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First blog post

This is the post excerpt.

This week I received an advance copy of my book.

For many years now I have wanted to share my story.

The thought that I may be able to help others by sharing my own experiences has been an important factor in my own recovery and healing process. It has given my suffering meaning and with this I am able to rise each morning, count my blessings and, in the words of Henry David Thoreau, ‘live deliberately’.

Well…I try!

Unfortunately this week I have also been plagued with nightmares. It has been exhausting.

Last night I had some particularly disturbing nightmares about the abuse I suffered whilst living at Denver House. After waking for a third time I called for my dog. She knows this routine well now. She dived under the covers, turned herself around and then settled down next to me with her head resting on the opposite pillow.

Having her next to me and listening to her breathing (snoring) helped me to ground myself in the present and go back to sleep.

This time I had a wonderful dream that I would like to share with you.

I dreamt that I was cycling along a winding, cobbled road that climbed a steep hill. I was tired and it was dark. The bike I had was not suited to the road I was riding along which made the journey difficult but I would not allow myself to stop. I had a sense that I was almost where I needed to be although I had no idea where I was or where I was going.

I kept on cycling until I reached a flat surface on the hill. I stopped just as the sun began to rise. As it rose it spilled light over everything below it, revealing a beautiful town just on the other side of the hill. Beyond the town I could see the ocean glistening.

I like the way the light of the sun takes the place of the night’s darkness each morning.

I am grateful that I am enveloped by this light every day no matter how long the night before it.

The sunrise reminds me that light finds it’s way into all places in the same way that our inner light will shine through an open heart and wash over all of the darkness we have known.

Let us promise to keep rising and shining!

Zoe

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A leap of faith

Firstly, apologies to my followers for the lack of posts lately.

I’ve made a lot of changes in my life over the past few months. I’ve changed jobs, taken on some new voluntary work and started college.

All of these steps I have taken in pursuit of a dream I have of creating a not for profit community interest company, offering practical and emotional support to women whose lives have been affected by abuse.

I am happy to report that I am well on my way to trialing my first official twelve week programme, with the support of an experienced counsellor and yoga teacher.

As exciting as all this is, unfortunately I have also been experiencing a lot of fear, which has for a time silenced me in terms of writing.

Which brings me onto what I wanted to discuss, doubt and fear.

Recently a friend recommended I read a book called ‘The body keeps the score’, by Bessel Van Der Kolk, which is all about the ‘mind, brain, and body in the transformation of trauma’.

I have almost finished reading it and have found its content fascinating. Did you know that trauma, and in particular sexual abuse, can have as much of a physical effect on the brain as a stroke?

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has experienced trauma and to all those working with traumatised people.

Near the beginning of the book there is a quote I read that reminded me of something I wrote ten years ago.

“Doubts are like our fears and should be treated as such. They will never a leave a person who grows continuously. When you begin to doubt, know that you are in a moment of potential glorious change. Now isn’t that magnificent.”

I wrote this after completing my first six minute mile. I was on a treadmill and approaching the end of my fourth mile. I had five miles to run in total and I realised that if I upped my pace to a six minute mile, I’d finish my run in 34 minutes, which at the time would mean a new personal best for me. I didn’t know if I could achieve it but I was willing to try.

I increased my pace and after the first three minutes I began to doubt myself. I then became afraid that I might fall off the treadmill. And as my lungs began to worker harder than they ever had before I was hit with an almost overwhelming urge to hit the stop button, or reduce my pace right down to a steady jog, however I persevered, and to my surprise I completed the last two minutes without the overwhelming feeling that I needed to stop.

And so I realised that for as long as I was aiming for new goals in my life, it was likely that at some point on that journey I would encounter doubt and fear.

Plunging into the unknown is scary. There are no guarantees of success. However, I truly believe that self doubt, like fear, is there only as a guide to help protect you. A personal invitation to step outside of your comfort zone, and not, an instruction to ‘hit the stop button’.

And so I will leave you now with the quote I read which inspired this post.

“The greater the doubt, the greater the awakening; the smaller the doubt, the smaller the awakening. No doubt, no awakening.” C.-C. Chang.

So go on and take a leap of faith once in a while, the results may transform you.

With much love to you,

Zoe

Who’s afraid of the dark?

I was three years old the first time I watched the darkness disappear. I didn’t know it was a sunrise.

All I knew was that somehow, the darkness that had created a fear in me and taken away my vision, was now slowly being replaced by light, and there was nothing the sleeping monster could do to stop it.

I instinctively knew that this light was bigger than me. It was bigger than the sleeping monster. It was even bigger than the darkness, and this knowledge gave my heart courage.

Little by little the light made its gentle way over the backs of the chairs, over the sleeping monster, and over me, filling the room and restoring my vision.

As I looked out of the window I could see all that I thought the darkness had stolen and I knew then that I need not be afraid of the dark.

Coping with triggers

Today I have experienced an unexpected trigger.

Psych central describes a trigger as ‘something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma’.

Triggers are usually set off by something associated with one or more of the five senses – smell, sound, sight, touch and taste.

Today my trigger happened like this…I was out walking the dog when I noticed a parked car that had its rear passenger door open. As I passed the car I was hit with a new car smell that took me right back to being a 13 year old girl, stuck in the back of a car that was taking me to be trafficked.

The smell filled my nose and even my mouth and I felt like my breath had been taken away. My head was filled with the view I had as a 13 year old girl sat in the back of the car. I could feel the fear I experienced then as though it was happening to me right now.

As you can imagine this experience was extremely upsetting and completely unwelcome and unwanted.

Triggers can happen at anytime and are just one of the realties of life after abuse that many survivour’s have to endure. They are very open ended in that they can occur at any time after experiencing trauma and there is no way to predict how long a person could be affected by them.

I personally have accepted the fact that I could be affected by triggers for the rest of my life. This acceptance has gone a long way towards helping me deal with triggers as and when they happen.

So what can you do to help yourself after experiencing a trigger?

Here’s what I did today…

  • Immediately after the trigger I was able to recognise and accept the situation for what it was.
  • I then reminded myself that I was no longer a 13 year old girl in a situation I could not control, but an adult living a life of my own choosing.
  • I then practised gratitude, giving thanks for as many things I could think of that I am thankful for right now, today.
  • I then used some of my five senses to help keep me grounded in the present moment, focussing on what I was experiencing now.

After the initial fear and panic created by a particularly upsetting trigger has passed, I know that I am usually left with a deep sense of sadness that lingers around usually until the next day, so for the rest of that day I am mindful of taking care of myself.

For me this might mean taking some time to myself or reaching out to someone I trust. I might have a bubble bath, watch a film or read a book.

Today I have reached out to you.

I hope that my thoughts on triggers and how to cope with them will be useful to any readers who are experiencing them too.

Please do not suffer in silence. There are many organisations and counsellors out there who know how to help you help yourself if you are struggling.

Thanks for reading,

Love Zoe

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One year on

Today marks one year since my story of fighting back was published.

Sharing my story is just one of the ways I have fought back and I have done so not only for myself, but for anyone else out there who may need a reminder that they are not alone, there is always hope, and that much beauty can be found from pain.

I am incredibly thankful to all of the readers who have taken the time to read my story, and to all those who have reached out to let me know how much my story has helped them.

I had no idea of just how many people I would reach when my story was first published and from so many different parts of the world too!

I hope that my story will continue to help and inspire others for many years to come.

With much love and gratitude,

Zoe

Changes

So it’s almost time to say goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019.

This time of year is often associated with changes, or to be more specific, the changes that we choose to make. And as I stand in the doorway between the old and the new I wonder, what exactly makes for a successful ‘change’?

Planning seems to be an obvious factor in the success of intended changes. An example of which is outlined by the SMART acronym that I discovered over ten years ago when I began my personal training journey.

S – specific

– measurable

A – achievable/attainable

– relevant/realistic

– time bound

There are a few changes I would like to make in the new year, and for me, spiritually speaking , there have been three important considerations that along with SMART planning, has underpinned my most successful changes. 

  1.  January 1st is a good a time as any to make changes, but don’t forget about the other 364 opportune days of the year.
  2. When planning your changes, make sure you focus upon changing what you do, not who you are!
  3. Be consistent

One day, one moment, is all that is needed to make a change.

No matter the date or time we are only ever one moment away from making those inner shifts in our thinking that help us to create the outer changes we wish to see.

Think of a tightrope walker, balanced and present upon the rope. Thinking only of putting one foot in front of the other.

Life is the tightrope and you are the tightrope walker.

The moment the tightrope walker loses their awareness and looks too far ahead, or God forbid, tries to look backwards! He/she risks their place upon the rope, and what was once a place of calm soon becomes chaotic as a fight for balance consumes the walker.

For some, a fall from the rope may not be so bad, for some a fall could be life threatening. Think of those with addictions or facing mental health difficulties. 

I know this imagery may sound a little dramatic and maybe a little disheartening too. Staying focussed and present sounds like hard work. And what is the point of it all, giving so much from moment to moment just to get from one point to another?

The point is to find a peace within yourself that allows you to endure all that must be endured in life without losing yourself in the process. 

When we focus only on putting one foot in front of the other and the things we can change, instead of looking behind or too far ahead, we find an inner peace and stillness that allows the rope we are walking along to disappear. 

There is an old Buddhist saying that goes something along the lines of – there is no path to happiness, happiness is the path.

When we look to change what we do instead of trying to change who we are, and consistently practice this from moment to moment, we will be successful and a lot happier too!

I have been blessed this year to see my life story published in not one but two languages. I have also started this blog which has allowed me to connect with readers all over the world!

I want to take this moment to thank all of you reading this for your continued support. I wish you all the very best for the New Year and beyond.

Love,

Zoe

scrabble resolutions
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Hope…continued

So, a few months ago I shared the story of the Christmas cactus.

I could not help but be reminded of the power of hope when I witnessed the enormous effort the plant went to to survive, even though it had no way of knowing whether or not it would be successful.

I could identify with this in so many ways, for so many reasons. I have been hoping and ‘sending out roots’ for most of my life.

A few months after the above picture was taken, you might be surprised to learn that this Christmas cactus burst into bloom!

And so I discovered that for the Christmas cactus, it is actually darkness that triggers growth as oppose to light. I could identify with that too!

So the winters darkness, along with some loving care from myself and a determined effort from the plant, yielded beautiful results.

See for yourself…

What a beautiful transformation!

And so, nature has again given me an example of what can be achieved in times of darkness.

Let this be a reminder for all of us that hope, when combined with determination and love can transform our lives completely.

This has worked for me, it has worked for the Christmas cactus, and it can work for you too!

May you have a wonderful December and a lovely Christmas.

Love,

Zoe