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Trial by Fire

Continuing the trains of thought from these earlier journals (Becoming Isolated) , (Warm Light) , (Challenging Yourself) I wanted to talk about how to really change the way you think and do things. A good way to put it into perspective for yourself is to picture it as a Trial by Fire. I once read about this idea but forget where now, but it has to do with being tested and I think it was maybe a religious idea maybe. But once you get past it your are considered cleansed and that is a great word to use when your mind has been full of bad thoughts and images.

Some things I never, ever want to think about or talk about like being sexually abused as a child and can understand your reluctance to even think of the bad things in your own life that you just want to forget and move past. Sometimes life can be very harsh and if it starts when you are very young then it is very hard to ever get those emotions under control. But it is vital to your own self esteem to think about it and talk to someone about it if you can. There are many woman who are trained to talk about such things with you and make you understand 100% it was not your fault no matter what you were told back then. It can be very hard though to allow yourself to think about it at all. I know one of my sisters wanted to talk to me about it once but I couldn't back then. I don't think I have ever really talked about that part of my life ever before but have talked of other things and maybe a woman is dealing with that as well so thought it was important to help them see that the shame she feels does not belong to her and she can let it go. That is all I really want to say about that part of it though, sorry. I am more comfortable talking of just the emotional abuse and will move on to that again.

One reason I wanted to use the example of the designer perfume in that other story was how I never dealt with it and it gets blown out of proportion and can grow inside your mind into some much larger then it is. I was telling the girls that I think the bottle cost me only $75 but in my mind it had grown to be $100 because I let those feelings go unacknowledged for so long and it seemed to grow into something more important then it was. I think that is another hard thing to explain when trying to talk about these things. How do you explain and make it understood that it is not just the one bottle but most everything in your life that was like this. You can imagine what the person would say if you tried to give an example of it and mention something like this perfume bottle and giving it away. You can hear all the bad and negative things they could say to you. How you are being petty or just plain stupid for allowing something like that to hinder your emotional growth. But that is the extremely hard thing about emotional abuse is that it is made up of mostly little things like this with some big ones too but that it never stops. It goes on and on and on. Even when you try your hardest to change things it doesn't stop. You begin to feel powerless to change your life and a kind of acceptance sets in.

This is what is so hard to explain to people and what they do not understand about it though. How you do not want to have to go through all of that other stuff first and end up at this same place so it happens where a phrase or even just a look can have that same effect and you give in to give yourself some peace. Where you want to avoid that whole cycle of trying to stop it but it wont stop and you try harder and it doesn't stop but gets worse and you don't want it getting any worse then it is so give in to stop the worst from happening to you too. So other people looking at your situation see the abuser just saying one phrase or using a certain tone of voice or a gesture and you immediately adapt to whatever it happening and it looks like you are either very weak or very stupid to them. It is not fair but trying to see it from their point of view will help you understand why they think a certain way of you. It helps stop that feeling that no one will ever understand or care about you too.

What is important to remember is that these predators know full well what they are doing. They know exactly how to keep it going for as long as possible. They know what you will try to do to stop it and will work to block you from getting there. So what has to change is yourself, inside of yourself you have to build a reservoir of strength. You probably know how to hide your emotions if you are in this sort of situation already but if not it is a skill that is necessary for survival. Picture a little 'safe' hidden deep inside your heart, one created by a master craftsman that no thief can ever figure out how to open and steal what is inside. In there store all your goodness that you know you have inside yourself and add a bit of strength a bit at a time. The beauty of this safe is it is 'magical' and all that goodness and strength multiplies itself without you having to do anything. If that makes sense to you then you are at the same sort of place I was in my own life. If it doesn't then you are very lucky and can probably get our of your situation without much extra help and preparation needed. The danger is that the effects of this begin to show and your abuser knows to watch for this happening.

This is when it is vital you search for a group that helps deal with this sort of thing. Many woman's resource sites have their websites set up to "hide" it easily and make it safe to begin this search for escape. Here is the link to my local one that is 'safe' to browse since it has the feature of clicking on the purple part of it will take you immediately out of that site and to another one.

(Alaska's Abused Woman's Aid in Crisis website)

I hope no one needs it but it is important to know that others do truly care about you and what you are going through and have woman trained to talk with you. Isolation is that feeling that happens in this sort of situation where you begin to believe that no one will care and that you are not worth caring about as a person. It is extremely important to realize why this is happening to you and where that feeling comes from though. At one point in my life I was very afraid that me and my daughters would have to 'disappear' but luckily it never got that bad but that fear was there. It happens even in an emotional abusive relationship instead of a physically abusive one because the abuser has that 'power of God' over you and does not want to lose that.

It can seem that you find yourself in the same sort of situation over and over again too. The important thing to remember is that the ones who were 'lucky' and were helped got there by changing themselves inside. That can seem an impossible feat though. But it takes that first glimmer of hope that life can change and get better for you, that is where it starts. Then comes the part where you have to accept the fact that you have been in a bad situation and need to change. It seems so unfair, this part, but is vital too. "It wont stop until I make it stop" is what I was told. I was feeling sort of pissed at that at first, let me tell you! I risked coming here and this is your idea of help?! I fumed about it but eventually realized that they were right about it. It is strange that it took me so long to understand that part of it. I resented the idea that they thought I had not tried with all my might to change things and make it stop already!

You have to begin to understand that idea of 'it takes 2 to tango' and that there is something inside yourself that these predators can see and recognize. Believing in yourself is extremely hard to do at first. Especially when you feel like the worlds biggest idiot before you started thinking of yourself objectively. Empowering yourself is something that is both easy and hard. I mentioned in another journal entry how you can realize that what binds you to your past is little more then a thread. That you can break it so easily and think 'there, that wasn't so hard' and try to just forget about it all and move on. You need to stop and take the next few steps too. Just bit by bit, and you will learn how to handle this new freedom you gave yourself. You can read in my other journal entries some of the ways I felt during that time if you are interested but the important thing is to start to look at yourself and your situation with honesty and with being kind to yourself too. It is so true that it can become distorted so what you see is something hideous. Taking a step back from this image you can see it is just like that earlier example of the fun house mirror. Where you need to step away from that first otherwise you will only ever see that hideousness from different viewpoints instead of the real you.

So then you find yourself with this newfound freedom. It can happen in a few ways too. Like the idea of the igloo you sheltered in during the storm and now the sun is out and it has melted. There you stand and feel like you look like a wet t-shirt contestant and can feel so cheap. It is important to remember that this image lives in your mind only and others don't see you that way.

The other way it can happen is you built that huge strong wall around yourself to protect yourself. Then you realize you are trapped inside it and are scared at first. You think you will never escape but soon find the solid brick wall was only an illusion and it crumbles to ashes at your slightest touch. So there you find yourself feeling rather dusty but eager to greet other woman as a newly freed one. As you take a step toward them you cough at all the ash and soot and realize you look a fright, so dirty even. This is where that Trial by Fire idea really takes effect. Once you begin to accept yourself in this new light you can be cleansed and no one will ever see that dusty woman that you felt like.

It is kind of funny since it has taken me about 4 hours to write this and I want to delete it all again. I tell myself you said all this before! I tell myself such mean things sometimes still though I will post this. I had to step out onto the balcony and catch my breath. I can see the sky is lightening already and the birds are singing their good morning song. Seeing the beauty that lives in the world is what I want all woman to feel, no matter their current situation! Remember that no matter how bad it seems right now it can get better and will if you begin to change how you feel inside yourself. From when I first went to that woman's resource center in to my divorce was 3 long hard years of losing everything but my daughters. It will not be easy but it is so worth it. I want all woman to know that they are worth everything and they do not deserve bad treatment ever. It will seem like an impossible feat but it can be done. I think one reason I wanted to post my picture was so the woman who read these journals and see themselves can see "me" that dusty woman in Anchorage who believes in you!



Maria, I am at a loss of words because you so eloquently expressed everything I would want to say. As a volunteer for a number of different organizations, I have strived to provide a shoulder for support, an empathetic ear to listen and some words of encouragement and advice. But I wonder sometimes, how can I give something meaningful to the people I interact with, when I cannot know what it is to truly stand in their shoes. I can grasp an understanding of their situation but unless I go through something similar myself, I can never fully comprehend their inner conflict, their lack of self, their loss of desire to continue fighting, the inability to see their potential.

You have articulated so well the myriad of emotions, negative thoughts and questions that go through a woman's head as she tries to confront her situation. I hope that many of our members have the opportunity to read this post as not only is it sage advice for those who have yet to discover their inner beauty, but is also good reading for those who have, so that they might be a little more patient, understanding and supportive of those still on the journey.

Maria de Chirikof's picture

I hope it helps

I think the woman who meet you find their strength far faster then those who don't know you so hope that the woman who do need support and encouragement find it here. You always provided me with such thoughtful comments and such encouragement when I needed it most! Not only me but I see your thoughtful comments on other posts and it always makes me smile.

What is funny/sad is that there is much more to say about that kind of thing. Sometimes it does take all my strength to submit them when I end up after writing one that I just want to run and hide and forget all of that. But that is exactly what the woman going through it feel so I try to show that others do understand it a bit, whatever they are going through. What is important is they find their own personal strength and if I can lend them a bit of mine to get them started on their own journey then it is worth it to have those momentary qualms about posting about it.

It is so unfair to have to first change yourself when all you want is to be able to leave and have it over. But finding the strength to confront these bad things has to occur before the beauty of enjoying your freedom can happen. I always feel like I said it badly or stupidly but that is what a woman in that situation feels a bit too so they can see someone does know and it does get better with time.

I hope a woman who does need to change her situation can read this and feel that first glimmer of Hope!


olutosin's picture


Maria My Friend,

This is Olutosin again, hope you do not mind, believe me I was reading REPAIR YOUR LIFE this afternoon, a gift from Marjorie Mckinnon, because I am the facilitator of Nigeria chapter of www, how come everything coincides today and I felt so sad because people refuse to come out and talk about sexual abuse here, I will try to persuade them but they will hide under stories of what happened so someone sometime ago whereas it is there personal stories, talking about has healing effect most people do not want to believe here. Once I told Mckinnon, I was tired of the whole issue she said no, be there for them.

I have learnt from this too and I have even pasted it on my desktop. Your freedom is in your hands, yes a thread you can break free from anytime but it is better to make the decision now.

Waiting to read more Darling.


Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town


I know it is a problem of not wanting to think of it at all so forced myself to briefly mention it. I don't think I am quite ready to talk more about it yet but felt like it was important to at least mention it. There is so much shame involved that it is extremely hard to even think of it inside your own mind. It will be a journal entry sometime, I have a lot planned but it is hard to write them sometimes...

I really hope it helps woman who need that little shove to change their lives, it is why I write them. Thank you for not giving up when it can be so hard for woman to acknowledge,


Maria de Chirikof's picture

another thought

If you think it will help woman in your area you can print and show them my journals. I think it is very hard to find the words you feel sometimes and maybe they can see these and say 'yeah, about 1/2 that with a bit of this one' kind of thing. It is our common goal to help the woman and children and I am willing for these words to be shown to whoever might benefit from them. It can help them by showing a sort of base line where they can say 'No, she is wrong about this it is more like..."

I know for native peoples back when we were being Americanized that it was extremely hard to talk to the doctors about what was wrong. Talking about such things especially to a stranger just felt too weird. What they had to do, at first, was print a bunch of pamphlets about different issues and the person could pull the ones they needed and leave them on the table. Until we became comfortable with the idea of talking about such private things it was needed. So I can understand the need for some sort of "guide of pamphlets" idea to get the conversation started.

Your friend,


olutosin's picture


Hi Maria,

Thanks for the reply, please can yoou make some pamphlets for us? I will surely love that, especially those on differbt issues kindly help if you can.

Your Olutosin

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town


Maria de Chirikof's picture

I'll try

I will have to think about how to pick the best parts of my journals that will help! Or do you have any idea of a word count it should have? I can go run and see what the ones we have at he hospital use too. And what should some of the headings be? Once I get that part figured out I can post them over at VOF Fans to get input and see what I need to fix!

I will gladly do what I can to help end the vicious cycle that woman and girls find themselves in!


JaniceW's picture

Can also help

Maria and Olutosin,
I am a graphic designer by profession and also offer my assistance should you need brochures designed. I am more than happy to offer feedback and suggestions. Maybe we could create something online that Olutosin can use. That way, no printing costs are incurred and anyone can access it from the web. Perhaps the lamplighter chapter in Nigeria would be happy to post the brochure on their website. Let's keep talking. Best wishes,

jap21's picture

Dear Maria

Once again, your beatiful heart has come to rescue us from this gray world of ours, where the different types of abuse are the every day trade. You are so right in everything you say. This is why I am an advocate against violence of all types. This is also why I encourage more research to be carried out on gender issues by women who have had experiences like yours, like mine, llike so many other women's. These are stories that are more common than we think. It is just that women do not speak about them. And we need to know. We need to collect info, construct numbers that are more real, more accurate, so that the approaches at local levels, like municipalities for instance, can be more effective. The US is a privilidged nation on these issues. In Bolivia the research, as well as the publication of results, is quite unreliable, and the way services are offered makes it even harder for women to open up.

These are the reasons why it is so good that we begin to write about things like these: to stop the silence, to allow for the women in general to start talking more freely about the secrets they keep, so that we can prevent this from happening to the girls that follow us.

Thanks from deep in my heart.



Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America

Maria de Chirikof's picture

Hi and hugs

It is something all of us on here can feel and all want it to stop. I got an interesting reply from Olutosin about helping to turn my journal entries into shorter "pamphlet" types so hopefully can work them into shape enough! Does your local hospitals have that sort of thing with the pamphlets about different things?

We will end it somehow! By all of us working together we can help relieve the fear and shame woman go through and let them and the children heal! I was mentioning to her it might be an interesting one for the VOF Fans to do too. Trying to figure out which parts of my journals speaks to other woman most will help when trying to figure out how to shorten them.

Also to suggest topics needed, too. I believe it is important to help the woman find the words needed to start the conversation and once she sees she is not getting judged and condemned she will start using her own words.

Thanks for your support and encouragement!


aliĝngix's picture

Not Dusty--Beautiful

I think, if you had to name a term, it would be called "a diamond in the rough".
You are brave for stepping forward and putting up all your thoughts and emotions for others to live off off and to have at least a path they can follow instead of clear cutting their own.
Leading the way by example and sharing is what you are doing, which makes it easier for others to be able to heal, which will ultimately reach your goal of healing all woman and those who need it.
So, thanks for being brave and revealing such a sensitive side. I'm sure we all appreciate it.
See you around.

Maria de Chirikof's picture


It does not feel especially brave since it does help to talk about such things and it helps other woman too, in that they can feel more comfortable talking about their own personal "stuff". I do hope other woman can get something good from them though, that is true and that they can see themselves as 'diamonds', where we can turn that pain of being "grinded" into a thing of beauty...

Sometimes you do have to clear cut your own path in life and that should be encouraged too!

Your encouragement means a lot to me! I hope you continue to try to talk about things a bit too since we all know how hard it is on the children!


Darcey's picture


Hi Maria

just found your post, and thank you for your words...some things I can absolutely relate to first hand and other parts have given me perspective for what things may be like for other women. I appreciate the wanting to write and delete, I often doubt the strength that I know is inside of me and somehow become ashamed of it?? So unnecessary, so wrong to waste time on doubting the beauty that is unique in each of us. I hope that with each journal entry you gather more strength until writing and lending your voice is just second nature and you know that each of your words has purpose for someone...(I sit and think-can I take my own advice?? ;)
thank you again, I look forward to checking out some of your previous posts!!


"A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality."
— John Lennon

Maria de Chirikof's picture


It can sometimes feel like I am repeating myself instead of saying something new even though I do try to write of it from different perspectives it is the same events so sometimes feels like I should stop talking already...

I hope the same for you and all woman, that together our friendships and encouragement will lift us all up and we can bring that home to our communities to feel too. I do look forward to reading more of yours! I love the kinds of things you are doing and that you met MamaAfrica, she is an inspiration to many! Good luck with all your goals.


Nusrat Ara's picture

Maria & Olutosin

Dear Maria & Olutosin

I have a Masters in Mass Communication & Journalism. Tell me if I can in any way help you in the brochure. I would love it. And I really feel it is important as well as good work to make women to talk. It is difficult too. Let'us do it.



I will let Olutosin take the lead and decide how she wants to organize it but am very glad for the offers! She works in the field so will know better what would be best for it! I am willing to do whatever so will let her decide what would work best.


Hi Maria,
I am just reading this journal, you are a very wonderful woman full of great potentials. Who told you, you are dusty,you are wonderfully and fearfully made. it is the abusers that have problems and in trouble because they will know no peace. There is nothing like anybody having the power of God over anybody, any power you are given and you are using it to oppress others, you are no more representing God. For you to continue to be able to raise those girls in that situation call for award for you. The first thing the abuser will want to do is to kil our Self Esteem, our worth. No matter what we must not loose that
You have successfull put across the thought of every woman when confronted with the oppressors, lets continue to tell each other that no matter what, our inner beauty remain, the potentials in us remain which will never be taking away from us.
I am a Guidance Counsellor by profession, if there is any way i can be useful in your project with Olutosin like designing questionaire or in any other way. I am available.

Love you

Busayo Obisakin
Women inspiration Development center
Ile-Ife, Nigeria

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