I had a bad dream this week. It was one of those awful nightmares where I woke up in a cold sweat, eyes wide and panicking, that horrible lump in my throat and thundering in my ears from the pressure of tears that were threatening to spill.
In my dream, I was back in the abusive relationship I escaped years ago.
I felt alone, lost, broken.
In the dream, the one good friend I’d been able to confide in in real life – a woman who understood, better than anyone, what I was going through – was trying to persuade me to leave my abuser.
She was offering me safe haven and pleading with me to get out before it was too late, but I was too afraid, too filled with guilt, shame and obligation. Just as I had in waking life, I turned away and walked back into the eye of the storm.
This nightmare covered themes of pain and suffering, betrayal, abandonment and loss of self-worth.
When I woke up, even after I’d come to my senses and remembered I was safe, well, and with a kind, loving parter sleeping soundly by my side, I was afraid to go back to sleep.
I lay there for what felt like an eternity before gradually drifting back into slumber.
When I woke up properly, a few hours later, the dream was still fresh in my mind and I was truly grateful for it.
You see, since those times – those terrible, monstrous times when I believed my only way out was my demise – I’ve done so much work to rebuild, and supported so many others through challenges of their own, I sometimes forget how dire my own situation was.
That’s one of the challenges that comes hand in hand with time and healing – the memories fade.
Don’t get me wrong here; I’m entirely happy to not have the those memories playing back every morning in full, technicolour glory, but…
Sometimes, I’ve caught myself wondering if that really was my life. I’ve checked myself and asked whether things really were that bad. I’ve even wondered if I should just shut up about the whole damned mess… and that’s precisely why I’m so grateful for those oh so occasional flashback dreams.
Sure, they’re painful at the time, but I believe they always come for a reason.
Sometimes, it’s just my unconscious dredging stuff up to be cleared and healed, like silt from the bottom of a barrel.
Sometimes, they serve to remind me that I acted in the best way I possibly could by ‘allowing’ the abuse for so long. Somewhere, in a parallel universe, maybe there’s a version of me who tried to fight back with more vitriol and, perhaps, wouldn’t live to tell the tale.
Sometimes, they serve as a stark reminder that, yes, despite my memories getting a little bit fuzzy after being packed in metaphorical mothballs for so long, it really was that bad.
It’s important for me to remember. Not because I want to dwell on the past, or wear some kind of warped victim-mentality medal, but because my past experiences help me to powerfully support and serve others. And that magic only really comes into its own when I can fully recall the extent of the domestic abuse I lived through.
I’m really careful not to use words like ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’ as descriptors, because I believe adopting those titles holds people in the energy of what went down. We need to be able to remember, to learn from our past, but not keep part of our souls chained up there.
Having been through something awful isn’t some badge of honour to wear – it’s just part of life’s rich tapestry, to learn from, grow from and, where possible, use to positively impact the lives of others.
Pain does fade in time. I carry no visible scars today and I genuinely hold no ill feelings towards my ex partner. I hope he’s happy, healthy and that he’s learned lessons of his own, so that he’s able to enjoy a balanced, loving relationship all these years later.
If I didn’t carry the memories, though… if I lost belief in the totality of my own experiences… I wouldn’t be able to use those life lessons as tools to do the work I love so much today. It would be that much harder to fulfil my soul mission.
Rare dreams like these give me a reality check. They remind me of just how far I’ve come AND how important it is to keep talking, keep supporting, inspiring and motivating others.
They prevent those all important pivotal moments that shape and form us from fading into oblivion. They remind me of my mission. They keep me fired up, on track and ready to serve.
They also remind me how blessed I am now.
Those tough times contributed to my skills as a coach. They allow me to work with local authorities to support people who’ve been through domestic violence and familial abuse; my own experiences allow the people I work with to relate to me, to open up, to see the absolute proof that they can rebuild and make something of their lives.
It’s a similar story for so many of my other life trials – the depression and breakdown I came through, the broken back, my climb to the top of the corporate ladder AND the creation of my own businesses. They ALL contribute to the work I do today. They’re all part of my unique storyline that can be used to help others to reach for their own potential, to believe a brilliant future might just be possible for them too.
The day after that dream, I held my loved ones that little bit closer and felt filled with gratitude.
I’m all for living in the moment, but it’s good to remember how far we’ve come as well! Those nightmares we dread so much might just be blessings in disguise.
Until next time,