The time has come for me to stand up again and to be brave, again! As I write this blog I am inspired by Sara Bareilles song ‘Brave’
You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Getting up again after being kicked down is hard, it’s scary but it’s also empowering and liberating! Ten years ago I wrote a book called The Relationship Magnet, an autobiography of how I attracted abusive people into my life. When I wrote the book, not for one single second did I focus on the outcome, nor did I think about how it would or could change my life. I was simply focussed on writing my story in the hopes that it could help someone who was, or had been, in a similar situation. Writing the book was amazing as it was a very healing journey, the emotions that came up were one heck of a roller coaster ride. Fortunately for me at the time of writing my book, I was in a relationship with a man who was empathetic, kind and compassionate. A man who was really in tune with my feelings and seemed to understand what I was going through. The blessing of that was that I felt safe, safe in my space and environment, I felt protected and nurtured, it was just what I needed whilst I was being vulnerable and bearing my soul to the world. When things got too much, he would encourage me to take a break, we would go on an outing, go for a walk, recover, relax and talk. Other days were too much to handle, so I would stop and go and see my therapist Antoinette, an amazing lady who encouraged me to cry, scream, rage, swear, to do whatever it took to speak up and get all the stuff out that had happened to me and had been suppressed for so many years.
I was so focussed on what I was doing that it only took me three months to complete my book and when it was published, I felt a sense of calm, a sense of accomplishment, I was so grateful for the journey that the process had provided. It had helped me to heal and uncovered so much stuff I had forgotten about, it also uncovered issues that I never realised had affected me the way it did. My intention with my book was that I wanted to help others, I felt that even if it only helped one person, then it would be worth writing it. Not once did it cross my mind that I may be judged, nor did I worry about what other people would say, I stayed focussed on my intention. Little did I know at the time how important it is to not attach an outcome to your work, that when you are in the flow of your purpose and passion and when you take the steps you feel inspired to take, that amazing things happen, but I digress. The Relationship Magnet was published just before the Global 16 days of Activism against gender violence and on its release, my face, my book and my voice seemed to be everywhere! Every TV, Radio station and magazine and newspaper wanted to talk to me. Suddenly I was invited to speak at events all around the country. It kick-started my career as a Motivational / Inspirational / Transformational Speaker and not once did I even considering asking for a speakers fee, I was so focussed on helping that ‘one person’ that I didn’t care about the money, for me it was all about saving that ‘one person’s’ life.
The aftermath of my book and speaking up was that my bravery and courage did save that one person’s life, in fact it saved quite a few. Emails started flooding into my inbox from women from everywhere saying how hearing my story had helped them to leave their abusive partners. I got told heart-rending stories; one woman told me how she got out after her two year old son had been murdered by her partner. Another woman told me how she woke up one day with her father strangling her mother with a telephone cord, they too managed to get out. Another woman told me of her daughter’s horrific relationship and how her husband used to beat her up and then pee on her. After sharing my book with her daughter, she too broke free from a life of horrific abuse. Stories like these and others affected me, they made me cry and they made me stand in awe of women who courageously changed their lives. It also made me realise that when you are willing to tell your story that it helps so many others to tell their stories, to face their lives and know that they can change it.
But, what I was not ready for was that along with the praise for my courage and being able to inspire other people to take action, was the onslaught of abuse and judgement that I got from the public. I recall one interview on a talk radio show when a male caller phoned in and said that the reason my husband had beaten me was because I lacked social skills. On another occasion at an event, I introduced myself to one of the guests, on hearing my name, she looked at me with an expression on her face like she was smelling dog shit and said ‘oh, you are that women who associates with abused women’, I don’t want to be seen with someone who associates herself with abused women’ and marched off, or ‘oh my God, you have been married three times, you should be ashamed of yourself.’ The worst attacks were from people I actually knew, ‘how can you air your dirty laundry in public and on TV’ or ‘you are making us look bad’. I lost friends and I even ‘lost’ family (i.e. family that became embarrassed that they were related to me).
Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down
By the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bow down to the mighty
The bullying and onslaught of the haters wore me down. Every morning I woke up in fear of what new slander would be posted about me online or via email. Finally, shivering in fear, I stepped down from public life, I just didn’t know how to cope with the haters. I took my book off the shelf, off of Amazon and other online platforms. I contacted every single radio station, newspaper, media outlet, and any company or person who had me featured on their website, to ask them to remove any reference to me, my book or my work. I went so far as to contact google to remove the slander and all other references I could not get hold of. I even asked the national library to stop referencing my book. It took me an entire year to wipe my existence as Debra Rennie from the internet. I withdrew from life and became a recluse. I decided that I would do something safer like write children’s books, after all those were nice and light and fluffy. I wrote 6 of them but never ever released them until recently. I was enjoying the fun of getting into the characters, most of all I felt safe not having to bear my soul.
Slowly but surely, things for me started changing. The more I stayed ‘hidden’ the more my essence, my spirit and my very soul felt like it was being chipped away. I went into a very very deep and dark depression. There was a brief moment for about a year when I met my husband Paul that I felt loved-up and happy. Falling in love and getting married was a wonderful distraction from it all, but not long after we got married and I settled down into my new ‘safe’ life that I sunk deeper and deeper into a life of despair until 18 Months ago when I had a nervous breakdown. It was one of my lowest and darkest moments since retreating from life, but it was also my wake up call. I could simply no longer exist in a life where I was not doing what I wanted to do, a life that disempowered me, my calling, my purpose, my passion. I was born to help others, to be bold, to speak up, and to say that which other people were too scared to say. To be that voice.
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is
After recovering from my breakdown, my husband and I bought a house and we moved to a little village close to the sea. Bit by bit, I started to regain my confidence. I decided that I needed to start re-introducing myself to society again so I got myself a little office at the university close by, I wanted to be in an environment of learning and young minds. I stared networking, Paul and I joined the local yacht club, we started making new friends and I started to live life again.
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
One afternoon I was at the university having coffee with one of the business mentors. Before I knew it, I had told him my entire life story, about my book, my rise to ‘fame’, the onslaught of abuse after and my subsequent fall from ‘fame’. How I’ve been hiding, protecting myself from further onslaught, criticism, abuse and judgement. He looked at me in utter astonishment and said ‘do you realise that you have allowed other people’s issues and judgements to stop you from living your life and your purpose. You may be free from a life of abuse, but you are still allowing other people to control what you do. Everything you stand for is to make the world a better place and how can you do that if you are in hiding because of these haters. Forget the haters, they are irrelevant, there are thousands of people out there that need to hear your story. Well, talk about a cold slap in the face with a wet fish! It was exactly what I needed to hear.
I realised that the awful depression I had gone through when I had retreated was due to me not living my purpose and the more I didn’t live it, the more I beat myself up about it. They say that depression is anger turned inward, well I turned a lot of anger on myself, telling myself I was stupid to put myself out there in the first place and then contradicting myself with ‘being a coward and a loser for retreating.’ I realised that before I had taken notice of the haters and critics that I had never felt that bad about myself. I have always acknowledged my mistakes, but what I always felt proud of was who I was and am. That like a phoenix I always always always rise again. No matter what has happened to me in the past, I have always had an uncanny ability to bounce back, to take something bad and turn it into good. Listening to the haters and critics, I had allowed their projection of their issues to overshadow my opinion of myself and what I stand for.
Innocence, your history of silence
Won’t do you any good
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?
So here I am before you, once again ready to talk about my purpose and my passion, to take on what I believe needs to be spoken about, to be that voice for all women and children who are abused physically mentally and emotionally. I have re-edited and refreshed my book and will be releasing it on the 27th of September in London at The Brigade. I am standing up, a stronger version of myself, a more passionate version of myself. I have a purpose and a passion, I am that voice who is brave, who wants to speak out for those who can’t.
My message to any past or future haters and critics is this, a quote from Teddy Roosevelt, a quote that I heard Brene Brown using in one of her talks.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
I am back in the arena, I am being true to myself, I am following my purpose and my passion. If I do not talk and share my story of how I kept landing myself back into abusive relationships, then I have wasted those years of pain and of suffering and it would have been for nothing. I care about people, I care about what happens to you and to your family. I care about making the world a better place for you, for your children and for my children and my grandchildren and for the future generations to come. No longer will I hide in the shadows, no longer will I be scared. I am in this arena, feel free to join me here as you too can make this world a better place.
For those of you who are tempted to judge and to cast your nasty opinions, keep them to yourself. Because if you are not brave enough to get into this arena, then you do not get to have an opinion on me nor my life.
To listen to Sara’s song and for the full lyrics click here