By Rachel Miller, See the Triumph Contributor
Hold the vision. Trust the process.
This has been my mantra for almost eight years. There were days when I first left my abusive marriage when I wasn’t even sure what the vision was, let alone felt able to trust any process, but I repeated these words to myself daily. Early in my recovery there were days where the only vision I was capable of holding was getting through the day. Every good day was a triumph. Over time little triumphs, the guidance of an amazing therapist, and support of people who loved me, provided me with the mental space for a bigger vision. As I healed, the vision became clearer, broader, and my ability to trust the process grew. As my self-worth increased, I began to believe that I was worthy of my vision, a key triumph, as my fellow survivors will attest.
When I was asked if I would be willing to contribute a piece around the theme of “My Triumphs,” I admit to being hesitant. It felt a bit like being asked to toot my own horn. This is a thing I have yet to triumph over. I am still not great at celebrating myself or my successes, much to the frustration of those who love me. As I thought about my reluctance, I also thought about how many triumphs I have experienced, both big and small. I thought about how inspired I have been by the triumphant stories of other survivors. I concluded that if I was truly okay with telling my story, I needed to be able to tell my whole story up to and including my triumphs.
Earlier this year, I entered a courtroom, without a lawyer, sat in an enclosed space with my abuser, and did not have a panic attack. A small triumph to some, but for me this was huge. I kept my power, used my voice, and remained fully present in the moment. Those survivors who struggle with PTSD, like me, will understand the magnitude of this. For those who are struggling to get here, hold the vision, trust the process. It is possible.
I got married this spring to an amazing man who not only supports me in my big vision, he does everything in his power to make sure I can and do stay the course. His steadfast faith in me, my vision, and my abilities, carries me through the days I struggle to have faith in myself. Having a healthy relationship, one that my kids can and want to emulate, is a triumph. Knowing my kids understand the difference between healthy and toxic relationships, that they know their worth, and know I know mine are also triumphs. There are plenty of statistics around how often women who leave abusive relationships tend to find themselves in another. There are even more around what happens to children who are exposed to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). My children and I triumph over those statics every day.
So what is this big vision of mine? Progress towards it is probably the triumph of which I am most proud. I began working towards this vision six years ago when trying to find a competent therapist for my children. I quickly realized how little training mental health practitioners receive around the topic of IPV. What is taught is around not treating actively violent couples, helping victims leave, and some trauma training around working with survivors. All of this takes place within other classes in a packed two-year curriculum. I had already decided to go back to school to earn my bachelor’s degree, but quickly realized that to impact therapists’ training, or to develop the training they needed, I was going to need more. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in 2015. In July, I graduated with my Master of Arts degree in Couple and Family Therapy. In September I began my PhD program where I plan to focus my dissertation on the unidentified therapeutic needs of IPV survivors and their children who are required by family courts to maintain contact with their abuser.
I downplayed these triumphs, I admit. I suspect in part because I have yet to reach the final goal. But I realize I need to take the advice I so often give my clients and celebrate my triumphs along the way. If we don’t take a few moments to celebrate how far we’ve come, it can be easy to get discouraged in how far it feels like we still have to go. Regardless of how big or small your triumph, stop where you are, look at where you started and acknowledge your successes. You are making it through the day? Go you! You are attending therapy sessions? That’s huge! You are avoiding taking the bait and jumping into the drama triangle? Yay! You are showering and feeding yourself or your kids today? Congratulations!
These triumphs may feel like precariously placed Jenga pieces on top of a base full of holes, but each one is brick in the foundation of your future. They are yours to keep, to build on, and to use to keep you moving forward. No triumph after abuse is too small to celebrate. Every goal achieved deserves to be acknowledged.
Wherever you are in your journey, I celebrate you. Whatever goals you’re working towards, I am cheering you on. Whenever you need inspiration and motivation seek out others who are doing what it is you want to do to remind yourself it can be done. Create your vision. Hold onto it. Trust the process. Celebrate your triumphs.