When Your Life Burns Down

This week, one of my articles was published over on the site XOJane.com. I didn’t even know it was going to be run this week, so I was a little caught off guard when my blog started filling up with comments from people all over the world who had made their way over to my site. When I went to the actual XOJane site, I was floored at the comments. Not only were there hundreds of them, but most of them were so freaking nice. Praise was tossed around, sprinkled heavily with the words “inspiration, so strong, proud, amazing,” and many, many, more. I am absolutely mind boggled. People, can we talk about pressure? 
I look at people fighting cancer with a smile on their face and I think “inspiration.” I look at myself and I think “my gosh people, do not follow the path that I have! It is littered with bad decision’s and regrettable choices!”

When my ex first left, I was constantly surprised at what people said to me. “I don’t know how you do it. You must be so strong.” “I can’t believe everything you have gone through, what an amazing person you are.” “You are an inspiration to us all.”

First of all, being an inspiration to anyone is a tough label to live up too. For a long time I felt like I couldn’t show weakness. That if anyone saw my cracks, it would look like I was failing to live up to the standards that they had set for me and I really didn’t want anyone to see me as the failure that deep down, I truly thought I was. Secondly, do you know what “I can’t believe what you have gone through, you are so strong” really means? It means “Hey, your life seriously sucks and we can’t believe you are still alive and waking up every morning!” Fun.
I know that everyone was, and is, being nice, but in the beginning, it was hard to hear. I remember running into someone at the store one day probably about a month after my ex had left. She walked up to me, looked me up and down, and exclaimed “You look great!” I remember telling her “I’m wearing a hoodie, my hair is in a messy bun, and I’ve had the same jeans on for three days straight.” She replied “I know, but like, here you are, out and about, fully dressed and everything!” Fully dressed!? Have you seen me wandering around half naked before!? Because if so, I would like to find out who the designated driver was that night and kill him. She was sweet and she said something to the effect of  “No honey, its just that we all know what you have been through and we are so proud of you for getting up every morning, holding it together, and carrying on.” I thanked her and spent the next few days thinking about how everyone else was thinking about how much my life sucked.
You see, as most of you know by now, my life has never really been warm fuzzies, rainbows, and butterfly’s. By society’s standards, it has downright sucked.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. A few years ago, I knew how much it sucked. After escaping an abusive childhood, even my abusive husband had abandoned me. I was losing my home, I had no money, no job, no parents to help me, and I didn’t have a clue what to do about it. I remember saying over and over that my life had literally burned down around me. I was keenly aware of just how very much I had been jilted in the “life benefits” department and I had had enough. I was tired. I was just so tired of wading through the muck and the slime that was my life. I was tired of trying. It wasn’t that I thought things would never get better, it was just that I was so tired of trying to get to that better place. So tired of being knocked down. So tired of trying to get back up. So tired of just remembering to breathe. It hurt. Every breath reminding me that I had spent one more second hurting from the depths of my soul. 
A few weeks after my ex left, I found myself sitting at the kitchen table with a knife. I slid it across my wrist and I watched the blood leak out. I wasn’t intending to kill myself, it wasn’t deep enough to really harm me, I just sort of wanted to test out what it might feel like. It felt like nothing. I remember looking at it in shock and horror as I realized that it didn’t hurt. I didn’t even feel it. I was in so much pain, all the time, that I had reached my limit. 
I had reached the limit of pain that a human could feel and nothing else could hurt anymore than everything that already was.
“Why bother,” I thought to myself. Why bother trying to go on? Why endure one more day of this? I wanted what everyone else had. I wanted the family. I wanted to feel special. I wanted to know that I was important. I wanted to know that I was wanted, that the world needed me. I wanted to know that there was a reason I was enduring this. Please God, let there be a reason! Don’t make my life, my pain, in vain. Please, someone tell me it will all be worth it.
That day was a pivotal moment for me. I was at the crossroads. Make a decision, either way, in which direction I was going to take my life. If I was going to stay where I was, smothered in pain, then I didn’t need to bother trying, and I didn’t need to go on. Or, I could take what I had, make the bright spots brighter, soldier on, and not look back. Stop carrying all the hurt and the pain with me and let it go. The walk of life is hard and it need not be burdened by carrying around the trauma’s of a painful past.
I wish I could explain why I chose what I did, but I can’t. I just remember thinking that there had to be a reason why I was going through this. That every life has a meaning and I owed it to mine to stick around and find out what that meaning was. To give myself that gift of knowing, before I died, that I did have a place in this world. That my life was created for a purpose and that my pain was not in vain.
I remember sitting there and having almost this moment of clarity, like my “ah ha” moment. How could I find my purpose when I was so bogged down by pain, trauma, bitterness, and anger? I couldn’t. I needed to let it go. I needed to accept what was and to make peace with it.
I didn’t want to be that old bitter woman, who has had nothing but an angry life. Bitterness is a shell that forms over you when your wall of anger is so thick that it can no longer be penetrated. Anger is a defensive emotion. It is easy to feel angry because it gives you a feeling of power. When someone hurts you, it is easier to be angry with them, with the situation, than to let your defenses down and admit that you have been hurt. That you feel betrayed. That you are sad. Instead, the defenses go up and you feel angry. Anger can protect you from some situations and some people, but it can also bury you alive. You will get lost in it, and it will steal your joy.
I needed to let the anger go. I needed to be ok with the fact that everyone in my life who was supposed to protect me, was supposed to have loved me, had failed me. I was a failed child, I was a failed wife, but I would not have a failed life.
I needed to be ok with who I was. I needed to love myself so that others could love me too. I needed to reaffirm what I had promised myself as a child, that even if I never had another person in this world see how special I was, that I would be ok with being special enough for myself, so I set the anger down. I looked over the entirety of my life experiences, I saw how very much I had missed out on, and it fucking hurt like hell. But then I looked ahead. I looked at what could be. I looked at what I wanted and I decided to keep going.
So I’m going, everyday. I don’t know where I’m going and I don’t know where I’ll end up, but day by day, I’m finding my joy. I’m clinging to my happiness, I’m putting forth my smile, and I am enjoying what I have. There are days where I still break out into the ugly cry, make-up running down my cheeks, knees to my chest, head buried in my arms, the whole deal. There are still days that I still ask why and as you can all see from this blog, I am still dealing with quite a few trust issues, but I am still going and I don’t intend to stop.
I wouldn’t change my past. I wish it didn’t hurt so bad, but I have learned so much. I’m working with other survivors and I’m loving it. When an opportunity came along to found a not-for-profit to help other survivors, I jumped all over it. I’m seeing where the good is coming out of a painful life. I think I might have finally found my purpose in this world. Maybe the path I’ve walked, wasn’t about me. Maybe the path I was chosen for, was really about others. If walking through the trauma’s was the only way to make a change for someone else, I’ll take it. I’ll make it my purpose and I’ll do it with a smile.

Inspiration? Hardly not. I’m just making the best out of a broken life. Sometimes you have to reach the end before you can start over at the beginning. Sometimes, you just become so smothered in the pain, the heartache, the brokenness, that it is hard to see beyond it. Sometimes you have to get to that point where your entire life has burned down around you to really be able to see the sky and start fresh. Like an overgrown forest, smothered to the point where the sun no longer shines through it, nothing can grow there except for mold and weeds at the bottom, but when fire takes hold and the forest is burned down, everything is cleared. The smothering cover over a dark and gloomy world is gone. Things start fresh, and flowers grow from the ashes because they can finally see the light. Beauty blooms in the cracks of life.
I will rise from the ashes, because this is my life. I will rise stronger, and brighter, and moving upwards.

This is my life and it is the only life that I will ever have.

       It may be a life less than perfect, but it is a life no less important.

               It may be a life less than ideal, but I will make it a life no less enjoyed.

You can read the article that spurred this post, over at XOJane, by clicking here

Photo Credit Canceled Dreams: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cdevers/
Photo Credit Flower: http://www.flickr.com/photos/goodfeeling/
Photo Credit Crying: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zanten/
Photo Credit Rain: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pejrm/
Photo Credit Pressure Gauge: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwarby/

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  • Anonymous
    December 27, 2013 at 11:59 am

    There was one bitterly freezing day where, in the depths of my pain, I actually did wander outside ready to (try my best to) face the world, so confused about why my legs felt so cold… until I realized I hadn't remembered to put on pants.At which point, there was nothing left to do but laugh.Well, and go back inside to finish getting dressed :PI always thought there'd be one lowest moment, something I could point to later and say, “this was me at my worst, it's all been an improvement from here.” That's the narrative we get over and over, people hit bottom and then start climbing. I've found, instead, that life is a bunch of not-particularly-comparable moments. There's all sorts of highs and lows, and I can't really compare some of my own experiences to each other in some ordered, worst-to-best manner, never mind comparing the hurt of others. I mean, I'm sure some people do have a lowest low; the trope has to have come from somewhere.I don't really know where I'm going with this. It's the holidays and I haven't managed to cut out the family I was born to yet, haven't managed to sort out whether in my case that'd be a good idea or not, I'm sitting next to my abused and abusive mother and it's just sort of been a rough week. I taught her the term “gaslighting” a couple of days ago, and it was clearly so freeing to her to know there's a word for this phenomenon (even as she sort of laughs about it, that's how she processes things), and yet she doesn't realize even with the language to describe it that she continues to do this to me.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 27, 2013 at 8:40 am

      Oh gosh, sorry to laugh but that is funny! After I had my daughter, I was so exhausted one morning I went to the store with my shirt on backwards and no shoes, and only realized it when feeling rather proud that the two of us were out and about, I checked myself out in a store window and realized my errors. Nice

      I agree with the highs and lows, for me they seem to come in waves. I will think I’m doing good for a while, and then boom, a wave of grief and trauma’s wash over me. I had a new particular low in October when I was raped. But as far as making the decision on how I was going to proceed with my life, that kind of hit me all at once. Maybe you haven’t had your moment yet, maybe you never will. Only time will tell!

      I just had to google the term “gaslighting,” and OH MY GOSH!!! Hello my life!!

      Sending you a great big hug today. I don’t know where you are, but it’s foggy and grey here today, so I am sending you a smile as well 🙂

  • Anonymous
    December 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Hello. Wonderful writing here and on xo. I consider you amazing because you chose not to become bitter. You are feeding the wolf of Light, and that makes you a rare and shining gem. Also like a gemstone, the occlusions are not flaws, they give depth of color and range of texture to your glow. I wish I had video of one of my dearest friends assuming a rockstar stance and belting out in his best Grace Jones, “My life's not perfect…but it's perfect for me!”. I think it would make you smile. I think you are inspiring because your indomitable spirit leaps from the screen and into the souls of your readers. Your story is an alternate universe, an alternative to the grim misery of sticking around to be a source of narcissistic supply forever. You are proving that yes, you can step away from abuse and make a new start on your own terms. That choice is monumental enough to inspire people who are local to you. Coupled with your powerful writing style and publishing–well, that makes your personal journey archetypal. You are plucking strings that resonate and swell the heart and motivate positive action.Pressure? Ugh…i guess it could be a bit like Nirvana getting so popular it drove Kurt nuts…or you can go the Marianne Williamson route and realize you were born for unique greatness, “a child of god”, that it doesn't serve anyone for you to remain small. Your voice telling your experiences is enough. That in itself is great. And other people are finding their own inner voice by hearing your public one…one step closer to making their own emancipation proclamation!I have decided it is one of my callings to figure out the alchemy of when a traumatized person decides to choose life. What makes us turn that toxic lead of our poisoned past into gold? What components, what procedure is there? How does one want to want to get better? not everyone does! Your essays are a rich source for this project. Thank you so much for starting this blog, submitting your article to xo, and just plain keepin' on keepin' on!Love and light,Cat

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 27, 2013 at 8:50 am

      Ok, first off, I am going to have a hard time doubting anything you say, because you sound EXTREMELY smart. You use very large words that put my raw writing style sprinkled with swears, to shame lol.

      Secondly, thank you so very much! I hope my writing reaches people, there are so many out there, myself included, that are lost in this great big world.

      I am glad you have found your way here, and I look forward to hearing more of your insights. I hope you find something on here that serves your life’s calling 😉

      I always tell the survivors that I work with, the age old saying, that the only difference between a piece of coal and a priceless diamond, is how much pressure it has endured.

      I hope I make it through my polishing 🙂

  • Deborah Moore
    December 27, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    <3 You are MY hero. Forever and Always.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 27, 2013 at 8:55 am


  • Anonymous
    December 27, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    You are an inspiration to all and I wish you great success with your not for profit and helping other who have been hurt as you have.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 27, 2013 at 11:27 am

      Thank you <3

  • Anonymous
    December 27, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Life experiences make us who we are today. I'm sorry that you have gone through so much. On a smaller level, I can relate but things did eventually get better for me. Your trials, abuse and neglect make it so that you can relate to those you are trying to help – and good for you for turning those experiences into something that WILL help someone else. Thank God you made the right choice…. not only for you but for your children and those you help. †

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 27, 2013 at 11:27 am

      Thank you!! I am often reminded of Genesis 50:20 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” I love your little cross symbol, I want to learn how to make that!

  • NotMyShametoBear
    December 30, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Aw hun, I just love you lol. I was just telling my attorney the other day that I could not wrap my head around the fact that so many people were reading the blog, that why on earth would anyone care what I have to say. He told me I would always feel like that no matter how many people told me otherwise.

    It is crazy to me, I’ll admit. I see so many sweet comments on here, and I’m not going to lie, I do love them, but it’s like…I don’t know. I’m sitting on my couch, eating gluten free cookies from the food pantry, in my pajama’s, after I spent all day scrubbing houses, feeling defeated by the day and my exhaustion, writing to you all, and the fact that what is coming out is anything that anyone would want to read, it is mind boggling to say the least!

    I may never understand how I can be an inspiration, but I’m starting to realize that at least I can hopefully make a difference.

    Thank you for your time in writing to me hun.

  • Anonymous
    December 30, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Much love to you in your journey. How would I make a donation to your nonprofit?Thanks

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 30, 2013 at 2:41 am

      Aw, thanks love. That’s actually a good question. When I started this blog, I was ready to promote the heck out of it here, but then I realized that my face is plastered all over the not-for-profit, and so that would be a bit hard to do anonymously. When dealing with the not for profit, I admit that yes, I am an abuse and rape survivor, but I tend to not give details. Here, I let it all hang out. I have no problem owning my past, but my kids are attached to me. This horrible ex that I speak of, this is their “father.” This is also their life, and these are their stories to understand in their own time, in their own way, and share when and if they are ready. So in order to protect them, I don’t know how I would take a donation.

      I would urge and thank you, for making a donation to your local rape crisis center. I can ask my attorney about setting up a legitimate fund for it that is not linked directly to it (you aren’t the only one what has asked this), but I don’t have any idea how that would work.

      That was a long winded answer to a short question, sorry about that! And thank you so much for your generosity. You have a good heart and I am happy you have found your way here. 🙂


  • Levita Gonzalez
    December 30, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    I just read the article and I have to agree with you. There are portions of my family that I don't have anything to do with, even if a very beloved grandmother tries to push it….I have discovered that family is what you make when you wander this wide world. I have a family, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews who are not blood related but I would move mountains for them. Thank you for writing your blogg I appreciate it very much. I have my own closet and quite frankly I am not brave enough to air it out but seeing you air yours makes me feel like maybe some day I could.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 30, 2013 at 5:34 am

      I’m happy that you got something out of the article 🙂 I’m even happier that you have found your family, they are lucky to have someone who would be willing to move mountains for them!

      Next time you are near the closet, look around, you will see my hand waving at you in the dark. I’m so happy you are here 🙂

  • Ruth Cooke
    December 31, 2013 at 1:45 am

    With regards to something you said at the beginning of the post, where you label those fighting cancer (as an example) as “inspiration,” but you warn others not to follow in your path. It sounds to me like sometimes you might feel like the praise you're getting is undeserved, so I'd like to offer these thoughts to (I hope) encourage you:Anyone I know who is successful at anything has felt like a fraud at some point. I fight with this all the time: “If only they knew the truth about me. I've made so many mistakes!”I don't really find folks who haven't made any mistakes in their lives to be inspiring. It's one thing to do well in life when you've lived all your life with the advantages of wealth and education and loving parents and suchlike. It's far, far more inspiring to see someone making something of their life who's had to actually struggle for it. It makes it seem more possible that I, too, might succeed.You'll have setbacks–with two kids, that's pretty much guaranteed. (Actually, the fact that you're still breathing in and out guarantees future setbacks…). But you've got what it takes to succeed as a parent, as a survivor of abuse, as an advocate for survivors of abuse. Go you!

  • NotMyShametoBear
    December 31, 2013 at 5:04 am

    I am so happy you have found your way here, and I can’t wait to continue along this journey with you. I hope life has smoothed out for you, and above all that you are happy. 😉 ((HUGS))

  • Skol
    December 31, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Hi there, and thanks for your honesty, it is refreshing.I must tell you about a brief period in my life. It followed a longer period of being a heroin addict, it was my recovery. Whilst in the throes of re-finding myself, I attended a rehab, full of others of my ilk. On a daily basis I would witness the tales of honest folk that had nowhere to go but upwards and onwards in their lives, that were at once chilling and inspiring. As they say/ the truth will set you free. Especially accepting your own truth.Your truth belies that warming notion. God bless.

  • JyllianM
    January 6, 2014 at 3:06 am

    I want to thank you for what you've written and I'll be back to read you. I have separated from my family once for 5 years, once for 7 and this year had to do it again. It was easier when we didn't live in the same town. It's difficult and confusing and has been a problem for many many years. I so appreciate reading what you wrote.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 5, 2014 at 11:04 am

      Aw thanks Jyllian! I am so glad you have found your way here 🙂 I’m so sorry to hear that you are going through that crazy rollercoaster with your family. I hope that you find this as a place of support during your own journey, I am truly happy to have you along for the ride in mine 🙂

      If you want, you can subscribe to the blog on the right hand side of your screen, then you will know when a new post is put up. I am loving hearing all of the advice and insight from others who are going through what we are. Maybe you would like to share, maybe you would like to listen, either way, all are welcome 🙂

  • Anonymous
    January 9, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    Whoa. I just read your XOJane post, which is how I got here. That post resonated a lot with me. I'm so sorry for what you went through, and so proud of you for now being free.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 10, 2014 at 8:03 am

      I’m glad that you found something that you could relate too. Well, glad in a “Im sorry you have had your own struggles” kind of way.

      I hope that you continue to visit, I would love to have you along for the journey!

  • Anonymous
    January 29, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Sounds like you are not aware of what “inspiration” means. 😀 I have had the worst year of my life last year, I have never been so low. I had somebody I loved beyond words die in my arms, lost a loving and caring relationship and was abandoned by my soulmate in a moment of weakness. Seriously, compared to your old life, it was a piece of cake. Because I have a family that tries their best for me, albeit not being an easy set of people. I have friends who took shifts watching over me when they found out I started hurting myself. I have an ex-boyfriend, who did and still does everything for me. I have a bright future, am just about to finish medschool. I have never ever been abused or mistreated by anyone. I seriously live on a smooth path. Still, what happened was too much for me and I pretty much snapped. Since last summer I have been busy picking up the pieces and forcing myself to go on.And then I read stories like this and think I could just slap myself for being such a crybaby. 😀 And I feel if I, being weak as I am, can take from these stories just one tiny piece of your strength, then there's nothing I have to fear. So I do not want to put any pressure on you. But: You are such an inspiration. Not DESPITE of the bad decisions or regrettable choices you made. But BECA– USE you have lived through everything that went wrong, regardless if you could have chosen better or not. Because you got up every time, no matter how long it took you. And BECA– USE you were desperate at times and were about to give up.Everybody makes stupid and wrong decisions at times, but you have to make the best of what you get. I can't fathom what people go through that have been as badly abused and let down as you were. But seeing that life isn't over after all hell has been unleashed is one hell of an inspiration!

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 29, 2014 at 7:00 am

      Wow, I can’t imagine losing someone that I loved. I’ve also had my heartbroken by someone I loved that hurt in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I think there are so many different versions of hell. I’m so sorry that you had to go through that, but I am so thankful you had people around to pick you up when you needed it.

      You have been through A LOT. You are still going, and that’s an inspiration to me. So there, we can be equal haha.

      I am so glad that you have found your way here, and I hope you stick around. There are so many smart people in the comments section that have gone through their own troubles, and its great to know that others have made it to the other side.

      Sending you a GREAT BIG HUG!!!

      Smile, you deserve it.

  • Anonymous
    April 27, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    I came to similar crossroads, just before the holidays…Continue living as a completely unhappy person, continuing a crappy cycle, and my kids growing up thinking I am a bitter old woman, OR changing my life, so my kids don't grow up thinking that this is how life is, how Girls should be treated. I wanted to give them a chance of knowing the loving person I am, and acknowledging there is a reason why we are together. That is how I found you, Eden…From the bottom of my heart, Thank You, Lovely Lady!

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 27, 2014 at 5:28 am

      I’m glad you found me 🙂


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