Always Voice®
                  

                                                       Empowering  Survivors  of  Abuse & Trauma

Your Journey Continues:


🌻 It’s so easy to get imprisoned in the quagmire of what was—of all that happened! Of what we didn’t do. Of what we know we should’ve done. But there is good news!  Anytime we are seeking growth in any area, there are always things we can do to cultivate our goals. It is so important to focus on practical ways we can nurture healing. Remember that every major change is accompanied by hard work and "pre-commitment". And it requires us to change our perspective. But we have to want to.


What is your identity? Is it your pain/trauma? Has being a "victim" crowded out the YOU you were meant to be?


There are many situations in life that are out of our realm and control. Many things are not in our jurisdictions/job descriptions or responsibilities. For example, you can’t make it stop raining. If your home has already been repossessed, any amount of “changing your perspective” is not going to bring it back to you. It is not our decision to make. These unchangeables of life fall outside the box of what we can do.


There are countless unwanted scenarios/memories in each of our lives that we simply cannot change. And most of those hard situations are the cause of our depression and stagnation.


I firmly believe we must live ON PURPOSE. Growth requires planning, plotting and cultivation. Once again: every major change is accompanied by hard work and "pre-commitment". WHY? Because the mere fact that we need a "change" implies that there is already something else that exists...that needs to be re-done, re-worked, eradicated, uprooted, re-born, revitalized...


What is it you TRULY want? Do you want to be an overcomer? What is the alternative? Remaining a victim is a choice all survivors have. It is easy to become comfortable with our tag of “victim” and merely survive on the pity of others. Or worse, we can become dependent on the resulting turmoil and unhappiness of our pasts—without even knowing it.


This week as you are pondering your past and struggling to make sense of it all, I invite you to let go. Release the terrible pressure of trying to figure it all out. You are here now—and you are here for a reason! I encourage you to accept the fact that your trauma/abuse was not your choosing. It was not remotely your fault.


As you continue to park here on these thoughts, I encourage you to resist the temptation to blame, fix, tweak or manipulate anything in your mind. That even includes the “fall-out years”, following your abuse/trauma. This “letting go” is nothing more than just breathing in—deeply—and embracing YOU. Your whole self—with the pain. Not inspite of it. Because of it! This is the essense of empowerment!


“Perspective makes all the difference. It’s not what you look at; it’s what you see…Remember that the sun never actually sets; it's our perspective that makes it appear to. Our sunset is another’s sunrise. It's all perspective. How would your life be different if you applied this truth to the things that cause you stress? Letting go isn’t about erasing the past; it’s about looking at the same event and seeing something different. Activate this power in your life! Take the pain and poison of the past and allow it to nourish a new found wisdom. Remember, you can't change the past, but you can change the labels you place on events. Perspective - it’s not what you look at; it’s what you see.” ~ Steve Maraboli


Last week I touched briefly on ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and how they affect our health. 


“As it pertains to our past abuse, it is truly imperative that we address and embrace our trauma as we would any other major illness, disease or injury. If you were diagnosed with diabetes today, you would be wise to take your diagnosis seriously if you want to live a healthy and happy life. You might be encouraged to make necessary dietary changes or begin an exercise program. You might even join a support group—especially if you were struggling to accept your diagnosis.

Emotional, sexual and/or spiritual abuse are life-altering experiences. These Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) are no less traumatic or impactful to our physical bodies than other more physical forms of trauma—such as diabetes and other health-related issues.” (Read more about ACEs Here.)


In keeping with the fact that childhood traumas are relevant to our ongoing health, I want to take a moment to stress a very important element. It is of utmost importance for you to have strong, positive mentors in place who can and will assist you. If you haven’t already, I urge you to find a trusted counselor/therapist who can help guide you as you change your perspective and grow in realization and awakening. Seeking help is not weak—it is wise!


It is our natural instinct to love and protect ourselves. The existence of these amazing survival apps within our bodies is the very reason we are struggling to conquer—to erupt—and rise above our painful childhoods or our years of “disconnect”!

Just as other bodily symptoms/reactions are present with any illness or condition, in the same way our bodies answer our Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with symptoms, reactions and responses. We can google “Diabetes” and read how to actively take charge of the management and treatment of this disease. We can readily learn how diet and exercise can prevent Type 2 diabetes from progressing and developing into Type 1—or worse. Through research, we now know that applying a holistic approach to managing diseases/illnesses can help create a much more successful outcome.


In our culture, we really aren’t taught to take an active role in the care of our mental, spiritual and emotional health. We are taught from childhood to supress and hide our adverse experiences—and the normal symptoms associated with our trauma—as if exhibiting our trauma somehow translates out to some innate weakness in our lives!!


Oftentimes we find ourselves years down the road of life before we finally come to the realization that we acutally matter. That our feelings matter. That our physical wellbeing is connected to our emotional health—or lack thereof! And this is the time to decide how we are going to move forward into an active partnership—bridging our physical self and our emotional/mental/spiritual self!


It is during this season of awakening—the season of shedding the skin of our Denial—that we often experience our greatest onset of symptoms and “issues”. With proper perspective, we can make a choice to view this season in our lives as productive and necessary. We are literally taking back the ground that was taken from us—and it is time!


Accepting—realizing—that our symptoms (and reactions) have been normal responses to our trauma is the most important healing step we may have ever taken! This realization may be accompanied by a feeling of liberation and freedom—or you may find yourself incredibly emotional and sad. Sad for all that has been lost.


It is imperative that we grasp the idea of “rehab” and what that means/looks like. Let's imagine this scenario: an Olympian runner loses both his legs and is not expected to walk again, let alone run. But more than anything he wants to run again, so he decides to go for it with all his heart. He puts the huge, nearly impenetrable goal of competing again in the forefront of his mind, and now he eats, sleeps and breathes his goals—his purpose. He begins to measure everything he eats. He writes out his goals. He hires a specialized trainer. He puts pictures of runners all over his house--on his fridge, above his toilet, in his car. He sits in bed at night and reads running magazines. He lifts weights. But more importantly he plans and anticipates his SUCCESS.


Successful rehab and treatment is always accompanied by hard work and "pre-commitment". We must choose to surround ourselves with strength and wholeness—to hunker down and do whatever is necessary to be well and happy. The first step in that direction is giving yourself permission to be happy. Especially for survivors of child sexual abuse, it's easy to believe we are not worthy to be truly happy. Guilt holds us back. Our memories chain us to the wall of indecisiveness. Growth seems to elude us, mostly because of our fear of change, our fear of responsibility and our fear of success. And strangely, sometimes it's just more comfortable to stay anchored to our excuses, fear and/or indecision.


During my initial awakening stage, I found it very helpful to write in a journal. I bought a new notebook that was small enough to easily carry with me in my purse. I actively wrote out my thoughts, plans and goals, lists of changes I wanted to make, verses, quotes and poems, letters to God (sometimes angry, sometimes full of hope and faith) and my exercise and diet goals. This is a practice I continue to embrace to this day.


On a practical level, here are a few “on purpose” steps you can take to help achieve mental balance and happiness:


🌻 Join a positive support group

🌻 Seek a therapist you feel comfortable with

🌻 Remove negative friends/family members from your sphere of influence • Go through your list of TV shows—break free from any that are trashy or negative.

🌻 Make a list of movies/books that bring back the happy “child” in you. Go on a quest to watch/read each one you can get your hands on!

🌻 Begin an exercise regimen—including time for quiet walks and peaceful deep breathing!

🌻 Commit to healthy eating—and throw in some great ambience whenever possible! Candles, a gorgeous view…and every now and then, enjoy a perfect dessert with someone you love!

🌻 With the help of your doctor, decide to take active inventory—and active control—of your medications.

🌻 Take steps to gain control over any addictions or dependencies you may have acquired. You deserve to be whole and well.

🌻 Get up earlier—or go to bed earlier.

🌻 Reclaim your faith!

🌻 Hug your loved ones!

🌻 Give forgiveness a chance. At this point, you are only hurting yourself by allowing “them” to retain their hold on you. You deserve happiness—and they don’t have any right to control you! Not anymore, and not ever again!

🌻 Rejoice in your freedom!

🌻 Look yourself in the eye—in the mirror—and be proud of who you are. Promise yourself that you will begin to care more deeply for your health. Make a choice to celebrate the things about yourself that you can’t change.

🌻 Remove negative talk from your vocabulary. Speak the words you would say to your own child. Words of hope. Words of empowerment and confidence that they can "be whoever they want to be" or "achieve whatever they put their mind to".

🌻 Reach out to others! Find a community outreach program or activity that interests you and get involved. You have no idea how much of a blessing you could be to someone else! Your past experiences will be a huge source of blessing and encouragement to those you meet!


Viewing your healing as purposeful rehab can be very empowering. And that is exactly what this is. REHAB. You can’t go back and undo what happened to you. There is no magic to completely erase the painful memories or the fall-out of your abuse. So viewing your healing as rehab—learning to successfully readjust your life and re-route your thought processes—is crucial to your wellness.


Living on purpose starts from the inside and flows outward. The most important “next step” you can ever take is that of shifting your heart toward the idea of Purpose—and this begins from the realization that you are still here for a reason—and that you matter.

Where do you go from here?

Every one of us are living with befores and afters. We are living in the present, yet daily we must deal with the fallout of what was before. Sometimes we forget that each day is an after—a sequel that hasn’t happened yet. Our healing journeys—our todays—are not hopelessly fused to the traumas we experienced in the past. Each new day is a separate entity. As a fellow survivor of abuse, trauma, depression, anxiety and disillusionment, I speak out boldly on this subject, and only do so with compassion and understanding.


With that in mind, I want to look at the idea of Empowerment as it pertains to our past abuse and our ongoing healing. Rather than thinking of healing in a passive sense, I want us to look at the idea of healing as an active, hands-on, cooperative and powerful ART.


“Empowerment” is just a fancy word for harnessing the power we already have. This is where the idea of Art comes in—again. Merriam Webster defines “art” this way:

                          art  ärt  (noun)

                          Skill acquired by experience, study, or observation; 

                          The conscious use of creative imagination;

                          An object or idea that is created to express important ideas or feelings; 

                          The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their     

                          beauty or emotional power;


There is strength in facing your own pain and asking hard questions…and being willing to do the work to find the answers. There is power in honesty, straightforwardness and telling it like it is—first to yourself. The long-quoted verse says it so perfectly, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32). The word “shall”, in the original Greek, is progressive. It’s literally saying “Continue to know, to learn, to grasp, to embrace TRUTH…and this truth—that which you are grabbing hold of—shall set you free.”


The decision to embrace the truth of your worth is powerful—and totally crucial to your wellness. Even just the desire to want to—that may be all you have to give right now. If that’s all you have, take it and run! Grab hold of it! The turning point in my life came at an incredibly low point. There were no trumpets or bolts of lightning. In reality, it was a quiet time of true agony. But in that lowest of moments, I came to truly accept the truth. The truth that I was created beautiful and worthwhile. I am unique. I am worth fighting for. I have so much to share with the world. I was born on March 30th because that was my special day. I was given specific—special—tools to use in my life to create a masterpiece. My masterpiece!

Mental images (such as this) are so important for survivors of child sexual abuse/trauma! When we purposely fill our minds with positive images, we are actively counteracting the bad memories that are chaining us to the wall. These negative memories are holding us captive—and it’s time to change that!!


My life-canvas (and yours) is comprised of many colors and tones and shades. I choose to firmly hold my paintbrush and daily make a conscious decision to envision the beautiful person I see inside my soul. This isn’t about conjuring up power. This isn’t about acting or pretending. This is about accepting myself and allowing myself to be who I was created to be.


I want to make sure we fully grasp this. I purposely used the word “accept” here (please go back and read the last paragraph again) because we already know the truth. We already have incredible ability and strength within us! We really have no idea how much we are capable of! How much we already know! We have no idea just how impactful our lives are—and can be!!


Do you see how true “power” has nothing to do with those people who hurt you? They have no power over you. You’ve allowed them to hurt you long enough. It is time to rise up out of the debris of debilitation and begin to breathe again.


Let’s face it. This debris surrounding us isn’t exactly pretty! As we begin to rise up out of our trauma and pain, we are often bombarded by the reality of our “fallout”. This in and of itself can be enough to slap us right back down into it again. This is where ART comes in to play. Each day, each moment, we have the same choice. Sometimes our past hurts more than others. Sometimes bad memories surface and crowd in—but this does not change our worth. It does not alter who we are. And today—again and again—we have the choice to choose truth.


Choosing truth is just that. It is a decision to be right where you are. Sometimes truth means you need to stop and take a deep breath and say, “ouch, this hurts.” Never ever put yourself down for your feelings!!! They are real. Consciously make the decision to affirm your feelings. Then, after allowing yourself to hurt (or be angry or whatever feeling you are dealing with), make a decision to believe in who you are.


I have (and continue to have) the strength to breathe deeply and allow myself to live again. That was what I had been missing! It was the absense of truly LIVING. I had been existing, just hoping to make it through another day. As I was able to actually embrace my own worth—as my Creator intended—I began to see my past differently. I began to see many wonderful and useable tools hiding within my “debris pile”! I realized over time that the fire had only refined my tools—not destroyed them!!


As I began to rise in strength, much like the phoenix, I was able to see my inner beauty and purpose. And without even realizing it, I began living out the essense of empowerment. I was actively creating my after.


You are not the pain of your past. You are not broken. You are not the actual debris. The debris and brokenness may be all around you, but YOU are the artist. You are here for a reason.


The pearl is the oyster's autobiography." Federico Fellini


Living on purpose starts from the inside and flows outward. Truly the most important decision you will ever make is that of shifting your heart toward the idea of Purpose—choosing life and worth—and this begins from the realization that you are here for a reason—and that you matter. What will flow from this is EMPOWERMENT.