survivor

Cha-Cha-Changes

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.

For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”

-Margaret Mead
 
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You may have noticed that the blog (and Facebook page… and Twitter) are looking a bit different these days.  As it turns out, spending a few days too sick to move off the couch gave me a chance to give my social media presence a much needed facelift.  At some point I’d like to have a more professional and unified logo; but for now, I think I did a pretty good job on my own (if I do say so myself… and I do 😉 ).  It’s all part of my master plan for global Thriver domination.  Step 1: personalize social media, Step 2: expand social media presence, Step 3: network with other kick ass peeps, Step 4: write and publish book, Step 5: Thriver Global Domination.   
 
Sounds easy, right?  Okay, but in all seriousness I do want to want to achieve most of those things.  Doing all of them would be nice too. 😉  Why?  Because the more I expand, the more people I can reach.  That means not only having the potential opportunity to inspire and empower other people to achieve their dreams, but also inspiring and empowering other victims of violence.  One of the main reasons I started this blog was to offer hope to those survivors of abuse who still hadn’t found their way back to dreaming and aspiring for a better life.  I also wanted to show the masses that abuse can happen to anyone, and so can a meaningful and fulfilling life after abuse.  This is my outlet to prove that enduring and surviving abuse is nothing anyone should be ashamed of… EVER.  Rather, it should serve as a badge of honor as a testament to just how tough we are as a population.  We didn’t crumble or succumb.  We picked up the pieces and rebuilt our lives after surviving mental and physical warfare.  Who has the ability to wound you better than someone who has a grip on your heart?  No one, that’s who.  Yet, we survived, we endured, and we are here to support each other.
 
I am be one person, but I am someone, and that someone is determined to bring about change.  I may not be able to do much, but IImage can do something.  Maybe my reach will never be global.  Maybe #thrive on will never catch on.  However, if I can impact just a few lives, even a handful, and then they are able to reach a few more people… you can see how far a ripple effect can reach.  As much as I would love to inspire every person on this earth to go chase their dreams and educate every individual on the planet about the dangers and impact of domestic violence, I could settle for even a few.
 
Sometimes I wonder if anyone out there actually reads the content I put into my posts, or whether people just like posts based on the photos.  Then every once in a while I will catch a Facebook post or (more recently) a retweet, and there is a part of me that’s surprised (while my heart sings and does a little happy dance in my chest).  Then again, that is the goal, right? To reach people.  All I can do is hope… and work, and continue to pour my heart and soul into this blog… and then hope some more that somewhere it is making a difference for someone. 😉
 
In an effort to expand my empire reach, I have actually started to learn how to use my Twitter account @RunningThriver.  You may have noticed my fancy new Twitter widget…  I also have started an Instragram account, but am still a LOONNNG way off from getting the hang of using it.  I did manage my first post tonight… it was a picture of my dinner.  Uber exciting, right?  I guess it’s a good thing I don’t have kids to embarrass with my lack of tech savviness yet. 😉 
 
I also applied to be a Sweat Pink Ambassador because sweat and pink sounds like a perfect combination to me.  I also think the fact that they are all about kicking ass and supporting and empowering women is pretty groovy too.  Oh, and a bunch of my Toughie Sistas at Tough Chik are doing it, so that’s enough proof for me that they must be pretty darn awesome.  I’m pretty sure they need to accept me too because I already did a post on rejection… just sayin.  
 
ImageLastly, I recently got an email from Run Inspired (LOVE their website… Running, Inspirational Stories… I am soooo sold!) that said something to the effect of “YOU ARE INSPIRING!” (I’m paraphrasing).  Apparently, this love affair is mutual, and I was invited to fill out a questionaire for their site.  Take that Fitfluential! Someone else thinks I’m inspiring, so there! jk  Joking aside, I will keep you all posted on how that goes.
 
In the meantime, I would like to invite you all to share your thriver stories.  I want to start sharing some on the blog and eventually want to start a permanent page for them.  You can include your name and pictures if you wish or write anonymously.  You can even include links back to your own pages.  What I want is to build a Thriving community here.  You don’t necessarily have to be a survivor of abuse.  Anyone choosing to thrive instead of just surviving life is welcome. 🙂
 
You can submit your story to runningthriver@gmail.com.
 
Survivors of abuse can learn more about Susan Omilian’s  “My Avenging Angel Workshops” and how to become a Thriver here.
 
#thriveon
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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.

Posttraumatic Growth

“What we choose changes us.
Who we love transforms us.
How we create reshapes us.
What we do remakes us.”
— Dr. Eugene Callender

It's not always about getting just your body healthy!

I hate the “word” PTSD.  I hate the whole concept.  I don’t like feeling labeled.  I have a hard time accepting that it now part of my life and an even harder time accepting that it is part of who I am.  It makes me feel damaged- like there’s something wrong with me that can’t be fixed.  I can’t stand how my mood fluctuates when I’m tired (like instant PMS!); and as much as I love working out- I sometimes resent the fact that I have to in order to just feel normal instead of an anxious, moody mess.  Not that I come off that way to other people.  It’s funny how incongruent your thoughts and feelings can be with your actions at times.

Yesterday I watched a documentary called “Beyond Belief” which followed the story of two 9/11 widows who decided to turn their grief into productivity and created a charity to raise money for Afghan widows.  (Part of their fundraising included a biking from ground zero back to their homes in Boston- a 3 day and well over 200 mile trip) Their goal was to help foster healing and understanding, as they truly felt connected to these women despite the cultural differences and different sides in the war.  The statistics mentioned in the film about the number of widows in Afghanistan is beyond shocking, it’s downright tragic.  The circumstances these women live in are so dire.  They have no money, no education or way to create a source of income, and are unable to feed themselves or their children.  Yet, (much like the 9/11 widows) they are incredibly strong and grateful for what little they do have.  In the film, they discuss the concept of posttraumatic growth while describing these women- which, unbeknownst to me, is actually a real, studied phenomenon (If it’s on Wikipedia, so it must be real- right?)

Wikipedia defines it as follows:

Posttraumatic growth refers to positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances [1]. These sets of circumstances represent significant challenges to the adaptive resources of the individual, and pose significant challenges to individuals’ way of understanding the world and their place in it [1]. Posttraumatic growth is not simply a return to baseline from a period of suffering; instead it is an experience of improvement that for some persons is deeply profound.

I have to confess, I like the concept of posttraumatic growth FAR better than PTSD 😉  I would MUCH rather focus on growth (who wouldn’t?).  I mean, let’s be realistic here.  What are the real odds that I ever would have started this blog, set up a charity campaign, run a whole marathon, joined a board of a nonprofit, and become an advocate for other women and victims of abuse- if it had not been for the phenomenal growth I experienced as a direct result of  trauma?  I am a better person now than I was before the abuse- annoying PTSD symptoms or not.  I know the depth of my strength.  I know who am I, what I want, and where I am going. I know my resolve and determination are stronger than any doubt that I or anyone else could muster.  Most importantly, I am putting my energy into helping other people heal and creating a positive impact in the world.  Not to say that I would not have strived to make the world a better place without the “postraumatic growth”, but I don’t think it would be with the same level of passion, committment, unflinching determination.

All that being said, I’ve decided it’s time to pull out my running shoes for some actual racing and fundraising, so I’ve signed up for the Colchester Half Marathon at the end of February.  🙂

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!

100 Push-ups

“Victory is won not in miles but in inches.

Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.”

Louis L’Amour

Today I did 100 push-ups IN A ROW!…well…sort of in a row.  There were brief rest periods, but that was only because my arms were turning to jello.  None-the-less, breaks or not, 100 push-ups is a milestone worth celebrating in my book!  Why? Because I celebrate the small victories in life- and this month in particular, I need all the small victories I can get.

So far, I have not written much to acknowledge Domestic Violence Awareness Month (I did however, write a post about Breast Cancer Awareness– somewhat ironically).  Perhaps I’ve been avoiding it.  I have faced it head-on in terms of charity work and running a half and full marathon to raise awareness.  Yet, somehow I haven’t taken any time to focus on it here.

October is a difficult month for me.  My wedding was October 21st.  The day was traumatic, and the two months that followed were even worse as the abuse continued to escalate.  Despite the fact that I currently have a happy and productive life -with an amazing network of friends, family, and even work out buddies– when October rolls around I feel more stressed, anxious, and above all sad.  As content as I am with my life, I can’t help but feel a sense of loss.  I’m still grieving for the naïve part of myself that was rudely awakened to just how cruel and vile some people can be.  I didn’t choose to become a different person; it was forced upon me.  While I don’t regret what I’ve been through, I do (at times) feel cheated that my view of the world was shattered in such a base and senseless fashion.

Perhaps it wasn’t a great idea to schedule my marathon tapering and recovery in the midst of a time when I need running therapy the most; however, I truly believe running the full, grueling 26.2 miles of the marathon was an appropriate tribute to the other victims of abuse.  It was a testament to ability of the mind and spirit to endure suffering and overcome a seemingly insurmountable distance.  Running in October gave the races extra significance, as well as added motivation for me to finish.

All that being said, my first post-marathon run on Monday was AWFUL.  I had been itching to go all week and thought I had enough time to recover (I know, being sick all week probably shouldn’t count as recovery time!).  Unfortunately, my body didn’t agree.  My knees were bugging me from step number one, and my legs felt like lead. It was the marathon all over again!  I couldn’t believe I was still having issues (and, no, I shouldn’t have been surprised).  I tried to enjoy Penny’s company instead of being frustrated.  She wasn’t paying any attention to my internal struggles. Instead, she spent her time rolling in every muddy puddle she could find until she finally emerged looking (and smelling) like the swamp thing.  Once sufficiently covered in mud, leaves, and-who-knows-what else she would return back to running up ahead and beckoning for me to chase after her. We ran and hiked for about an hour; and then, much to her chagrin, I brought her home and gave her a bath.  At boot camp that night, I continued to drag and felt crummy.  I was feeling sick and frustrated with my body for being achy and uncooperative.  Given that I am still feeling under the weather, I was somewhat dreading going back tonight.  I didn’t want to go through another work out unable to do my best.  I HATE being held back for any reason- sick, injured, etc.

That is why I am EXTRA happy to have FINALLY had a good work out day. LOL  I didn’t even have any knee trouble- despite all the running.  We did sprints with 100 reps of 10 different exercises in between (YES- Another infamous 1000 rep workout).  The exercises included jumping jacks, one-handed mountain climbers (that’s right one-handed, because we are hard-core!), crunches, skaters, power jacks, crab toe touches, low plank obliques, heismans, power jumps (I may hate these more than psuh-ups),  and then finally PUSH-UPS.  It was not that long ago that I couldn’t manage ONE real push-up (NO “girlie” push-ups allowed at boot camp!). Today I did 100.  Take that PTSD October stress!!!!  I am going to own you this time around!

rolling in the mud

Marathon Recap

“If you feel bad at 10 miles, you’re in trouble.

If you feel bad at 20 miles, you’re normal.

If you don’t feel bad at 26 miles, you’re abnormal.”

Rob de Castella, winner 1983 World Marathon Championships

Gosh, where to start?

Well, first- yes I did just post Yoda for inspiration. Trekkie-Star-Wars-geek? Guilty.  But seriously, who doesn’t love Yoda?

Everyone says running a marathon will change your life…  Something about getting a new found sense of being able to conquer anything.  To be completely truthful- I don’t feel any different 26.2 miles later.  At first, it was a bit of a let down.  I thought it would be this amazing epiphany; but, I didn’t feel anything when I finished (other than enough pain in my legs to literally make me sob in fact, I was so debilitated by that point, that the thought of needing to hobble to the bag check AND car seemed like a more difficult task than the marathon itself.)

Now I am not saying the marathon was not an AMAZING experience (in a hating every painful moment of it kind of way).  However, I think the true benefit was not in the event itself, but rather in the training.  Marathon training changed my life.  It changed me so dramatically that I absolutely believed I could conquer anything before I ran the whole grueling distance.  If I didn’t believe it to the core, I never would have made through the race on a good day, let alone a bad one.  Marathon training gave me confidence.  It was an outlet for many of my PSTD symptoms.  It gave me something that was mine.  It was an excuse to be selfish and generous at the same time.  It gave me an opportunity to give something back.  Marathon training helped me redefine my identity.  I survived marathon training before surviving the marathon, and I will never be the same. 🙂

Finishing the marathon itself was just the icing on the cake.  The weather was beautiful!  The spectators and volunteers were awesome.  The course had a few nice views, but, for the most part, was not my favorite.  Adam and I held a solid 10 min pace for the first half, and then things started to get a little hairy.  Somewhere between mile 14 and 15 I had my first breakdown.  I had stopped at a water station and my left knee immediately seized up.  I tried to start running again, but it wouldn’t cooperate.  I was just over halfway and couldn’t fathom how I would make it the rest of the way when I couldn’t even walk.  I sniffled and limped next to Adam for a short while before I finally forced my body to start jogging again.  The swelling and pain in my knees was throwing off my gate, and it wasn’t to long before my hips started acting up too.  We took short walking breaks every few miles for a while, but every time we stopped I would start unraveling emotionally due to pain and utter frustration.  Adam would put his arm around me and assure me I was doing fine, but I was embarrassed to be struggling (and now crying) in front of him.  He had not done any training and made it look effortless while I worked my butt off and struggled every second.  I wanted to run harder (maybe I was a little delirious) and felt angry that my body wouldn’t cooperate.  Every step from start to finish was painful.  It was one of my worst runs in a long time; and I was beyond disappointed that, of all days, my epic-bad run day had to be this day.  By mile 19 I decided I was through with walking breaks.  It hurt more to walk than to jog, and it was way too much effort to get going again just to take a few moments rest.  I jogged the rest of the way to the finish without stopping.  The closer I got, the more determined I became.  I was happy to find Adam again around mile 24 after having lost him for a stretch.   We pushed to the finish line as fast as our beaten down bodies would carry us, and then I fell apart all over again.  I was just overwhelmed- not only by the pain, but also the whole situation.  It was a culmination of everything I had been through the past several months.  It was finally over!

At the same time, I think I was still feeling a little disappointed in myself (despite running practically the entire course, managing 9 miles more than I ever had before, and raising money and awareness for a great cause.)  It’s only now after the fact that the magnitude of this accomplishment is just starting to sink in.  Perhaps once I recover from the shock of it all I might be able to enjoy the victory a little more. 😉  Once again, it’s just surreal. I know I was there, but I have a hard time believing I did it.

The amount of support I have received throughout this process has been phenomenal and well exceeded anything I could have imagined!  I am so grateful to everyone who offered well wishes, congratulations, and donations.  It has been such an amazing journey!

As always, comments and feedback are welcome and appreciated.  You can also email me directly at runningthriver@gmail.com.   Please feel free to share any info on this blog, just please give credit back to the site.  Have a great night everyone!

Waiting at the start

Waving to Adam

Sporting our new bling at the finish 🙂

Versatile Blogger Award

Rules of the Versatile Blogger Award:

1.  Thank the person(s) who shared the award with you by linking back to them in your post. 

2.  Pass this award to 15 recently discovered blogs and let them know that you included them in your blog post. 

3.  List 7 things about yourself.

1. Thank you “Fabulous at Fifty” for this award- You truly are fabulous and so is your blog!

2. I would like to pass this award to (in no particular order because you are all amazing):

  • Conchsaladesque – Thank you for making me laugh and inspiring me!
  • Lean Girl’s Club– Great motivation for women who love to run or just want to stay fit
  • Fit and Feminist– Not only because we have so much in common, but because it’s something every girl should read
  • Tikk Tok– A fellow barefoot runner documenting her journey
  • Undeterrable– Love to read about another goal setter!
  • The Skinny Pink Ninja– Way to prove the doctors wrong girl! Can’t wait to follow in your footsteps (fingers crossed)
  • My Pink Ribbon Journey– Talk about survivor- this super woman just completed a triathlon after taking on breast cancer!
  • The Thinks I Can Think– Besides being generous, she is also incredibly funny!
  • Eat:Watch:Run– This blog cracks me up (and the bunny is adorable)!
  • Running on Empty– Love that this couple is training for a marathon together- and he documented his proposal in the blog!  Lots of luck to you both!!!!
  • Love and Running Shoes– Another CT local. Ashley, you rock! Good luck with your running and future triathlons 🙂
  • Motion and Rest– Love to read about another runner’s progress- especially when that runner is a fabulous woman with a sense of humor!
  • Breathless Runner– I totally relate to this blog!
  • Slow Happy Runner– Because Lori, you are an inspiration, and I love reading about your journey.
  • Fat Girl in a Skinny World– A great blog about living healthy 🙂
Hmmm 7 (random) things about me:
  1. I have a bulldog who skateboards.
  2. One of my biggest achievements was buying my first house.
  3. I love anything canoli.
  4. Some of my favorite hobbies include traveling, photography, and drawing/painting.
  5. My favorite pair of shoes are my vibrams.
  6. My greatest fear is failure.
  7. Billie Holiday and Bob Marley are two of my favorite musicians.

My Lucy