Making my way back to life

My personal trauma led me to wallow in failure but I learnt that what did not kill me made me stronger instead

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After the sadness came clouds of joy

It has been about six years since the trauma that forever changed me took place.

Years of physical, mental and emotional abuse by a loved one had taken a slow and sure toll on my life. My personal life was advertsly affected and relationships became strained as I was estranged from people because I found it hard to tell them what was going on. Work life was slowly turning bad as occasional phone calls that led to accusations and threats started making their way onto my work phone.

One of these conversations turned into a volley of screams and threats and a colleague who was near my cubicle heard what was going on and ‘invented’ a meeting for me to attend so that I could hang up the phone. I was eternally grateful to her.

Fears of shame and loss of face prevented me from talking about the matter. When I broached the subject subtly to a friend earlier, he said in jest (I hoped): “What kind of guy would let someone like that walk over him? Must be a wimp.” So I suffered in silence instead.

Then one day I could not handle it any more. Earlier that day, an innocent e-mail led to an argument which in turn led to me being hit repeatedly. I walked out the next day and did not return.

I soon spiralled into depression and needed counselling. I lost my appetite and started losing weight. I started having suicidal thoughts too and had to struggle to get them out of my head.

In time, I realised that I neeed help and reached out to a trusted friend and his wife, whom I had known since we were young kids. Both of them listened with shock and said that I had done the right thing. They then took it upon themselves to counsel me and nurse me back to emotional, physical and mental health, and linked me up with others who helped me along the road to recovery.

Soon, I began the long process of looking inwards to doscover my true self. The years of painful submission had eroded my self-confidence and turned me from hero to zero. I had once been a joyful and talkative extrovert but then turned into a withdrawn silent shell of my former self.

I cannot remember where I saw the letters YOLO – You Only Live Once. But those four letters marked the beginning of my road to recovery. The loving couple, who patiently endured my angry taunts and screams as they ministered to me, also said that I was “fearfully anfd wonderfully made” by a loving God who knew everything about me even before I was born, and He was always walking with me through my suffering. They shared with me about how His own son had suffered cruelly on earth and died on a cross to show His love for us and that He would always be with me thright all my joys and sorrows.

“Your past does not define you. Now take this chance and reinvent yourswlf to be ther person that you were meant to be,” they told me.

My pastor had also been a rock of strength and I will never forget the conviction he showed as he reached out to me and welcomed me as a friend instead of a parishioner. With a mix of folksy wisdom coupled with firm and no-nonsence advice, he never judged me but instead guided me to recovery through showing me his life and that of his own family.

Slowly but surely, I made the baby steps to take back control of my life. I attended courses on learning to be more assertive and also began to pay more attention to my self image. I worked with an image consultant to improve my wardrobe and learnt how to project my voice to be more confident and assertive without being pushy or clingy.

The couple also did not let me fall prey to self-pity. When they noticed that I was falling prey to a discouraging thought, they called me out to debunk it and showed me how to replace my thoughts with positive affirmation. “I’m not good enough” became “I haven’t got the skills fot this yet but I am learning them now.” and “It’s hopeless.” became “Nothing is impossible. The words say I’m possible.” (thanks to Audrey Hepburn for the last quote).

I read voraciously and took up language courses in Spanish and Chinese. also took an acting class for the fun of it (and enjoyed it very much too), I also began to join social sites and meet new people who expanded my network and exposed me to new opinions and more varied ways of thinking. It was like an atomic explosion had taken place in my mind, heart and soul.

Taking the YOLO part to heart, I also decided to face my fears and took part in a Giant Swing and Reverse Bungy so that I could push my limits and find out what I was really capable of. I would be lying if I said I was not scared at first, but right up to the last few minutes, I seriously considered pulling out. But I went ahead and took the plunges anyway, and was I glad that I did! My heart rate went up and I screamed my lungs out but it was all worjt it!

Today, I am not the same person that I was those years ago. Thanks to the loving counsel of my dear friend and his wife, my pastor and his wife, as well as the many friends I cam across along the way, I am confidently moving along the path to becoming the person I was meant to be. I am by n means complete, and I am a work in progress, but I no longet live in fear and now look expectantly to the challenges and joys of each new day.

What did not kill me made me stronger instead. My experiences have given me greater empathy and compassion and I can now understand and relate to te suffering and difficulties of others better, a quality many of my friends have attested to. I now want to share my experiences and resilience to help others, and am actively looking for opportunities to do so.

Where once there was fear and death, I now face a future that is filled with courage and life! My mind and spirit have been stretched and they can never return to what they were before. I am in a better and happier place, thanks to all the help that I have received.

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