As the launch day for my book draws closer, I’m experiencing a mix of thoughts, feelings and emotions – mostly positive, and some a little challenging 😊.  I’m wondering or trying to remember when exactly I decided to write a book about my life experiences, and why?   Why an introvert like me, someone who guards their privacy like I do, has written a book that’s open for anyone to critique my life and the choices I made?  Why am I opening myself up for possible criticism and judgement?  Am I concerned about that?  Of course, I am.  But I know in my Heart that there is no-one out there who can criticize or judge me more than I’ve criticized and judged myself over the years.

In the most challenging time of my life, there were times when my home felt like a prison that imprisoned my Body, Mind and Soul.  Sometimes I felt like I was locked in a prison inside a prison I had built around myself to protect myself, but all it did was keep me trapped.  I felt like I had a life sentence, a life sentence of little control of my own Body and Mind.  Just going through the motions of daily life, resentful of the time and memories he stole from me in the 4 years we were together 30 years ago.  Four years that impacted on my life for at least 25 years.  Precious time!  Times when I lied to my family and friends about the injuries and cried inside when I saw the disbelief in their eyes, or their body language that showed me they knew – they knew I was lying.  It was demoralizing and humiliating.  But I was good at it, I was living a lie and sometimes it was hard to separate the lies from the reality.  There were two people in this body, the person I hid at home and the person I showed to the world.  I went from someone who wore very little make-up to wearing a thick layer of foundation to cover the black eyes and bruises in my corporate life.  Foundation so thick that I could almost scrape it off at the end of the day in the privacy of my home life.

Physical and emotional abuse struck me at the core of my Being – every part of me ached –  my Physical, Emotional and Mental dimensions were battered and bruised.  The physical injuries healed over time with medication for pain relief and depression.  Medications that masked the ‘effects’ but could never provide relief from the ‘cause’ – lack of self-love and self-respect.  Medications that could never provide relief, safety and security for me and my family.  Medications that could never provide relief from my guilt and shame when I saw the fear and pain in my kids’ eyes, and the way they’d change in his presence.  Trying desperately to suppress their tears and muted cries.  Soul-destroying times.

Struggling to believe there’s light beyond the shadows I waited desperately to emerge from.  Watching other people enjoying life and wishing I could have just one ounce of their happiness.  And never believing that I actually could.

Quite recently, a work colleague asked me what I’d been up to, so I told him about the book I was writing about domestic violence in my younger years.  His response “oh yeah, but it was common back then though”, like it was no big deal.  Like it was acceptable and normal because it was a common occurrence in our communities.  Yes, it was common (and still is!), but that doesn’t make it right!  There was no compassion or empathy in his response, and it made me wonder if this is what’s missing in the fear-based society we live in – compassion and empathy?.  And I thought again about the fear-based ‘homes’ women and children are living in every day and the long-term effects this fearful existence could have on the quality of their lives.

For almost thirty years I carried excess emotional baggage through what should have been some of the happiest times of my life with my kids, and grandkids.  Sometimes my thoughts drift back to those times, particularly now in the lead up to the launch of my book.  When this happens, I allow my thoughts to drift temporarily back into the shadows, but physically I stay grounded right here, right now, in this point in time.  It serves no purpose to dwell in the shadows of the past.  I can never get those years back, so I don’t allow my past to dictate or control my future anymore.

So, this is WHY I’ve decided to share my story?  Because it’s a story that’s all too familiar in our society, and despite the high number of women and children experiencing domestic and family violence, they feel alone in their experience.  Even in a room full of people, we can still feel alone.  Alone in our pain and suffering.  Trapped.  Depressed.  Numb.  Powerless.  Constantly battling with the internal conflicts between the Heart and the Mind.

Hindsight is always a fine thing.  Looking back, I can see I was the judge, jury and jailer of my life sentence in my mental and emotional prison.  I just never knew at the time that I had the keys.  I had the keys to unlock the chains that bound me to the scenarios I played over and over in the theatre space in my Mind.  I had the keys to release myself from my prison and life sentence.

And that is the driving force behind my desire to share my story.  If my book helps just one woman to start her journey to finding her keys to Freedom, then it has served its purpose.  If it helps people in our society understand the reality of domestic and family violence without judgement, then it has served its purpose.

Freedom starts with self-love, self-respect, self-worth, love, forgiveness and understanding.  These are the most important keys to unlock the chains that bind us.  If you can find the courage and commitment to start loving and honoring yourself first and foremost, you will start to set yourself Free.  Easier said than done, I know.  But it is so worth the effort – and so are you!

Kia Kaha, Kia Wātea – Be Courageus, Be Free!