I Want to Be Brave

For anyone else that is seeing all these shared stories and thinking, “wow, these women are so brave…” I wanted that too. Even as I write and plan to share myself, I don’t FEEL brave or strong as some of these women I see – but it is because of one of them having the courage to share their experience with The Haven Retreat that I found out about it and so I feel compelled to breach my comfort levels in hopes that it would encourage even one person like me.

I was drawn to the ideas of healing at the retreat but then, doubted, thinking: “it’s not for me, I don’t need this, it’s been too long, I should be ‘over it,’ does it really affect my life that much?” I wanted to find women like me, to have someone to relate to, but had rarely been able to put into words what happened to me. My brain tried to fool me into thinking that if I didn’t talk about it, it would be a distant thing from me, but my body knew the truth. My first abuse experience was 20 years ago, but it happened again, and that’s what really broke me. When my health started failing with paralyzing migraines and 3 types of primary cancers in the past 2 years, I also started having nightmares and flashbacks of the experiences I didn’t want to believe were part of my life any more. As it got worse, my husband encouraged me to go to the retreat and what’s more – a friend paid for my flight.

I never considered myself someone who struggles with anxiety or panic attacks – but I experienced that leading up to the retreat. Scared to go into the unknown, to remember things I had pushed out of my mind for so long, to face other people knowing my biggest “secret”. Oh man, it was the hardest and best thing I ever did sticking with the steps to get into that retreat. Through the activities and group therapy I connected with these women in less than 4 days! I also learned a LOT about my brain versus my body and how ignoring the trauma was NOT helping my healing or fighting with cancer.

I learned that there are things in life that can “trigger” flashbacks or memories of the experience; this is SO important to learn about yourself. I am even more impressed by the genuine caring nature of TYF staff and that they have continued methods to help you heal after you leave the retreat. Everyone there created a sense of community, even felt like a family. They’ve renewed a determination in me to heal and not to change everything about myself, but to want to know and accept myself. I want more than anything to be a strong & courageous example for my 5 children and it starts with seeing myself with the unconditional love they have for me.

I’ve since been able to face my fears and find my voice, learning assertive communication was a great tool for me as I finally was able to talk to my family about it so that they can support my growth. This is indeed HARD STUFF to walk through – but we have to stop letting fear of making the wrong choices stop us. There are no wrong choices, just the opportunities to learn from them or thrive when you make the best ones. Most importantly, read these stories and know that if you decided to go to retreat or just to share your own, there is power in revelation and YANA -You Are Not Alone.

-Amber, Survivor-