By Darby Munroe, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
I am a Domestic Violence survivor. Every day is an act of survival, even years later. I have PTSD from what I experienced, from what was forced on me. Even though I am relatively safe now, I have to overcome triggers and reactions that debilitate me in my daily life. Being out a few years, I look back and celebrate the courage it took to leave, to fight for my and my child’s safety, to stand up for myself, and to have a voice. The decisions and actions I make everyday increase my independence, increase the control I have over my own life, and are minute-by-minute victories. Some days, getting a full night of sleep or washing the dishes are great accomplishments. Other days, just recognizing and acknowledging my struggles, where they come from, and allowing myself to rest and process those issues are huge accomplishments.
Prior to the trauma, I had grown up in what I thought was a loving family. I was adopted, but my parents never really understood me, supported me, or allowed me to be myself. They were doing their best, but expected me to meet their needs, instead of them meeting mine. It wasn’t exactly healthy, but it was all I knew. What I didn’t know was who I was, what I wanted with my life, or how to get there. I spent my 20’s bouncing from job to job, having adventures, or anything that might make me feel true to myself. I was passionate about helping at-risk youth. I was a teacher and was working toward a master’s degree. Then, my ex came along. He appealed to my passion for helping kids in need. He attacked my most valuable asset, my mind. He was so charming and persuasive and had me convinced to compromise values, my beliefs, and myself. He saw my potential and aimed to subdue it, as if it were something to be conquered.
I recognize all of these unhealthy patterns, and know how to set healthy boundaries now. I am able to quickly identify what triggers me and move on. I went from survive to thrive. In the few years I have been out, I got re-certified to teach, earned two master’s degrees, got my dream teaching job, and am working toward a doctorate degree. I do have accommodations to help my performance in all of these because of my PTSD. In the near future, I am going to start a non-profit for advocacy and education. I want to help kids with high ACE scores and DV survivors, and teach high conflict parenting courses. I want to train teachers to work with kids who have experienced trauma, which is 1 in 4 kids. Domestic violence, abuse and neglect all show up in the classroom as behavior and learning problems. I have found meaning in what I went through, and I am taking that and using it to help others who are going through the same thing.
Once I got out, and things calmed down, I found a great art therapist who does EMDR. For the first time in my life, I am really getting to know and understand myself. I acknowledge my history and its role in my story. I have accepted that I will never get back to the way things were before, and that I have changed. But these things help me to empathize and relate to my son, the students that I work with, and the women that I advocate for. I am embracing myself, loving others, and spreading hope. This is what triumph over abuse is to me.
Darby Munroe, M.Ed. is an educator and advocate who works with at-risk youth, children with high ACE scores, and abuse victims. She teaches math during the day, and high conflict parenting classes at night. She lives with her son in a small South Florida coastal town where they love to create art, go to the beach, hike, kayak, and have adventures.