As part of our continued outreach for our films about healing from abuse, we invite voices of survivors to our blog to shed light on healing, thriving and reclaiming their lives. Welcome Stephanie March today as she shares how she mended the broken mirrors of her life caused by domestic violence–relevant to anyone who has faced the trauma of any other forms of abuse.
Survivors of any kind of trauma often walk away with their self-esteem in shattered pieces. It’s a broken mirror they carry with them everywhere as they try to move forward. And it is this broken mirror that they see themselves through for what can be a very long time. But there are ways to put the pieces back together again and it is truly and completely possible.
I have my own mended mirror that I carry with me. After surviving abuse as a child and again as an adult, it has been a long process with a lot of setbacks. There have been times when I was on the mend and someone came along and smashed the mirror again.
It got to the point where I wondered if these pieces were all I was made of.
So how do you take what you’ve been given, what you survived, and repair your self-esteem? The first thing is time. And, speaking from experience, I realize how frustrating that sounds. How cliche. But time truly is needed after the trauma for you to process and heal. It just can’t happen as fast as we want it to.
That leads to patience. You are not alone, no matter how alone you feel. The problem of domestic violence itself is so widespread the numbers are staggering. And the same goes for any other kind of trauma. There are support groups, online forums, you name it. Find them. Run to them and surround yourself with people that get it. People that talk your language.
And remember to have patience with the time it is taking you to heal, with the new you that you see in that mirror, and everything that triggers emotions you want to ignore. Patience for every time you backslide. It happens. All forward progress looks a bit more like a zig zag than a straight line. Know that you are on the right path and one or two steps back doesn’t erase how far you have travelled.
If you need medication or therapy for anxiety, depression, or PTSD please seek that out. Do what you need to do to bring equilibrium. Start here. There is no need to be ashamed if you are struggling with any mental health issue. You didn’t ask for this, you didn’t do this. It’s okay if you need help. And after trauma of any sort it is expected. It wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t struggle.
While you expand your patience and find more room for forgiveness for yourself, naturally you will begin to process what you experienced. For some of us this means writing, therapy, running, yoga. It can be anything, as long as it’s healthy, that helps you purge out the bad and breathe in the good. To help you wrap your brain around what happened and how it was not your fault. Vent until there’s nothing left to vent. Get the poison out.
Beneath it you’ll find the you that was there all along.
Some of the activities that you turn to for processing your trauma will inevitably begin to get the dust off of your shelved self-esteem. It’s a different process for everyone. I, personally, thought mine was gone forever. But by giving myself time, and a whole lot of patience, I was able to make my way back to myself. It didn’t happen all at once. It was a slow unveiling. And every piece that slipped back into place gave me the courage to keep going.
Do what makes you happy. Surround yourself with positive people. And, most importantly, practice self care. I can’t stress self care enough. For me this meant taking a break from dating and focusing on what exactly makes me happy. I thought I knew me pretty well, but there was so much to learn. I took the time to focus on taking care of myself and nobody else.
This looks different for everyone but for me it was paying attention to my health, taking road trips to beautiful places, painting my nails as often as I wanted, and watching every movie my ex didn’t want to watch. Simple things. Big things. Pamper yourself like you are dating yourself. Take all of that love you so willingly pour into others and give it to yourself. You, more than anyone, deserve every ounce of it.
Find whatever it is that saves you and put it on repeat.
A lot of this is advice we hear a thousand times. It’s easy to become jaded and roll our eyes in annoyance because, what do they know? They’ve never been through it. But I have. And I’m here to tell you that your mirror can be pieced back together. It’s never too late and the process is absolutely worth it. You are worth it.
In the end the picture in my mended mirror is a bit different. It’s not the same. There’s a depth and a blazing courage that I never could see before. There’s independence. There’s freedom from violence. There’s scars that I never thought would heal that have faded. I like this woman I see looking back and I vow to protect her.
You, dear reader, are not broken. Broken is a feeling and not a reality. The mirror you see yourself in has been smashed by the hands of somebody else. You owe it to yourself to put it back together again. And you can.
You’re a survivor and that incredible strength is your glue.
WE LOVE YOUR COMMENTS!