A survey about domestic violence and fitness + some personal observations

Hey all, sorry for my long silence on the blog.  I try not to go more than a week without updating the blog but things have been more than a tad hectic lately.  The Keys ultra preps are going along swimmingly, but jumpin’ Jehosaphat are they time-consuming.  I’m used to dealing with gels and shoes and wetsuits, but for this race I’ve had to do things like track down extra bandanas (!) and window paint markers (!!) and skin toughener (!!!).

And because this is Florida and we are not only the Sunshine State but also the state in which everyone seems hellbent on finding new and inventive ways to murder one another, work has also been fairly out-of-control lately as well.  Nancy Grace is reporting from my viewing area right now, if that tells you anything.

Which means the poor blog goes neglected.  It’s not for a lack of ideas, just a lack of energy.  I imagine you all understand.

I’m not any more well-rested right now – in fact I have been up since the glorious hour of 3 a.m. aka what Brian calls “getting up in the middle of the night to drink coffee” – but I’m going to try to write now anyway.

I wanted to get the word out about a research project being conducted by Josey Ross, a graduate student who reads this blog and is basically awesome and is doing all kinds of amazing work that makes me feel very hopeful and excited about the world.  As part of Josey’s research, she’s looking for people to fill out a short survey.  I filled this out because I fit the criteria perfectly, and I’m sharing it on my blog because I know there are women who read this who fit the criteria as well.

Here’s the information:

Hello, you are invited to participate in a short survey which is part of a research project titled “Intimate Partner Violence and Empowerment: The Mediating Effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptom Severity and Embodiment”.

We are interested in learning about the relationship between different kinds of exercise (aerobic exercise like jogging or cycling vs. empowerment-oriented exercise like strength-training and martial arts), women’s sense of connectedness with their bodies, their sense of being empowered and their mental health. We want to explore the answers to these questions with groups of women who have previously experienced partner abuse or dating violence.

Please consider participating in this brief survey if:

• You identify as a woman
• You are 18 years of age or older
• You live in Canada or the United States
• At some point in your life you have experienced partner abuse or dating violence

Click on this link to take part in this short survey:



I had an interesting emotional experience while taking this survey. It wasn’t so much that I was triggered by the survey – although I will say it’s definitely a possibility for someone else who takes it, so be forewarned – as much as it was the contrast between who I was and who I am now.  I took myself back mentally to the worst time in that relationship, when we were both doing a lot of drugs that depleted our serotonin levels, and so pretty much every Tuesday of those years was marked by a huge blow-up that often ended with bruises on my body, and I remembered how bloody miserable I was.  I despised my partner, but I couldn’t admit that to myself because to admit that would be to admit to making a mistake when I ran halfway across the country to be with him when I was a teenager, and to admit to making all the mistakes that came after that. And besides, what would that say about me, that I would remain in a relationship with someone I hated?  No, I refused to allow myself to think about this.

What I could admit, though, was how much I loathed myself.  Sometimes I remember how bleak and hopeless that felt and I want to weep for my younger self.

But then the survey called on me to take a bit of an emotional inventory of myself, and my mood instantly lifted.  I realized that I quite like who I am.  Is that weird to say? Like kind of narcissistic? It might be, but I don’t know if I really care, to be honest.  It’s so much nicer to like myself than it is to loathe myself.

In the past when I think about all of the changes in my life, I’ve thought about the role Brian has played in this, and how important he has been.  I’ve thought about my friends and my family, and how fortunate I am to be surrounded by supportive people who love me.  I thought about how blessed I was to be in a university program where I was excelling, and that led me right to a job straight out of college.  And I also thought about how lucky I was that things never turned out irrevocably badly in that past life.  I often write news stories in which I see ghosts of my former self in the mug shots staring back at me, and all I can think is “there but for the grace of God go I.”

As far as I was concerned, I was the luckiest person on earth.

But what I came to realize yesterday as I went through that personal inventory was that luck was only part of it.  Supportive relationships were only part of it.  A path that led to financial stability was also only part of it.  They’re all very important parts of how things have worked out, no doubt, but I realized that I had not given myself nearly enough credit for any of this either.

It wasn’t as if I floated along on a current of love and luck and good fortune and stumbled into a patch of good self-esteem.  I worked hard to get to this point, and I continue to work hard.  I worked hard by refusing to listen to the voices in my head telling me that I wasn’t smart enough or good enough to do the things I wanted to do.  Even if I did hear them, I gritted my fucking teeth and pushed on anyway.  I made an effort to catch myself every time I slipped back into the litany of ways in which I suck, in which I am a failure, in which I am an impostor who is sure to be found out and abandoned by everyone who ever meant anything to her in her life.

I fought the bullshit garbage voices in my brain that have tried to convince me that I’m worthless, and I continue to fight them.  And as I went through the survey, I realized something, that I’m actually really proud of myself for this.  That yes, I am a very privileged, fortunate lady, but I am also a lady who is a survivor and a fighter and that’s worth something too.

Because that’s the thing – I may still struggle from time to time, but right now I’m winning.  Those voices get quieter and quieter all the time.  Sure, I doubt myself about a lot of things.  I get anxious about my writing, because what writer doesn’t.  I look at challenges I’ve taken on and wonder just what the hell I was thinking.  I joke about having an existential crisis on a daily basis, but the truth is that they happen about once a week.  Sometimes I handle things in such a way that when I look back I’m ashamed and embarrassed.

But the difference is that I am no longer operating from a place in which I believe I am automatically going to fail just by virtue of who I am.   The difference is that I now take it all as part of the scary, complicated, messy journey that is life, and I am delighted to be my own companion on this journey.  (And Brian, when you read this, know that I’m delighted to have you as my companion as well.  We make a great team.)

I wouldn’t have felt the need to write this had I not felt like I see a lot of people struggling with the same kind of self-loathing that I once had.  I feel like the internet is awash with people who are trying to make their way through this gnarly thistlepatch of the heart, and so really I wanted to say that it’s worth the struggle.  It’s worth it to keep fighting.   Oh my god, it is so worth it.

Okay, that’s all for now.  I hope to be back to your (ir)regularly scheduled Fit and Feminist programming now that I’ve finished buying Clif Bars and window paint markers and shit.

20 responses to “A survey about domestic violence and fitness + some personal observations

  1. Bravo! Such a powerful piece of writing. So much of this speaks to me: the fear of failure because of WHO you are, the feeling of being an imposter who will be abandoned, and the fight that is so worth it. It is amazing when “the mean voices in our heads” get quieter. You are so powerful and brave!

    And a late thank you to you for publicizing my Boston Marathon fundraiser for domestic violence survivors! I finished (5.03, slowest yet, but I finished). It was beautiful and amazing and so challenging. And thanks to you and your readers, we raised 10,000 dollars!

    I look forward to reading more of your adventures- You rock!!!!

    • I was wondering how your race went! It sounds like a lot of people had a tough time this year but it’s awesome that you finished. One of these years…

      I’m glad to hear you were able to raise so much money for your organization. You all do such good work and I was really happy to do what I could to help out.

  2. “And I also thought about how lucky I was that things never turned out irrevocably badly in that past life. I often write news stories in which I see ghosts of my former self in the mug shots staring back at me, and all I can think is “there but for the grace of God go I.””

    Thanks for articulating this. This is something I think about often: It really could have gone either way for me. And there isn’t just one thing I can point to that put me on the not-dead/not-hopeless path. There was education, and finding things I was good at that translated to an income, and the right antidepressant, and barbells. There were a few important loved ones (including animals); books; and a partner who played a role in the way my life is now, e.g., not tragic. And I’ve worked hard. But it still really could have gone the other way, and so I have more compassion and depth than I’d have had if I’d never teetered around barefoot at the intersection of OK and Disaster.

    • “so I have more compassion and depth than I’d have had if I’d never teetered around barefoot at the intersection of OK and Disaster.”

      I like the way you put this, and I completely agree. I have a lot of empathy for people whose situations do not turn out the way mine has, because I understand just how easily things could have gone terribly wrong.

  3. Liking yourself is NOT narcissistic. In fact, I’d venture to say that most people with NPD don’t really like themselves very much at all. The baggage we carry from abusive relationships can get so heavy. It truly liberating to finally be able to throw that shit into the incinerator. EMDR is an amazing therapeutic tool.

    Please don’t apologize for your absence. Living life is never something to apologize for. I hope things calm down and the Clif Bars are AWESOMMMMMMMME and The Keys are fun.

    Party on.

    • I suspect you are right re: people with NPD. I think that for me it’s more a matter of questioning the sense of enforced faux-humility that has pervaded a lot of my life, where if you dare to think you are good at anything, you can expect to be smacked down for being cocky or conceited. It took me a while to understand that humility isn’t constantly running yourself down so people don’t think you’re full of yourself, but rather having a realistic assessment of who you are while still understanding that this doesn’t make you worth more or less than any other person.

      Please don’t apologize for your absence. Living life is never something to apologize for.

      LOL thanks for this. You know how the blog/social media world is. It’s like if you aren’t constantly posting new content, you run the risk of people forgetting about you. That’s such a b.s. thing, isn’t it?

      Also, I’m glad to hear your surgery went well. I’ve been reading your blog although I haven’t not commented recently. So now I want to know – when are you going to sign up for a 37-mile treadmill run? 😉

  4. This is inspiring. My experience was a bit of the opposite. When I was in the midst of my relationship, I was very active. It was something he used to against me; so today, I spend most of my time disconnected from my body. When I do exercise and push myself, it normally ends in fear rather than accomplishment but I’m hopeful that I will eventually get to a point where exercise isn’t a reminder of the victimization but of self empowerment and overcoming. Everyday I read your blog as a reminder that I can get there and I thank you for writing it.

    • I’m sorry that you ever went through that. Abusers are very good at taking the things we love and turning them into weapons against us, aren’t they? It’s insidious and gross. I hope that you are soon able to find some peace with yourself and your body and heal from the damage caused by that relationship.

  5. Pingback: No exercise? | Lack of exercise 'highest risk' for women over 30·

    • Thank you! And thanks to you for all the great stuff you’ve been writing on your blog lately. You’ve really been killing it.

  6. We never give ourselves enough credit for surviving each day, do we? So glad to hear you’re seeing through that BS; I am, too. It’s a struggle but that’s life, isn’t it? With moments of startling beauty and joy. Peace…

  7. Just finished taking the survey. Even though my own crisis’s occurred two years ago and more, it still floors me how it affects me to this day – the doubts and insecurities put in place from it. The fact that it was only a little over a year ago that I realized that what I’d gone through was abuse.

    I feel for those that have gone through what I’ve gone through, and for those that have gone through so much more. I wish you all well, and hope peace finds you.

    • Likewise to you. It’s been about seven years for me and I have to say, it has gotten easier over time. Now I’m at the point where I don’t even feel like I’m the same person I was back then. Healing can happen, it just takes some time.


  8. I was never physically abused by a partner, but I can completely identify with not liking myself or not believing that I deserved better from a relationship. It’s important that we share these things, finding our common ground. One of the biggest lies that we are told is that we are somehow the only one that feels this way.

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