What’s your Secret Story about Abuse in Relationships?

One hundred people – therapists, counsellors, social workers and clients – in a room. All is silent. What’s next? They are looking at her. She sits next to the therapist, her head down. What were the incidents in your relationship with your family?  The therapist asks. Sexual abuse and violence. Her voice breaks. A shocked murmur spreads.

How many years didn’t I dare to look into others people eyes due to the sexual and emotional violence of my past? For how many years did I feel stigmatized due to the generic judgment of being a hopeless case? For how long had I allowed other people’s opinion to define my worthiness? My answer is, for too long.

How about you?

How does this murmur make her feel? I look at her. She shrinks in her seat. You can never overcome the effects of abuse. Poor thing, she’ll never recover. The voice of my colleague – a counsellor – cuts through my thoughts.  I open my mouth, and I want to tell her, it is possible to heal abuse, violence and manipulation. That is my experience. It is my truth. How to find words to express what can’t be described but only experimented? My rational mind never fully understood the transformation we went through. The more I was able to own my pain, the more I was able to experience joy. How can I express this to her?  I search for words. There is nothing. Silence. I shrink in my seat and feel small and powerless again. I lower my head and stay silent.

What is your secret story about abuse?

The one I told – I called it A Brave, True Story – is mine. I wrote it for the woman on the chair. It is my intimate message to tell her that she is not alone. And it’s also for you if you feel like her.

Healing is beyond logical explanations. Meaning what? Healing is about becoming whole again. About reclaiming those parts of you that seem to be lost in trauma and pain. A re-connection with your inner child to give her the love she has never received before. There will come this moment, when she is fully awake, full of joy, curiosity, innocence, dignity and intuition. Do you know how innocence feels like? I lost mine when I was three. I didn’t know what it was.

Healing is about connecting with invisible energies that are all around you to guide you and to protect you. Healing is about letting go of the invisible protections you have build around your heart and learn to love again.

What is essential for healing abuse?

Telling and owning your story makes the difference between merely surviving or really living. How does this feel? I don’t know what it will feel like for you but for me living means feeling. My image is that living is like a joyous dance to your favorite music, and you move and dance while you feel a sensation of deep joy in your body. Like looking at my cats and seeing their smiles and happiness. Like feeling the heat of the sun on my face, smelling the air after rainfall or seeing the fresh green leaves on the trees.  Simply, it’s a deep gratitude for being alive. A sensation of bliss that feels like exploding balloons filled with a multitude of bright colors. It’s feeling the embrace of a friend.

What can you do to heal abuse?

No, I don’t want to force you to tell your story but I will invite you to take your time, continuously taking small steps towards telling your story with full transparency. Rest assured that, however small, effects will be seen quickly and will empower you to keep moving.

Blame, criticism and judgment – both internal and external – can be powerful to silence your voice forever. And, if you are like me, you’re probably the one who gives yourself the harshest criticism. You perhaps try to adapt, to fit in, to be perfect and fulfill excessive demands about whom, how and what you should be. If you allow this to happen, you pay a price: you can never experience deep connection and true belonging in a relationship. If you try to fit in, you may end up with who you want to be and get some approval however they do not care about you but the illusion you play for them. Deep in your heart, you know that they don’t truly care for you.

What is genuine connection?

How can somebody truly love you if you don’t show him who you are – with your strength and weaknesses? How can you belong if you hide behind a mask, deeply afraid that somebody may find out about your secret story?

When I first started to share my story, I struggled with being judged. What will people think about me? Judgment has always been painful for me. My coach told me that I could never make it right for everybody. People may judge it harshly, and the right people will value and appreciate it. That’s where belonging and connection is possible. Belonging isn’t about the amount of people that are part of your life; it’s about having people in your life who truly appreciate you for who you are. It’s about the quality of your connections. The more you can accept yourself, the more you will experience belonging and connection.

That’s why I invite you to read my story and my journey to fully accept my story. It’s not about my greatest success, but my greatest defeat.

How can I ask you to show up if I am not doing it? How can I teach you my truth about relationships if I don’t dare to tell you the truth about where I came from?

What is the healing power of telling your story?

Stories have the power to heal because they talk to your subconscious and can guide it gently into a new direction. They give you new pictures and perspectives for your situation you haven’t yet seen. They are like a protective cloak because they allow you to release painful emotions like shame and guilt without ever entering your story. And they show you that you are not alone in your situation. Aren’t we all human? What is so bad about being real? Why should we hide our imperfections and weaknesses when they make us human and our common humanity is our only hope to connect?

I hope that my story empowers you to become whole, to say no to abuse and unhealthy relationships, and to live life fully and happy.

I cannot tell you what you’ll experience if you read my story. What I can tell is that it has touched lives – for all kinds of people. Why? Maybe because it tells a deeply human experience in the search of true love and connection. Maybe because it may tell you that our true light is not our success but how we handle our weaknesses and imperfections. Or because I wrote it from my heart and was honest and real, and maybe that’s what we really lack in our modern society.

Why don’t you just take a look at what other people said?

“Uplifting in its core. Inspirational and captivating. It gives you hope that you can overcome pain and anger, and live a happy life.” – A reader

“Very inspiring and brave. Especially for people who tend to do things for others and not listening to their inner voices for what’s about best for themselves.” – Frank

“Engaging, inspiring and optimistic. I can absolutely recommend this book! In fact, it’s about the dark side of life, but written in a very engaging and optimistic way. I couldn’t stop reading it, since I wanted to know how it ends. Life is stronger than fiction!” – A reader

“A Brave, True Story is without a doubt a book of courage. The author bravely shares her personal journey of adversity, healing, love and compassion. This book serves as a true testament to the innate power and willingness of humans to be able to overcome the most traumatic and violent of circumstances. For everyone who have had past experiences that shaped them, this is an inspiring book you ought to read; it will show you how to appreciate adversity and how it can be a driving force to transform it into beauty.” – Eleni

“Natalie’s book is a raw depiction of truth given out in pure grace – a story that shows how coming into this world we have no control over how our journey starts and yet through bravery of heart we can learn to change the story for the rest of our lives. When it comes to childhood trauma, Natalie says it best, it is never too late to have a happy childhood. Insightfully crafted story about survival.” – Catherine

Get A Brave, True Story as paperback or kindle on amazon.com or get the epub version in my online store.

Natalie Jovanic

Natalie Jovanic is a Registered Therapeutic Counsellor and Shiatsu Therapist. As a counsellor, she passes on what she believes in, but it isn’t just knowledge, theory, and professional experience. It is also her wisdom gained through her own transformative journey of healing abuse. She is the author of A Brave, True Story.