My Independence Day – My Story of Domestic Abuse

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As I write this, we are hours away from Independence Day and it’s always a bitter sweet day for me. July 4, 2008 was the day I reclaimed my independence

I make reference to domestic abuse, domestic violence, PTSD and the violence against women act in various social media channels I am present in – but I haven’t really spoken openly about it in a public forum to any great degree, but 5 years on from my independence day, I feel like it’s a  fitting time to open up.

Last weekend my story was written and published by a London journalist and featured in the Sunday newspaper (see below) – this was the very first time my story was shared outside of my immediate family and friends. It hurts to read and I know neither my husband or my parents have read it and I understand why, but it isn’t something I am ashamed of, it is something I gained from.

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On July 4, 2008 I left my, now, ex-husband. Saying “I left him” takes away the emotion and the drama – what you don’t read in those words “I left” is the angst, fear, pain and suffering. My story of abuse is much like what many other women are dealing with – chances are you know someone who is dealing with abuse at home, it could be your mother, your sister, your best friend, the girl in the office, your daughter,  or it’s you. We, the victims, or survivors, hide abuse well, our abusers hide it even better. We feel ashamed, we feel like failures, like we are letting everyone down, like it’s our fault. When I left my ex-husband, I was running, literally running for my life, running for help, terrified, terrified, that July 4, 2008 was going to be the night he actually took that last step in the familiar abuse pattern, and killed me.

At the hands of my abuser, my husband, the man I loved, I was psychologically tortured every day for over 2 years – living on a knife edge, walking on egg  shells, never knowing when the explosion would happen and what it would be. I was strangled, kicked, thrown out the house, humiliated in front of friends and strangers. I was chased down and dragged down the street. My belongings were destroyed or thrown in the trash when I didn’t ‘behave’. Walls were punched inches from my head. I was held down, strangled and raped. This was, what he called love. I tried to leave, I left 6 times, he talked me home every time, with tears, apologies and promises. I believed him. I loved him. I was embarrassed.

I have been diagnosed with PTSD. A lot of people don’t realize that mental and emotional abuse can damage you, affect you that badly to leave you with post-traumatic stress disorder – but it can, and it does. My abuse is over, my abuser far away, but the trauma hasn’t gone away, including frequent nightmares, night sweats, crying, screaming and panic attacks in my sleep. It took me 4 years of therapy to be able to speak with emotion about what happened – for years I was clinical in my explanation of what happened, cold, I took out the emotion because I didn’t know how to process it. I saw myself outside of my own body. 5 years on, I can now connect me, with the facts and the emotion.

5 years seems so long ago, yet I remember every minute of that night vividly.

It’s times like those, that you learn who your true friends are – the ones who want to stick around and go through the trenches with you. The friends who pull you out and hold you up and support you in any and every way that they can.

I vowed, that with every friend that helped me I would pay it forward. It has taken me some time to get to a place where I am financially and emotionally comfortable. Where my life is better than it has ever been and I can start to help others.

I can’t donate hundreds or thousands of dollars, but I can donate my time and my experience and my advice. I am now a mentor to women who are going or have gone through what I went through. I am not a therapist, a counselor or a doctor, but I can help. I hope that my talking to each of these women, I am giving them the support that I had, the understanding shoulder to cry on and the strength to know that there is a way out. There can be the ‘happily ever after’.

I hope that by sharing my story, I can help other women survive and find their strength. People ask me if I regret my choice to be with my abuser, to stay with my abuser for so long – I regret what happened to me, and wish it on no one, but I love the person that I have become, the strength I have. The courage I know I have and the bravery that I can be proud of. I love the strong bonds I have with those that were there for me in my hardest time  they will be my friends eternally. Lastly, without that experience, I wouldn’t be where I am now, physically, emotionally, financially – and I wouldn’t have this amazing love with an incredible man, who has shown me what true love means, what a true man is like and how after such darkness and fear, there is love and light  – for all of these things, there could never be regret.

To my dear friends, Diana, The Kaufmans, Nick & Jenny, Andrew (amongst many things, the man who taught me to pay it forward), Jonathan and the Weisman’s  – thank you for being there in 2008 and now – you have my eternal gratitude.

My parents and my husband  – I know these things are hard to read and thank you for your never ending love and support.

So, as I am about to celebrate my first Independence day as an American, I will look back at how far I have come and how there is life after abuse.

Wishing you all a safe and happy July 4th.

Information:

If you, or someone you know needs help please contact the domestic abuse hotline (US) for guidance, contacts and safety plans on 1-800-799-7233 or 0800-2000-247 in the UK

Don’t hesitate to call 911/999 in an emergency – know that is always better to be safe and protected.

survivors-mentor

I am a Domestic Abuse Mentor – please contact me or use the information page here to seek help from one of the group of mentors available to help for free.

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How To Live In The Now – social media, content and unplugging

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We live in a world of now, now, now, gimme, gimme, gimme.

How did we become so obsessed with now. We don’t even have time to focus on the futuresome, it seems do not even care about the past, we just want it all and we want it now.

We are so in need, in lust for the now that anything else makes us impatient.

We are surrounded by the ‘instant’ – Twitter, Facebook. Vine. Insta(nt)gram

I primarily connected my figurative life line to social media in 2007 as a way to connect with my family and friends at home in London and across the globe, an easy way to share what I was doing and get the social reach easily to everyone I cared about when I was on the run and didn’t have time for a call or to write a letter  – technology has allowed me to face time with my Mum while I am out shopping to get her buy in on a dress I like or some shoes I’m contemplating adding to the collection. While I am connected to my family, I am also, now, so conditioned to getting everything out there right now – real time sharing, real time experiences.
I want to know if I’ve won – now. I want to know what people think – now. Who is liking my status, who is viewing my blog, what is my friend in another part of the world doing right now, I want my food order in 3 minutes.  I need the information and I need it now.

Capturing the moment

Capturing the moment

Don’t get me wrong – I love social media and what it has enabled us to do as individuals and as a global community, I like a fast pace, I like to have everything at my fingertips, but I’ve become so motivated by instant gratification that I’m not stopping to smell the flowers. I’m not taking in my life – the memories. Yes; every inch of the memory is captured in 140 characters or a heavily filtered and edited photo stored in a virtual cloud for the future, but am I living in that moment? Or am I merely capturing it?
Am I really listening or am I merely hearing?
Am I missing what’s really going on around me, now, because I’m so obsessed with the now.

My husband has created a social (media) experiment for us, mainly me, but us – can we, one day a week, tune out, shut down and turn off – can we leave our iphones, our ipad and our computer alone and just live in the moment, see the world through just one lens.

It’s time to take my moments. To realise that to really appreciate the now. I need to stop, inhale and absorb. Otherwise, my life will have flashed by in a series of uploads, tweets and posts.

Life is too short to not really LIVE in the now.

For more on our figurative life lines and our constant connection here is a great article on Huff Post – Disconnect: A New Movie Sounds the Alarm About Our Hyper-Connected Lives.

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Just Let It Go

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If December is the season of good will, then January is the season of resolutions made and broken.

I don’t really make resolutions – but I do make choices – I chose last summer to Drop To Shop and I followed that plan to a tee.

With January – comes winter – the most depressing time of year for me. I don’t like the cold, I hate snow and ice and I really don’t like bundling up just to take a 2 minute walk to my car and I live in Texas – it shouldn’t even be cold here. Generally I’m happy, but also miserable – a grumpy mess of whining, complaining and negative thoughts until the thermostat shows a pleasing number above 70 degrees. I’m pretty sure my friends in Dallas are fed up of me complaining, I know my husband is, so in an effort to make everyone around me less annoyed by me, I made a choice, not a resolution – to be more positive.

I have only just started my trek in to positivity. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, I, like most people, find it easier to criticize, complain and speak badly of people or things, than compliment, be positive and smile. As I read in one of the books I’m reading –“ it’s easier to complain than to laugh”* – and it’s so true. How often will you gossip about someone than compliment someone – or for that fact even take a compliment – us girls would rather put ourselves down about our weight, what a mess we think we are or be self-deprecating, than take the compliment about our hair, our dress, our amazing presentation at work or dinner we just made.

My first step in to positivity was recognising I needed a rule for myself – something that was quick to employ and easy to remember – one of my wise, wonderful friends, one day, said to me “you just have to let it go” and there it was – ‘Let It Go’. It’s so simple , a basic concept – take what is bothering you, what is just winding you up, stressing you out and making you miserable, and just let go of it. It’s my modern day version of the much quoted prayer**

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Work hard, make it happen – when I can, but know when to Let It Go – be smart enough to know the difference.

I started using Let It Go as my mantra – when something happened that I didn’t like, when I would normally rant and vent to anyone who would listen, I just said “Let It Go” it’s not important. At first it was hard – so I decided I needed to visualize something – I found an image of a balloon with the phrase on Pinterest and thought it was just perfect – so now, when I find myself on the verge of negativity, I just let go of my balloon and let it float away….far, far away.

How are you letting it go? Let me know.

#LetItGo

Let It Go

*Quote – Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

**Quote – Reinhold Niebuhr

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The Party’s Over – My Special Guest Blogger

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My wonderful parents

I love my parents and have an amazing relationship with them – I feel so lucky to call my parents my friends, heroes and role models.

I’ve spoken before about how my parents never really understand social media or “this medium you choose to use” but they completely embrace my blogging – and as I mentioned yesterday, my Dad even joined Twitter ( @DW29660) and my Mum is beginning to realise that Facebook isn’t a tool for people to hunt you down and see into your life unless you actually let them.

My Parents

Mr & Mrs W

After I introduced you all to my Dad (aka Billy) over the past few blogs and informed you of his new title yesterday – his insistence that he is now called the Don…. my Dad – asked me today, if he could guest blog. My first reaction was ‘OF COURSE’ – my second reaction was – ‘wow, my Dad knows what guest blogging is.’

When my Dad sent me his blog this evening he said:

“Read it/change it/scrap it – whatever, it was good fun to try writing it. Dx”

There was absolutely no way I was changing a single thing. It gives me great pride to introduce David ‘The Don’ Williams – in his first ever blog (please feel free to leave your comments here for him – I know he will appreciate them):

My Parents

I love this couple
Photo Credit: David Toms Photography

The First Day of the Rest of the Year

Its Sunday night and just about midnight – it’s been a good weekend but I’m not looking forward to tomorrow morning or indeed the coming week – it’s not that I don’t like Monday’s… it’s just that tomorrow is the first day of the rest of the year!

I live in London and since the end of May, London has been like never before – at least not like I’ve ever known it before and just in case you hadn’t realised, I’ve been around for a while!

First we had the Diamond Jubilee of our Queen… it’s not that I am a huge royalist, but respect where it’s due – QE2 has had the same job for 60 years and has done it well. The country gave her a big party and London celebrated like only it can with all of its history and pageantry… shame about the weather.

Just as we were getting over the ‘Jubly’ it was time for our annual festival of hope, expectation and ultimate disappointment or Wimbledon as it is also known. I live near Wimbledon, I’m involved in a small way with Wimbledon and as a sports fan, there is a real buzz about being at the sporting epicentre of the world for two weeks – this year Andy Murray nearly won it… so near and yet so far!

Suddenly ‘they’ started putting up banners, and signs, and painting the roads with Olympic rings to show where I was not permitted to drive… in my own home town. Remember I’m a sports fan but I really was not looking forward to the Olympics, well not the disruption. Also I had this fear that ‘the Games’ would be well organised but rather dull. There was a feeling that the opening ceremony as a spectacle would be rather unspectacular – I feel bad now, because as a designer I should have had more faith in British creativity – WOW it was good, even if some didn’t understand it! It was ‘smart’ rather than ‘slapstick’ – there was a story to be told and you had to concentrate – ad breaks every few minutes would not have helped!

Anyway ‘the Games’ came and went with plenty of success for the hosts and generally a good time was had by all. The stadiums were full, the trains kept running, the drains didn’t block… even the weather behaved and the World saw London at its best – even us cynical Londoners saw our great city at its best. Then it was the closing… at least as good as the Opening and that was it. The London Olympics, the Greatest Show On Earth as the Olympics are known was over – just the aftershow to come – a two week break then the Paralympics, but really, that wouldn’t be very interesting.. would it, be honest?

Another Opening Ceremony, at least as good as we had seen a few weeks back and the ‘Paras’ started. It was a slow start… fewer well-known names but then OMG! We began to realise what it was all about. Olympians train for years then turn up and compete in the hope they will be winners or at least get a medal.

Paralympics

Be Amazed – The Paralympics

Paralympians train for years, overcome the forms of adversity that the rest of us would rather not talk about, let alone suffer, then they compete, they enjoy and they hope to win or at least get a medal – but best of all, they compete like the rest of us who have good sight, a full set of limbs, mobility and no problems with the ‘internal wiring’. A big difference when paralympians compete is that when they don’t quite reach their best, they don’t blame it on ‘bad winter training’ six months ago – many turn up and don’t know how their body will perform on the day!

In case you didn’t see much of the London 2012 ‘Paras’, let me tell you about just 2 of the 4000 plus competitors. One a swimmer, a Chinese guy, both legs amputated above the knee, just a pair of stumps, and both arms amputated, one above the elbow, the other at the shoulder – that doesn’t leave much to swim with… I think he won a ‘gold’ beating guys with longer stumps, even full limbs. AMAZING!

The inspirational Chinese Paralympian

The other competitor was in the Dressage… that’s where with perfect control and balance, you ride a horse, making it dance with control and discipline on a one-cent piece – hard enough to control a human like that ( I couldn’t manage it with my children), to control horse is harder and when with Cerebral Palsy you can’t even control yourself, how do you maintain perfect balance to control the horse – our young rider won ‘gold’. AMAZING!

Natasha Baker

Natasha Baker – Wins 2nd Gold Medal
Image from: Daily Mail Online

But now the ParaGames are all over, the performances are over, the medals have all been awarded and (Coldplay, RiRi and JayZ were wonderful at the Closing) tomorrow the athletes go home but if you have an open mind, the thinking is just beginning! Never again will I look at an amputee or a person in a wheelchair, or a person with cerebral palsy and think of what they can’t do – I will think of what they can do or could do. Often after competing, they cried tears of joy and as a country we cried with them – they had shared the same stage as the ‘normal’ athletes and that made them feel ‘normal’, equal, the same.

The Olympics were the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ but the Paralympics were (and please excuse my grammar), the ‘EVEN Greater Show on Earth’, but for now it’s over, London will never be the same again, anyone who watched will never be the same again.

Better go to bed now, work tomorrow, my greatest ever summer is over – hope to see you in Rio in 2016!

Thanks to my very special Guest blogger. Billy, I love you.

American TV networks – you have 4 years to make it happen – Let’s hope by 2016 – we can celebrate and cheer for our fellow men and women. Our #SuperHumans

A Day in the Life of The Men in My Life

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Right:The Don – Naughty Billy    Left: The Don & Mr K

In other news– my father has now joined twitter and in the same 24 hour period has requested that as the eldest man in the family, he is now referred to as The *Don/ Don Billy. We shall see which new interest lasts longer. My money is on the new nickname rather than twitter. Although learning that he can vent and complain at companies in just 140 characters has provided him with a new challenge in his nonexistent workaholic down time.

*Side note – when I retold this story to a friend of ours – she asked why my dad wanted to be the Dom of the family.  Apparently her reading Fifty Shades of Grey has really had an effect on her hearing.

The Don & Mr K

In more ‘other news’ – my husband has a new toy – a food saver – the joy – we have everything you could possibly think of in its own little pouch – herbs, melon, fish, cherries, energy bars, reindeer all with the life sucked out of them and stored in the freezer. My father’s comment in relation to learning that Mr K is vacuum packing anything he can get his hands on…. “Well if we come over and we can’t find you darling – we will look to see if he’s vacuum packed you and stored you in the freezer”. Sigh. 

Cinderella Needs The Mall

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It’s now been a few weeks since I started my drop to shop campaign – and to my surprise and delight I have a small group of friends who have joined me. Strength in numbers is definitely helping me out. 

The Drop To Shop campaign itself now has followers from Philly to Florida, Sweden to South London and Austin to Israel. The knowledge that my actions and goals are motivating others is what is keeping me from slipping up.

So how is it going you ask? To be honest my weight is swinging more than Mohammad Ali in a title fight.

This week has been hard – I may not be the most fashionable girl on the block but with Fashion’s Night Out and New York Fashion Week – I have never wanted to hit the mall and my credit card so much. I sat at home with my frozen Kashi low-cal microwave meal playing the role of Cinderella while my friends shopped til they dropped and I felt sorry for myself.  Speaking of Cinderella – have you seen the new Cinderella inspired Louboutins?

 Shoe A.D.D. aside, I took my Cinderella attitude and forced myself to do some crunches, and then some more, and another set more and a couple of plank exercises just for fun, I felt better about myself and played the Rocky theme tune in my head. Cinderella you shall go to the mall….I mean ball.

Follow me on Twitter & Instagram and #DropToShop

Join the Drop To Shop campaign on Facebook

Join the Drop To Shop Campaign on Facebook

Follow the Drop To Shop Pinterest page for recipes, work out tips and motivation

Follow The Drop To Shop Pinterest Board

 

#DropToShop

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Ive been going to a gym for 8 months and 9 days. Yes, I know to the actual day because I do not enjoy it – I treat it like a life sentence. I am not one of those people that just gets all hyped up to work out. Not only do I work out but I also have a trainer (see here for the man I have to face off to)– a luxury that I pay for – or should I say, a punishment that I pay for. I get through it because my trainer ‘gets’ me and knows just how to motivate me and I see results. Seriously, you should check out my guns next time we meet (and let me know if you need his number).

In the lead up to our wedding my trainer and I were working to a goal…..his was for me to lose, what I thought was an insane amount of weight, mine was to just fit in to my dress.

I worked out at the gym near my home, I worked out at the hotel on a business trip to Orlando and even managed to get my whole team at the hotel fitness center, I worked out at 11pm after business dinners in DC, I skipped fun team activities to hit up the gym and even got up at 6amon my bachelorette weekend in Beverly Hills and Palm Springs to get my cardio in before the fun each day.

I switched chocolate for walnuts and almonds, bread and cheese for fish and avocado, soda for iced tea and champagne (the hardest of all these) for no more than 2 glasses of red wine a week.

All the acting like a crazy person and the constant motivation, nutrition advice and need to not disappoint meant I hit my goal, I didn’t quite hit his.

Obese German woman lifted from house by crane

Now that the wedding goal is over (– he actually wanted me to lose 30lbs, and I lost 22), I no longer have a specific need to work out, other than, of course, the need to not be one of those women that is so fat that, before she gets air lifted out of her house, they have to pry her skin off the sofa that she has started to literally become attached to. With that being said, I need to be healthy and I need a motivator. It seemed that the actual number of pounds to lose was not working for me, but the realization that I wouldn’t be able to wear something really hit me hard.

Wedding Dress

The Wedding Dress
Photo credit: David Toms Photography

After our honeymoon I lost all motivation to walk back in to the gym. They say it takes 27 days to build a habit, but apparently it only take 2 weeks to lose it. Within those 2 weeks and subsequent to that, I have kind of pigged out and skipped the cardio and then switched the hour sessions for 30min sessions, I am spiraling out of control. I wondered what I would need to do to get myself back to the daily gym-going,  healthy eating freak that I was – and decided I would take myself shopping to buy new workout clothes to spur me on. Like a light bulb moment, that’s when it hit me. I love to shop (that isn’t the realization) I love to shop and shopping makes me happy (also not a realization)– the realization was this – I made a promise to myself, I set a goal that was hard but it had to work, I mean it HAS to work….. No clothes shopping… until I drop ten pounds. If I gain weight, then I just add that on top of the 10 pounds.

To make sure I would somewhat be held to this goal I told my trainer, I told the twitterverse and I told my friends and family on Facebook. (Although this doesn’t always mean anything, because only last night I said via all social media channels that I was going to go Vegan and I didn’t even make it through one meal before I gave up) This goal, this, I will stick to. I even have a couple of friends in on the goal too. So there’s Kristin in Philly, Liz in DC( @BenderLiz) and Diana (@DianaP)  in Miami – all on the same plan. Strength in numbers.

The Hot Mess Post Work Out Look

Being the marketing geek that I am I decided to produce a whole campaign and buy in around it. You are all now part of it to – communicating the goal/campaign – ‘I need to lose 10 pounds before I can shop’ doesn’t really have a good sound to it, so after some brain storming, we came to ‘DropToShop’

You can follow us on twitter as we discuss our success and failure, watch our hashtag stream #DropToShop on twitter or follow on Instagram to see how we are changing our diet, work outs and nutrition all with the goal to shop again.

You can never underestimate the power of clothes shopping to women – wish us luck, send your tips, join us in the plan and like Team Drop To Shop on Facebook or Instagram, follow my DropToShop board on Pinterest  and tweet #DropToShop.

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