Spotlight on Recovery

How to Move From Tragedy To Triumph

Hey Best Friends,

Today I tuned into a webinar hosted by Leslie Vernick, author of The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. She gave some awesome insight on how to go from victim mindset to owner mindset. I started thinking about her message in terms of my own life. When I was going through some of the worst things in my life, I didn’t realize I was following “steps” to pull myself out of the muck (mud). Once I heard her webinar today, I realized I turned my tragedies into triumphs by following some of the exact steps she outlined and partnering with God.

My life seemed to be doomed from the start. I was born into a home where domestic violence was modeled for me on a regular basis. At the age of five, I was sexually assaulted by neighborhood boys. I had been raped at gunpoint by the time I was 16,  lived a life entrenched in the drug culture of my neighborhood in my early 20s, and as many of you already know, survived an ambush where my ex-husband shot me and my daughter in the parking lot of her school when I was 38.  If anyone should be in the corner somewhere, devastated and trying to pick up the pieces of my fragmented life, it should be me…but it isn’t. I have an incredible ability to bounce back from life’s circumstances because I let God lead me through my journey, took life’s obstacles one day at a time, and ultimately changed the trajectory of my life because I didn’t allow my circumstances to keep me stuck in the muck.

Steps I Used to Go from Tragedy to Triumph

We have to take ownership of the outcome of our stories. Yes, something horrible happened that we couldn’t control; however, we can control how we respond to it and what happens next. Leslie taught us in the webinar that we are the writers to our stories. I have a question for you:  do you let your circumstances define who you are OR will you decide who you become from here? Here are some key things I remembered from her webinar that I actually used on my road to healing and prayerfully it will help you too.

  1. Don’t focus on what you lost. Focus on what you were fortunate to keep.  Many times we sit around and think about all the negative things that happened to us. We think life is unfair, people are mean, and we are doomed to be stuck in our situations. We focus on all the things that are wrong instead of what is right. Right after the shooting, my mouth had to be wired shut for five months (5 loooong months…yes 5, LOL).  This happened and it plowed right through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. All I could think about was the food I would miss during this time.  I had to be reminded that I still had my life and my family and that was far more important. When thinking about your situation, pray about what’s right first, then pray about what you need God to fix. You could say, “Thank you that I have gas in the car, food on my table, clothes on my back, hot water to wash with, and a warm bed to sleep in.” When you start thinking about what’s right, your whole situation takes on a different light. Learn to look for “the good” in everyday situations.
  2. What you feel or tell yourself always feels true, but it isn’t always the truth. Your thoughts and feelings are connected, but that’s not who you are. That’s not your identity.  Thoughts and feelings change, but your core (values and virtues) remain pretty constant. The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7, “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” If you think you are less than worthy, used goods, too fat, too ugly, not smart enough (or other lies we tend to believe) then you will become the reality you envisioned. You should pay attention to your thoughts, cast down any lie from the enemy (sometimes that is you), and learn to see things differently.  As a young woman, I would tell myself that no one would want me. I was too fat. I didn’t have a sexy figure. I was messy. I wasn’t smart. Why? These are the messages I was fed over the years by the men I loved.  I had to begin to speak the truth about the situation AND the truth about what God says about me. He says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made; I am the apple of His eye; I am the head and not the tail; I am made in His image.” When I began to replace the lies with the truth, I started changing my man-made identity into a  Christ-filled identity.
  3. You have choices about the next chapter of your life.  Yes, something bad happened to you. Someone raped you. You got breast cancer. Your car was wrecked and you have no money to buy another one. Your husband beat you. Your child was killed. Your mother died when you were young. Your significant other cheated on you and now you have a disease that you can’t get rid of. Your house was taken from you. I could go on….but I won’t. These things are terrible and we need to acknowledge them. Many of them happened and you didn’t have any control over them. Guess what? You have control over what happens next. I began this blog letting you know that I was a product of childhood domestic violence, sexual assault, and attempted murder. However, I am going to end letting you know that I took all those negative things that happened to me and allowed God to turn my ashes into Beauty.  I opened an organization that helps sexual assault and domestic violence victims. I am an inspirational and motivational speaker and share my story in hopes of building resilience in the people who hear me. I fight for a change of laws in our state and country so victims’ rights are protected.  I didn’t stay stuck in the muck.  I used the muck (mud) to make bricks so I could build something life-changing for God and His people.

Sometimes we are stuck in the muck of life and don’t know how to get out.  We have to realize that our stories are not our identities. Something bad happened to us, but we don’t have to get stuck there. We have to focus on what is right and not what we lost in the process, start telling ourselves the truth of what God says about us, and change the next chapter of our lives.  I did it.  I am still working on it daily.  If I did it, you can too! We can change our lives after any tragedy, one day at a time and with God by our sides.

Love,

Kimya

 

 

Moving On

Some women think fear, anger, depression, and guilt will magically disappear when the abuser is out of her life. That couldn’t be further from the truth.  It could take years of counseling before the damage is no longer an issue.

It may be tempting to want to place your old life in a microwave, press “2 Minutes”, “Start” and hope your NEW life will begin right away – especially if you’ve left an abusive relationship.  You’ve endured fear, intimidation, guilt, shame, and reproach for days, weeks, months, and years.  You’re free – now what? Why doesn’t it feel good?  Where is your complete RELIEF?

After the shooting, I wanted to change EVERYTHING – hair, clothes, and the walls in my house. It seemed as though I could feel him in every room and I couldn’t sleep at night – especially in my own bedroom.  I asked my friend’s husband to come over and paint the house.  He did a marvelous job and it made me feel better. I could then sleep soundly every night – good change! 

I even decided to leave the place where I was teaching.  I didn’t feel heard or appreciated there. Some of the staff members, including myself, felt trapped in an abusive relationship while working there.  It reminded me too much of what I’d just been through; so, I put in my letter of resignation and left at the end of that school year. I had no idea where I was going or what I was going to do. I just trusted God and left.  What that a good change? YES!  Did it have potential for disaster because I didn’t exactly think that through? YEP!  

Ladies, you may even be tempted to start a new relationship.  You miss the love, affection, and intimacy from your previous relationship and you may even have the thought that a new relationship is just what you need to help you get back on track. DON’T DO IT!  Wait four seasons (one year) before you start a new relationship.  Go rediscover who you are and what you like to do…Learn all you can about abuse versus healthy relationships.  If you don’t, you might find yourself in another abusive relationship OR you could damage a perfectly healthy relationship because you are broken.

Change is a process; however, it is like cooking something in a crock pot versus cooking something in a microwave.  Trust the process. Allow God to mend your hurt and change your mindset.

Believe me you want your changes to be long lasting and if you give yourself a break, take time to pray to God, and allow Him to make the necessary changes, you will be healthier and happier in the end.

You CAN rebuild your life one day at a time and with God by your side.

Love,

Kimya

Be Authentic- Love Who You Are

      My name comes from the Swahili language and is spelled K*I*M*Y*A, but it is pronounced KEEM-yuh. (Ok, say Hakeem…now say Keem-yuh. That’s it!) It is also pronounced this way in Turkish and Azerbaijani. For years I would just tell people my name was Kim. People could not pronounce Kimya (Keem-yuh) so it was easier to just tell them to say Kim.  I was not strong enough to correct them and insist that they say my name correctly. It is amazing how a person can feel so diminished from abuse even your name doesn’t matter and you can’t even speak up for it.
     In 2008, I began to get the courage to proudly tell people my real name and had expectations that they say it correctly.
I am proud of my name. It belongs to me. It is my identity. In Swahili, Kimya means “Silent,” my middle name means “Star” (don’t even ask me how to pronounce it). In Turkish or Azerbaijani, Kimya means “Chemistry.” {I bet you didnt know my favorite subject is science, I majored in Pre-Pharmacy (Chemistry) before I switched to Education and worked in the Biochemistry dept at UGA my first two years of Undergrad}.
     Today, I am so happy to be God’s Silent Star that identifies what things are made of but causes things to change…for the better! Did you see how I used the definition of Chemistry that description of myself?  Way to Go Jesus!
     Now what does all of this have to do with you?  My point is you don’t have to make yourself smaller to be accepted by anyone. Be proud of who you are. We can all find something about ourselves that we don’t like very much OR not feel strong enough to speak up about those things we love and believe in because they are not accepted by others.  So embrace your name, freckles, glasses, short hair, pigeon toes, knock knees, long legs, big feet, extra curves (or lack thereof), big nose, flat butt, gap in your teeth, social awkwardness and LOVE it all.  To wish to alter or change EVERYTHING about yourself is like saying, “God you made a mistake in making me who I am. I hate it!” Sure, we all could make some positive changes in our lives like eating healthier, working out a little more, getting your hair done if it pleases you, or buying a new outfit from time to time, but if you find you hate everything about yourself, especially if you feel that way because of what others told you, “Houston, we have a problem.” I want you to look in the mirror everyday and tell God he did a PHENOMENAL thing when he made you.  Say, “I am worthy, beautiful, strong, intelligent, funny, creative, and amazing!” Say it everyday until you mean it. You are God’s child!
     Whether you were made fun of because you were the kid that loved reading instead of video games, played in the dirt instead of with dolls, made chemistry experiments in your house, were too short, or too tall, were pretty so people said, “You think you’re cute?”, or loved to sing but did so off key, or couldn’t dance but danced like you didn’t care what people thought, or were picked last for all the playground sports because you didn’t have an athletic bone in your body but loved kickball anyway, or wore the heck out of some Payless Shoes because you loved the SuperHero brands and your parents didn’t make much money…the point is be you.
     Imagine how boring the world would be if we all were the same.  Embrace who you are, shine your light, work on your lesser strengths, and present yourself to the world as your MOST AUTHENTIC and FABULOUS self!
#ChampionForCulturalChange #Swahili #Turkish #Azerbaijani #Inspireadifference #GoJesus #SilentStar #KimyasRock

Are you Afraid of the PTSD Boogeyman?

 

Just the other day, I was being interviewed by an associate producer for a national television show.  She asked me to describe the events leading up to, during, and after the shooting.  One of the questions she asked,  has been asked numerous times,  and I felt was pretty easy to answer.

“Do you suffer from PTSD?”

I gave her an immediate and proud response, “No.”

That answer was true on Tuesday when she asked it; however, my answer would change just one day later due to a knock at the door which led to a threat by a stranger.

According to the folks at the Mayo Clinic, Post-traumatic stress disorder is classified on the DSM-V as a mental health disorder usually ignited by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic or terrifying event.

.https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967

Accompanying symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, increased anxiety, hypervigilance, trouble sleeping (which may be why I am up at 1 a.m. typing this blog), digestive issues, preoccupation with thoughts and feelings related to the incident, and/or emotional numbing. These symptoms can last for months or even years.

 Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical to help reduce those symptoms and improve functioning in daily life.

After my ex-husband shot my daughter and me, I was afraid of literally EVERYTHING:

  1. White Chevy Silverado trucks
  2. Strange cars on my street
  3. My reflection in my car’s side mirrors
  4. Fireworks (the smell is just like the smell of gunfire…and let’s not forget about the sound)
  5. The snap, crackle, and pop of leaves and sticks breaking under someone’s feet
  6. Voices raised in an argument…

I could go on…

However, I overcame all these obstacles with God, counseling with my awesome therapist, Valerie, my fabulous support system, and exposure therapy.  This technique puts you in the midst of people, places, and situations that ignite the PTSD episode.  The idea behind it is you are “exposed” to the trauma over and over again until you no longer feel fearful when placed in those situations. So when I was afraid of fireworks, I smelled the smells and heard the loud booms of the explosives until my five senses were no longer affected and my PTSD episodes were rendered null and void.

The last thing to go was the sound of the breaking of leaves and sticks under someone’s feet.  I was free!  Free at last!…or so I thought.

On Wednesday, January 10, 2018, just one day after I proudly proclaimed that I did not suffer from PTSD, a gang member showed up at my front door.

I’d ordered something from Best Buy for my daughter and missed the delivery the day before.  The delivery person left a note on the door telling me he/she would return the following day after one o’clock.

I decided to take a nap that afternoon after I had a morning meeting with another DV warrior over some events we were thinking about collaborating on this year.

Right around 1:00 I was awakened to the doorbell ringing.  You already know how it feels to be startled awake. You are discombobulated – eyes half open, groggy, and disheveled.  I looked out the window and saw a Burgundy car, so I automatically assumed it was the delivery person.  (Did you know delivery people do NOT come in marked cars anymore?  They don’t. Uber drivers can deliver things to your home now.)

I started running down the steps and yelled for him not to leave the porch.

“I’ve got to turn off the alarm.! Hold on! Don’t leave!” I yelled as I ran into the kitchen to disarm the alarm system.

When I unlocked and opened the door without looking through my peephole, I walked out onto the front walkway and excitedly asked, “Do you have my package?”

Upon looking at me, he had an expression on his face that suggested he was surprised I was the one who opened the door…and I quickly realized that this was NOT the delivery guy because he wore gang symbols on his head and body.

I was too far from the front door to run inside and did not want to make any moves that would make this bad situation worse.

He demanded, “I need to see the owner of this house.”

I began to think  if something was about to happen to me, I needed the whole neighborhood to see; so, I slowly started walking towards my front yard.  There were no cars in the driveways on our street.  No one was home it seemed, except me. I explained to him that I was the owner of the house.

“No, I want the male in the house!” He started reaching inside his pocket as if he were carrying a weapon.

After a long back and forth discussion of several demands on his part for this mysterious male he had “business with” and explanations on my part that there was not a male in the house, he finally decided to threaten me with a very cryptic message.

His eyes were void of life or expression. It was as if I was looking evil in the face all over again.

This kid had the same look in his eyes as my ex-husband did on the day he shot my daughter and me.

After he issued the warning to me, he jumped back into his little Burgundy car and left.

I ran into the house, locked the door, ran upstairs to retrieve my phone, and called 911.

They came (eventually) and I gave them a full description of the young man.

Can you believe they knew who he was?    

Can you believe he actually lives in my neighborhood?

Needless to say, I have discovered I have a new trigger – men reaching into their pockets, posturing as if they have a gun, and threatening me that they “know all and can see all” meaning he could easily watch my house.

My PTSD symptoms returned like an explosion.  My body immediately went  into fight or flight response.

I dropped to the floor and started crying.

My heart started pumping like a racehorse.

I started hyperventilating.

I started looking for exits all around the home and my weapon to protect us.

I grabbed my dog, Peanut, phone, laptop, and drove to my sister’s house.

On the way there, I called my prayer partner, Nichelle and she prayed while I was en route.  I began self-talk  to calm myself down.

At this point, Peanut started vomiting all over my car.

“Nichelle!” I screamed into the phone. “Peanut is vomiting all over the car.  He never does that!”

She answered, “It’s because he senses YOUR anxiety.”

Can you believe your pets can experience your symptoms of PTSD too?  Crazy huh?

Eventually, I calmed down after praying and talking through it.  I arrived at my sister’s house and called two of my best male friends, Alexis and Shuron.

Shuron immediately asked, “Do I need to come up there?” I answered with a speedy yes!

Alexis is a former police officer and he gave me some tips on what I needed to do to ensure the sheriff did what he was supposed to do. His explanation of the process of what happened helped me to know what to anticipate.  The sheriff did not do one of those very important things.

Shuron came from Washington County and installed lights all over the perimeter of my home so it would be well lit at night.

The sad thing is everyday when I leave my house and everyday when I come home, I have to pass his house.  I have to see his car and today…I saw HIM standing in front of his house.  I guess this is going to be my exposure therapy, but I don’t like it…not one bit.

So apparently he has been issued a “criminal trespass warning” which means if he comes to my home again, he will be arrested. And they told his mother this information as well.  Strange but, he didn’t give me the impression that he listens to his mother.  So this little fact does not give me comfort.

When I asked the sheriff for the case number, he told me there wasn’t a case number;  it was in their “system.”

Well, I’ve heard this one before.  So let’s just say you will hear a “to be continued” about my discussion I’m about to have with county officials about how they mishandle crime victims in this county…

It looks like I have two choices. I can:

Choice A:  choose to live in fear because I do not feel fully protected by law enforcement in my county AND because this lovely child is my neighbor.

OR

Choice B: choose to live by the principles I have outlined in my book, Born of Violence, to ensure that I am not a prisoner of fear.  If you are dealing with PTSD symptoms, these strategies and the ones found in my book, can help you as well.

“I will take Choice B for 1000 Alex” (I had to find some corny humor in all of this mess)

  1. Find scriptures: I have to go through the Bible and find all the scriptures that speak to me about fear and write them down (again).  Every time I feel fearful, I will recite one or more of them.
  2. Pray for him: Right now I feel angry and violated and I have every right to feel that way.  However, it won’t get me anywhere.  Unless he moves, I still have to see him or his car daily.  I am determined that bitterness will not set up in my heart.  So guess what I have to do? I am committed to praying for him daily.  My pastor, Eric W. Lee of Springfield Baptist Church told us to make a commitment to pray for someone for the next 21 days.  I guess it will be this young man.  He is a child and I need God to change his heart.  I don’t even know his name, but God does.  I ask you to join with me and pray in Jesus’s name for a heart change in this young man.
  3. Talk to someone:  For now, I am journaling and talking to my friends about how I feel about this situation.  If I don’t see marked improvement within a week, I will go back to counseling.  There is a lot of stigma about counseling in the communities of people of color, but it is needed and it is nothing to be ashamed about. Having a good therapist can help bring you to a place of peace.
  4. Pray for myself: Father God, fill me with your perfect love and throw away all fear from me.  Help me to deal with the number of emotions I am going through right now. I thank you that you have not given me a spirit of fear.  You have given me love, power, and soundness of mind.  Thank you for my trials and tribulations. I know you are using them to shape me into the person you’ve called me to be.  If I need to return to therapy, help me not to be prideful. Counseling, along with your Holy Spirit can heal me emotionally.  I am looking forward to the day I walk in complete restoration. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

I have learned that this young man is not the problem. The systems that are supposed to love, protect, and educate us all have failed him.  There is an unmet need beneath every bad or dirty deed.  I do not need to be afraid of him.  He is not the boogey man.  PTSD is the evil that is birthed by the enemy of our souls.  However it will not hold me captive and it doesn’t have to hold you captive either. We can defeat the boogey man together!

Ready to get started? Want to read more about how to recover after trauma? Purchase the book today.

https://www.amazon.com/Born-Violence-Triumph-Tragedy-Purpose-ebook/dp/B0782YH48Q/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_bdcrb_top?ie=UTF8

NOTE:  Stay tuned on how I am about to really exercise my stance as a crime victims’ advocate if something is not done immediately to address how violence is handled in our homes and our community….

Psalm 118:6 The Lord is with me: I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Hebrews 13:6 Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?

Romans 8:31 What can we say about all of this? If God is for us, who can be against us

I would LOVE to meet you and hear your stories of overcoming your personal tragedies and how you triumphed over them! Come and meet me at my book signing party on Saturday, January 27, 2018.  Here’s the link to register.  See you then!

https://bornofviolence2018.eventbrite.com

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