Just the other day I was asked to tell my story, from beginning to end. The gift in that is that I now can tell it as a story winding from one plot line to the next, and it somewhat comes out as a well-rehearsed speech. This time felt different. I was not just storytelling, I was living it once again as the film was rolling in my head. I was stepping into it, and I was owning it, and was re-introducing myself to each chapter that flashed as the film continued to play on.
I was re-meeting myself instead of just replaying the scenes. I saw myself in a new light. A view that I can love and take pride in, for the woman she is and has worked hard to be. I have always been a warrior woman, and that is not something that will ever change or be denied. I’ve been a fighter since I can remember, but the piece I now hold dear is the ability to keep that part of me while carrying the sword of love.
Recently I have soul searched and sought to intertwine love and vulnerability into my heart, soul, and my life. In order to understand why I chose to link in these bold yet crucial new pieces into the woman I am, you would also need to know where I have come from. See, it is so easy at times to choose shame and guilt for our past and for the many mistakes or obstacles we faced while traveling, instead of getting to know each and every part in order to love ourselves for all we have been, all we are, and all we strive to be.
Warriors are brave, right? Absolutely! In vulnerability, humbling, healing, and growth, you are brave.
As a young girl, I felt trapped in my own world. I wanted to figure things out for myself, wanted to venture, wanted to fight others’ battles due to injustices, and wanted to answer all the questions I had that kept me up at night about this vast world we live in and what my purpose was within it.
Who was I? I had no idea. I left love out of this equation, and I chose everything but connection. I pushed people away, numbed myself, and was unable to communicate any of my needs. I began to explore the world of sex, drugs, and alcohol. I was not aware how this could deeply affect my life, my view of self, my view of others, my safety, as well as my success as a woman in this world.
I was uninterested in high school and began falling behind, at one point having a 0.66 grade point average. At this point, my family felt they had no choice but to drop me off hours away from home at a residential care facility for troubled teens, where I spent 7 ½ months of my life living with 13 other teens who were having many of the same struggles I was. Upon completing this program, I went back to the same environment, same circumstances, and same old behaviors.
Soon after, I chose to run away from home. I packed up my things and ventured to a friend’s home, as well as couches and wherever I could lay my head at night. I then began researching colleges and sought a way for a new chapter of life. I was accepted, and after one semester I was on academic probation. I was living a life of numbness and a false sense of happiness. One evening, I found myself on my bathroom floor with a positive pregnancy test in my hand. I remember leaving the university hospital alone on a very rainy day and getting in my car, after being told once again that I was pregnant and close to six weeks along at the age of 20.
For one second within the confines of my car, I felt instant peace. This was my day of awakening. A child was growing in my belly, and I had to radically change my life. On this day I chose to better my life, not for me but for this soul that was begging me to be succeed, to be healthy, to be a powerful woman, an example, a mother—and for this, I owe my son…my life.
We had been and were in a very toxic environment. After a strenuous and difficult journey, I came to a realization; I had been silenced. I had been an independent woman, strong-willed, and felt no shame in declaring who I was or what I thought…and slowly I found myself silenced, unheard, and ultimately speechless.
One evening, I was on my knees weeping by my bedside, begging for God to give me the power and voice to step away for good, because I honestly couldn’t do it on my own. That night I had a very raw and real dream about my own life, and this allowed me to see the truth and reality of what I was suffocating in and how deeply I needed healing and freedom.
The next morning, I awoke from my own nightmare. I walked away from abuse and never went back. We were now, at this point, a part of a wonderful program that assisted and supported my journey through college to graduate magna cum laude from a local university with my bachelor’s degree in social work. The following year I was able to continue my education and receive my master’s degree in social work, and stepped into a job placement that completely fuels my fire and offers me the opportunity to work with those who are walking through the same dark periods that I found myself in for many years.