I miss her.
I miss her potential.
I miss her innocence.
I miss her determination.
I miss her lost future.
I miss her what-ifs.
Before you become a survivor, you have no idea what it means to completely lose yourself. To have everything taken away from you without a choice.
To lose yourself in a way that disrupts your entire world.
I tried for years and years to become her again. There are days that I look in the mirror and wonder who she would be today.
Would she have this family?
What career would she have?
Would she live in Canada or be close to her family?
Who would she actually be?
CHASING THE OLD VERSION OF WHAT I WAS
For years, I thought I needed to find her again. A search that was impossible because she no longer existed. BUT I kept trying anyway. I thought in order to be a good person, the woman that I was supposed to be, I needed to be her.
I needed to NOT be a survivor.
I needed to NOT be a broken woman.
I needed to NOT accept this after version of myself.
Looking in the mirror was a reminder of the person I lost. EVERY SINGLE DAY!
I hated it. I hated the fact that I couldn’t recognize who I was anymore. That somewhere I was always going to be broken. That a little piece inside of me was always going to be rotten because of what HE did.
So I chased. I chased until I hated every piece of me. If I couldn’t be her, was I even worth being anyone else?
Moments turned into days.
Days turned into months.
Months turned into years.
Soon I had wasted 11 years of my life chasing a girl that I could never be again. I had hated myself for so long that I didn’t think anything else was possible. My husband loved me but I didn’t love myself.
Then one day, I just decided.
Decided that my life needed to be different.
Decided that who I was in the current moment needed to be loved.
Decided that he could no longer take up any more space in my life.
Deciding was the first step to a very long process of rediscovering who I was and learning how to love this woman in the mirror. It was at that moment, that I became a little freer of the hold that he had on me. I was beginning to take my power back even though I felt the weakest.
BECOMING THE WOMAN I HAD IMAGINED
My childhood was great. I had two loving parents who taught me that I could do and be anything that I wanted to be. I showed up in every way that I could and before I knew it, I was 18 and going off to the university that I wanted to get into.
I had potential and knew that my future was going to be incredible. I had the support of my family, my friends, and my community. I was off to change the world even though I truly didn’t know exactly how I was going to do that.
I think that is what I miss the most about old me. The girl who was confident and knew what she had to offer the world.
We all want to change the world though, don’t we?! To make an impact so powerful that those around us gravitate towards us and those that don’t know us, want to. Impact is what I wanted and impact is what I got. Just in a different way than I had imagined.
I remember sitting in a woman’s shelter when I was in high school. Knowing that someday, I wanted to make a difference in these women’s lives. Create change and change the world for the better. I just didn’t know that it would take a rape to do just that and that it would take me 11 years to finally realize that I was becoming the woman that the old version of me wanted.
I would like to say that the decision to change my life was easy or simple. It was neither. If it would have been simple, I would have done it years before I did.
It took intention.
It took commitment.
It took support.
It took bravery. (A word that I NEVER would have used to describe myself.)
How did I intentionally decide every day to love myself?
1| I would get undressed and look in the mirror at myself every day.
I remember the first time that I did this. I hyped myself up. Thinking that five minutes would be nothing. I ripped my clothes off before I could change my mind and walked to my bathroom mirror. This is when the world crashed in on me and I realized that healing wasn’t this beautiful and magical thing.
I barely made it to one minute of looking at myself. I had tears streaming down my face. All the things that I wouldn’t say to someone else, I was saying to myself.
I am stubborn or persistent. Not sure which one and so I did it again the next day and the day after that. I continued to show up in my bathroom, naked, looking at my body.
Why did I start here?
In 2014, self-love wasn’t the big movement that it is today. I didn’t have any books that I could lookup. I didn’t follow anyone on social media that loved their plus-sized body. I had no reference for what I needed to do.
I thought that starting with my outside appearance was going to be easier than digging into the mental side of things. It took me a year to finally be able to look at myself in the mirror and love what I saw. To fully embrace the body that I was in.
To this day, I still do this exercise. Before I shower, I will get undressed and look at my body in the mirror.
Look at her with awe.
Look at her with love.
Look at her with admiration.
There really is nothing more powerful than a woman who is confident in her skin.
2| I started blogging.
This was terrifying. I knew nothing about blogging. Putting my story out into the world seemed ridiculous. I hated my own story, who would want to know it and read about it?
However, the words just flowed out of me. Sometimes they don’t make sense until I reread them. Blogging allowed me (and still does) to work through the difficult things that I couldn’t figure out any other way or that I didn’t even know that I was feeling.
I didn’t start blogging to get messages or to make money. I started just to share my story. The messages that I received throughout my entire journey were my motivation to keep moving forward. It was then that I realized that women, just like me, were struggling. They needed a place where they could go and see that life isn’t all social media perfect.
That connection helped both of us. They were able to see real healing at the moment and to know that they weren’t alone while I was able to connect with women who became my cheerleaders and know that I wasn’t alone. The true power of connection.
3| I started looking at self-care in a different way.
I grew up thinking that self-care meant spending money at the spa or having extravagant weekends away. My mom didn’t do any of that stuff so I assumed that she just didn’t do self-care but as I have grown older, I realize she did self-care often.
She would garden and spend time outside.
She would go hunting.
She would go up to their cabin with my dad.
Self-care doesn’t have to be this big production. It took me a long time to figure out that things such as curling up on my chair and reading a good book are self-care. That giving myself an at-home facial is self-care. That going for a walk in nature is self-care. That taking a break is self-care.
When I was able to see self-care as a small daily practice, I could find time to fit it into my life. Yes, of course, there are still days that I completely struggle with this and put others first but when I remind myself that I need to be intentional with myself, I add something in.
4| I started to explore who I TRULY was.
From 2003 to 2014, I was always looking to get back to the original me. I wanted to be her so bad that I did things that I enjoyed when I was younger, even if they gave me no comfort in the present moment.
I didn’t want to know who I was after my sexual assault. I wanted to go on pretending that I was the pre-sexual assault version of myself.
When I truly started to explore and rediscover who I was, I realized that the things that I was trying to do or who I was trying to be, no longer fit into my life. I used to see it as a bad thing but as my self-love journey continued, I realized that is how life works. Even if someone isn’t a trauma survivor, you change and grow in ways that you may not have imagined.
To rediscover who I was and what I loved, I wrote down a huge list of things that I loved to do and things that I wanted to try. I would go through the list and if something didn’t bring me happiness, it was crossed off. EVEN if it was something that I used to love to do.
As I get older, I realize that there isn’t time in life to do things that don’t consume you with joy. That is my goal. To bring joy into my life every day by filling it with things that I absolutely love.
Chasing the old version of yourself may seem like the easy thing to do. But as the days go on, you begin to lose your shine. You begin to feel depleted. Not because who you are isn’t worthy BUT because you are not allowing yourself to be who you truly are.
Life after trauma is confusing, extremely hard, and incredibly lonely. Just know that you always have someone here (me me me) that will walk with you, side by side. Know that your reflection in the mirror is wanting you to see your beauty, embrace that brokenness, and begin to mend it.
Let me help you on your journey to authentically share your story with my group coaching program, Blog to Heal. You have a unique and beautiful story that is waiting to be shared.