survive.  (Thanks for the vote of confidence guys)  My goal was for this year $500, but I well exceeded it making for my most lucrative fundraising year yet!  That only made me more pumped for the race.

The other exciting thing about my big run this year was that a friend of mine (Vanessa from The Purple Song Project) put me in touch with Lana Ives from Ives International Film.  It turned out that Lana is working on a documentary involving stories of inspiring people.  She had read my blog and thought I fit the bill.  She asked if she could meet me at the race and interview me before the start.  She also said I could have copies of the film and images for my own personal use (i.e. for my blog- so stay tuned!).  Beyond the shock that someone would be inspired enough by my blog to want to involve me in a documentary, I realized that this was an AMAZING opportunity.  If my mission with this blog is to inspire people to go out and live their dreams, especially after abuse, then there was no way I could not accept.

Upon arriving at the race, I found Lana and her assistant at the check in.  I was beyond stoked to find not only that the race shirts were fluorescent orange, but that the race bibs were orange as well! I took this as a good sign because, as we all know, orange is my favorite color. Even better, the bib had my name on it- which meant the runners and volunteers would be cheering for me by name!  Anyone who has run a race with your name on the bib knows exactly what I am talking about here.  Plus, it made for better conversation on the course given we all had name tags.

As far as the actual race, I don’t even know where to start.  Trail runners are such a special breed.   When you sign up and arrive at a trail run, you sign up for more than a race.  Rather, you have signed up to be a part of a community, and it’s clear from the moment you arrive.  Bimbler’s Bluff was no exception.  There was a palpable sense of good will.  When the national anthem wouldn’t play, two runners stepped forward and sang it beautifully.  However, they didn’t sing it alone because almost immediately the whole field joined in.  It was a perfect way to start, and then we were off.

The early part of the course consisted of rolling hills, which are my favorite to run.  I picked a comfortable pace and stuck with it the whole way.  I only stopped to walk if a hill was particularly steep.  I plugged along while everyone else passed me, and before long I was convinced there was no one left to go by.  I didn’t particularly mind.  After all, it was nice to see another person occasionally, and I figured most of them had far more experience with ultras than me anyhow.

The first real challenge of the race was that markers were not that easy to spot.  The red and white tape blended with the foliage in some places and required a lot of attention not to miss them… which many people (myself included!) did… repeatedly.   (Might I offer a humble suggestion of lime green or fluorescent pink next year?)  This was good in the sense that it gave me something to concentrate on; however it made it difficult to watch my footing resulting in several good tumbles.  I caught my toe on and tripped over more rocks than I could count!  I was thrilled when I arrived at the first aid station and plowed through it on to the next one.

The second section of the course had areas that were so steep and treacherous that they were really more conducive to 1394469_10151653824057397_1418743311_nhiking climbing than running… unless you’re part mountain goat.  I did my best to run whatever I could safely and was still feeling good when I hit aid station #2.  I called out my number to the volunteers and headed up a near vertical ascent.  I found Lana on the way up, and she asked how I was feeling.  I told her I was still doing ok and scaled upwards.  My reward was a magnificent view from the top!  The rest of that section seemed to span on forever, and I was sincerely doubting my ability to finish before the cutoff… or finish at all… when I arrived at station #3.  Lana, again, was there waiting for me and she even jogged down the street with me asking me questions as I crossed back onto the course.  I asked the staff at the station how much longer to the next one (which I mistakingly thought was the last one) and they said another 6 miles.  Elated by this news, I blasted past them and they called after me that they had cookies and didn’t I want something to eat.

The next section, again, seemed to stretch on forever.  This was at least in part due to the fact that I hadn’t realized I was out of water until after I started it.  My legs were no longer cooperating and the down hills were worse than up.  At some point I ran a whole extra hill because I had missed a marker.  I thought about taking the ibuprofen I brought with me, but I didn’t want to risk injuring myself by blocking out the pain.  Then I rolled my ankle and landed on it. I was relieved to find at least that it wasn’t badly sprained, and I could still walk on it.  I figured I should enjoy what was left of the race because it could be a good amount of time before I’d be running on it again.  When I did finally arrive at the 4th aid station I found Adam.  He had ridden his bike from home to greet me.  I asked if would make it back in time to see me finish, and he said it would be no problem because I still had 11 miles to go.  The volunteer confirmed this information by telling me I did a great job and was 22 miles in.  I was crushed because I had thought that there were only 4 aid stations with 8 miles left after the last one.  I truly thought that extra 3 miles was going to kill me.  Then Adam filled my hydration pack more than I needed despite my protests.

In spite of the fact that the volunteers were wonderful and supportive, I left that aid station feeling totally defeated.  My pack was the heavier now than it ha been when I started, and I had 3 extra miles to go on top of the eight mile section ahead of me.  Judging by the amount of time it had taken me to complete the last section, I thought for sure that I would never make it past the next cutoff.  It was definitely my lowest point in the race.  The one thing that worked in my favor was that there were not a lot of uphills on that segment. In fact, it was primarily downhill; and I was able to push through 8 miles in 2 hours.  I saw Lana shortly before the last aid station and called out to her “I’m smiling because if you’re here then I’m almost done!”  I stopped briefly at that last aid station- just long enough to say thank you and grab some gummy bears.  They were the most delicious I have ever tasted in my life!  I headed into my last 3 miles on a high.  It was only 4:30 PM, and I knew I could walk the rest of the way and still make it.

However, having run everything but the worst hills up to this point, I was determined to keep going.  Besides, if I was running to inspire and raise money for victims of domestic violence, I was certainly not going to give them anything less than my best.  Plus, I wanted nothing more than to be finished as soon as possible!  So I kept running, despite the fact that my running resembled stumbling more than actual running.  I was emotional on the last section because it was the first time I knew that I could do it: the finish was within my grasp.  I thought of all the hard work and 6 long months of training I had put in to get to this point; and I thought of all the women I was doing this for.  This was not a victory just for me, this was a victory for us.  All those women who were told over and over that they couldn’t accomplish or handle anything, who 564089_10151653823952397_1516264909_nhad their self worth stripped from them the way I did- it was a victory for them.

When I did finally see the finish, I sprinted to it as fast as my legs would carry me.  The people who were there erupted in cheers (not just for me, but for every runner).  Lana was there at the finish, and I told her I couldn’t believe it was over.  She asked if she could give me a hug and I was more than happy to accept it, though I did warn her that I was pretty sweaty.  She asked asked me some additional questions, and then we waited or Adam to arrive (because he underestimated how quickly I would get through my last 11 miles!).  When the race director offered me my glass (and it’s a pretty nifty glass too!) for finishing, I had actually forgotten we were supposed to get anything.  To me, the reward was just in the experience.  I spent the whole day doing something I absolutely love, in good company, with great volunteers, and raised money and awareness for domestic violence in the process.  What more could a girl ask for?

Now that it’s all over, I’m still in disbelief that I did it.  Even more than that, I can’t even begin to process how much love and support I have had for this race.  I don’t think I could have pushed through the pain for as long as I did had I not had so many people rooting for me.  Being someone as independent as I am, I am not used to asking for help… or for anything for that matter.  However, when it came to my fundraising race this year, the response was more than I could have ever imagined.  I am so blessed to have the people I do in my life, from my amazing husband who sacrificed his sleep yesterday to drive me to and from the race and cheer me on, to my awesome family and mom who left me cupcakes for when I got home, to my trainer who kicked my butt for 6 months and helped me become the strongest physically that I have ever been, to all my friends, coworkers, and fellow CT-ALIVE board members, and Arch Angels who offered words of encouragement and made donations.  I dont’ know what I did to deserve to have so many wonderful people in my life, but I am truly grateful for each and every one of them!

You Don’t Belong Here

“Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this.  For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.”

-Henry Ford 
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On Wednesday morning I had my very first swimming lesson, and I thought it went pretty well.  I was both nervous and excited about my second class Thursday night, so I made it a point to head out of work early and ensure I got there on time.  As it turned out, I got there a little early so I spent about 30 minutes swimming laps before class.  Well, I thought I was swimming laps, the women in the lane next to me (who, unfortunately for me, happened to be the night coach) thought they were more of an abomination and insult to the sport of swimming.

lifeisfullofThat is at least what I surmised when she pulled me aside before the class even started and suggested I get a refund.  It wasn’t really a suggestion.  She actually told me that they should have made sure I knew how to “rotary breath” before I signed up.  I suppose I could see her point, but her delivery really sucked.  Plus, I had been very honest about my skill level (ie. swimming to avoid drowning)  when I asked about swim classes.  The woman who signed me up was emphatic about this specific class, and told me that I would pick things up more quickly because the class was a mix of beginner and advanced swimmers.  She stressed that beginners were welcome.  This was reiterated by the morning coach who assured me I would not be the only person in class unfamiliar with swim caps, goggles, and lap swimming.  After hearing the same message repeated by the other swimmers, I was really starting to believe them.  “You’re in the right place” they kept telling me.

Now I found myself in my second swimming class being told not to return.  The message was loud and clear: YOU DON’T BELONG HERE!  She suggested I get remedial beginner classes; and then, when the tears started, she told me to come back this morning and she would spend some time with me.  It was really the LAST THING I was interested in doing, but I wasn’t about to give her the satisfaction of knowing how deeply I was wounded.

After the huge blow, she proceeded to give me instructions on the workout along with everyone else. YES– she had me stay for the workout after kicking me out!  The other people in the class were super friendly and supportive, which only made me more disappointed that I wasn’t allowed back.  I choked back the tears and sucked it up through each group of drills.  After it was over, I bawled my eyes out in the locker room.   The other women who were in the class did their best to make me feel better.  They told me that the night coach is really tough on everyone; and it was obvious during the session that she did a lot of yelling (…and that the majority of the class was afraid of her).  They encouraged me to stick with it and offered itsnotoverto help with my swimming.

As upset and disappointed as a was, I was more determined than ever.  I certainly was not going to let some biotch tell me I’m not good enough.  I had been swimming all of 2 days at that point, and had already made HUGE gains.  My swimming wasn’t pretty, but I wasn’t sinking either.  I was plowing out laps like it was my job.  I understand that the rotary breathing is important; however, I was clearly willing to practice on my own and told them I would get my husband to help me.  I didn’t agree with her decision to kick me out when there were clearly people in her class struggling more than I was.  I wasn’t the only person not keeping my face in the water, but for some reason I was the only one singled out.

This woman, obviously didn’t know who she was dealing with.  Back in high school I was cut from the track team repeatedly before they finally relented and let me on the team.  They ultimately had no choice because I kept showing up to practice regardless of whether I was on the team or not.  I thought about doing the same with her class, but it wasn’t exactly a friendly learning environment… Plus, I think she’d have a conniption.   In an odd way, the parallel to the start of my running career made me feel slightly better.  I wasn’t good enough for the track team my first time out, yet here I am a week away from my first 50K.  Maybe it’s a sign that the same will be true for swimming.  I won’t just get the hang of it, I’ll become passionate about it.  Granted, there aren’t a lot of coaches out there who admire passion over talent, but I have to say that it’s gotten me a lot further in life than talent ever has.

My point is, this isn’t the first time I have put myself out there to try something new only to have someone tell me I’m not good enough.  I’ve never let anyone else deter me, so I certainly wasn’t going to let this woman.  Instead, I decided I would spend time in the pool everyday, even if it meant after a 13+ hour shift, until I got the hang of the breathing.  It would be my personal F- you to this women for kicking me out.

So I did go and swim after work last night.  I went even though I got out late, got stuck in traffic, and knew I’d only have 30 struggleminutes at best before the pool would close.  I practiced the drills we did in class and tried my best to get comfortable with having my face in the water.  Then this morning I got up early and met Miss-You’re-Not-Good-Enough at the pool.  I had been absolutely dreading it, but it turned out she was much nicer (not nice, but significantly less bitchy) when not teaching a whole class.  It only took 15 minutes with her for me to get the hang of turning my shoulder and breathing properly.  She couldn’t get over how quickly I picked it up and how “beautiful” and “streamlined” I swam once I got it.  She even admitted she was impressed, though the look on her face said it all.  It was quite priceless, actually.

She didn’t invite me back to class, but at least now I know how to swim properly when I practice on my own.  I also have the card of the aquatics director (who tracked me down in the locker room when I was crying).  She told me to touch base with her and we would “work something out”.  I’m not sure if this means swimming with her or in a different class, but I’ll do whatever it takes to get it down.

When I first signed up for swim classes, I just wanted to learn to swim well enough to finish the half ironman.  However, now that I got kicked out of swim class, I’m determined to be the best swimmer I can be.  After spending time with numerous horrible coaches in high school and college and over 5 years with an abusive ex, I’m certainly not going to let one swim coach with a chip on her shoulder bring me down.  I think I have enough experience in dealing with self-esteem bashing jerks to be able to handle her.  In fact, I find that the best method is usually to make them eat their words, and I think I’m already well on my way to doing that. 🙂

More Things I’m Excited About

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember,

You have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
-Harriet Tubman 

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Well, in case you are wondering why I am gracing you with not one, but TWO posts today, let me explain.  My first post was one that I started on Friday but didn’t get a chance to finish until today.  This one is my actual post about what’s going on today, and I am way too excited to put off talking about it until tomorrow!

Ok, so first off I took today as a “rest” day…rest from exercise that is.  In reality, I have been quite busy and productive, which are actually two very different things by the way.  I started my morning with an all out effort at Fundraising for my upcoming race.  I created an event page, sent out emails, and the donations are already rolling in!  (BIG SHOUT OUT THANK YOU to those who have donated so far!)  This makes me a very happy girl.  Last year I was comparatively low key about my efforts and was not terribly successful in terms of raising donations.  This year I have changed tactics and basically resorted to shameless begging and badgering.  It appears this method is already working much better…

I also used my time this morning to clean out my closets and gather donations for our upcoming Book and Clothing Drive which just happens to fall on the day before my big run.  I am hoping this works to my advantage as I may be able to squeeze out some last minute donations and well wished while I’m there helping to staff it.  😉 Since I am the type of person who loves decluttering and getting rid of stuff, this would have been enough to make my day.  The fact that it was for a great cause was just a bonus. 😉

988291_10151641352072979_1069446167_nHowever, lucky me- it just kept getting better!  I got to spend time with my family this afternoon and meet my brother’s new dog who they just rescued.  Then I came home and found that my credit card balance was lower than I thought.  Awesome, right?   So with this new found information, I hopped on the Tough Chik website and officially registered to be a part of their 2014 team.  This has been something I have been wanting to do but putting off in an effort to save money and pay down some of our wedding debt.  However, I ultimately decided that I could buy a lesser expensive sign up package now and splurge on the uber cool cycling apparel later… maybe I could even set a new riding goal for myself to earn it. Lord knows I could use the added motivation to overcome my fear of my bike! 🙂

Again, this would have also made for a great day on it’s own, but it continued to get better still!

While I was on the Tough Chik page, I noticed they had a charity tab so I (of course) clicked on it and was totally blown away.  Tough Chik is affiliated with a charity called Project Athena, and I am absolutely IN LOVE with their mission:

The mission of Project Athena is to help women with breast cancer and other medical or traumatic setbacks live their athletic and adventurous dreams through the Project Athena Foundation. Awareness for Project Athena will be achieved through the ultra endurance endeavors of an experienced and high profile all-female adventure team who embody the spirit of Athena.

How AMAZING is that? And how did I not know about this sooner?!!!   I am pretty sure that if I built a charity from the ground up, this would be it’s exact mission– minus the “high profile” athletes of course because let’s face it, I’m not that well connected. 😉  More seriously though, I am just excited that an organization like this exists.  It gives me hope that someday I can quit my job and do something like this for work.  Plus, I am totally pumped that I can register to do an event with them.

In case you are not already blown away, I’ll leave you with their video.  In the meantime, I would like to remind you that every person on this planet has the power to make a difference.  What will you use yours for?

It’s October- And I’m on an Upswing

“If you give me any problem in America I can trace it down to domestic violence.

It is the cradle of most of the problems, economic, psychological, educational.”

-Salma Hayek

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Anyone familiar with this blog knows that October is an important time of year for me.  It’s the month in which I married my abuser (and the abuse escalated dramatically), and it’s also ,ironically, Domestic Violence Awareness Month… Clearly my ex had missed the memo.

Normally this time of year I find my PTSD symptoms tend to rev up.  I get jumpy, anxious, and depressed.  I don’t usually put together what’s going on until I’m well into the month, but this year is different.  This year I’m taking on October head on!  This year I am determined to live my life to the fullest!  I will not allow PTSD to rob the joy from my days.  This year I am determined to push myself to new limits and raise money and awareness for victims of violence in the process.

For the past several years, I have been choosing a race each fall to run as a fundraiser for CT-ALIVE (the charity I work with).  Susan Omilian and CT-ALIVE were there for me when I was struggling to move on with my life after abuse, and I can speak first hand to the value of the services they provide free of charge to victims of abuse. Rather than discuss what had happened in our past, Susan used her My Avenging Angel Workshops to help us rediscover our talents and establish goals.  She created a safe atmosphere where we could recognize that we were not alone and that abuse happened to women of all ages, ethnicity, and economic backgrounds.  We were all so different, and yet we all had an instant bond over what we had been through.  Instead of focusing on just getting women out of abusive relationships, the objective was instead on breaking the cycle of abuse.  By rediscovering our self worth, we were able to let go of the past and embrace the future.

I truly believe that the work CT-ALIVE funds saves lives, and not only the lives of these women, but also their children and their children’s children.  Children who grow up in abusive homes are far more likely to enter abusive relationships.  That is why ending the cycle of abuse is so important.

ImageAnd that is why raising money for CT-ALIVE and raising awareness is so important to me.  If I could change one thing that was the most damaging about the abuse, it was the reaction of the people who found out.  The comments about how “It takes two”, “There’s always two sides the the story”, and the people (primarily my abusers family) who just flat out called me a liar.  Not to mention the officer who made it a point to try to publicly humiliate me for reporting it, insisting I would just get back with my ex anyway so I was just wasting his time.  If I could educate just one person to how ignorant and damaging these types of statements are I would feel like my efforts have been worth while.  No one asks for or deserves to be abused, and they certainly don’t deserve to be blamed for it when it happens.  

I think it is unfortunate that we live in a society that is so bent on victim blaming.  If a women is raped, there is always the implication that she did something to provoke it.  We never stop to take a hard look at the perpetrators.  Somehow, they seem to escape blame in the public eye.  Where is the outrage when a man murders his wife and posts the photos on Facebook and then blames her for making him do it?  OR at the judge who over looked the mandatory sentence and only gave a man 30 days for raping a minor because he thought she looked older than her age?  Why are we as a nation not crying out for change?  One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime- ONE IN FOUR.  So why is domestic not in the news as a national epidemic the way obesity is?

In today’s society, it’s so easy to convince oneself that there is nothing we can do to change the way things are.  However, I refuse to believe that I cannot make a difference in this matter.  On October 20th, I will be lacing up my running shoes and taking on Bimber’s Bluff, a 50 K primarily self supported trail race in southern CT.  Every inch of that 33+ mile course I will be running for victims of abuse.  I want to show other women just how much they can accomplish in life after overcoming domestic violence.  I want to show the rest of the world that survivors of abuse are some of the strongest people on this planet.  Enduring and overcoming the 5+ years of mental and ultimately physical abuse was by far the hardest thing I have done in my life: harder than Yale, harder than PA school, harder than the Ultra Beast.  The fact that there are people out there who have suffered so much worse than I did and are still able to pick themselves up every morning and carry on is a testament to their strength- whether or not they realize it.

Every year I pick my hardest race as the fundraiser for CT-ALIVE, and I do it intentionally.  The people I am fundraising for Imagedeserve nothing less.  Furthermore, it is a reminder to myself every October of just how far I have come from that day I left in the pouring rain.  Every step of physical pain and exhaustion is a reminder of the psychological torment and suffering that I and other survivors of violence have endured.  It’s a reminder of what kind of strength it takes to endure abuse and how if my abuser didn’t break me, then nothing any race has to throw at me will.  I don’t know if I will complete Bimbler’s Bluff within the 10 hour times limit, but I do know that I won’t quit.  I also may just have the best motivator of anyone out there. 🙂

This month I would like to encourage you to go purple!  Do something to honor victims of domestic violence whether it is something as simple as wearing purple or making a donation to support a local charity.  Help spread the word that domestic violence is not ok and it is certainly not cool or funny.  After all, the person you are helping to make a difference for may be your own sister or daughter.

If you are interested in learning more about CT-ALIVE or donating to support Susan Omilian’s work you can check out our website.

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