I AM Strong

I don’t watch much TV.

But I caught the latest episode of “This Is Us” and I was raptured by the relationship unfolding between Kevin and his new flame, Zoe, as she explained her relationship with her father after his prodding to know more.

I love that they are two real characters working their shit, in the depths of it,working through it, both hurting and yet real and yet loving. Something in me is rooting for them, not because we all love a come back story, but because there is something visceral ignited within me when I see people, albeit even TV characters, being vulnerable.

And I think it’s good to finally see people I can relate to.

This journey is messy.  And it gets messier when we decide to go for our dreams, when we decide to heal so we can go for our dreams.

When he said to her “I didn’t know, you seem so strong” and she said “I am strong” I felt that power inside of me that I haven’t felt in a  long time.  Yes, I am strong. Somewhere inside of me I keep forgetting it.

But for women who have been abused, raped, violated in some way it comes with the territory. I had to be strong.  To survive.  My abuser wasn’t my father, wasn’t in my house, but was next door.  My home was a safe place.  And for that I’m always grateful.  That I didn’t have to worry about someone sneaking into my room when I slept like so many other girls did.

And I’m grateful for so much, really.  My story has allowed me to connect with women and men in a way that I could never have imagined before now.  When I was hiding my truth and my story, pretending, I couldn’t connect with others.  I was scared if people knew it would impact my life, my opportunities, how people viewed me.

I was scared it made me broken, fucked up.  I carried so much shame.  And I carried even more shame when I spoke about it, what I should and shouldn’t talk about, why did THIS have to be my story?

I stopped feeling as a child. Almost nothing got through to me, except animal abuse.  But little else.  I was detached from myself, my body, my feelings that I didn’t know how I felt. I got by. I put up.  I forced. I ran. I hide. I pushed.

Until that day that I couldn’t anymore.

A lifetime of silence, a lifetime of people pleasing, a lifetime of believing I was wrong, a lifetime of stuffing it all down, a life of time putting up with, a lifetime of bombs in my head… until not another thing could go under that rug.

And it all spilled out.

Moments of impact, trauma, silencing myself, putting up with, not asking for, tolerating, being… who I was showing up as and how I let others show up in my space.

All of the things I had been avoiding exploding all around me. My box was full.  I couldn’t take anymore and was forced to look at my life.

That peek turned into walls falling, crumbling around me, leaving me trying to find my way out from the rubble that had become me, my life and the falling of the old ways.  The foundation I had built my life on was not a healthy one. It was built on beliefs that didn’t serve me, on experiences from people who had hurt me. It was built on fear and hurt and trying to be enough.

It was built on not caring.

But care I did.  And it went against this persona, this identity I had created for myself. I lived in pretend and denial.  I don’t know anymore how I was living. I seem so far away from that girl who used to put up with so much crap. And who used to think so negatively, it’s almost hard to go back to that place of what I was thinking back then.

The truth is I wasn’t thinking. I was reacting.  I was triggered.  Constantly. 

I was impacted by everything.  When someone didn’t like me or treated me unfairly, I couldn’t speak up or stand up for myself. I couldn’t ask for what I wanted for fear of not getting it and being embarrassed.  I quit before it could fail. I silenced myself, over and over again.

When she whispered those words “I Am Strong” something went back together inside of me that I didn’t know wasn’t together.  In that moment I remembered, I AM STRONG.  I am strong too.

I forgot how strong I am.

I forgot how hard it was to face my past… the days I sat sobbing saying “I can’t do this, I’m not strong enough to face it”, over and over again.  The 6 months I spent barely washing my face.  The onesie days.  The binge eating cereal days.  The chain smoking days. The purging.  Oh, fuck, the purging – physically, emotionally, mentally.

And that time I read my old journals and remembered all of the things I did, who I had been… and the way that pierced my soul and made me shrink a little more as the shame engulfed me… The ex’s who have reached out to comment nasty remarks about me cause my book is coming out… making me realize how I let men treat me, how it wasn’t the first time people “reminded me” of who they thought I was …

But this time he got my claws and teeth, not my pretending to be nice. Fuck him.  I don’t owe him anything, because someone who behaves that way says more about him than it does it about me.

As I faced my past, not only of how I let others treat me, but of who I had to be to let that happen. And it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done… because it led me into the darkest places a person can go…

When your past washes over you, the things you couldn’t process, the things you shut out, the things you wish you could take back. The flashbacks.  The rollercoaster. The madness that came with it.

When you get to that place where there is nothing left but the truth of who you are, not who you pretended to be, when you face the things you did and let happen, when you stop being a victim and cut the chains to your past… you are strong.

I am strong.  I had to be, to still be here today when so many days I dreamed of it all being over.  I had to be to live through so many of things I experienced. I had to be to face my past and use it for something good – to stand up, to get back up, to find a way new way… I had to be strong. And I’m strong still for following my dreams when it would be so much easier to walk away.

I’m strong because I lived to tell this story.  I’m strong because I’ve been to hell and lived to tell about it.  I’m strong because I wasn’t given a choice.  I didn’t have anyone, ever, in my life, pick me up off the floor.  I wouldn’t have let them anyway, even if they tried.

But my reality is I’ve faced more people who have torn me down than have built me up.  And they made me stronger, still. I fell, hard.  And that made me stronger, still. Today, though, I don’t waste time getting people to like me or to approve of me or give me permission.  When people show me who they are, I believe them. And I am stronger, still, when my feet walk away from what isn’t good for me.

Because finally, I am strong enough to do that.

Strength can feel like weakness.  It can feel scary. In the moment, it might not even look or feel like strength, it might feel like fear.  It might feel like uncertainty.  It might look like wanting to run away. But going forward anyway.

My journey wasn’t an easy one. But one thing it taught me is just how strong I am.

So whisper with me: I AM STRONG.  Feel it in your gut.  And know that strength can help you face anything and rise.

Mad love,

Tonya

PS… you can grab a cope of my upcoming book here -> Unchained. 

 

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