Truths #WhenIBecameFree

I have not been posting as much as I should and that is mainly due to the fact I really haven't had much time to write. I've been busy collecting survivor stories and working. When I am not doing that, I've been too emotionally and physically tired to concentrate on anything not connected to a nap.

I am happy to report that dedicating the time that I have this summer to the #WhenIBecameFree project has been worthwhile, I've been noticing a domino effect of healing and hope.

Never before have I had so many people willing to speak to me about their experiences of abuse and the negative impact it had in their lives, and then also what their path of healing has been like.

As they speak you can feel it - at least I can. I feel the heaviness and pain in their memories but then I also feel the release of keeping a secret for so long, I sense their healing as the heaviness dissipates. This is especially true for those who have never told anyone about their struggle or have only told a few trusted people. By all rights, I am a stranger to them, not in their inner circle but they trusted me. Not only am I honored with that trust but to trust another person with what was once their secrets is huge for survivors.

This has truly been a rewarding experience. I do hope it translates well when I finally sit down and compile all those stories, my story, and more.

We're blowing open those closet doors. The ones where we have hidden our truths to protect others while we lived with the pain, and many times, the shame that was never ours to own.

Earlier this week I met and wrote about Savannah.  I gave a brief overview of my time with her. I plan on going into detail when her story is compiled with the others. She's a remarkable young lady who not only battles being a survivor of child sexual assault and rape, but also mental illness and all the judgments that go with those labels.

The day after we met she messaged me that she created a video on mental health awareness and she was going to post it to Facebook and share it with the world. She said telling her story to me helped her make that step. Tears fell as I read that message, I was and am so proud of her. Her video is at the end of this post, you will see why I am so damn proud of this remarkable young lady!

Yesterday I met with another woman. Her name is Julie. We've been trying to meet for weeks now, however, Julie has been dealing with quite a few health issues. She recently learned she may have to start kidney dialysis. She too fights autoimmune disorders and other health issues. I knew she wanted to tell her story, but at the same time, I could feel her nerves - they came through to me even though we were just messaging one another.

Beyond the Daily Grind - Mauston, WI. 
I meet a lot of my survivors at a little diner in Mauston, WI. It is called Beyond the Daily Grind - fitting, huh? The owner, Bunny, is a woman filled faith. Let's just say every step of her day is filled with it. Bunny and I have had many conversations about faith, I think she worries about me at times - actually, I know she does.  I do have faith and consider myself spiritual, but my definition doesn't always match up with her's.  Explaining all of that would take up too much time and deserves a post of its own!

The Daily Grind does offer a nice cozy place to meet. I live in a rural community so for many of the survivors I am meeting with, the atmosphere at the little diner is big on a warm and comforting spiritual blanket, Bunny has made sure of that. It does help put many of them at ease, plus the coffee and food help, too.

Yesterday when I walked into the Daily Grind, Julie was there already waiting for me, which is rather typical when I meet people - no matter how hard I try, I always seem to run late. She's a sweet woman, that was one of the very first things that I noticed about her.

We sat at the cafe for over an hour and a half. Julie was a little shy and didn't want to be videotaped, which I completely respect but she did allow me to audio record our meeting, it will help me for when I tell her story.

Julie's first thought was about her children, who are now adults- she worries that their childhood, witnessing domestic violence had left an impact. She shared that they also were victims of physical abuse at the hands of one of her abusers, something her boys kept from her until they were older. Like most children growing up in domestic violence, they wanted to protect their mother.

Sadly, Julie not only was abused by one husband but two. She spoke about some of the beatings she endured. The isolation that became part of her everyday world, including being locked away in a room with her children. Picturing what she went through was horrific. It was a relief when she spoke about breaking free and meeting the man of her dreams, a man who has treated her with kindness and care.

Going through all that she did open her heart to wanting to help others and lighten their load in life. She is not a rich woman, financially, but her heart was definitely forged out of gold.

Just like with Savannah, Julie went home and messaged me, thanking me for listening and she too spoke about how she felt better releasing her story.

It is amazing what owning your truth can do. As victims, we learn how to hide. Put on false fronts, fake smiles, it enables us to walk on the eggshells scattered throughout our daily lives. We spend our time protecting the ones we love, we don't want anyone to know the truth about their darksides - or perhaps it is because we don't want them to think we're failures. Whatever the reason is, as victims we keep our truths locked away. How can we properly heal if we cannot be truthful?

If those truths are hard for women, imagine how hard it is for men who have been abused. I was reminded of that this week as well, and this time it wasn't through a planned meeting to discuss a survivor's story. It was a conversation that came about naturally - someone who has been paying attention to my postings on Facebook.  He opened up to me speaking about growing up with an emotionally distant narcissistic mother, one where being provided nurturing from was a rare commodity. Top that off with siblings also damaged by the family dynamics, it created a nightmare to grow up in and then try to function as an adult member of the family. Then throw in growing up and living in a small rural community, surrounded by memories and the continuation of the emotional abuse by family members - it created a nightmare and struggles to try to stay healthy and succeed in life. Men feel like their main function is to fix things - and when they can't, especially when it involves loved ones, what is left? A man fighting the lies from narcissism running rampant in this family, wondering if ever his community will know his truth. Soon it will be told.

Victims hope someone will stumble upon their truths, while survivors learn to own and share them without the shame they've carried that was never their's in the first place.

Speak your truth, own your truth, and that is when you can start living the life you were meant to flourish in.

From Savannah -

Support the #WhenIBecameFree project by wearing awareness! For every shirt sold, $10 will go to support the project - getting it completed, published and distributed.  Shirts may be purchased here. If you're local to Juneau County, just email me and I will send you an invoice w/o a shipping charge.

Any and all donations are welcome!

Any way you choose to support this effort is greatly appreciated! Even if it is just sharing my blog, the website, or liking and sharing the Facebook page.  


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