I’m sure that you already know Cinderella’s story, but just for review: she was a girl who worked her ass off to survive an abusive childhood, grew into womanhood by herself, leveraged some weird friends, found freedom using pretty creative tactics, and finally showed up at a ball, fell in love, and began a new life. My story isn’t that different from hers.
I was raised by a sexually abusive father and an economically and emotionally codependent mother. Additionally, I suffered from a digestive disease and epileptic seizures until I was five years old. This meant that I was made to believe from a very young age that I had no control, was worthless, worthy of abuse, and that I would never be able to leave. As I grew into womanhood, I knew cognitively that none of the former were true: in fact, I was in control, I was worthy, strong, intelligent, and capable. But the neurological pathways of my past continued to haunt my present: they made me depressed, anxious, sick, and fatigued, and I needed to recover.
For the past ten years, I have picked, and purged, and processed my pain mostly alone. I used tools like EMDR, Acupuncture, psychological, spiritual, and physical therapies, medications, meditation, Reiki, and nutrition and exercise routines to support my brain, body, and being in their natural healing processes. I came out of this decade of diligence feeling like a overused rag doll- recovering memories, reclaiming identities, and re-purposing my life left me tired and tattered. It was clear to me now that I needed time to recover from recovery.
After #MeToo went viral about a year ago, I began sharing my experience of incest and illness recovery by writing a blog called Blue&Lavender. I began to connect to the survivor community to both contribute my story to the movement, as well as better understand how to manage the transition from survivor to thriver. I had spent so much time surviving and recovering, I wasn’t sure how to live a new life without the abuse or the work to heal from it. I needed some guidance.
I didn’t have talking mice, or singing birds, or pumpkins that turned into a carriage to support me in my transition into a new and better life, but I did find a few mentors who had made the transition themselves and were able to walk me through it. Eventually, I happened upon an organization called SheRecovers– a group that leads conferences and retreats to support women in recovery from anything: abuse, addiction, eating disorders, etc. There was a conference coming up in LA at the Beverly Hilton Hotel with speakers, breakout sessions, and even a ball, and I was dying to attend.
Like Cinderella, I did not have the right socioeconomic resources to get me there. But also like her, I did have a fairy godmother who showed up just at the right time and used some magic spells so that I could attend the ball. From the abundance of the SheRecovers community, I was offered a scholarship. I went to the conference last weekend carrying the question in my heart: Where do I go from here? I knew that I wanted to contribute my hope for healing to the world, I knew that I needed to find work that would support me financially, and I knew that I was still very ragged and in need of rest. My goal when I jumped on that airplane to go to LA was simply to be nourished with an open heart and to receive whatever wisdom would guide me into a new life.
Throughout the weekend, I received and received and received. I was in awe of the confidence, collaboration, and courage of the women who took the stage to share their stories just to help other women conquer their own. The ball was on Saturday night. I walked into the venue where the Golden Globes were held in my high school winter formal dress that barely still fit me because I couldn’t afford to buy a new one and immediately experienced a sudden reframe in rape recovery: it was time now for recovery to be beautiful.
Recovery in this setting wasn’t about fixing myself in an isolated environment, it was about discovering myself and my talents in a safe community of others doing the same thing. Here women were given standing ovations no matter if they had been in recovery for 5 days, 5 months, or 5 years. Here women were encouraged to recover out loud. Here, recovery was rich with reasons to continue to live and to do so fully.
I realized at the SheRecovers conference that I could rest and continue to contribute my story simultaneously. Recovery no longer would require the rag doll work ethic, but now was inviting me to be a member of a court of queens, intentionally leaving glass slippers of wisdom all around the world so that others might find them, and then find us. This was the moment I fell in love, this was my point of no return- there was no time limit, no clock that would strike midnight, and no magic that would wear off- there was only the truths that recovery is real, that it is beautiful, and that it should be a source of celebration every single day within a loving community.
Thank you, ladies, for helping me to shift rape recovery from an experience of rags to riches. Like Cinderella, I, too, am ready to embrace the beauty of my new life.