Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world my beautiful, vulnerable self!

Posts tagged ‘safety’

Triumph Over Adversity: Abusers Amongst Us

Exposing Abusers

I met a woman in one of my Facebook groups who has an incredible story of triumph after a larger helping of adversity than any 10 people I know, and continues to have what I can only call grit to keep fighting. She agreed to let me share a small part of what she’s overcome. I know it will inspire some who are struggling and thinking they can’t go on any further alone, and to realize, you aren’t alone, no matter who tries to tell you you are. I haven’t edited what she wrote, except to remove names per her request. I think it’s much more powerful to read her stream of consciousness.

A Woman Alone

10 years ago I was certain I wouldn’t make it to 18, and not necessarily by my own hands. I used to leave journal notes hidden around my room and in my locker about what was going on in life so IF I died people knew what led up to it. Abuse was just life; just normal. I had had chronic pain for 2 years at that point and spent 10/30 days a month zombified or in too much pain to speak.

9 years ago I would date and beg for affections from red flag after red flag we won’t go into, much to mainly my brother’s chagrin, and was financially independent selling under the table hoping to get emancipated. I had my first miscarriage.

8 years ago my best friend died in a car accident and I wanted to follow him. Badly. I got in 3 car accidents within like 50 days after and didn’t drive for a year after his death in fear. I finally talked openly about how I was treated by others, someone broke the law to keep me under control longer. I was raped for the first time. I started spending every minute I could socially as a form of mood control.

7 years ago I tried out and was accepted into a performing arts high school for my senior year; I transferred to ignore my grieving. I worked full time, paid my bills alone, and was still denied emancipation.

6 years ago I graduated, my uncle/father figure died, still worked full time, sold work on the side, and my health issues (pain, constant infections, strange pink dots, you name it) had me living in hospitals under “acute stress disorder,” and I traveled to 7 European countries. I was not considered social anymore, but bubbly when I came around.

5 years ago I moved across the country, had a second miscarriage, moved home, had a third miscarriage, used weed to cope temporarily, became a bit of a gypsy, bought my first car, and completely shut myself in from the physical world.

4 years ago I was raped for the second time, moved home again, escaped a date-rape drug situation, lost a best friend because he threatened to rape me, bought a brand new car, worked mainly 12-16 hour days to avoid my life, was molested on at least 3 occasions in my sleep by someone who skipped town after confessing. I was getting social again, I was Not the good crowd, and I started living with someone that was the peak of my self-sabotage.

3 years ago I got married to my villain, started college, got pregnant, had to stop going to college and running my own businesses, and 9/10 days couldn’t walk. Things got Bad; I ended up in a hospital for sucidal ideation. We separated for 2 months and I had major preterm labor issues. He hoped to push me back over the edge and I’d have happily complied.

2 years ago I gave birth, was immediately a single mom, crawled to get around to take care of him, was hit for the first time by a partner in 6 or 7 years, my chronic pain vanished, diagnosed with PTSD, separated again, stalked, sent to a private shelter, my son started having internal bleeding on top of his medical issues, I got my health back enough to walk and perform small tasks, and I was dealing with the most heartbreaking and terrifying situation of my life thus far; in my opinion.

1 year ago my son recovered from being poisoned, was fairly used to life 90% of the time with mommy, had a stable home with good family and more loved ones than I could count. I still deeply pined over the loss potential for non-violence and kindness, I took measures to minimize stalking and violence but it felt like the system really couldn’t have cared less. Still, we were thriving for the situation and I became “me” again. More social, happy, and business centered; starting to reject self-sabotage like that useless heartache. My son started improving medically too.

9 months ago a legal safe-than-sorry loophole let my son get kidnapped for 5 days, I became a shut in again, I decided to look for my birth parents and found my dad who was never told of my existence – But we get along and I’ll get to meet his side of family in person soon. My son spent 4 straight months with just me and started to undo symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and progressed so far ahead of his age group intellectually and socially I was going to start him in preschool this year. I became paranoid; I never knew when life could strike again. But things seemed generally on the rise and I haven’t accepted any red flags of friendship or otherwise in my life.

Less than 4 months ago things worsened again by a new/old presence. They’ve been steadily physically and mentally getting worse for the both of us for this. I’m not going to sugar coat it; I’ve made it obvious. I’ve felt like my needs for safety and support have scared friends off. My therapist moved. I’m re-winging it.

1 week ago I was told we’d have temporary safety.
It was the first I’d been so happy and relaxed in 9 months. My son started showing improvements already.

Late last night I was told this safety is being stripped but we can defend why we’re asking in court at a later date; details to follow. My lawyer, confused, pointed out that was very surprising and they’re normally Immediately approved and protected with Less proof involved. And the court hearing is something highly abnormal to be done that way too.
I pointed out the system’s history in letting my family specifically slip through their cracks despite the constant fight for safety.

Within the next few weeks there will be a Lot of court cases I’ll have to be present for. Including charges for violence against me/in front of my son. Investigations are still pending. I’m trying to cling to a hope the system will change and give a damn.

In coming months, no more than a year, mine and my son’s fates are decided by strangers who’ve already shown how much our lives mean to them.

I have made 10 years of mistakes, learning, growing, changing, and progressing and I feel like I Have made progress overall. Bouts of homelessness vs bouts of wealth, bouts of health vs bouts of sickness or abuse. I’ve come so far and and I’m still alive, and even in days when my body will shut down to keep me from pushing my triggers farther I still TRY.

There is no pause, no rest, no breaks within the justice system and I’m still hunting down the justice as well. There is stay fighting or quitting with no middle options, and I’m still fighting.

I can survive, much to my own surprise sometimes, anything. And I’m not going to back down now, even if people are actively avoiding helping me. Eventually someone has to care and defend us. Eventually someone has to demand we’re not going to be ignored and slip through the cracks. I refuse to let my past, my trauma, or my bad decisions/self-sabotage make my son a statistic. I’m not a statistic. And somehow we’re getting the Hell past this in one piece.

Solutions Start With People Caring

When I started writing openly about my parents’ suicides, I started becoming an ear for people like this, though I’m not entirely sure why. Still, I’m grateful to be able to listen, even if I have no solutions, or no direct understanding of abuse. It’s sickening to learn how many women and children are or have been in abusive situations they couldn’t escape. More sickening to realize some didn’t stop at suicidal thoughts, while others succumbed to their abusers, paying with their lives.

What I do know is it’s up to us as human beings, and as a society to protect these people in any way we can. They don’t deserve to be abused physically, mentally, or emotionally. If nothing else, let’s share their stories so more people are aware they’re not alone. So more will speak out and stop allowing so many abusers to go unpunished.

About the Author

Ordinarily, I’d post the author’s bio here, but as this story is being shared anonymously, I’m putting my own in. This isn’t my story, but it is a subject I feel passionate enough about to share the stories others need to tell.

 

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Navigating Imposter Syndrome

Exiling the No-goodnicks

This has been a rough week for me. I’ve actually managed to convince myself (at least for a bit) that the last 5 years have been a complete waste of time in which I accomplished nothing. Sound familiar? Well, read on.

As many of you know, I quit my nice, comfortable, secure Corporate job nearly 5 years ago to pursue a new career in writing. Yes, I was slowly dying from the job, the environment, the tedium, and not doing the work I loved to do, but it was secure so that’s a good thing, right?

At the time, I believed all the security in the world wasn’t worth how miserable and stressed it made me. I scoffed at losing a regular paycheck, vacation time, a 401(k), and a reason to get up and leave the house every morning to join my fellow commuters slogging down the freeway. And in my naive little heart, I believed I could find success before the money ran out.

How We’re Able to Provide Does Not Define Us

This week, I got a backhanded slap of reality when I faced tapping into my final resource in order to pay next month’s bills. That was when the side of me that abhors change took over. Soon I was convinced I’d accomplished nothing, helped no one (especially not myself), and was no closer to my dream than I was when I started. I was foolish, untalented, lazy…I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture.

The worst part, though, was when I went down the “nobody would care if I disappeared” path. That ugly, weed-filled, thorn-laden path that’s brought many a weaker soul to end their misery for good.

There are many things which stop me from following that path to the end, not the least of which is sparing my daughter the pain and the years of soul-searching and questions without answers I have, and will always live with since my parents’ suicides. Then of course there’s the fact that deep in my heart of hearts I don’t believe I’m beaten yet.

Recognizing Our Own Worth

As my friend pointed out, I’ve helped a lot of people with these emotional outpourings, both in print and on Facebook Live. Just because I’m not aware of the hearts and lives I’ve touched doesn’t mean I haven’t helped someone. The numbers might be paltry in the minds of those who look at numbers to determine influence, but there are some who read my posts all the time. So I must be doing something right.

The trouble is, a girl and her cats have to eat, and since my ability to keep the food bins full is suffering no small amount of threat to future filling, I started attaching my self-worth to my inability to provide. As if being an aspiring but as yet unpublished writer wasn’t enough!

But it doesn’t stop there. I sat here in my hermit hole surrounded by books, cats, and proof of my unworthiness to walk the same path as J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, Brenda Novak, Jacqueline Carey, Stephen King, and more. I lost sight of how each one had to start with their first sale. And Anne McCaffrey didn’t start publishing until she was in her 50’s!

I don’t doubt at least a couple of them went through similar times when they stopped believing in themselves. Yet they must have gotten past it as we read their books today, and some are still pushing out new ones if not every year, pretty darned often.

Emerging Again, Battered But Not Broken

Coming out of the downward spiral into unworthiness is harder than it is to go in. Sliding down merely requires succumbing to the voices telling you you’re an imposter and won’t amount to anything no matter how hard you try. Getting out often requires an almost physical wrench to disengage from the voices and begin the long, slow trek out of the pit of despair into which you’ve sunk.

One of the most difficult parts of emerging for me is remembering there are people out there who care about me. That I do have people I can call who won’t see my need for help, or maybe just a good kick in the butt as in imposition, or worse, an added burden to their already challenging lives. Some things from my childhood are buried so deeply, it takes an earthquake level shakeup in my life for me to even recognize them.

When the Imposition is in Trying Not to Impose

This time around, I realize feeling like I’m imposing if I ask someone for help, or to just listen comes from so far back I don’t even remember the point where it began. I only know I’m more than willing to listen and possibly help if one of my friends is hurting and needs to unburden themselves. But if I’m the one who’s hurting and feels like the load has become too heavy to bear, I find it nearly impossible to reach out and ask for a steady shoulder or a listening ear.

My friends have given me hell about it on countless occasions, and I am getting better about asking for help, when it’s something physical like repairing something at the house. When it’s personal, emotional, and probably irrational, I seal myself in like a clean room in a science lab. I convince myself nobody cares if I’m struggling. Nobody wants to hear I’m not perfectly fine. Above all, no one wants to deal with me when I’m a weepy, soggy mess.

I’m the first to tell you it’s important to allow your friends to help you sometimes, just as you allow them

to need you. I say a lot of wise things I don’t follow myself. But in my defense, when I’m feeling really down like I have the last week or so, I manage to convince myself there’s no one in my life who really cares enough to let me fall apart on their watch. I start feeling detached from the crowd even when I’m doing one of my favorite things in the world with some of the kindest, most compassionate people I know; the dance community. Without a conscious thought, I remove my broken and battered self from their exalted sphere, not physically, but by erecting the walls I thought I’d destroyed long ago.

Our Misguided Sense of Safety

I’ve mastered the art of hovering on the edges, taking in the warmth and love everyone exchanges amongst themselves, but allowing none of it to reach my own needy heart. It’s all part of the long-held belief of undeserving. I know it’s wrong. I know it’s stupid. I know more than one of them would be over here, giving me crap if they knew I was returning to my inner hermit again. Yet still that voice inside me says “no, don’t bother them. They’re too busy to bother with you. They only like to be around you when you’re cheerful and positive.”

You, me, and anyone else who listens to that voice for even a nanosecond needs to tell it to STFU. It’s insidious and evil. It doesn’t care about anyone but itself, and thrives on our misery. The less we think of ourselves, the happier it becomes.

As my friend and mentor, Linda Clay says “we can’t be positive all the time.” I might add, it’s exhausting to always see the sunny side of things and never have moments when we let go of our Pollyanna exterior and pull out those insecurities and weak points. We need to learn to look at them a little more dispassionately is all. See them as specimens under a microscope instead of gigantic monsters hiding in the closet, waiting for a moment of inattention to bite off a leg or an arm.

We all have times when we just can’t get up the energy to show our positive side to the world. In my case, it’s when I pull out the masks without even thinking (another remnant of my childhood) and hide my pain behind a face that says “everything is perfectly OK. Don’t look too closely though. This face isn’t much more than paper and glue.”

Our Real, Imperfect Self is the Most Beautiful Person We Can Be

I use this forum not only to rip off my own masks and expose the dark and gnarly interior, but to let you, my readers know you don’t have to hide your imperfections. Whether you show them or not, your friends and some family know you have them. In fact, they’d appreciate it if you let them see those imperfections once in a while. It’s awfully hard keeping up with someone who always acts like life is one happy party. Life is a combination of good parts and crappy parts. Why share only half of yourself? What kind of friend holds back the most interesting parts anyway?

With a Grateful Heart

  1. I am grateful there are people in my life who recognize my downward spirals won’t stop without intervention.
  2. I am grateful for the opportunity to help other people, even if it’s only by showing my own warts.
  3. I am grateful for my writing which has kept my sanity loosely attached for many decades.
  4. I am grateful words are flowing from my pen again, even if they’re not the project I feel I should be working on.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friendships I don’t always believe I deserve, a daughter who loves me even at my ugliest, my cats who never judge, but always comfort, the roof over my head, the food in my belly, and the possibilities I can’t yet envision.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers/clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

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