I’ve wanted this journal to reflect more than my images, but I haven’t found the time to expand it into my healing. The images I create for families and couples are the light that I put into the world. My love and thought go into every session and they’re an expression of me. But there’s so much more than just images I hope to contribute to this world.
For a long time, I’ve felt that I had a bigger purpose. Here we are, the last day of 2018, and the purpose is becoming more and more clear. But before I can move forward, I have to face the past. And to do that, I need to share some of my story.
Please be warned that this is deep and may have triggers for many people.
Rewind to the summer of 2017. My beloved 16 year old dog, Dexter, was blind and his health was failing rapidly. He gave me “the look” as if to say, “Mom, I’m ready. Please help me.” and so I said goodbye to my fur baby and it was a devastating blow to my very weak sense of self-worth. As so many mom’s do, I put everyone ahead of myself – my husband, my kids, my businesses. I put on a happy face, cooked all the good things, worked out, but inside I felt like I was a failure in everything. Looking back on it now, I was clearly depressed.
At the lowest of lows, but mind you keeping it all together on the outside, an old friend started messaging me saying super nice things. “You’ve got it all together.” “You’re beautiful” “You deserve everything good in the world.” “You’re husband is so lucky.” … he said all the right things to gain my trust. And then, clearly by his design, he lured me to a place where I thought I was going to be in a group setting – but there was nobody else there. In shock, I felt as though my soul left my body. I don’t remember exactly what happened. I don’t know how long I was there. Only bits and pieces revisit my memory. The one thing I know for sure is that I cried on the way home saying to myself “that didn’t happen. that didn’t happen. you can’t share this. nobody will believe you.”
And. I. Swallowed. It. Up.
The holidays in 2017 were a blur and I don’t remember anything aside from our trip to Oakland to see Bruno Mars and going to San Diego to get a surgical consult on my abdominal hernia (which, I truly feel was getting worse after the assault).
In January, 2018, I flew to San Diego and had surgery. My hernia was bad – my abdominal muscles were separated by over 3 inches and it was affecting my balance. The surgeon did an incredible job and also removed 6 pounds of excess skin that I had hanging on my belly after weight loss. I secretly hoped that all my emotions were tied into that 6 pounds of skin and that it would be cut off and thrown away. I was hoping that being fixed up was going to fix everything going on in my head too. But as you may have guessed, it didn’t.
During recovery from surgery, someone at the hotel Peter worked at accused him of stealing $20. If you know Peter, you know that he would never do something like that – and why risk a career over $20? There was an investigation and weeks of lost pay. When he won the investigation, we decided that this was a call to bigger and better things and I told him that he shouldn’t go back to work for them and that I would figure out how to support all of us. THE PRESSURE.
I don’t remember the exact day that I had a breaking point. I think it was sometime in March. The secret I had been keeping was eating me alive from the inside out. It was telling me horrible things. “You have to tell Peter and then he’s going to leave you.” “You are going to be alone.” “Put your running shoes on and prepare to run because he’s going to kill you.” — yes seriously. My mind was playing such harsh tricks on me that it was preparing to die.
I sat on the front stoop of a vacant house next door to tell Peter what had happened because I didn’t want to tell him in our home. I had my running shoes on. I didn’t know if this was going to be the end of our marriage. I didn’t know if he’d blame me for what happened. I didn’t know if he’d try to hurt me. There was a whole lot I didn’t know.
He hugged me. And hugged me hard. He had questions I couldn’t answer, but together we sought out a lot of information about healing and working through trauma. We went to therapy. We read articles. He was very careful with me and supportive.
This entire year has been an exercise in gratitude, healing, and connection. Connecting with Peter, my children, and myself. It’s brought faith into my life – and while I still have many, many questions about faith, I’ve been gifted with some beautiful guides and I’m forever grateful.
There is healing after trauma. It isn’t always easy or pretty. And as I sit here on this last day of 2018 reflecting at all the healing and growth that I’ve had – personally and professionally – I can’t help but be excited for the amazing things coming in 2019.
Mariah Milan Photographers has a beautiful team of caring individuals creating gorgeous images and art for clients, Peter is thriving marrying couples, our kids are all growing more into their independant selves. As for me, the healing and artistic growth have been huge.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring. Thank you for being a part of this journey.
(Below: Top 9 on Instagram for 2018)
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