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

 

 

War and Human Connections

After a month in Vietnam, and meeting hundreds of wonderful people I have had countless interactions, connections and stories to share. On my last full day I went to the War Remnants museum. I was moved to tears and filled with pain knowing our history as humans, and even now today that the world is still at war. In Vietnam the war isn’t the Vietnam war. It’s commonly referred to as the American War.

I was moved to tears for a few reasons, and wasn’t sure if I’d share my opinions but I will say this. Have we as humans learned anything? My biggest fear when it comes to war is that we’re not doing better today. Nobody wins in war. Vietnam, America, and the world, they all lost in this war that lasted over 19 years. Crimes that were committed have just come to light in the last 15 years. I have two stories to mention here that stuck with me when we talk about war.

  1. I met two men who fought in the war while I was in Ha Long bay. We had a moving conversation over lunch. One was discharged from the war after a land mine explosion, and the other that served in the army over 20 years. He has come back to Vietnam the last 3 years in hopes of healing, but mostly he’s looking for a few Vietnamese men that fought in the war that were his allies. He hasn’t seen them since the war, has no idea where they live and if they’re still alive. He has been travelling to small remote villages in hopes of reconnecting with these men. He also came back because as he said during the war, they saw what a beautiful country it was. Now they can safely appreciate the beauty. He had tears in his eyes, and gave everyone at the lunch table goosebumps as he told his stories. Both these men lost a lot in the war. Friends, a brother, they saw things that will change a man. It’s moving to see them back in Vietnam with a love for the country, as well as hoping to reconnect with some of the Vietnamese from the war. I would like to think, maybe this trip or the one he has planned to come back next year that he will find who he’s looking for. The universe works in incredible ways. This man still has traumas from the war and he spoke about how he’ll never visit certain areas such as the tunnels in Vietnam, but he also has love and hope in this country. I think he’ll find what he’s seeking.
  2. In Da Lat on the news at every restaurant and bar was the attack on Brussels. I choose to not watch the news. Not because I am naive about what’s happening. I don’t like the glorification of war or of breaking headlines. The news creates fear, and they sell fear. I sat at the bar one evening with a man from Brussels and his friend. He’s now living in Vietnam and has been for several years. He hadn’t slept in days watching what’s going on in in his home on the media. He spoke about his views and how these attacks are happening around the world and it’s causing fear. But when do we learn as humans? He had the same concerns as me. We focused our conversation on the kindness that we’ve seen while travelling, and the people that help you along the way. We talked about how a simple kind gesture from a stranger can renew your faith in humanity. We talked about the beauty in nature, and in likeminded humans. This in my mind is what humans should focus on. The good. The kind. The love that still exists in our world. We hugged as we all parted ways and they thanked me for listening and for still seeing the beauty that exists around us. There are no words to explain how moving these conversations were.

These two experiences will stay with me. Even in war, there are human connections and stories of love. How do we change and do better? I’d like to think when we talk about war, or terrorism, or any of the major news headlines that we speak about the humans that have made a difference, or the stories of sticking together and being positive. Choosing kindness and love not fear. It might not be possible everyday or in all things. But when we share some light with another human, the world does shine brighter.

Kindness is contagious. Go forward with it, and you’ll receive it back. People were nervous or afraid of me travelling solo. I wasn’t fearful one bit. Because I chose to believe in the kindness of others. And everyday I was shown it. I had no negative experiences. I was sick at times, but people helped me. I was lost at times. People helped me. One time I was charged extra in a taxi and for a moment felt devastated. And then you know what happened? Someone helped me. I told the guesthouse what had happened, and they made my one night stay free. Solo travel is popular because it teaches love, kindness and tolerance of oneself and others. It restores faith in the goodness of others.

 My whole trip went smoothly and my experiences were unbelievable. Many cannot be put into words.  So I’ll leave it at this. 

The world is still kind.

💜💜❤️❤️

Thank you for NOT loving me 

To the men in my past, I today am filled with gratitude, nostalgia and sentimental thoughts. I’m thankful that you all didn’t love me enough. Or didn’t want me, or couldn’t stay, whatever the reason.. Thanks.
However these relationships came to end… It gave me courage, taught me kindness, broke me down and built me back up, and most of all showed me just how resilient I really am. I’m not suggesting I’m glad you all hurt me, or that we hurt each other. I’m thankful for how I made it through it gracefully and full of love for my life. So don’t take this as a compliment or that you men should all hurt others. We are all responsible for our actions, and need to be accountable for who we are.  I’m acknowledging the fact that I came through it okay because of who I am, and I’m thankful to be where I am today.

I had a conversation last night with a Man that spent many years together with me. After such an amazing day in Hoi An I agreed to it. I had previously told him due to how heartbreaking our ending had been, and some unfortunate damage done that I didn’t want to communicate or be friends anymore. However I reached out when I was travelling near his hometown. Just to say I’m alive and well and loving Vietnam. He contacted me back and we talked about the hurt we both suffered from such a traumatic ending to a relationship. It was an intense love we shared, but sometimes with that kind of love, the ups and downs are so extreme that it’s a wonder we both made it out… Regardless, we were able to show some kindness and compassion to one another and put some perspective as to why it went wrong. We talked about where we are now in our lives and how we got here, as well as offering some much needed closure and understanding of previous misconceptions. It was a healing conversation. It didn’t take away the things that cut so deep… But it’s helped put a bandage on those wounds left on me. 

“I am a part of all that I have met” 

That quote has been echoing though my head today. Every human interaction has changed me, filled me with joy, made me fall apart,taught me a lesson, or been a beacon of light in my life. Interactions that have made me laugh, cry, afraid, happy or angry. I am thankful for them all.

Because of these moments in my life I am filled with an overwhelming understanding that brings me to tears.

I AM EXACTLY WHERE I AM MEANT TO BE.  

How profound is that? I just want to sit with this thought for a few minutes. We as humans get so accustomed to being busy, distracted, lazy, stressed or simply waiting for the next best thing that we forget to focus on the now. On the moment we currently are in. We take these moments for granted. 

 Because of past interactions, and past relationships, ones that were good, ones that were bad, ones with friends, family, and romantic, they have all shaped me. They have allowed me to be just adventurous and fearless enough to be here in Vietnam experiencing a whole new world. I am exactly where I am meant to be. I’m following my path, and thankful for every moment I’m experiencing.

The days of being lost, of wandering aimlessly, of being afraid or excited. I appreciate them all. These are the moments on this trip that have pushed me, and made me damn proud of myself. They are all blessings. 

There are many ups and downs to travelling solo. But this is an experience I wish more people would allow themselves.  

We are all capable of amazing things. The challenge is to be willing to take the risk. 

So thanks guys, and even thanks for failed friendships and past jobs and “missed” opportunities, for the times I felt regret for not taking the chance on things.  It puts things into perspective. I needed to go through these things, so that today I could stand where I am and think “holy shit! I am meant for this.”

Thank you for these moments, experiences and challenges. It’s brought me here to where I stand today.

I am feeling overwhelmed, blessed, fearless and surrounded with love and protection from the universe and my friends that support me. Today I feel it. 

Love life. Because it’s a beautiful thing.

– Vanessa