When I was 6 years old I had a decision to make. I could choose to accept my situation, an abusive and alcohol fueled violent home that left in its wake insecurity, trauma and worst of all, victimhood. Or I could fight like hell.

I chose the latter.

I remember that evening as a little girl listening to the latest rage filled tirade by my father as I cowered in my basement bedroom. Suddenly his screaming stopped and I heard the side door to the garage slam shut. There was silence. I heard the gravel fly as he sped away in his truck and I jumped out of bed and went in search of my mother to try and convince her to leave this way of life.

To the outside observer nothing much changed that night. My mother didn’t leave my father in spite of a persistent 6 year old’s pleas. The violence continued and my childhood was filled with many more horribly frightening events. My mother and my 7 siblings and I would continue to tiptoe around my father’s explosive temper, hoping to make it through an evening without someone getting terrorized for hours over some contrived error or mistake.

But I changed.

I began plotting my escape. I began to change how I allowed this abuse to impact what I thought of myself. I began to imagine another life.

As I got a bit older I used to spend a lot of time in my imagination. One of my most frequent and favorite daydreams was that I lived in a Manhattan high rise and had a glamorous job. My Barbies and I would climb the stairs to the treehouse at the end of our property and I would travel far away from my current situation where I was free of abuse and violence.

In Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, he explains it best: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

This is where the fighting had to begin. I had to fight to choose an attitude toward myself that wasn’t defined by the trauma I endured. I had to fight to believe in myself and another way for me. I had to fight to not fall into despair as I stumbled and fell many times.

I left that home when I was 15 and with a lot of support from kind and loving people I began to build my “self” with:

Choosing good people to be in my life
Educating myself
Practicing kindness towards myself and others
More therapy

Although it wasn’t easy, it was possible. I could believe in myself in spite of the fact that my parents were too wrapped up in their own pain to give me that gift. I could do the work to see the possibilities, and not just the barriers to living a fulfilled life. My life hasn’t been free of pain, far from it, but I work every day, every minute on reminding myself that I get to choose how it impacts how I feel.

I get to choose.

I get to fight.

I am not a victim.

I am not only a survivor but I take responsibility for myself and I fight like hell so that I can be the leader of my life.

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