I remember what rock bottom tasted like.
It was coffee—dark, bitter, and cold—with thunderstorms brewing in all directions.
Purple-grey clouds surrounded me. Safety seemed out of reach—and I was on edge at all times. Rest was non-existent, a fantasy figment from another life. Fear was everywhere. It was everything: the best way for him to control me.
The humidity kept on rising, the temperature swelling hot and dangerous—for I never knew when lightning would strike. My heart was constantly breaking, and there were so many eggshells to walk on.
My voice got quieter and smaller, till I slowly pulled the great disappearing act of a lifetime—ta-da!—becoming a frail, ghost-like specter of my former self.
Suddenly, I lived to please, to pretzel myself back into his good graces once again. To lull myself back to sleep with his seductive lies that it really would be different this time.
But it never was.
Talk about exhausting.
Being with him was like a drug—sometimes great, mostly awful. The roller-coaster loops and manipulative mind games made me dizzy. I just wanted to feel solid ground under my feet again…and I was damn tired of looking at reality upside down.
His temper flared like the wrath of a demon. His words were like swords, expertly directed at my fears and vulnerabilities.
This man I thought I loved, he was terrifying. I also hated him. I hated him because when I was with him—I would forget who I was; I would forget that I had any power at all.
And this love, he hurt me. He hurt me so badly that I built up walls—thick, brick walls to survive. Walls that became tall and epic, like the best kind of armor.
And so, in the darkest depths of those tough times—I promised myself I would never let anyone in again.
I locked my heart and threw away the key.
But now, I am bucking up against that old promise, that life-saving vow I made to myself in those brutal chapters.
Those walls, they are still there.
And it’s surprising, even to me—because I seem open. I care deeply. I love fiercely. And I adore holding space for other people.
But those walls—they are still there.
My current beloved, a kind man with gentle eyes and integrity for miles—he wants me to let him in. And sometimes, I don’t know if I can.
I learned to protect myself really well—after all, fighting to survive was my main strategy.
But now, I am here. I am no longer in the grasp of a toxic love’s cruelty. And yet, those wounds—they shock, they shudder, they vibrate into the present. They endure.
It makes me so mad.
Because that old love hurt me already—why does he get the pleasure of hurting me still? It feels like he’s winning.
I exhale slowly through these waves of choppy intensity.
And I sit next to my new beloved in a parking lot that smells like sand and summer, put my hand on my heart, and cry. I cry big—not cute little sobs.
Oh no, I openly weep giant, messy raindrops that gush down my cheeks like grit and sweat and smeared mascara and all the hurt I’ve held in for far too long.
I admit that I am scared sh*tless to love again.
I admit that closeness is really hard for me—I’m still hypervigilant, my heart is still tender. In a way, she expects pain, for she knows hurt intimately.
It’s okay. For I hold this raw heart of mine gently as the tears rain down, washing me in a cleansing, aquamarine shower that feels life-giving and damn difficult. And so good.
I breathe. I stay. I no longer need to run away from the ache. I no longer strive to avoid the memories.
Slowly—I dip my toes in.
And I often wonder—what is the cure? But there is no quick fix. I kinda love that. Healing from trauma and abuse, from a toxic love—it takes hard work, sweetness with ourselves, and time. Yes, all three.
Shyly, I peer up from my net of tears and I see my man looking at me with deep, genuine care
Telling me I’m brave.
Telling me I’m beautiful.
Telling me that he is not going anywhere.
He holds my hand. He does not judge me. He is quiet and present as I cry till my chest burns, fresh with relief.
In the gentleness of his gaze, my walls crumble.
The bricks come down.
One. At. A. Time.
If trauma is shocking and fast and unpredictable—then healing is gentle and slow. It has to be.
So maybe I’m not quite ready to rip open those walls and let him—or anyone—fully in just yet.
I’m okay with that. There is no rush.
I decide the pace.
And I inhale, wild with the knowing that the man who loved me long ago in a terrible, toxic way—well, his grip on me gets weaker every day.
Now, it is up to me to heal. It’s my responsibility.
And that’s the gift of all of this. It’s not pretty—it’s not the kind of gift we would ever ask for—
But in the throes of it all—
We tumble into a new sort of aliveness.
We become wilder. More real. Stronger. More ourselves. Bolder.
Yes, we glisten, even these moments where tears flood our faces and our eyes are puffy and it all feels damn wretched and wildly unfair—
It is freakin’ beautiful, in the most unexpected ways. It’s amazing—the way change breathes, hot and ready, at our fingertips.
Through it all, I like the way I’m learning to show up for myself.
I like the way I’m holding my own heart, in those tender, aching places.
And—I like the way I’m learning to be held, too.
That old promise speaks like smoke from a stale cigarette held to my lips—never let anyone in again—as it dissolves and crumbles, as it returns, like chocolate dust, into the earth.
Love can be poison. Love can be medicine. This is what I know.
It’s paradoxical, because in letting my old wounds be witnessed by my man and dear friends—they alchemize and become art; they become beauty. They become a thick, vibrant sap that flows thick right from the center of the ache. They become not just ugly reminders of how much life can hurt, but poetry and prose. They become my freedom.
I refuse to live in shame. That’s the last thing I want for any of us.
So, we, who once existed in thick clouds of silence with emotion welling, hot and unstoppable, in our chests—
We, who know the twisted agony of a love gone terribly toxic—
We, who remember what it’s like to live in shackles of fear—
We are not just victims. Or survivors. We are still our selves; our identity is intact
That didn’t go away. And it never will.
Even when our past pain leaks into the present and hurts like hell, it does not define us. We define us.
So say it with me, for I imagine our voices flooding hilltops with static electricity that sweeps goosebumps onto our skin and makes the leaves on gigantic trees sway with the epic winds of our breath…
I choose growth.
I choose healing.
It was not my fault. But I will take sweet care of my wounds every step of the way.
And in this—in one flourish of the pen—
I re-write it all.
I reclaim my voice, my worth, my body, my joy, my heart.
I reclaim my story.
I reclaim my life.
I see my strength.
I feel my power rising up like lava through every limb, shining vividly, with no limits in sight—like the sun’s rays shooting out in a thousand directions.
I feel my fire.
I feel my heart.
I feel the sweet roar of my soul.
And I know
Even through the tears and pain
Really beautiful things await me.