After almost six years of unrelenting and ever-escalating emotional and physical abuse, I finally found the courage to leave my most toxic relationship thanks to therapy and friends I met who had healed their traumas and understood what love can be. My relationship with that trauma-bonded BFF eventually ended over a night out where I drunkenly spilled a hurtful secret to one of her friends. I don’t blame her for ghosting me after a decade of friendship filled with partying, joint disordered eating, and mutual encouragement of bad decisions. I hope that she has found her path to healing and has started to build the sense of wholeness I found on my own path.
Since freshman year of college, I had been a sporadic yoga practitioner, noticing that the days and weeks when I practiced yoga regularly were the ones I felt the best. Just before making the decision to leave my abusive ex-husband, I started going to a weekly yoga and anxiety group therapy meeting. I had never talked to anyone about my anxiety before. I wasn’t sure if everyone else was just able to handle their incessant inner monologue better than me or if I should be in a psychiatric hospital. I felt sure that no one else had this never-ending stream of thoughts overpowering their every waking moment. Finally, I learned that this thing happening in my brain had a name—anxiety—and there were many other people who had the same experience, and there were specific things we could do to address this “anxiety” thing.
Over the years, I moved from regularly practicing yoga and meditation to becoming a certified trauma-informed yoga teacher, as well as a mindfulness and trauma researcher. Now, I know that to truly understand love, you have to start with yourself. Once I developed a healthy sense of self-compassion, I began seeing love all around me—in the communities I’ve joined or created, in strangers, and even in my own dysfunctional family. My problems, especially relational problems, didn’t disappear overnight and I’m still working to improve certain relationships by slowly building trust and opening channels of communication that were previously clogged. I stopped seeking out situations that echoed the drama and pain I experienced as love (or what I thought was love) when I was young. Instead, I started creating spaces of peace to manifest and share love.