Vanessa Stevens – Surviving or Thriving Monday’s

by Tanya Monteiro on 09/26/2011

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Vanessa Stevens contacted me through this blog. After years of living in patterns of abusive relationships, ten years ago Vanessa began her journey from Surviving to Thriving. Today, along with Susan Omilian they mentor survivors of abuse and teach. (Susan is a former attorney turned writer and author of The Thriver Workbook: Journey from Victim to Survivor to Thriver.) Vanessa, is a certified violence crisis counselor, she created the The purple song project to write original music for survivors and also teaches the "Write Songs to Heal" Songwriting workshops to help survivors of abuse, loss or trauma discover and explore another tool to help their own healing.

Vanessa and I spoke on the phone a couple of weeks ago and below is a transcript of our Q&A.

What does the word Thriving mean to you?
Living your best life.

What does living your best life mean to you?
I’ve been able to understand my past but I don’t completely let it define me it’s made me who I am today. I’ve learned to forgive those people that have hurt me and think in healthier terms, more positively. I’ve learned to find a balance in my own life, and to take my career seriously but not take myself so seriously. I found ways to make living simpler, but I still embrace challenges and believe in myself that I can go after what I want.

What is a simple activity that consistently makes you Thrive?
Music can – song writing and writing can be healing. Finding and using some form of creativity. By putting it out there, there is a chance that someone else will find your art along the way to make changes in their own lives.

How do you think you got into that cycle of abuse?
I grew up in a dysfunctional home of addiction and abuse, and I had no idea what a healthy relationship was like. I was replicating the relationships that I’d seen around me.

Any tools on Thriving that you know now that you did not have at 18?
Not to take myself so seriously – laugh more – when people are abusive in any way, it’s about them. I don’t ignore that feeling in my gut; if after an interaction with someone still sits with me in my gut long after I left that person I journal about it and pay attention to it, especially if it’s going against my gut and I am feeling sick or anxious, terrible, lethargic even. One of the interesting facts to keep in mind is that someone can be abusive to you but not to someone else. Like a bully to one kid but not another kid. That realization was empowering to me.

How do you deal your bullies?
I’ll remind myself that I deserve and can command respect. That it is not my fault, their choosing to bully or be abusive may be their issue. Separate myself from the situation or person. Separate myself emotionally.

Are there any patterns that you see people doing that detracts from their ability to move from Surviving to Thriving?
Forgetting their boundaries, realizing they deserve respect and can command respect. Taking ourselves too seriously, that’s when we open ourselves up to being abused. Letting others invade their boundaries. Not listening to our gut.

(As an example, if they are watching a TV show or a movie where there is some form of abuse depicted and it triggers this person to remember their own life and they get discouraged, asking themselves questions like; “I’m on the right track what’s wrong with me?” “Why did I get triggered and “go back there?” Remember, healing may take the rest of your life. Being discouraged is normal, you are going to be triggered and that’s ok. It’s ok to slip back and as long as you are on the path to healing you are really healing. Those Dark places that we sometimes fall back into we slowly start to spend less and less periods of time in, as we move forward with our healing).

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