What is Self-Care, and Why is it Important?

A_selfcareI struggled with self-care for a long time. It wasn’t an easy task for me. I was in too much pain and too ashamed of what had happened to me. In the process, I had completely disconnected from myself and my needs.

Back then, my self-care mostly consisted of numbing the pain. It just hurt too much to think about it.

Adding self-care to my life was difficult because I couldn’t figure out what I wanted and needed.  I was really hard on myself about this, too. It was embarrassing. I was a grown woman, but I didn’t know how to care for myself in a loving way.

However, I was very skilled at taking care of family and friends.  I knew what they needed, and I would go out of my way to make sure those needs were met. I always put them first, often at the expense of my own self-care.

Does this sound like you? If so, here’s how to stop neglecting yourself.

Self-care begins with awareness. Pay attention to what works, what doesn’t work, and what needs to be tweaked in your life.

The best way to do this is to make a list:

  • What healthy foods did you eat today?
  • Did you exercise today?
  • How much water did you drink today?
  • Did you do something today that gave you joy, something just for you like reading a good book or getting a manicure or window shopping?

Seems like a tall order, doesn’t it? It did to me. With a busy work life and a family of five, I had no time in my day for taking care of “me.”

But I was determined to do this, so I kept trying.

Then an amazing thing happened. I began to feel better about myself. I was shocked to discover self-care was helping me heal.

Slowly, I started to treat myself with the respect and love I deserved. Wow. Imagine that? It felt good. Really good.

You can do this, too. Make today the day you take those first steps toward your own self-care. It won’t feel comfortable at first, but keep trying. You’ll be glad you did!

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Were you sexually abused as a child? Is your life stuck as an adult, and you can’t seem to move forward? I offer private coaching sessions by phone or skype ($55.00 per hour) for child sexual abuse survivors just like you. To set up an appointment, call 619 889 6366 or email svava@educate4change.com today. Take the time to invest in yourself. You’re worth it!

Are you on my email list? If you’d like to receive my monthly newsletter and an email with a link to my weekly blog post, click here: http://www.educate4change.com/ or find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/educate4change

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Don’t Try to Fix Me, Just Believe in Me!

Support

After 20 years of healing from child sexual trauma, I feel that I tried many things in my search. My willingness to try has been one of the strengths that has helped me and carried me through some dark times but what was the most helpful was when I found kind, compassionate counselors and survivors that had traveled before me. What they did for me was so simple but yet profound. After listening to me telling my story, usually sobbing and with snot running down my face, I would look up at them. They looked me in the eye and gently said, “I believe you!” What a relief!

All they said was, “I believe you!”

They believed the story I told, even when I doubted some of it myself, especially in the beginning. I did not understand the deep impact this simple word had on me until I started providing it for others victims of trauma that now followed in my footsteps.

For too many victims of sexual trauma, when they finally find the strength and the courage to tell, very many have been faced with disbelief, anger, social stigma and rejection. They have been shunned and told that they must be making this up or worse yet, nothing, no response whatsoever.

According to research, 30% of sexual abuse victims never tell. –d2l.org

For too long, victims suffer in silence. Struggling with not only the impact of the abuse but the long-term impact of carrying the secret because of fear that no one will believe them.

Children that disclose abuse and are not believed are more likely to suffer long term emotional and/or psychological consequences lasting into adult hood. –ACEstudy.

So what can you do? Always respond to anyone telling you about abuse or trauma with, “I hear you, I believe you, the abuse was not your fault” and then, “How can I help you get the support you need?”

Not until I found a safe place to tell my story, to be heard, and to be believed did I finally start my healing. The good news is that more awareness has been created about the issue of child sexual abuse but there is still stigma surrounding being a victim of such a crime.

To any victim of sexual trauma, I would like to say, don’t give up. Keep going, keep searching for the right place for you to heal and for you to get help. You will find someone that knows better and will sit with you in compassion and understanding, that will make it safe for you to tell your story and your secrets, all of them.

Until you find someone, I hope you take some small solace in my message to you.

I believe you and I believe in you. You are not alone, not anymore.

Wellness

We are stronger together.

Svava Brooks

ps. If you are looking for some tools for the healing journey, please feel free to follow this link for a free 3 video tutorial that includes 3 short videos, assessments, and reading suggestions. This information can help get you started.

pps. To join a free peer support community with expert lead meetings and resources, please follow this link.

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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back…

 

 

..but it still  progress!

..but it still progress!

 

With any ideas to create a successful outcome, life does not always go according to plan, especially if this is your first go at this particular change.

When it comes to healing after childhood sexual trauma, the same human condition applies: we resist change, life gets in the way, things happen, the way they do with any other plan.

 

This, of course, is also a challenge for survivors of trauma but it is one that can be overcome with education, self-awareness, planning, and support. As hard as it may seem to survivors on the journey–especially in the beginning–the worst is over. The abuse is behind you, you made it this far and you now have, as a result of it, certain skills, abilities, talents, that will help you through.

But how do you handle the “two steps forward, one step backwards” challenge, that you will experience a handful of times on this healing journey?

Let me explain and simplify – and also explain the challenge.  This is how certain thoughts and beliefs created a challenge during my progress.

  1. When you start feeling good about your progress, you start to doubt if it will last. “Why do I think I will ever feel any better?”
  2. Your unhealthy coping starts to feel more comforting than the new self-care ritual that you committed to; it feels uncomfortable and a little forced.
  3. As a result of your healthy self-care, education, and new awareness of what you went through, your deep feelings, grief of the loss of childhood or innocence, fills you with doubt about what really happened. The fantasy you created to survive is strong enough to make you think the abuse was somehow your fault.
  4. “No, it was not so bad. My caregivers/parents may not have protected me but they did the best they could. I don’t have any reason to have these intense feelings about what happened. I am just making everyone uncomfortable by bringing this up. Everyone has moved on, why can’t I do that?”
  5. “This is crazy making. I feel like two different people. When I am with my peers and therapist, I understand that the abuse was damaging, painful, and not my fault. Then when I see my family, I feel that I am overreacting, that this must have been a dream, they all look so happy, like nothing is wrong and like they got over it. But I feel so uncomfortable around them now. Like all of the sudden, I am the elephant in the room, not the fact that I was abused.”

All I can say is, you are not alone. Ask any survivor of sexual abuse and they can tell you a similar story. They too went through the cycle a few times.

Going through the cycle, you will be doing great, following the program, making progress, having real, honest conversations and healing yourself. But then there will be things that will set you back. But then you will continue to make progeess as the cycle repeats itself. Don’t give up, these setbacks are completely normal and to be expected. But so is the progress that comes with your hard work.

In the end you will find that you can choose YOU, find out who you truly are, connect with your heart, your authentic spirit, and finally be FREE. You may even find yourself on top of a mountain screaming, letting it all out: “It was NOT my fault, never, ever!!! I am done carrying your shame and your secrets. I am FREE to BE ME!!!”

You got this!

Success is not a straight line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ps: This will be our topic of discussion this week meeting online at the cst.viveraehealth.com  We meet every week Wed. at 4pm pst. 7 pm est.

About: Svava Brooks is a survivor thriver of childhood sexual trauma.   Svava works as a peer group facilitator and life coach helping adult survivors recover from sexual trauma through life coaching and support groups, online or in person.  You can connect with Svava and other survivors supporting each other, online at cst.viveraehealth.com  To join Svava sharing her healing journey and how you can get your life back after trauma follow this link 

Facebook: facebook.com/educate4change  Twitter: @svavas  Instagram: svavabrooks

 

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New Year, New Goals, New You?

Have you set your goals for 2015? Did you set a New Years resolution? It is always a good idea to set a goal and then work at reaching it but how often do we fall short?

I don’t know about you but I have always been afraid of setting goals. For me, it was just another thing to beat myself up about when I failed, comparing myself with others, to notice how far behind I was on most things worth reaching. Can you relate?

Goal Setting

I am now better with setting goals but they definitely used to scare me. Why? Because I didn’t know how to break my goal into manageable realistic steps, to consider my strengths and why I would benefit in the long run from reaching this goal.

I had no awareness beyond survival when I was younger, after having spent my childhood and adolescence focusing on getting safely through each day and avoiding my stepfather. And as soon as I got out of there, coping with the past was the next chapter in my story. Where I tried to manage the after math of lifelong trauma, the pain, the shame, and the self-hatred followed. Life was still about just making it through each day and keeping up appearances. Trying to finish whatever I was doing that day, pleasing people, helping people, taking care of others so that they would not question me and rock my boat.

I was afraid for a long time to admit that I did not know how to set goals and how to even try to set up steps to try to reach them. But it was not so bad because from the look of it, neither do most people, right? I was clearly not alone playing this game.

Over the last few years, I have been more focused on what I am learning about myself and how I can feel better about me. I have learned that when I focus on my health and wellness, the people around me do better because I feel better. When I started my healing, I learned that asking for help and support is a sign of responsibility and self-awareness. Now I am not afraid to ask for help and challenge myself to learn new things.

I still can tend to set goals that perhaps are a little out of my reach but we all have to dream a little. But what I have learned is that as long as I am making progress, taking challenges, and putting in my best and consistent effort into it and not giving up, I am moving closer to reaching the goal…eventually. And as the saying goes, it is all about the journey, not the destination.

This year I am setting goals around my physical fitness. After neglecting my body during the abuse and unhealthy coping, I am getting better at consistently going to the gym and noticing what food I am putting into my body. I was uncertain how to go about making some lasting lifestyle changes. But I reached out to friends for help, one of them being an expert on exercise, the other on nutrition

They both gave me great advice that applies to me and where I am at. Then I joined a 60 day online support group that is a place for us to check in daily to share our progress. I have two friends that I send a quick snapchat to when I am eating right or at the gym. I find this very helpful as it helps me to be more accountable for my health and I can feel, at least so far, that these changes feel like something that I can manage and I am already feeling better about my body, feeling healthier and stronger.

So what is your health goal for the year? Are you working on physical fitness? Emotional balance? Mindfulness? Feel free to share if you like. If you don’t have support around this and would like to connect with likeminded people for support, send me an email.

mistakes in goal settingI challenge you to set a goal, keep it realistic, and set a date to measure your progress or money saved, or lbs. lost. See how it feels and ask yourself, are you making progress, what are you learning about yourself, do you need support and tools, or did you exceed your expectations and reach the goal? How did it feel?

 

If you need help getting started, create a goal to be good to yourself and focus on taking care of you. I promise it is a win-win situation. You can never go wrong with a long-term goal to love yourself.

About: Svava Brooks is a survivor thriver of childhood sexual trauma.   Svava also works as a peer group facilitator, Reiki practitioner and life coach helping adult survivors recover from sexual trauma through life coaching and support groups, online or in person.  You can connect with Svava and other survivors supporting each other, online at cst.viveraehealth.com  To join Svava sharing her healing journey and how you can get your life back after trauma follow this link 

You can reach me at svava@educate4change.com

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Looking for Proof in All The Wrong Places.

Quote from Brene Brown

Victims of sexual trauma can struggle for a long while with recovery and restoration from the abuse they suffered. Why is it that this particular trauma is so difficult to work through and heal from? Not just for the victims but it is also a challenge for bystanders and the supporters of the victim.

I have spent the last 20 years healing and restoring from incest and multiple sexual trauma. The journey has been littered with challenges that I can only describe as the journey through a dark tunnel. This road towards understanding and acceptance often led to dead ends, and detours that repeated cenarious of my abusive childhood. I eventually made it out of the tunnel and into the light and started making some real progress.

But how did I get out of the tunnel? I realized once I got out of the tunnel that I had walked by the exit multiple times. The truth was that I had considered leaving the tunnel, this dark familiar place on many occasion, but I was not ready.

Why was I not ready? We know it is always easier to see clearly when we have stepped out of the situation and turned on the lights. But what I realized when I was out of it, that it had been my comfort zone. The place I knew best, the place I knew and trusted myself to be in. I know it sounds ridiculus, especially to bystanders and the people that love and support us. It is painful for them to sit by and watch us, as we reach out our hand for support, only to pull it back when we get close to getting out of there.

I have read quite a few books on recovery and healing on my journey and all of them have in some way contributed to my rebuilding of myself. There is a bit of research and books written on the symptoms victims take on to survive the abuse. The distorted thinking and the dissociation from the self, during the trauma and later in life without proper intervention and support.   These are all normal coping behaviors. This was an important knowledge for me on my healing. Why?

Because part of the “stuck in the past thinking”, the not wanting to leave the tunnel came from my drive to look for some kind of proof. Some form of validation that what I was feeling and thinking was true. The thinking and feeling I was looking to validate was not accurate, because it was based on negative childish believes that I was bad and the abuse was my fault.   As long as I held onto that belief I somehow felt safe, it was what I saw growing up and what I had been told. I did not know any better.

Our brain and our drive to project this negative belief, is very powerful. I kept looking for proof that I was bad, and that I was not lovable. I kept recreating these thoughts and feelings for over half of my healing journey. It was exhausting, not just for me but for the people that were supporting me. I thank God that they did not give up on me. They believed in me.

After a long while, in a support group, processing my feelings and grieving the loss of my childhood, something shifted. I recognized that I no longer needed to search for proof of the abuse, that I was bad, that it had been my fault. I had internalized accurate information about my childhood. I separated the facts from what I had made it mean. I created a new story about myself, a new truth about who I am.

Over the last few years I have recognized the power that comes from our drive to find proof. Now, I focus on finding proof that I am a good person. That I am lovable, kind, valuable and loyal. I also feel compelled to share this information with other victims of trauma. I do trust in the natural unfolding of our healing journey but I offer this to other survivors looking to thrive after sexual trauma.

You have the power to heal yourself. Some of that comes from you taking the power back from trying to look for proof in the dark tunnel. Find the courage to look for proof that it was not your fault, you are a good person, lovable, compassionate, strong and creative. Focus on that and you will start to see the proof of it, all around you and illuminated from inside of you.

I believe we are all connected. What we heal in ourselves we heal for others around us. I have seen it happen, multiple times. I believe in you and know that you have all the things you need to heal and restore. If you don’t feel that you do, I invite you to look outside the tunnel. Find a life coach or a support group that can support you while you start to practice this new way of thinking and seeing yourself.

If you are looking for someone to hold your hand for a little while, to walk you through the steps in the beginning, please send me a note and we can set up a short coaching session and discuss how I can help you, if and when you are ready.

It would be a privilege to hold the light for you to find your way out of the tunnel.  Remember, we are stronger together.

In love and light.

Svava Brooks.

If you are looking for further supper or education on the issue of Child Sexual Abuse and Prevention please visit me at educate4change.com  or join me on Facebook for daily empowerment and inspiration for survivors and thrivers at https://www.facebook.com/educate4change

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Acceptance

 

We are stronger together.How can I possibly accept the horrible things that happened to me as a child? Why in the world would I even consider accepting that?

Many victims of sexual trauma and abuse are faced with the dilemma of somehow making peace with what happened to them. I say dilemma because often we feel that we are being asked to accept and get over it, to make other people feel better. The people around us that are understandably heart broken by what happened to us, but don´t know how we feel, or how to best support us back to wholeness.

I often share with survivors that they are the only one that can decide when they are ready to heal and when they are ready to “get over it”. Only if and when they are ready to start, will any effort towards healing and restoration be possible.

It helps to understand what the process of acceptance looks like and what being willing to go through that process can do for us.

At first it is important to know that it never means that you are saying that the abuse was ok or acceptable. That is not it. The abuse was never ok, never your fault. You will never be asked to take responsibility for someone else’s horrible choices or violence.

What acceptance means in the healing process is to acknowledge that we were powerless in the moment of the abuse. We have to accept that. We were victims. We where violated. Our trust, our boundaries, we were betrayed.   The only way to move on from being a victim is to allow that painful reality to sink in, feel the feelings, grief the loss. Only then can we start the rebuilding process, the steps towards wholeness.

This level of acceptance can be challenging for many because of the cultural stigma associated with being a victim. Don’t buy into it. I know it can be a challenge but you are not the things that happened to you, but until we understand the importance of not rushing or skipping this step to set ourselves up for a greater challenge with the next steps of the journey.

The next thing we learn to accept are the things we did to cope and survive the abuse or the trauma. Learn to have compassion for ourselves when we accept that this is normal, this is what we had to do to numb, distract or act out, in order to try to make sense of it all and manage the pain.   This process of accepting is also where we feel our feelings.   We learn to accept that we did and do have feelings about what happened and our coping. To learn about the feelings, and learn to express them safely is a part of the acceptance at this stage.

The final step of acceptance is when we accept that we are greater than the things that happened to us. Yes it impacted our lives, we struggled for a while, we accept that. But we also accept that any human on the planet is struggling with finding their place, their purpose, and how to best connect with who they truly are. We are no different. From that place, I see and accept that victims of trauma have the upper hand. Can you accept that?

The survivors that I know and work with are the most honorable and strong people that I know. They are the most creative, talented, and courageous people I know.  How do I know this? I know the strength it took to survive. The courage it took to break the silence, the creative thinking it took to manage the pain and cope, and the talent it takes to keep going searching for answers and solutions, not giving up.

Survivors are there for one another, for many of us have had to abandon the family we grew up in, in order to let the truth out, to really be seen and accepted. Yes, life has given you some challenges that you had no control over but you have a reason to fight for self acceptance. You have already proved your strength, courage, and creativity.  You survived! Can you accept that?

I know you can heal. I believe in you. If you are looking for support to feel accepted and supported, please join us at cst.onehealth.com

In Love and Light. We are stronger together!

About: Svava Brooks is a survivor thriver of childhood sexual trauma.   Svava also works as a peer group facilitator, Reiki practitioner and life coach helping adult survivors recover from sexual trauma through life coaching and support groups, online or in person.  You can connect with Svava and other survivors supporting each other, online in the OneHealth community, at cst.onehealth.com  To join Svava sharing her healing journey and how you can get your life back after trauma follow this link 

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Building a business or building a movement…

I have spent the last three days in a business training class. It was a little different from the kind of trainings that I usually attend. Usually I am learning about child sexual trauma, prevention, healing or giving training on the topic. But this training was all about how to take your message, your passion, and build a business around it, to share it with the world.

I have been building a movement for a very long time, one that I started in my home country, Iceland. It started when I realized I could no longer blame anyone else for what happened to me as a child. I had to do my part and become the change that I wanted to see in the world, most importantly to become the adult that I needed when I was a child. To become aware enough, educated, and courageous enough to ask better questions about child safety and encourage other adults to join me to create a safe community for kids to grow up healthy and whole.

Over the last 10 years I have been focusing on educating adults on how to prevent, recognize, and respond to abuse or suspicion of it. I regularly provide Darkness to Light Stewards of Children prevention trainings in two countries and webinars for parents over the Internet.

Over the last 4 years, I have been providing support groups and life coaching for survivors of trauma to help people restore themselves back to who they truly are. But I have been feeling the need to share my message of hope and healing with more people, especially the honest message of some of the challenges of the healing journey and to give survivors access to the tools necessary to heal. This is what brought me to this business training.

I believe that all survivors of trauma can heal. If we are willing and open to change, we can change the hardwiring that many victims are burdened with. Understanding that, like any other habit, if we focus on and practice new habits, we can change. I did it and so can you!

I was encouraged and inspired by this training. I learned some basic business building skills and tools that most businesses are required to know and use in todays market. My hope in the next few weeks is to start to test out some of these new skills and at the same time bring a more consistent message and value to my readers and community. I plan to create more videos and share them on my YouTube channel. I have made a few already that you can view here. Feel free to subscribe if you like what you see and share.

If there is a topic related to the healing journey that you would like to see me write or do a video post on, please let me know at: Svava@educate4change.com

Remember, we are stronger together.

Love and Light.

Svava

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Mirror Mirror What Do You See?

Michal Madison watercolor art

by Michal Madison watercolor artist

 

 

A poem about the healing journey  By Svava Brooks

Mirror mirror, what do you see?

I see a scared little girl hiding behind a tree.

I see you little girl, I love you little girl, I am here for you little girl

Nothing will ever hurt you again little girl.

 

Mirror mirror, what do you see?

I see a hurt young woman hiding behind her glee.

I see you, I hear you, I believe you, I still love you.

It was not your fault, it’s time to feel,

 

Mirror mirror, what do you see?

I see an insecure woman hiding behind her plea.

I feel your heart, I know this is hard, you are fighting for your life, you are tired of the fight,

But with a touch of hope, she continues to fight

 

Mirror mirror, what do you see?

I see a spark and a gleam in this determined woman’s eye,

I feel your heart, I hear your voice, stronger, knowing who she is

The strength that found courage inside.

 

Mirror mirror, what do you see?

A confident woman that shares her heart,

A beautiful woman that shares her love,

A gentle woman that has compassion for all,

A wise woman that encourages all,

A peaceful women that knows herself.

 

Mirror mirror, what do you see?

A woman that does not need me to tell her what I see

Because she knows herself, trusts herself and loves herself.

A woman humble enough to know she needs others, needs to belong

And needs to feel loved and to love.

 

Thank you my mirror, you showed me until I could see,

that all along,  I could love me.

Now, I am very happy and proud to be me!

By Svava Brooks

2014

About: Svava Brooks is a survivor thriver of childhood sexual trauma.   Svava also works as a peer group facilitator, Reiki practitioner and life coach helping adult survivors recover from sexual trauma through life coaching and support groups, online or in person.  You can connect with Svava and other survivors supporting each other, online in the OneHealth community, at cst.onehealth.com  To join Svava sharing her healing journey and how you can get your life back after trauma follow this link 

 

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Is it worth it? Why go back there?

The fear of hashing through our past abuse and terrifying memories is what keeps many victims of sexual trauma from getting the help they need to overcome the impact of their abuse.

What is good to know for victims of trauma, is that you don´t have to go back into the past.  You don´t have to go through every single memory in order to heal.  Yes, you will have some feelings about it, clearly, so in order to help you in the beginning I always recommend a safety plan and a quick assessment of how you cope with stressful events in your life.

What the healing and restoration process provides is understand of the impact of the abuse.  Get clear and honest with yourself, about the unhealthy coping that is keeping you stuck in the past or getting in the way of healthy relationships today. Evaluate the false believes you took on as a result of not being able to process the pain and the betrayal.  That is the work of healing.

The stigma of being a victim does not help or encourage us, when every where we turn we see victims being blamed or questioned for speaking up about being abused and traumatized.  Many of also struggle with even knowing what words to use,  what to say, how to ask for help after sexual abuse. If you were a child when the abuse took place, it is hard to know the words to describe what was happening to us. No one talked about it, no one educated me growing up about boundaries, safe touch, secrets and where to turn if I was being hurt at home.

It was hard in the beginning,  but it was worth it.  Once I got past the initial fear of breaking the silence and realized that I was not alone, it got better.  It took a while, but things did get better, much better.

Times are changing. People are becoming aware, and more help is available to victims when they are ready.  That is the good news.  Most healing modalities today focus on the present moment, helping victims understands how trauma impacts children and adults.

Get educated about healthy coping and find support for encouragement and hope. Keep going, be intentional about healing yourself, because  we do heal, we do restore back to who we were meant to be, and then life does not just revolve around surviving but thriving.

If you are looking for tools or support like those I mention above, please join me for a free access to peer support network, where I provide weekly online groups for adult survivors of sexual trauma.  It is confidential, anonymous and you have access to 24/7 peer support. Here is the link.  http://cst.onehealth.com

In Love and Light. We are stronger together.

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Story of Victory

Life is amazing!  I had dinner last night with a colleague of mine that is in town for a conference. For anyone sitting near us and hearing our conversation must have thought we are a little…… fill in the blank. LOL.

I love my survivor – thriver friends. I have so many in far corners of the world. We stay in touch, we meet when we can, but just like childhood friends, time goes by and when we see each other, we pick right up where we left off.

We reflect on our abuse and trauma, how far we have come in our healing, and thriving, and how life is going on today. We laugh about the people that after they ask us what we do for a living, get silent for a while. Then some do turn back to us and say, you know, that happened to me too. Thank you for what you are doing! And then there are those that take a step back from you and you can see the judgement running past their eyes, as they think, “what is wrong with her”, “why would she tell me that”, and “I am not sure if I should be here listening”.

We talked about how we can see and feel peoples judgements, and discomfort, but we don’t take it personally anymore. We can laugh about it, but we also feel compassion because we know that many of the people that want to run the other way, perhaps are also victims. And just like us and how we were terrified in the beginning to break the silence, to say the words, to ask for help…. they have not and perhaps never will. That is ok. I understand. We all get there when we are ready.
It was a great evening, great food, awesome company and connection from the heart. Complete understanding and acceptance of one human to another. My friend Julie is like me. She sees there is so much more to us than what happened to us, that is what we celebrate in each other, and that is what we celebrate and honor in each person that tells us their story. It is always a story of Victory.

Love and Light my friends. We are stronger together.

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