Lifestyle Blog: It’s time to speak up about Abuse.

It’s been a week.I don’t think I’ve ever needed a hug so much. I had a month off work to travel a country that I’ve only dreamed about, so I’m incredibly lucky. The truth is it was a trip I couldn’t afford, but equally couldn’t afford not to take. Since arriving home,  I feel unsettled.  I’ve been a hermit and haven’t wanted to talk or see much of anyone because I’ve had things on my mind. I was feeling more like the authentic me while in Vietnam. I’m more comfortable in my own skin then I’ve ever been. I feel like some of my world is upside down, or I’m upside down in my own world. Since I’m feeling all of these things, the Universe is making me face my past head on. I’ve grown in the last month, and feel that its time for me to talk. A few things happened recently that has left me no choice but to speak out. A friend is dealing with a rape trial, another who just broke up with her boyfriend, an acquaintance who was dragged across her carpet by her now ex, a music video that is heart breaking, and me starting to speak about my  past relationships in previous blog posts. It’s time to speak out. Abuse, domestic violence, rape, it’s all around us, and it’s everybody’s dirty little secret. It was mine too for a long time. I’ve spoken out to a limited friend base about it, since I’ve been away from it, but I wont be silent anymore. Because if one person hears what I’m saying and thinks twice about going back home to abuse, or if someone asks their friend if they are really okay and starts these important conversations that need to happen, then I’ve done the right thing. It’s time we start talking.

I was afraid to speak for way to long. I didn’t want to be labelled a victim. I didn’t want to appear weak. I felt shame and most of all, I didn’t want my family to know. I didn’t want to admit what I’d been through. You see when you experience abuse, it’s not only on an emotional or physical level. It affects every part of your being. It affects your friendships, how you view yourself, how you view others, and how you interact. It affects your confidence, your future, and it affects your psyche.  Shame, regret, pain, anger, sadness, weakness,guilt and desperation to name a few of the emotions you feel when you deal with abuse. This is about the relationship I’ve discussed briefly in previous blogs that left me devastated and shattered, until I came undone and had to rebuild myself. It’s also about my past. The abuse started way before that time in my life.

In high school I was hit by a boy who I liked. He wanted me to perform sexual acts on him that I didn’t want to do. He made me feel guilty for not doing it, as we had before. He told me he really liked me, and I was beautiful, but I found out he was seeing another girl while over at his house. So I refused to. And I was slapped for it. I remember being shocked. Where the hell did that come from? I thought this boy liked me. I thought I was beautiful to him. I never told my parents, I never told my school. I told a few friends but he had a different story and it was easier to let it go, than suffer the embarrassment. So I shut up.

I married my “high school sweetheart”. We were together for years. He wasn’t emotionally supportive. He let me drown, and he made me feel shitty about myself, until the day I stood tall enough to walk away… But before that I became a small version of myself. To him, my clothing was too colorful, my dogs too expensive, my body shape a constant topic of conversation, my yoga practice was expensive stretching, I was too sensitive, my/our debt solely my responsibility, my job not well-paying enough, my friends weren’t suitable for him.  Everything that was said put me down, and broke my spirit. So I shut down.

I fell head over heels in love with the next man I dated. He had anger issues. But I could handle it. He said he’d hit another women before. But, I knew he wouldn’t do it to me. Until he did. I blamed myself. I pushed him too far. I knew he was upset. I begged him to stay.  He had family pressures. They didn’t like me. They didn’t understand me. The color of my skin was wrong, my body was wrong, my culture was wrong. None of that matters. It wasn’t about me. It was about them. And him? I promised him if he was seeking help I’d always be there. I wouldn’t leave him. I wouldn’t betray him. I promised to love him to the moon and back, and I had intended too. But that was a hurt and broken girl who made those promises. Yes. I enabled him. I came by it honestly. I thought we could work through it. That love would be enough. I didn’t understand how deep the troubles of this man ran. I didn’t understand that I was repeating my same patterns again. How did I find another abuser? What was I doing wrong? Why wasn’t I enough? Why couldn’t I fix this? We went to therapy. He went to therapy. I was proud of him. Things would get better. We’d be happy for a while. And then he pushed me. This cycle continued. The unbelievable highs and then the bottom of the world kind of lows. I spoke up to him about it. I said I wouldn’t allow it. I said it would never happen again, because he knew better. And when you know better you do better. But I didn’t leave. So I enabled him.  I became unhealthy. My anxiety was high. Every text or conversation had the possibility of becoming a war depending on his mood. I was walking on egg shells, and they were stabbing me. But I held on for dear life, and I begged him to work it out . How could I walk away from this when this man needs me? He’s working on it, getting the help that he needs, were both working on it. And then he kicked me. That’s when it ended. We both broke down. How did we fall so far down this hole. We loved each other. How could we have violence in this relationship? He said it, and I knew then we were over .”Your somebody’s daughter, your somebody’s sister, and your somebody’s friend.” He left me. He couldnt’ stay. He knew it would happen again, and he wasn’t balanced. He left because he wanted to fix what was going on in him, and deal with the abuse he himself had suffered. He left because he finally saw that I was afraid. Because he and his family had broken me down so low, and made me so ashamed, and his family taught me that I wasn’t enough. I stayed and he left. And it was a low that I hope most people never have to feel. I had begged silently at times that our relationship would just be over when we’d have a fight , quietly the voice inside my head would say this isn’t right, get out of this abusive cycle.  But I had always said I wouldn’t be the one to leave. And looking back that was the worst thing I could have promised him or myself. But I believed in the best version of him, that he could get through it and we could somehow make things work. I stayed because the love I felt for him, I didn’t think I would feel for anyone else. I believed my own delusion. So my heart broke.  But when he left I knew that we couldn’t come back from this. So I decided to break this pattern, I chose me.

I always thought that people who stayed in abusive relationships were weak. I judged it. How dare they put themselves in danger. How dare they stay when someone who really loved you wouldn’t do that. How don’t they understand it’s not love. And than I became that women. It’s so easy to judge when you’re not in it. I truly believe that every human is capable of anything. It just depends how far they are pushed. For me, I was capable of seeing all the good in a man. The thing was, it wasn’t all bad in the relationship. We had an incredible connection, and it was easy to stay when things were good. And it wasn’t always abusive. But that’s how it goes, and why I chose to stay in an abusive relationship. I would excuse it, and say I’m strong enough.  The truth is nobody is strong enough for that, and NOBODY should ever think it’s worth it for the good parts of  a relationship. “We accept the love we think we deserve” Quoted from the book The Perks of being a Wallflower. If your taught that you don’t deserve the whole world you will accept less. Why did I accept that love? It’s what I knew. Most male relationships that I’ve experienced had some form of abuse. All abuse looks different. Constant put downs, it’s abuse. Pushing or bullying. It’s abuse. Being beaten, or hit once. It’s all abuse. I’ve changed my thought process on it, released my judgment from it, and I recognize an abusive personality from a mile away now. I won’t for a second engage with it. Abusers sometimes don’t know they are abusive. And others know it but don’t try to change. And there are the ones that don’t want to be defined by it. The ones that seek help. And I hope that they all get the help they need, but it’s not for us to stand by and wait. There is no helping an abuser, in my experience it caused more harm then good.

Why do people stay in abusive relationships? They stay the same reason people stay in stagnant relationships. Sometimes it’s easier than leaving, the good parts are comfortable. Maybe they are afraid to be alone. They think there is nothing better for them. On top of that… there’s manipulation. Your lead to believe that everyone else leaves, so you fight to stay. To prove that you wont let them down. You stay because you don’t want them to suffer. I stayed because I forgot my worth. I stayed because I was told I was a bitch, a slut, made to feel worthless and that I wasn’t enough. I started to believe it. I also stayed because I believed I could handle it. Looking back, the first time I was hit by him, I was shocked. I walked out his door and walked for half an hour. I was NOT going to be a women that gets hit by a man. I didn’t have enough money to get a taxi home, and while walking and crying and in shock I wanted to talk it out. I didn’t want him to be angry with me, and I didn’t want him to be angry at himself. I was a fucking mess and believed that it would get better. And this is why I’m writing this. Yes in abusive relationships you will have some amazing days. Amazing trips, amazing experiences, amazing memories. Then that amazing cycle hits a low. All of a sudden it’s so much worse than you thought it could be. But you cry together and say you’ll do better together. And then things get amazing again. But the next time they don’t just get bad. THEY GET WORSE.  Progressively we were on a downhill spiral, and I was fighting with all I had to save us. Why? Because I thought I could make a difference in his life. Because I loved him, faults and all. But the heartbreaking truth in life, love isn’t always enough. And there is no happy ending in abuse. There’s no healthy love in abuse.

Please talk to someone. If you think you know someone in an unhealthy relationship talk to them. If you are in an abusive relationship. Talk to someone. I promise you any day without abuse is better than the best day you could have with that person that is breaking your heart and your spirit. You leaving doesn’t mean you gave up on them. It just means you respect yourself enough to know you deserve so much more. YOU ARE ENOUGH. You do not need to stand by for one moment longer. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t feel guilty. Don’t blame yourself. You didn’t cause this.

I’ve been out of this abusive relationship for a long while now. I’m nowhere the same person that I was. I am calm. I am strong. I am enough. I will never let a man have that power over me, or make me feel ashamed again. I dated again, and it didn’t work. But I didn’t find abuse this time. I broke that cycle when I was shattered and devastated, embarrassed that I was abused, and that he left me. When I realized how manipulated, and low I was made to feel I told him that I couldn’t accept him in my life as a friend anymore.  I chose to let go of the anger and the hurt so that I could heal, and forgive for the bad that happened, but I couldn’t accept any longer a relationship with him.

I chose me. I gave myself some love. I reminded myself who I really was. A girl who loves to sing and dance, hang out with friends, travel, walk her dogs, and be in  nature. A girl who loves love. A girl who would never let a man treat her poorly. So I decided to be that girl again. I let her flourish. I let her grow. I let her get strong. I let her travel a country alone for a month, and feel love for the world, to be reminded of kindness and compassion, to find herself. I’m back to me. The me before I was hit by the first boy. The me before I was married. The me that grew into a warrior who loved herself fiercely. The me that knows that being ‘alone’ isn’t the same as being lonely. I have so much love for life that I feel unstoppable. I’m grateful for all that I have, and for finding my voice. I’m grateful for what I’ve learned, and the help I’ve received to be in this better place.

So to my friends that I know, and friends that I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting.  If you are in an abusive relationship, Emotionally, Spiritually, Physically. You deserve better. You are enough. Don’t stay because you think you should. Don’t stay because your afraid. Seek Help. Don’t stay because they say the can’t live without you.  Simply, Don’t stay. I STAND WITH YOU. A THOUSAND OTHERS STAND WITH YOU. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  LET SOMEONE HELP YOU.

To my friend I haven’t seen in a long time who gained the courage to stand up and admit you were raped, go to trial and now are reliving all of the trauma.This cannot be easy. It is important what you are doing. I BELIEVE YOU. I STAND WITH YOU. I LOVE YOU. YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE.

To my coworker that committed to leaving abuse after being dragged across the carpet by your hair. I STAND WITH YOU. YOU ARE STRONG. REALIZE YOU DESERVE SO MUCH MORE.

To the ones who don’t understand, or who have never felt the pain and shame of abuse.  To those who judge me, and others that have been in abuse. I STAND WITH YOU, AND I LOVE YOU TOO. We all have different battles that we face everyday. I am here for you.

Because of support from friends, and family… Even though they didn’t know what was happening. I am out of abuse. I won’t tolerate it in my life, as I have no more room for it. I AM ENOUGH. Please note that me being away from home didn’t make this happen. It started years ago. It was a process I went through and it changed me to the women I am today. You don’t need to worry. I am healthy. I am happy. I am enough.

I’ll leave you with a music video from Hosier done to help raise awareness and break the silence on domestic violence or any sort of abuse. Also, I’ve included below this phrase that I saw today that brought me to tears. It reminded me that I promised I would speak up and speak out. My intention is that this blog post helps and serves those that need it. There is no shame in what happened to me. There is no shame if your going through it. This subject is no longer taboo. Lets talk about it. Lets stop it. Lets go with love and kindness. Lets change the world.

XO-Vanessa

 

 

Travelling throughout Vietnam

While I was in Vietnam I got from destination to destination by bus, airplane, taxi, boats and scooters. On the map below highlighted were the destinations I went. The red is where I took bus/night bus and the purple is where I flew. The routes aren’t accurate as to exactly how I got there I just joined the departure and arriving cities. (Ie. Not the correct flight path or correct bus route). 

There are many  ways to travel about Vietnam. Personally I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way. Many people are weiry of the night bus, but I had good experiences when I took them. (Mui  Ne to Hoi An, and Da Lat to HCMC). Make sure to do your research and do what’s most comfortable for you. I ended up taking a bus from Hanoi to Sapa versus the train because it was on that date cheaper and quicker. I’ve heard a lot of good and bad about the night trains, just as I had about the night buses so I just did what felt right, sent a few prayers to the universe and was just fine. I had no problems with transportation in Vietnam and would happily do it all again. Even going on a scooter in HCMC!

Here’s a bit of information for travelling within Vietnam:

  • Often on buses your required to take your shoes off. Wear shoes that can easily slip off, and for night bus you might be more comfortable if you pack some socks to stay warm. They provide a blanket but it can get cold on bus. You’ll also want some good ear plugs. There’s two levels on the bus, I liked being on top personally. Because I’m short I found the night buses to be comfortable. I could see it being crammed  if your on the taller side as your in a “pod” see picture below. 
  • The first time I took bus was a bit daunting. I  found someone that spoke English to make sure I got on right bus, and that I got off in the right place. Make sure the driver or employee on bus knows your travel plans so you get dropped off at correct hotel, or correct station. I didn’t know that I was assigned a seat, so I just sat anywhere, and was quickly corrected. If your not sure, just ask someone. I was lucky to always find helpful travellers, employees or locals.
  • The bus from Mui Ne to Hoi An was about 16-17 hrs with a one hour stop in NHA Trang. I’m sorry I can’t remember the exact amount of time, however most of the trip is overnight and with some good ear plugs I was able to get some sleep. 
  • The bus from Hanoi to Sapa was about 5-6 hrs (if no traffic stalls) and it has lots of winding roads. If you get motion sickness I recommend some gravol before travel. The scenery is well worth it.
  • The night bus from Da Lat to HCMC saves you about 2 hrs versus going in the day, but the road had a lot of twists and turns and I didn’t sleep at all. It took about 5 hrs, during the day it can take up to 8. You can also fly in between those destinations.
  • My flights were easy and straight forward. I checked one bag (my backpack) and had my carry on as well. They were not delayed and both flights were good experiences with good customer service. I’ve heard a lot of other opinions, but I had very positive experiences both with Jetstar and Vietjet.
  • Most buses have wifi but there is no plug to charge your phone. Charge your devices before you go, pack ear buds or bring a good book!
  • Most of the night buses have a toilet but check when you buy ticket. Normally there is 1-3 stops at bus stations that has a toilet. 
  • If you get picked up from your hotel usually they give you a 1/2 hr window of time. I usually was ready 15 minutes before that. If bus is behind quite a bit, it seems to be normal. Don’t panic, your hotel or hostel can call to double check for you. I waited about an hour in Mui Ne for my bus, and called them. They were late but they didn’t forget me!
  • When going to Sapa and Ha Long Bay I would recommend packing a smaller backpack instead of taking all of your gear. It’s common practice to leave luggage at your hotel in Hanoi and pick it up when you return. In Sapa you’ll likely be trekking with what you take with you if your going to a homestay. In Ha Long Bay it just leaves you more room especially when on tender boat to get you around the harbour. Pack light, most likely your doing a two or three day trip. 
  • Hand sanitizer and tissues will be your best friend while in Vietnam. I was impressed how many western style toilets there were, and most I didn’t have to pay to use. But occasionally there is no tissue offered, and you have to adapt to other cultural ways. It’s just nice to have some familiar options when needed. 
  • There are many great travel tour companies such as VK tours that can help book different excursions, tours etc.  There are also many destinations and things you can do on your own! I did a tour in Sapa and Ha Long Bay. Do some research and have a blast!
  • In travel things are bound to go wrong… You might miss a flight, get sick and stay in one place longer then you intended, or wind up like I did often hopelessly lost. So be lost. Enjoy the moment knowing that your exactly where your meant to be. Get so lost that you find yourself. And then maybe find where your trying to go. Ask for help, but be willing to go with the flow. Because when it comes to travel, plans change, or things go wrong. Don’t take it as a negative. Find the good in every situation. When things go a different way, they often lead you to a great adventure, or a unforgettable night, or to somewhere even better then you could imagine. There is no right way, or perfect plan when it comes to travel. Only your way, whatever that may be.

I went to Vietnam on my own, as a first time solo traveller and I would recommend it to everyone. Solo travel is an adventure that I wish everyone experienced at least once in their life. You learn a lot about yourself, how strong you are and how much you can accomplish. I felt safe and comfortable and had great freedom.  I didn’t plan too much in advance, and even skipped some of the places I had intended to go, as I found others I didn’t want to miss. So many people along the way were there to help me, and  I couldn’t have enjoyed myself anymore. Take chances, enjoy new experiences and most of all be kind. All the best on your travels!!!