How Being Abusive Helped Me Forgive My Abusers

I used to carry enough anger for every victim of child abuse and then some until I discovered my anger kept me clinging to violence.

When abuse happens inside the home, it’s difficult to escape your abuser even after you are grown. My sisters and I ran opposite directions. We each had different traumas and different symptoms in reaction to those traumas. We were so young.

My oldest sister left town and changed her name twice; severing all ties with the family, including me. My other sister dove into college. When the trauma of sexual assault found her inside the dorm, she ran into the Air Force. Next, she ran to love. While she’s happily married, she draws so much distance from the family, she might as well be gone. Me? I stayed. I am still holding on.

It took a long time to understand and forgive my sisters. It came with a unique kind of pain. While there are great sacrifices in running from your past and great triumphs to be gained, choosing to stay can be the same.

Choosing to stay can be healing if the abuse has stopped and you’re willing to put that anger away. I hear people say,

Abuse is a choice!

I agree. I hear them say,

You abuse because you were abused?! Bullsh*t!
You abuse because you’re an abuser.

Deep down, there’s a piece of me that feels the same way. I know that anger. I know that pain. Those statements and feelings are valid, but they don’t create healing or change. People are not born abusive. Something makes them that way.

I was barely a teenager the first time I hit my sister. I had been watching a movie on Lifetime. At the beginning, a man abandoned his three kids at a gas station. It showed them standing with their toys and belongings. The youngest was screaming as he drove away when I grabbed the remote to turn it off. I headed to my bedroom, fuming with anger, as my sister headed the other way, and I hit her. I hit her and I didn’t feel a thing! I don’t even know why I did it.

I have no memory of the rest of that day, but I do remember the day I hit my mother after she was done belittling me and calling me names. I blamed myself for the abuse after that. I felt like I must’ve deserved it because I did the exact same thing.

If I believe what the majority say, I am an abuser. But I believe I was a victim. I believe my actions and my anger were controlled by other things. It took years to identify and understand those things. It took years to forgive myself for violence beyond my control and convince myself it’s okay to let go of those mistakes. It took years to release the guilt. I still carry the pain.

Because of those experiences, I can look at my abusers and identify the same kind of causes and distinguish their pain. Does that validate the abuse? Does it negate the consequences of child abuse? Does it mean my abusers didn’t have the choice to change? No.

Am I making excuses for them by recognizing how domestic violence and degenerative illness caused my life to be this way? In my younger days, I did. I don’t allow myself to do that anymore. Still, the elements of abuse haven’t changed.

Being able to identify why the abuse happened helped bring understanding. It helped me offer my parents insight into their abuse and the sickness that caused it. It opened the doors to forgiveness that many victims lock before throwing the keys away. It helped bring healing in the middle of pain.

Some people do abuse because they were abused. If they can’t talk about it, if we’re too busy labeling them as abusers instead of acknowledging they were victims; if we can’t show them the why behind the violence, how can they change?

I escaped the abuse. I stayed to break the cycle.

And I’m stronger for it.


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I Am Not The Reason

Two years ago, I didn’t know what a “social media influencer” was. I didn’t know a thing about Twitter and I despised hashtags. (I still do!)

Then, an “influencer” used my pain, my blog, my voice, and my influence, for personal financial gain and professional profit. Although I expressed my concern many times, I ignored my heart because I was advocating for suicide prevention and hungry for exposure.

For thirty-four days, I tweeted, blogged, and learned web design and social media hacks, around the clock. After the Twitter influencer launched her campaign on Valentine’s Day, she dropped me and my team. She did it through email but forgot I could read any previous correspondence attached to the forwarded letter she sent me while she tried to pretend it wasn’t her call.

She expressed her concern to her main partner in Australia. She wrote about being upset that I figured out how to link a donation button to the children’s platform I was building, even though it was not officially active. She sounded so greedy as she said,

I don’t think she has any intention to share the profit!

Profit never even crossed my mind. They referred to me as if I were a b*tch on a power trip who needed to “heel” and learn “where I belong.” I wasn’t on a power trip. I was on a trip to empower. They were on a mission to sell things on Amazon.

But I was so lost in feeling like maybe I finally had a purpose; so consumed with trying to make use of the pain in my life that I missed the cries of one of my dearest friends, whom I affectionately call my sister. You would think that would have made me stop. But I couldn’t. I still can’t. Every tweet became about her because I was. still. fighting. for. the. same. cause.

Everything on social media became intentional. That includes the bad moments. It includes allowing the world to see real pain, anger, fear, doubt, and emotion. The gloves came off. I took every social media rule and I broke it. I  took the personal and professional filters and ripped them off.

I lashed out. I spoke out. I cried out. I pushed people away. I believed I was to blame. I did what I had to do to survive, and along the way, I grew to become among the top one percent of social media influencers online. But my loss impacted the lives of everyone around me, especially the girls who stuck by my side. Healing was harder than I ever expected. It remains the hardest thing in my life.

Healing was harder than I ever expected. It remains the hardest thing in my life.

When three more family members died by suicide, the road to healing became harder. I definitely hadn’t gotten there yet when I watched 13 Reasons Why. After thirty-three minutes, I turned it off at this line:

If you’re listening to this, you are one of the reasons why.

Two days later, the guilt was so overwhelming, I felt like I wanted to die. I realized I had been talking about suicide nonstop on Facebook for the entire time my sister had been home following a successful nine-month stint at rehab.

Everything I was shouting was what I feel like failed to do in her life. When I first got the call, I verbally blamed her sister. Her sister blamed me. Her mom verbally blamed a mutual friend of ours. Two of us thought about taking our lives because the weight of the guilt and the blame was so hard. It still is. So is the fight for life.

I wish I could tell Nicole I’m sorry. I wish I could tell her sister that it isn’t her fault. I wish, oh I wish, I could change things. I wish that with all of my heart. But I can’t. I can’t go back and reverse my losses. However, I can fight to save the next grieving heart.

I want you to know where my fight comes from. I know I talk, post, and rant, a lot. Maybe it feels dreadful to you and annoying. Maybe you don’t understand why. This is the reason.

I am a survivor of suicide loss, but I am not the reason. 


Please, sign my petition!

I Call Your ’13 Reasons’ and Raise You One

The world can’t stop talking about “13 Reasons Why.” It is taking over Facebook.

Maybe I’ve lost too many loved ones to suicide because I do not understand the hype. Fifteen minutes into the first episode, I turned on something else. I was already nervous and doubtful, but after watching, I was just pissed off.

In high school, I was one of three high school students to make an attempt following the suicide of a classmate. Back then, help like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline didn’t exist. So, when my friend told me I should’ve known better, he was right.

Albeit, because I knew better, I knew when to stop watching. I knew when to turn it off and I was aware of the resources available if I became emotionally overwhelmed or suicidal. He defended the show, pointing out how it brings awareness to a taboo topic which is often silenced, but he chooses not to watch. I’m with him.

While awareness is crucial to suicide prevention and advocacy, how we utilize that awareness is essential in effectively saving lives. When it comes to the impact of suicide and the media, Madelyn Gould from the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Division of Epidemiology at Columbia University confirms,

The existence of suicide contagion no longer needs to be questioned.

We know the risks. Because we know the risks, media outlets like Netflix have a moral and ethical obligation to act with the same awareness this show is alleged to present. Instead, they are risking lives.

The Media Guidelines for Reporting on Suicide specifically urge against detailed descriptions of method and site. They also encourage against headlines that will gain the front page of the New York Times and social media spotlight. In the description of the latest, most talked about television show, Netflix presents,

After a teenage girl’s perplexing suicide, a classmate receives a series of tapes that unravel the mystery of her tragic choice.

Clearly, their producers see media guidelines as friendly suggestions, instead of researched measures imperative to saving young lives.

One of the hardest parts of being a suicide loss survivor is the feeling of guilt. You replay their last days and you search social media posts and text messages, trying to figure out what you missed, and you blame yourself no matter how irrational it is, but there isn’t always a sign.

Here we are, taking suicide viral. Watching our sons and our daughters stare at their laptops and phones, thinking we’ve done enough to protect them; thinking they know better, and there’s no reason why suicide would impact our lives.

Right now, there is there a flashing, neon sign streaming across America, warning us that lives are at risk and we are strapped to the edge of our seats, gawking and applauding. We’re cheering it on.

While college students and teenagers are holed up at home with their eyes glued to Netflix, the clock is ticking. Silent, emotional reactions are transpiring inside of vulnerable people, ambivalent to their own suicidal ideation and naive to the risks. For the next suicidal teenager, death is just a matter of time, and “13 Reasons Why” is making the clock tick faster.

Maybe it is not suicide that is contagious, so much as the value of life. We should up the anti. We should help our children carry the weight and rise! We should be protesting, shouting, and taking a stand against it. Something (anything!) that sends the message that glamorizing suicide attempts and losses through celebrity-tinted camera lenses causes the entire nation to lose focus of what is required of us if we want to save lives.

Shame on Netflix, and shame on us for not taking more forceful action to protect the population in which suicide is the second leading (ages 10–24) and primary (college-aged) cause of death!

I don’t need thirteen reasons to turn off the show or unsubscribe. I only need one.

Life.