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The Dark Shadow

photograph by East Coast Photography//Shauna Hundeby

I’ve been seeing a lot of articles circulating around the internet lately about things like “what she wants you to know about her past of abuse” and “why she didn’t leave her abuser”. Articles that would start off with a catchy title, but never seemed to touch on the points I was hoping to see them explore. It was a first for me to see articles like this. While they were very well written and truth rang from every paragraph; I wasn’t totally happy with them. None of them let the reader in on life after trauma. Not one of them touched on what it’s like to live day to day with this incredibly dark shadow constantly creeping around a corner.

As someone who has to live with this shadow day in and day out, it’s not easy. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been or if it seems like you’ve gotten over it. The fact is… it never goes away. Time will heal certain parts of the experience, eventually things will fade. However, the feelings, the flashbacks, the triggers, the moments of unexplained anxiety… they don’t ever leave. I will forever walk around with this dark shadow haunting me without warning. The moments you’re out or working and someone with a similar face or voice pops in and your heart immediately drops into that split second of panic before you realize you’re safe. You never truly get over something like this. You just deal with it when it comes back up.

I don’t know if anyone will truly understand what it feels like to live with something like this, unless you too have been there. It’s hard. There are good days and there are bad days. It’s not just having to deal with the reality of it having happened and accepting it; it’s not just dealing with the fact that someone you once loved is now the worst fear in your life and they could always show back up. It’s not just dealing with the type of abuse they put you through. It’s dealing with the lies, the feelings, the anxiety; It’s dealing with knowing that you deserve better, you really are beautiful, you do know what love is suppose to be like, and that it’s okay to be you. It’s okay to be the person you are. I’m not going to get yelled at for trying to make someone else happy. I’m not going to get thrown out of the house for crying. I’m not going to get pinned down for refusing to fight. I’m not going to get chased down the street for wanting to leave a 6 hour fight I couldn’t escape. I won’t be forced to fight. I won’t be constantly given ultimatums that if I go to work I must not care or truly be in love. No one is going to break into my house because I locked them out because I couldn’t handle the constant pain of the fights.

I have moments in my life that are plagued by other moments that shouldn’t have been there. Important moments in my life… where things took a turn for the worse because I refused to be spoken for and then everything turned into this dark haze I couldn’t escape. The constant apologies because I just wanted the fighting to stop. It never mattered who was right… It only mattered that he had control. He wanted complete control over all of me and I wouldn’t give it to him.

I may have lost sight of who I was for a couple years. I may have tried to believe in someone who I thought loved me back, but really the most terrifying thing was just that. By the end, I didn’t want him to love me. The scariest words you could say to me were “I won’t ever leave you.” It was like I was trapped in a nightmare that I didn’t think I could make it out of. Just because I almost drowned, doesn’t mean I didn’t learn to breathe again. I found a light in darkness and I held on so tightly until I made it safely to the other side. Not every day feels like I’m stronger than the last, but I know it’s true. I’m a warrior. I came out of the darkness with a fire inside of me to always strive to be the best human I can be. I’m chasing my wildest dreams and pursuing the undying wanderlust in my heart.

While the darkness is behind me, it’s never too far behind that I don’t feel it’s cold, unsettling breeze every once in awhile. When that happens it’s one of the hardest things to pull back from, because it’s the instant feeling of shame and that no one understands and if I bring it up people are going to think I should be way past this by now… because he’s gone and it’s over. For those of us dealing with this shadow of darkness, that’s one of the hardest, constant obstacles we face all the time. I’m sure one day it won’t be such a strong breeze every now and then, but for now.. it still hurts. It still exists. It’s still painful, and it shouldn’t be dealt with alone. We need community and we need chances to talk about it without getting shut down and without the judgement of others. We need you to be understanding of the pain we live with.

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Why Would Anyone Want To Ever Fall In Love?

[photograph source]

I have been struggling with this complex, unexplainable, terrible, wonderful, indescribable thing called love for quite some time now. There is so much I don’t understand and so many feelings that come with the territory that it is almost unfair how love affects a person. Why would anyone want to ever fall in love? So simple, yet so complex of a question. Love is beautiful and painful. Love is mysterious and yet crystal clear. Love is unexplainable, but at the same time you know exactly what it is. You don’t need words to describe love. Love will do all the talking for you. Love is completely straightforward, and yet it is the most confusing encounter that you will ever come across. So what is it that keeps us coming back, holding on, pushing forward, and entangling ourselves in this beautiful mess which is love?

The strength that love possesses is that of the entire animal kingdom coming together all at once in a glorious celebration. Strong and powerful. Glowing brighter than the stars. Love brings that strength to us and it either holds us down or releases us into the wild. So what do you do when love ties you so closely to someone that you see no other option than to endure the storm and hope you come out of it holding the hand of that person whose heart you’re so entwined with?

Love is the hardest thing I have ever had to encounter. As the storm raged on, all I felt was him slipping away and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. It all happened so fast. The storm everyone dreads came over us like an ocean, ready to break open, not a warning in sight. The intensity was blinding at times. Before I knew it, he was gone. He disappeared into the unknown without the slightest hint of a goodbye. All of sudden the love I had so strong inside of me had no place to go. It was like I woke up in the middle of the desert without a map or any type of direction. I was just there… alone. All I have is a photograph and memories. Memories of how amazing it was when you were here. I’ve never felt more alive or appreciated. When you opened that door to something more… it wasn’t like I planned to fall completely in love with you. But that’s the way love works, isn’t it? It hits you without warning and takes you down with it no matter how hard you fight. You can’t win. I fought endlessly.

Love is a battlefield that leaves us all scarred in some way. Love presents how beautiful things can be and how messy they can become. Love is the most difficult to deal with it, for it makes you do things you never thought capable. Love drowns you in memories and tears when your heart gets crushed. All that runs through your mind is why would you ever leave me feeling like the world just imploded around me? Love makes you want to ruin your entire life for someone else. Through the tears, it’s that love that will ultimately keep making us stronger. Like it or not, it’s what pulls us through and makes us more of who we are than we’d like to rightfully admit. Memories may haunt us for the rest of our lives and never knowing if they’ll ever come around might hurt more than the feeling of a broken heart; but if there’s one thing I know, it’s that there is no feeling like love. Love is crazy. Love brings out the weirdness and excitement in us all. It’s beauty can’t be matched. Love is fearless. Love is your favorite song and sharing a bottle of wine. Love is conquering the unknown day in and day out in hopes that you will live to fight another day. Love fighting even when fighting seems impossible. In the end, love is all you will ever need. It just might take a few unbearable, painful broken hearts to see it.

Love is that star in the sky that has been there all along, you just may not have noticed it before.

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Dancing as a Way of Life

10157149_591936967568772_646008750_n[photo credit: cake and whiskey]

This could not be more true in my life. However it’s not just my kitchen that is for dancing, it is every part and every aspect of my life. Dancing is my release. It’s my way of clearing my head and seeing the joy that is hidden within the not so happy parts of the day. Stress disintegrates when you dance and put on your favorite song. Dancing helps heal and helps you overcome obstacles without having to worry about them. Dancing creates a worry-less atmosphere where your fears disappear.

About three months ago I created Dance Party Wednesday at work because I was going through a time in my life where I was full of anxiety, slight depression and just overall unhappy. I had the hardest time shaking it off. Then one Wednesday morning I was listening to a wonderful song and found myself dancing in my car before I arrived at work. That’s when it hit me. Dance Party Wednesdays. I walked into work and immediately felt better for starting my day off with a little dance. It made me feel so great that I declared to my co-workers that from now on Wednesdays will be known as Dance Party Wednesdays. If you’re one of my regular customers, you already know whats coming. We turn the music up louder and do little dances all day long. If I know you really well, I’ll make you dance for me before I hand you your beverage. Dance Party Wednesdays instantly make people smile and the atmosphere becomes a happier, more joyous place for everyone.

Dancing is a way of life. Dancing is so much more than a dance. It’s a way to express yourself. Dancing lets the stress of everyday life to roll off your back and the joys of life to instantly show through you. Dancing turns any bad day into a lovely one. It’s not just a release, but a way to brighten just about anyone’s day instantly. I love dancing and I love sharing the joy it brings me with everyone I come into contact with. It’s amazing what a 3o second dance to begin your day will do. Your mood is better. You’re more productive. It’s harder to get stressed for no reason. So next time you’re in a hard spot and having a difficult time, do a little dance. I promise you’ll feel 10x better and your smile will light up a room. Have a wonderful Saturday my friends!

Photo on 5-2-14 at 12.44 PM #4

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Dr. Maya Angelou 1928-2014

[Vogue Daily]

This morning the world lost a beautiful soul. My heart is heavy with sadness to hear of the passing of the brilliant and wonderful, Maya Angelou. She has touched more lives with her writings and teachings than she will ever know. She speaks words of wisdom that connect on such a deep level with so many individuals. She understands the true meaning of life and love; and she shares that every day with the rest of the world. If only more people valued and understood human life the way she does, people would have no choice but to love more often and more sincerely. Dr. Maya Angelou is one of my personal heroes. Her writings and her teachings continuously hit home for me.

“So try to live your life in a way that you will not regret years of useless virtue and inertia, and timidity. Take up the battle. Take it up. It’s yours. This is your life. This is your world. I’ll be leaving it long before you under the ordinary circumstances. You make your own choices. You can decide life isn’t worth living. And that would be the worst thing you could do. How do you know? So far. Try it. See. So pick it up. Pick up the battle and make it a better world. Just where you are. Yes. And it can be better and it must be better. But it is up to us.”

Dr. Maya Angelou was a storyteller, a poet, an activist, a dancer, singer, author and much more. I have learned that to love someone and to spread love to others is a simple task, yet it is incredibly complex because when you spread the joy of love; you are spreading hope to others. You are showing others that you truly care about them. We are all human beings. There is nothing you cannot do and nothing that will hold you back from your dreams as much as yourself.


“Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now. So I love you. Go.'”

Maya, I will forever share the love and wisdom you have taught me. My kids will know who you are and the love you shared. You will never be forgotten. Your legacy lives on through all of the lives you have touched. Your life is a testament of love, hope, truth, and that we are all humans and worthy of an amazing life. We are all teachers. “If you teach, you have to live your teaching. You can’t say ‘you do not as I do but do as I say. No no. You have to say ‘I’m doing my best to live what I teach.'” Thank you for everything you have taught us.

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

Maya Angelou
[photograph credits]

“Still I Rise”
by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

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[photograph source]

What do you do in a situation where things make perfect sense, yet, there’s just one little thing that throws everything astray? How are you suppose to feel? I write. I write when things don’t make sense and when things go to a place I wasn’t expecting. I never thought I’d be in the place I am now. Everything is wonderful. Everything is falling into place. Unexpected happiness is happening everyday. The joys of life are calling and friendships are growing. With all of this bliss happening around me and coming together, there is still something that I can’t shake. A feeling that doesn’t dissolve. Realities are giving me anxiety. Anxiety I haven’t experienced in so long. Knowing that there are certain things that I haven’t fully dealt with… I don’t know how to deal with that. Where do I go? Who do I talk to? How do I work through it? I’m only so strong by myself. I’m not in a position to deal with this, any of it. But I’m afraid that the longer I put it off, the more the anxiety is going to eat at me, coming out of nowhere and hitting me at the most crucial times where I can’t be taken over by this monster that causes me be overthrown by overwhelming feelings and my chest stops and I can’t breathe. That’s exactly what it is. A monster. Well that’s just great. I’m dealing with a real life monster and it’s terribly inconvenient. My monster makes me want to cry. My monster makes me think I’m crazy. My monster takes me over crushes me from the inside out making it nearly impossible for me to escape. I did so well hiding this monster, until now. Now I feel exposed and vulnerable. I just want to stand in the middle of a field and cry everything out… maybe stand at the top of a mountain and just scream.

It’s my monster. I’ve realized I haven’t dealt with it, nor am I able to deal with it properly still. My monster isn’t just one thing from my past right now. My monster is a few things… a few things I don’t know how to handle or what to think. There are consequences either way. I’m stuck in a rock and a hard place because at this point, whats been done is done. No one wants the past to resurface. Everyone is done dealing with the monster that still haunts me. This monster is my story. I have to live with it forever. I have to figure out how to tame it and how to make it disappear. I don’t know what to feel, what to think, how to handle this, who to talk to, or anything really.

What I do know is at this moment I feel alone because I can’t shake this anxiety and I can’t talk myself out of feeling the way I do. I feel alone because there is no one here to hug me and tell me I’m not alone. There is no one here to talk to.

I write because it’s my release.


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