Through My Eyes

My journey through recovery and the transformation into the new me after abuse

      Today is a new day. It’s funny how life works out sometimes. More than that, it’s completely amazing how God works in my life. When I was at church on Sunday, the message felt like it was talking to me. It has bothered me all week. I haven’t been doing my battles in my war room like I should. I haven’t been putting my worries in God’s hands like I should. I went to the Basilica and the shrine for the Our Lady of Consolation this week. I felt that God was giving me another tap on the shoulder. I even had a little visit from my maternal grandma while I was there.  Do you think I listen, nope?  

     I have been frustrated lately.  We received the keys to our first office for Standing Courageous June 1st.  Guess what, it’s July 22 and we have done absolutely nothing with it.  I haven’t had time.  I had been praying for more time so that I can work in the office more.  I’ve been praying for people to have time to help me as well.  Here is the thing I need to come to terms with, God doesn’t our answer our prayers by giving us what we want, he gives us what we need.  Yesterday, I was supposed to go to the lake for a weekend getaway.   I wanted and needed that time away, or so I thought.  My friend messaged me and said she wouldn’t be able to go till later.  At that point, I didn’t even want to go up.  By the time we would be leaving it would be late so I just stayed home. 

      I worked on Standing Courageous stuff all afternoon.  I started going through my email and saw an invite to a recovery group through the church I had expressed interest in.  I had this feeling in my gut that I should go and I did.  God meant for me to be there, I am one hundred percent sure on that.  I listened to a testimony from someone who had a life that mirrored my own.   I met a few people who welcomed me with open arms.  As much as I wanted to go to the lake for a weekend getaway, I needed this more.  My prayers were answered, just not how I wanted them to be.  Instead of going to the lake, my friend and I are working on Standing Courageous stuff.  As for me, I hear God loud and clear for once.  I am putting my faith in him that he has closed a door to me twice so I will quit knocking. 

     I opened up my Facebook a few moments ago.  My time hop had three posts that were messages to me: 1. A pic of a man and God.  The quotes on it said “Don’t give up.  I am still working on you.  God.  2.  A pic of a single daisy in the middle of a crowd.  The quote says, “Stand up for what you believe in, even if it means standing alone.  3.  A post written by me from 7 years ago that says, “is thinking about going back to school. I think I would really like to go to Law school. I wonder if I could do it working full time? I have always wanted to be a lawyer and I would love to help DV victims.”  Well, well, well… I started my criminal justice degree and I started Standing Courageous but haven’t had the time to work on either.  God has made sure I have the time now.  I guess it’s time to go after what I have always wanted.

There are days that mark our lives. They are the days when you realize that nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts, before this and after this. The last 24 hours has been one of those days for me.

At church this last weekend, it was said you have to put all your trust in God and let him be your strength. You have to be committed to him. I have failed at that commitment lately and today that changes.

My new cover photo sums up things, “Did I live? Did I love? Did I matter?” My answer is no. I have a new plan and this time, I’m not doing it alone. Here’s to living, loving, and making my life matter.

It has been 10 years, 11 months, and 7 days since you changed my life forever.  10 years ago, I had no idea how I would ever move on or live a normal life again.  This morning in my living room, I fell to my knees and I cried.  I bowed my head and thanked God for that night.  You see, you’re in the big city newspaper today. You lost control while intoxicated and once again are facing felony charges.  I read a story this morning about you and there is a picture of you – I stared at your picture for a while.  I see familiar eyes that haven’t changed a bit and show nothing but hate.  I used to think those eyes were about me.  I’ve learned differently since then.  You never hated me, you hated yourself.  The only reason you ever thought you hated me was because I saw the real you.   Today, I read that you showed the real you once again.  I hope this time, the courts see it too.  I hope that everyone else can see that behind those eyes lives a monster contained by it’s abuse on others and that every once in a while alcohol sets that monster free.
In 3 hours and 15 minutes, I get to go pick up the keys to an office.  It is the first official office for my nonprofit called Standing Courageous.  The name comes from the bible verse, 1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.  I started the nonprofit to help educated medical professionals, law enforcement, legal professionals, and the general public about strangulation, malignant narcissists, and conditioned victims.  I vowed to do my part to make sure what happened to me doesn’t happen to others.  I have suffered long term affects from what happened that night.  I have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.  I am committed to making sure medical personnel understand the mental and physical consequences of domestic abuse and strangulation.  I am devoted to changing social stigmas against victims and to make sure that the public knows abusers like you don’t wear signs that announce who you really are.  I am dedicated to doing my part to make sure law enforcement, judges, attorneys, prosecutors, and all people involved in the legal system understand the dangers of letting people like you go free.  I want people to understand that abusers like you are 75% likely to abuse again.   That abusers like you make up 57% of the mass shooters in America.  The article says you held a gun out at others, that you fired your gun, you could have easily become one of those statistics.  We here in Northwest Ohio could have had a mass shooting event but we didn’t.  It sounds like you didn’t physically harm anyone, this time.  I will thank you for that.
So here is where I thank you.  Thank you for choosing me back then.  I am strong, I am courageous, and I have survived.  I will continue to share my story.  You are nothing more than a reminder now.  Albert Einstein said “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”  I am silent no more.  I will no longer do nothing.  I will be the change.
This is where I thank God.  I thank God for giving me healing and strength.  I thank God for letting me be a voice.  I thank God for those who believed in me and for those who saw in you what I did.  I thank God for my board members and all those who support Standing Courageous.  Today, I thank God for the quote “The Power of One. Don’t fall for the lie that one person cannot make a difference. All powerful movements began with the actions of individuals striving for change. Your actions count. Be the change. ”  I live my life by God and that quote now.
Today, I cried because this weekend when you set your monster free again, you raised your hand publicly and said, “Paula wasn’t lying.  I am the danger she warns about”



Today at work, I was yelled at by a patient.  He was an older male with a deep and commanding voice.  It started with just a few sentences that were questioning at first.  Then he moved on and started blaming and ridiculing.  He ended with raising his voice and being blatantly disrespectful.  The whole transaction took only a minute or two.  In those few moments, my body remembered what my mind has been fighting to forget, that I was abused.   In those few short moments of that man yelling at me:  I could feel my heart start thumping in my chest, my forehead, neck, and back started sweating, I started getting the feeling that I was going to throw up, and every muscle in my body tensed up.  It was almost painful.  No wait, it was painful.  I started to cry.  IMG_1395

I headed to our break room and the tears just started pouring down my face.  I couldn’t decided what emotion to feel because they just kept coming and going: anger, fear, hurt, embarrassment, and the list goes on.  From the outside, I am sure it looked like I am just a really sensitive woman who gets my feelings hurt easily.   On the inside, it’s a whole different story.  For anyone who knows me well, I am not the type to take that type of treatment.  I will usually give it right back or stop it before it even gets started.   I couldn’t speak back to him.  My voice cracked when I tried.

I have shared my story  of abuse several times publicly.  I started a nonprofit to help educate others about domestic violence and strangulation so they can better assist victims and survivors.  I have went to years of counseling and support groups.  My mind knows right from wrong in relationships now.  If anything, I have went to far the other way, I am the first one to run at the sign of a red flag.  I was diagnosed with complex post traumatic stress disorder and I was not happy when that happened.  I fought it hard and raised a fit about having it in my chart.  I didn’t want something that officially said that man (my abuser) had broken me or that I had given him the power to do so.

I don’t know about other survivors but my battle with recovery is almost daily.  It is the little things that catch me off guard.  I went out to dinner recently and a man placed his hand on my back.  It is something that while I sit here typing this, I know was respectful and innocent.  When it happened my back muscles tensed up and I started that same IMG_1313nauseating and sweaty feeling.  It is the feeling I have become to despise.  From time to time, I will see someone who looks just like him.  I will get a panic feeling and I can’t move.  Those times are few and far between though thankfully.

From the outside, people tell me I am brave.  If they only knew the truth.  My mind has moved on.  It is ready for the future and has forgiven past hurts.  I don’t understand why my body can’t do the same.  I know my counselor told me that my body most likely will never forget.  I remember the first time we talked about it years ago, I said to her, “I refuse to let that happen”.   She was right and today on my ride home from work, I cried.  Actually, I straight up bawled.   I excepted what she said on that ride home.  It is part of me but it does not define me.

My friendships have changed a lot over the last two years.  I have people who have accepted the parts of me that I try to hide, some probably better than I could ever accept myself.    I have also lost friends who weren’t understanding.   I have tried to hide that I am still affected by what happened to me and I will not let that happen anymore.    I am IMG_1317not defined by my past.  It was a life lesson, not a life sentence.

Today was a day of freedom for me.  I will accept that my body remembers and stop trying to hide it.  After all, the mind has a way to protect itself during abuse, the body does not.  I have been very adamant about staying in my safe zones because I am afraid of my body remembering something in public and being embarrassed.  There is nothing wrong with my scars and I know that.   The only opinion of me that matters is my own.   Here is to standing courageous and moving on.  Today, I thank God for my strengths and my weaknesses.  It is the emotions that I feel that remind me I am alive and I am thankful for that.