domestic violence · education

The Toll

“Does constantly talking about what happened to you take a toll?” he asked. We had just finished up a lengthy conversation and he had just shared his story with the world. I wanted to laugh and cry simultaneously. Not a humorous laugh, but a nervous one. Not tears of sadness, but of knowing. What a deep question.

Yes, and a thousand times yes! As I look back on the past two years, I find that I cannot pinpoint any particular feeling. It seems as if each day brings an onslaught of emotions that range from my heart bursting with love to numbness. Sprinkle in discontent, joy, pride, disappointment, and optimism and you have the recipe for life as I know it at Forget Me Not Advocacy Group.

When I set out to combine my blog with a backstory, creating Forget Me Not – Learning to Live with Me and for Me, it was cathartic. I would spend hours at my computer, rehashing things that I had never discussed with anyone. Events, words, and emotions would pour through my fingers onto the page. I would get sick, cry, scream, contact individuals from my past offering apologies and explanations, and then do my best to close out that chapter and walk away. It wasn’t easy, but it was healing in its own right. I felt that I was literally “closing the book” on that part of my life. Or, so I hoped.

When Forget Me Not Advocacy Group was formed, I was bursting with energy and optimism. We were going to make a difference! We would be the change. We would reach our young people, educate them, get the community on board, and grow into a worthy non-profit. I plowed through a year, visiting other organizations, offering up classes and workshops, speaking at events, and talking to anyone and everyone that would listen.

And then, my savings dried up, and I was forced to get a “real job,” which pulled my time and energy from Forget Me Not in ways I had not anticipated. I’ve done my best to keep it all going, finding more creative ways to reach our youth and community while working nights.

There have been plenty of days where I would wake up and realize that facing the day meant having to talk about domestic violence…again. It meant I had to share my personal story again. It meant I had to remember and feel again.

There is no way to even discuss the mission of Forget Me Not without sharing my story. There is no way to answer the woman who says, “So, how do address the women who stays with an abuser because the “make-up” is so good?” without feeling a little bit defensive. And, I have yet to find a way to not make a face when someone proudly states that they would “never allow a man to touch” them.

But there is so much more. When you share your story, others come to you with their story. You become a safe haven because they know that you will not judge them. You hear of their struggles, their heartache, and their loss. You hold their hand (even if figuratively) as they struggle with depression and anxiety or while they are contemplating suicide. You do your best to guide them as they struggle with addiction, self-loathing, anger, and bitterness. You “walk” with them as they go to court, face their abusers, and fight for their children.

You watch people pull away at the mention of domestic violence. You stand by and bite your tongue when someone says “You’re cause just is not as important to people as what I’m working for.” You listen as young girls claim, through giggles, that it will never happen to them and you know that it will happen to so many of them. You know their suffering before it even comes to be. You feel for them as you remember your own pain. And, all the while, you are still healing, learning to deal with triggers, and fighting your own demons.

It all takes a toll. By not sharing my story all the time, my life just might be a lot easier. But then again, it is by sharing that I can inspire others and be the change I want to see.


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