self improvement

Doing The Hard Thing… Again

“The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.” 
― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

In the midst of all the drama going on with my family and my continued frustration at not being able to adequately blow off steam through training, I have once again been faced with the reality that Adam and I need time apart.  As much as we both love and care about each other, we just can’t seem to make it work.

Although Adam has done a lot of things that have really hurt, I don’t question that he cares deeply about me.  However, I’m just at a point where I can’t take it anymore.  He has a lot he needs to sort out for himself; and as much as I want to be there for him and help… it’s just causing me more pain than him good.

Sometimes no matter how badly you want to help someone who is drowning, they will sink despite your best effort.  At some point you need to let go before they take you down too.  I have worked too hard at rebuilding my life and making myself happy to get dragged back down by someone unwilling or unable to help himself right now, so I’m taking a step back and letting him find his own way.

As much as I know it’s the right thing in my head AND that I have truly reached my breaking point with how much hurt and disappointment I can take- it hasn’t stopped me from second guessing, hurting, or beating myself up over it.  The whole situation sucks, but I learned (quite painfully) from previous experience that it takes TWO people to make a relationship work.  It’s not something I can fix on my own, and he needs to fix himself (and find his own happiness) before we can ever even begin thinking about fixing “us” again.

In the meantime, I need to take some overdue time for myself.  My whole life has always revolved around taking care of other people, but right now I need to put me first.  For now that just means keeping sort of a low profile.  I haven’t even told anyone at boot camp yet because I didn’t want to make it awkward for all the people who know and like us both.  There’s also probably a small part of me that is afraid of how they’ll react or that they may judge me (having no idea what I’ve been through in the course of our relationship).  Ultimately, no one has the right to judge me and I can’t keep worrying about it.

Tomorrow is a new day, and everyday I’m a little stronger… eventually- like all wounds– this will heal too.

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Reflections

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family:

Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

-Jane Howard

(Quote on my Archangels workshop folder)

“Day 3 of the Thriver Retreat and I am drained.  I had nightmares overnight and didn’t get much sleep.  I am still missing my natural rhythm of running in the morning and have had difficulty shaking off lingering negativity.  I should have run this morning , but it’s too late to beat myself up over it.  I do anyway.  I feel guilty for not being more upbeat.  I don’t want to drag down the rest of the group.  I need to stop doing this.  I need to allow myself to feel off at times. ”

Above is my journal entry from this morning.

I spent this weekend at an Archangel Thriver Retreat at the Guest House in lovely Chester, CT.  It was both an energizing and exhausting experience.  That is part of the reason my blog posts have been delayed and are now coming in a flood.

Naturally being an introvert, I find spending time in groups extremely tiring.   I can’t even handle long periods with my own family without getting worn out.  I need alone time to recharge.  Don’t get me wrong.  I truly enjoy other people’s company.  I want to feel connected like every other person, but this was a little too much of a good thing.  By the end of Day 2 I was over-extended and overwhelmed.

The lack of sleep that night only added to my fatigue.  By the morning of Day 3 I felt like I had nothing left to give.  I was drained.  Breakfast was a bit a of a solemn affair.  I could see the exhaustion I was feeling written on the faces of some of the other women.   This made me feel a little better, a reminder that sometimes being off is normal and not a lingering remnant of abuse.  We looked like we had been to battle- in many ways we had.   The retreat had pushed each of us outside our comfort zone and forced us to confront our inner critics.  Survivors of abuse have particularly loud inner critics (many times taking on the voices and comments of the past abusers).  It’s a constant struggle to keep them quiet.  It was clear the fight had worn on many of us.

The morning began by “opening the circle”, a chance for the group to meditate, offer prayer, share energy, and our thoughts of what we were grateful for.  There were many apologies mixed in.  Apparently many more people were experiencing low energy than I had realized.  I was clearly not alone.  Even Susan was not herself.  Sharing this knowledge helped us try to shake off the negativity and embrace the day.  Our theme of the retreat was “Fireworks”, inspired by Katie Perry’s hit song.  It was the first time I had actually read the lyrics.  They seemed so appropriate.

We let our colors burst by writing letters to ourselves from 6 months in the future.  We were supposed to envision all we’d have accomplished by then.  It was so wonderful to hear everyone’s positive vision of the next 6 months!  I was the last to read mine to the group.  I started strong but started to tear up (as usual).  I congratulated myself on finishing my first half and full marathon despite doubting that I could do it, for fundraising for charity, for having a successful blog that was reaching and inspiring other women and spreading the word about domestic abuse, for using my desire to help and heal others to overcome insecurities and my inner critic, for accepting myself and others, for no longer keeping people at arms length, for letting go of the lingering notion that I “make everyone around [me] miserable” (something that still haunts me from my abuse), and for finding volunteer work that was meaningful to me.   It was a tall order, but I’ve always been one to aim high.

I also gave myself the task of organizing a road race as a fundraiser for CT-ALIVE.  It will be my first attempt at organizing any event, period.  I don’t know anything about how to host a road race, but I will very shortly!  It gave me a pit in my stomach on the ride home, and then I reminded myself that 1) I won’t be doing it alone, 2) even if I fail or it doesn’t work these women will support me and encourage me to keep trying, and 3) it will be COMPLETELY AMAZING if we actually pull it off!  After all, my goal is to help other victims and speak out, and this will be a terrific opportunity to not only spread the word about domestic abuse, but also about THRIVING.

As worn and exhausted as I returned home today, I was equally inspired!  I LOVE these women.  I have never experienced such unconditional support and understanding from a group, many of whom are practically strangers.  It is such a profoundly incredible  feeling to belong to such an empowered and optimistic network of women.

Here is another terrific music video that one of the beautiful ladies at the retreat shared: “I Love Me Better Than That” by Shirley Murdock

What is a Thriver?

“Sisterhood is many things. It’s a warm smile on a cold and rainy day, a friendly hug, a cheerful hello… It’s all that a good and lasting friendship is, only better. It’s treasured. It’s sacred. It’s knowing that there will always be someone there for you. It’s dreams shared, and goals achieved. It’s counting on others and being counted on. It is real.”

This post dedicated to all my Archangel Sisters.  I love each and every one of you!

This morning I was charged with the task of defining what “thriver” means to me.  I compiled a list of the first words that came to mind: self knowing, embracing life, living to the fullest, empowered, open, secure, unbroken, girl power, liberated, and vibrant.  It was a good start.   However, truly grasping the essence of thriving is not something that can be broken down and explained on paper.  It’s something that needs to be felt

The most wonderful thing happens when you attend the My Avenging Angel Workshops and follow-up sessions.  You become part of a sisterhood: a loving, accepting, flaw embracing community of women committed to improving not only their own lives, but also the lives of others.  That is where the thriver energy emanates.  It comes from each and every woman. 

The Angels are a diverse group- coming in every shape, size, age, color, and religion- a reminder that domestic violence does not discriminate.  Yet, we do not dwell on our past.  Instead, we celebrate the beauty of our differences and bond over a common experience.  Surprisingly, it’s not the trauma or past suffering that brings us together.  It is the desire to bring about change- in ourselves and in the world that binds us.  Together, we see a future filled with limitless possibilities.  In each of us there is hope, faith, and the courage to embark on a journey to a more fruitful and fulfilling life.  We give each other strength.  Our ties cross town and state lines across this country.  We are feminism at its best- an abuser’s worst nightmare!  Are motto: “Living well is the best revenge”. 

Being a thriver is more than becoming a self-aware, self-loving individual.  It is about belonging and becoming part of a community.  The community is necessary to impact other lives.  It’s the sense of sisterhood that helps to empower us.  I could not imagine what a difficult journey it would be, or it even being possible to thrive without a strong support network.  No one individual is self-sufficient enough not to need a shoulder to cry or lean on during hard times.  A house is only as good as the foundation it is built upon, and the individual is no different.  You are only as solid as your base.  In this respect I have been very lucky (not only to have the Angels, but also the unconditional love of my amazing family, friends, and boyfriend who always back me 100% – equally in success and failure).

I am so grateful to belong to such an awe-inspiring group of women.  Each is a blessing in a my life, a window to the possibilities of how the future could be.  I am fortunate to not only have such a tremendous family (both by blood and bond), but to be part of one.  Knowing that I play a role helping and healing others is more healing and empowering than anything I could achieve on my own.

If you reside in or near Connecticut and are interested in moving beyond survivor to thriver please visit Susan Omilian’s website for more information on the FREE My Avenging Angels Workshops.  You can also email me at runningthriver@gmail.com.

If you do not live near Connecticut and are still interested in joining the Thriver community, check out the Thriver Workbook.  In it you will find many of the exercises Susan uses in her workshops.  You can also check out The Thriverzone.

As always, thank you for reading!  Please feel free to share any of the information here if you know someone who can benefit from it (just give credit back to the site please 🙂 ) Comments and feedback are always welcome and appreciated.  Good luck in your Thriver Journey!!!

First day on new legs…

Man imposes his own limitations, don’t set any”

-Anthony Bailey

I have finally begun my (not so triumphant) return to trail running!

I may have been pushing it, but the combination of rest due to nagging IT band syndrome and my subsequent viral invasion had left me home bound and stir crazy. At the first sign of being able to stand upright and marginally breathe through my nose I was out the door.  I needed to run. 

I brought Penny along to ensure I took it easy and give her some much needed exercise and attention.  We did an easy couple miles with a few good hills.  Penny disappeared frequently into the nearby streams before finally rolling in a particularly large, muddy puddle.  She instantly turned from yellow lab to chocolate.   She was delighted with herself.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  It’s a good thing I’ve gotten past keeping my car meticulously clean! 

The trails were particularly wet and buggy from all the rain earlier in the week.  There was evidence of recent flooding with fine silt covering the leaves of the low lying shrubs.  The pavement and large concrete blocks had been upheaved and oddly twisted out of place.  There were branches and leaves scattered that had fallen prematurely, likely from some violent wind storm.  The whole scene had changed dramatically from my previous run there just a few weeks earlier, a reminder that nature is always changing and evolving.  The bugs, however, were the same- a reliable drawback of trail running.  They swarm so closely that I have frequently inhaled and swallowed them accidentally.  I wonder if it is still bad karma to kill bugs even if it isn’t on purpose… 

Overall, my trail performance was not stellar.  However, I made it out and I enjoyed it.  More importantly, I didn’t aggravate my IT bands- a promising sign.  🙂 

 

Be the Change you want to See…

“Be the change that you want to see in the
world.”
Mohandas Gandhi

Reclaiming my life after abuse has been both the most difficult and rewarding experience of my life.  Last night I took a huge step toward becoming the positive change I want to see in the world.  I was officially voted onto the board for CT-ALIVE, and even graduating with a degree from Yale does not compare in the sense of accomplishment.  I have come such a long way on this journey!

From the time I first left my abusive relationship, I have wanted to get involved and give back to other women.  Participating in Susan Omilian’sMy Avenging Angels Workshops” has only served to intensify this desire.  The women in her follow up group are all amazing, strong, and beautiful people (both inside and out).  They have so much to offer, and I wanted to be like them.  So many of them had gone on to obtain degrees in social work and counseling in order to help other victims.  Several work in healing and advocating for victims of violence.  There is an amazing energy in the room whenever they are together.  It’s palpable.

It was at one of the follow sessions that I got the idea to use my passion for running to help raise money and awareness for victims of violence.  I told Susan how I could use the races I was running to raise money for her scholarship fund and sent an email to CT-ALIVE to ask for their blessing (without realizing that I already knew many of the members of the board).  Susan replied back on both accounts with great enthusiasm and even extended an invitation to join the board.  I was honored.  Then she asked me for my résumé, and my heart sank a little.  I had never volunteered on a board, or even for any organization focused on domestic abuse.  My entire resume had to do with medical work.  I sent it to her and attached the following cover letter:

Dear Members of the Board:

My name is Jenny W; and as you can see from my résumé, I am currently employed as a physician assistant in general surgery.

I have never functioned as part of a board, and have limited experience working with victims of violence.  However, I do have experience at being a victim of violence and speaking out against it.  I have always been a compassionate person, but surviving abuse and living with the daily struggles of PTSD has given me the ability to empathize with other victims.  It is important to me to let them know they are not alone and there is no reason to be ashamed.

I have recently started a blog titled “The Running Thriver” to raise awareness about domestic violence and provide resources and hope to other victims.  I am also planning to use my passion for running to raise money and awareness for victims of domestic abuse.

What I lack in experience I can more than make up for in sheer drive, determination, passion, and enthusiasm.  As someone with the strength and resources to speak out and advocate for others, I feel it is my duty to do so to the best of my ability.  Violence and abuse destroy lives.  I want to be a force in this world against them.

Sincerely,

Jenny W. PA-C, MMs

As I typed the letter, I had a slight sense of dread that I would show up at the board meeting and not be voted in.  I was unsure of how they would react to my lack of experience.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I should have know better.

Stepping into the meeting was like walking into a bubble of positive energy.  In addition to the many delicious snacks, the room was filled with enthusiasm and ideas.  They were eager to hear what I had to say, which I found very humbling.  It was like being in a room full of giants.  They have all accomplished such great things, and here I was just starting out. (Check out my Blog Roll for further info on their individual projects)  However,  everyone was extremely gracious and made me feel completely welcome  as part of their group.  I felt like I was part of a terrific think tank with a single mission to reach victims of domestic violence and improve their lives.  It was completing energizing, a feeling that I typically only associate with working out.

As horrible a situation as going through the abuse was, it would be difficult for me to say that no good has come from it.  After all, it’s given me a tremendous opportunity to meet some incredibly amazing women and find volunteer work that I am truly passionate about.  I also have a new found appreciation for exactly how much inner strength I possess. People who are never challenged in life miss out on ever realizing their full potential.  I, on-the-other-hand, have had the privilege of finding out exactly what I am made of; and that is something I don’t regret at all.  It has made me a stronger, more self-aware person, and (among other things) a better runner.

I would encourage everyone to visit the new and improved website for CT-ALIVE and read more about the work they do.  They are making a terrific impact on women’s lives and provide their services free of charge.  Please consider donating to help support their ongoing work.  If you know anyone who you think may benefit from reading this blog, feel free to share.  Also if you have any questions or comments you can either leave them here or email me at runningthriver@gmail.com.

Fatigue- My Enemy

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Nothing makes me feel more stuck in a rut than coming up a against a week without restful sleep.  Even when I am really making progress at life, all it takes is a few nights of nightmares for my “inner critic” to go crazy.  Fatigue makes me vulnerable, and it is always a reality check as to just how much work I have left to do and my road to a “normal” existence. The truth is that every day I am waging war with myself.  Like the cartoon characters with a little angel and devil on each shoulder, I carry an ongoing argument in my head with my negative inner critic.  On good days, I can tune out these thoughts (generally along the lines of feeling like an isolated, negative, unlikable, damaged, worthless person).  However, a few nights of sleep deprivation sends me into a tailspin of self-deprecation.

In my life before abuse, I didn’t stress over much because I had absolute faith that things would always be okay and I would always land on me feet.  It was a rosy view of things, but every problem I ever faced had always worked itself out without too much fallout.  I figured that if I was a good person and treated other people with kindness, generosity, and respect that I would – in the grand Karma scheme of things- receive the same in return.

Over five years of psychological, emotional, and ultimately physical abuse (not only on the part of my ex-husband, but also his family- whom I loved as my own) shattered my view of that reality. It was a gut-wrenching, devastating, and absolutely heart breaking  experience. There are not words to describe the sensation of betrayal.  A group of people who professed to love and care deeply about me had used me.  I had shown them nothing but love, kindness, compassion, and generosity; and in return I was greeting with back stabbing, lies, cruelty, and manipulation.  I didn’t deserve it, and I didn’t understand how any person could be capable of treating another that way.

As much as I want to regain my rosy-colored perspective of the world again, I have found it tremendously difficult.  The whole situation wreaked havoc on me both emotionally and physically.  The thought of ever being in that place again (of feeling completely unstable) still gives me anxiety and nightmares.  It literally keeps me up at night.  Not every night, but frequently when I’m over tired or run down.

I don’t ever get upset about any of the belongs I lost in my escape from my abuser; however, I am at times resentful that a man came into my life and took my view of the world as a safe place from me.  It is the ONLY thing that I miss from before.  It wasn’t his to take, and I want it back.  I want my sense of security back.  I want to stop keeping people at arm’s length to avoid getting burned again.  I want to believe that because I am a good person, good things will happen to me.

I am getting there, but it is a process, a LONG process.  That is why every time I get into a bad sleep cycle and the negative thinking creeps in I feel like it’s no progress.  One thing I have regained for certain,though, is my determination (running has been crucial in rebuilding both my determination and self-esteem), and I am determined to let go of worrying and focus on the positive change I want to be in the world. 🙂  I am also determined to get some sleep tonight!

Goal for tomorrow- short leisurely run with Penny, and maybe some gym time.

“I am woman! I am invincible! I am pooped!”


“I am woman!  I am invincible!  I am pooped!”

  ~Author Unknown

The amazing view on my run today.

Today I continued my quest toward running a full marathon!  I figured it would be a good day for a long run because I have not run much this week and will be working the next two days without a lot of other opportunity to get mileage in.  Earlier this week I had attempted a light, fast paced run; but my body was not cooperating, and I ended up at the gym instead.  I was a little disappointed, but got some solace in the fact that I survived 15-whole-minutes on the stair climber- which I hate more even more than push ups (and that is saying a lot!).

None-the-less, I wanted to make up for my less than par workout and gain some ground.  I got up early and straightened up the house a little before setting out.  It was still cool and looked like it was shaping up to be a beautiful day.  I headed over to the Bridle Trail, a relatively flat, gravel path not far from my house.  I had not been there in several months, and thought it would be a nice change in scenery.  The trail runs through the woods, so it stays well shaded and keeps the temperature significantly cooler than running on the road.  I was actually a little chilly when I started, but quickly warmed up as I settled into my pace.  I chose my beat up asics over my vibrams because I don’t like running over gravel (or pavement) in toe shoes.

Not long into my run, I was greeted by another runner with a happily meandering chocolate lab in toe.  His companion lagged behind him enough to keep me company for a while before he wandered off again with his owner.  I made a mental note to start bringing my lab, Penny, out on more of my short runs.  (I used to run with her regularly; however, now that she is getting older, her endurance is not what it used to be. )

I had set the timer on my phone (which I use as an ipod) to alarm after an hour and forty-five minutes figuring I would just turn around and run back.  I hoped to be able to cover at least 15 miles in that amount of time.  For most of the way out I felt terrific.  I soaked in the beautiful views and wondered why anyone would run on the road when they could have a much more peaceful and splendid backdrop.  I was so absorbed in my surroundings that it felt like no effort at all, and I started to think that running a marathon would not be that difficult.  I frequently joke to Adam that “running on a flat surface is easy. I could run forever it’s flat.”

I was just beginning to believe my jest was true when I brushed my hand across my leg and realized I couldn’t feel it.  In fact, I could not feel anything from the small of my back down.  I wondered if this was what an epidural felt like.  Like any other endurance athlete (and I use that term loosely), I figured that if I ignored it long enough, it would just go away.  Besides, I wasn’t having any pain.  I tuned it out and kept going, but it didn’t go away.  Instead, it got worse.  Then my back and legs started to hurt.  I looked at the time.  I had only been running an hour!  This was disheartening.  I wondered if my asics were a bad choice.  Yet, I kept running because it was not just about the mileage- it was about training my body to keep going when it didn’t want to.  I knew I would have to get used to this feeling if I was going to get through over 26 miles.

By the time I was ready to turn around and head back, it was becoming increasingly more difficult to move my legs.  I was afraid to stop and walk, convinced that I would not be able to get my body to run again.  I began to doubt my ability to complete this task, and kicked myself for adding an additional 15 minutes each way.  At times, I was distracted by butterflies and bright yellow birds who seemed to follow me along with curiosity.  There were also a wide variety of wild flowers in white, purple, and yellows abutting the tree line.  I tried to concentrate on the scenery: a lovely pond, tall fields, small cottages.  However, my legs were aching and numb.  I didn’t think it was right that they could be both at the same time.  I kept plodding and hoping the time would go by quickly.

When I finally reached a stretch of the trail I remembered from early in my run I was elated- only to be crushed again by the long stretch before the next familiar site.  I thought it was funny how quickly I went from feeling like I could run forever to feeling like I had been running forever.  I dreaded the idea of doing this for over 5 hours and began to question why I ever thought it would be a good idea.  Maybe I was capable of running 10 or 15 K thanks to my vibrams, but this was starting to seem insane.

Then, before I knew it, I was back at the 2 mile mark.  I remembered how I used to struggle to run from my car to this spot and back when I was first breaking in my toe shoes.  Now it seemed like such a small distance!  Over and over in my head I chanted “TWO MORE MILES, JUST TWO MORE MILES!!!!”  I kept pushing; my body kept trying to quit.  I wanted to finish running, not walking.  I continued to drag myself until the sites became more familiar; and, finally,  I knew I was almost there.  I dragged myself all the way back to the car, and a funny thing happened.  I didn’t die.  I didn’t fall over.  I didn’t even throw up!  Instead I drove myself home and tried to stretch- until my lap was filled with a very happy lab and bulldog.

it got a little muddy

another view from the trail