20 Oct MY SURVIVOR STORY
I am so thankful and grateful every day to be here… to be alive, to be writing this, to have the honor of you reading this, and to be part of this fashion community. Since I’ve been a little girl, I’ve always loved fashion and beauty, and it’s been an escape for me. It set my mind free. It serves a canvas for my creativity and dreams.
On August 14th I shared my survivor story on Instagram for the first time in four separate posts. I was so nervous right before pressing the share button. I was feeling very anxious, and nauseous. But what if sharing my story, my truth, could change only one person’s life or reach only one person and become a page in someone else’s survival guide. With that mindset I decided to finally get out of my shell, share my story, help other survivors find the light at the end of the tunnel. Happiness is possible after trauma.
Part 1: I was married to my abuser.
I’ve been wanting to share this part of my story with you for a while now, but I kept putting it off. I kept finding excuses of why it wasn’t the right time. I wasn’t ready.
April 30th 2016: I was laying on my back on the living room floor, my husband was sitting on my stomach hovering over me having both his hands around my throat. I was trying to push him off, but he is so much stronger than me. I don’t know for how long I lost consciousness. After I regained my consciousness, my husband said “I want to kill you, but I’m not going to jail over you.” Words that I will never forget.
That was the beginning of my long, emotionally and physically draining fight. I did not go to the police that day. I was too scared. I didn’t tell anyone about it until 2 months after. I felt so ashamed and alone. I didn’t know where to go. Our first wedding anniversary would have been on May 21st. I called the police the next time he put his hands on me.
Part 2: Getting out of my abusive marriage.
I felt so ashamed and alone, and I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t want to tell anyone, because that would have meant that it was real and that my marriage was really over after only 11 months. I was blaming myself for not being a better wife, for my failed marriage, and that is was my fault for my husband to cheat. Our marriage was over, and he moved out on July 12th 2016. On July 31st my husband abused me the last time, and I called the police this time. I filed a restraining order and the state of New Jersey pressed charges against him for assault. The first court date was August 4th. On December 22nd 2016 I was sitting in the car on the phone with my parents (who live in Germany), tears were rolling down my cheek, after I lost the restraining order court case. The world didn’t make sense to me anymore. Not being believed, and not getting the lawful protection was devastating. I wanted to give up, but I decided to continue to fight. I decided to continue speaking up for myself in hopes that it would never happen again. On March 21. 2017 my husband got charged with assault, one year probation and I got granted a Do Not Contact Order. I asked the judge to add anger management to his probation in hopes that he would never hurt another person. On May 1st 2017 I was officially divorced. Every court date was emotionally and physically draining. There were about 12 court dates and 2 days after every court date I got sick with a bronchitis and sinus infection. My body was exhausted. I gained 30 pounds within 4 months and became pre-diabetic. The trauma was eating away at my teeth and I needed a root canal. I couldn’t handle my emotional distress by myself anymore, and I decided to get help to process my emotions.
Part 3: HEALING after abuse.
After the traumatic event on April 30th, I was diagnosed with PTSD, depression and anxiety. I had reoccurring nightmares and panic attacks, and was battling with suicidal thoughts.
I’ve been through talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. After my first session of the PTSD treatment I almost quit. Reliving my trauma all over again was so emotionally and physically draining. After my first session I got a bronchitis and sinus infection again like I did after all the court dates. Dealing with the emotional stress made me physically sick, and I wanted to give up. But I’m so grateful I didn’t. I knew that if I’d quit, I’d carry the pain with me and wouldn’t be able to heal properly. While I was going through therapy I also started journaling and writing down my story. Getting all that disappointment, grief, anger, fear and sadness on paper helped let go of all the emotions I had bottled up inside me.
In my case, each PTSD session was recorded, and under my consent the recordings are currently being used to educate and train professionals to become PTSD therapists. If I can help in the education and help train future PTSD therapists, there will be more survivors that can overcome their trauma.
I went to a Social Services non profit organization for my treatment, it was completely free. The organizations mission is to provide help, hope, support and safety to survivors, from therapy, to a safe house to transitional housing.
I went to therapy for over 8 months and on August 16th 2017 I completed my PTSD treatment, and I let go of the last piece of my marriage. I threw my wedding ring into the ocean. That was exactly 2 years ago. I felt so relieved, empowered and FREE.
Unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.
Part 4: 2 years after my divorce from my abusive husband.
Going through therapy I got my life back. I got the joy for life back, and I am a genuinely happy person. The PTSD treatment gave me my life back, and I’m tearing up writing this, because without it I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m glad I realized that I couldn’t handle processing my emotions by myself and got the help I needed. I got a second chance at life, and I am forever grateful for that.
Today I lead every day with a grateful heart. Every day I remind myself what I have to be grateful for. I have a deeper connection to my soul and a loving relationship with myself. Going through this experience made me the person I am today, and I am proud. I never would have thought that I’d be strong enough, but I just kept going and pushing through. This experience taught me many valuable lessons, but above all it showed me my strength and resilience.
I am sharing my story with you, to raise awareness of #domesticviolence Happiness is possible after a traumatic experience.
I’m so grateful for this platform and to be able to share my story with you. This platform is to encourage, motivate, show support and raise awareness. To all survivors out there, you are not alone, you are believed, you are loved, you are strong, and I stand with you. My heart is forever with you.
You are strong! You are believed! You are loved! YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
My name is Joëlle, and I am a survivor.