Imagine what it means to live in fear. A world of clouds, fog and shadows, where you constantly hold your breath, too scared to say or do something wrong, too scared to be yourself, too scared of what the consequences will be.
I was there, I saw that world and I was a prisoner in it.
The Strong Soul of a Broken Heart
by Eleonora Rachele Zampatti
I was abused, physically, verbally and emotionally. I was carrying an endless sadness inside, and I could not live my life any more. I was a lost soul with a broken heart and I struggled in silence, too ashamed not only to talk about my past, but also to think about it.
I pretended it never happened. I never mentioned it to people in order to avoid judgment. I kept choosing partners who would hurt me, physically and mentally, because I did not think I deserved to be loved, and I could not forgive myself for always being “not enough”.
I was miserable, scared, and hopeless, convinced that I was not worth it, that I was the kind of woman that would never shine on her own, that I did need to be punished and “educated” because everything I did was a mistake, because I was the mistake.
I was choosing a life in the darkness. hiding not only from those demons that were tormenting me but more than anything hiding from my own light – that sparkle that I always carried inside, and I decided to ignore.
I stayed in this obscurity for a long time not knowing what it means to be loved and not knowing how to love myself. I had this idea inside that I was inadequate, and that if I was abused it was because I deserved it.
I remember, when roaming the streets of New York City, the city where I used to live, I would pass by couples walking side by side holding hands and think to myself that I was not worthy to experience the simple act of love.
I had once chosen a man that could only hurt me, and I was completely dependent on him. Far from my family who lives in Italy, he was everything I had and he knew this. This gave him power. He knew that I could not leave him, emotionally or financially. He convinced me that I was nothing without him.
That was his power, and I was allowing him to determine my entire existence.
One day, after one terrible fight, tired and humiliated I found myself wandering around the city asking myself how I ended up so broken. Before I met him I was a force of nature, a bright soul who lived her existence trusting in love, passionate in art, a dreamer with the gift of smiling through life. Who was I now?
Not even the shadow of the Eleonora that I used to be.
Broken, insecure, living in a city that was not fit for me, missing home, and trapped in his arms. I trusted him so much that I managed to lose my visa because of his convincing. He did that so he could isolate me from my family, to have me under his control. Now I was terrified of being deported and of losing everything I worked so hard for, my career in the United States.
Living in agony and denial was affecting not just my soul, but my body as well.
I was suffering from eating disorders, insomnia, depression and severe panic attacks. I was constantly sick and in pain. My body was raging against me. I could not stand my body. I kept gaining weight despite the endless hours I spent dancing and working out. I was desperate, drained and exhausted, both mentally and physically.
That day when I was out walking I saw a yoga studio. I decided to walk in and take a class. I wanted to shut my mind off for just a couple of hours, walk into a place where nobody knew me, and escape from the nightmare I was trapped in. A life that did not allow me to understand myself.
After that first yoga class I started to feel the need to go back to that class over and over again, and soon, the physical benefits turned into emotional relief. Through the movements of my body I started to establish a relationship with myself and I started to hear the voice of my soul. Eleonora the warrior allowed Eleonora the vulnerable to start talking. I started a deep conversation with myself. Those monsters that I had in my head suddenly stopped yelling at me, and I began to stop fearing them. I understood that I was stronger than what I thought – stronger than what he convinced me I was. Tears started to flow, and I allowed them to just fall.
I started my journey of forgiveness.
Something had shifted inside of me. Very slowly I started to breathe again. One day at a time I found the strength to detach from him and get in touch with myself.
I left him, walked away from our life, the only life I knew until then, with only one bag of clothing in my hand and my cats in the other. I was terrified and I did not know if I could have a life without him, because the only life I knew was the one I decided to let go of.
I walked away from a home of tears. I walked away from a wrong relationship knowing that it was time for me to stop hurting myself.
I live by the ocean now- the place where I always wanted to be. I wake up every morning looking at the sunrise above the water, surrounded by love.
Today I’m lucky enough to teach yoga for a living and to share with my students my passion for life, teaching them that yoga is much more than a physical practice and that in the deepest darkness we can find our true light.
Today I am safe.
I once read a beautiful poem. It helps inspire me:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
– Marianne Williamson
When you walk away from the nightmare that is called domestic violence, you are left alone, dealing with demons that nobody wants to get to know. Dealing with beasts that you keep feeding with your insecurities.
Most of the time you blame yourself for everything that happened to you and you are ashamed of who you are. It is a cycle that feels impossible to break, but it can be broken.
Yoga has taught me that only you can change this, and helped me understand that the past does not come back to hurt you. Your past is with you, it never leaves, and you have to learn to accept it so you can embrace everything you are, imperfections and weakness included. I decided to not fear my pain any more and to rewrite my future.
Many times the fear and insecurities would come creeping back and I would think, “I cannot make it,” but I have made it. I changed my life. I did not let the pain of the past dictate my future. I choose love, even if love has broken my heart many times.
When I started to really let go of the past I was able to understand my power and I decided to dedicate myself to help those who are still living under the overbearing shadow of violence.
My mission is to share with my students the knowledge and the courage they need to carry their practice out of the yoga studio and into their lives. For them to let go of anything that is hurting them in their body and in their soul.
Because of my experience, my teaching started to focus on bringing awareness to the topic of domestic violence. It may be a very un-popular topic that nobody wants to discuss, without understanding that sometimes silence is like a stigma in the heart of those who are abused. I wanted to create an environment where we can raise our voices against violence, where we can sing our song and say no to abuse, where we can use our body to dance the symphony of life. The life we all deserve.
This was the inception of Ode to the Moon, a series of yoga events with live music to bring awareness to the topic of domestic violence.
Music evokes connections with people, and when properly combined with the movements and the breath allowed us to really get in touch with those emotions that we hide within ourselves.
Practice according to the moon cycle connects us to the cycle of darkness and light, life and death, strength and surrender.
I created this event because it was time for me to give back and it was time for me to be proud of who I am.
I said no to the shame, the fear, the tears and the insecurities. I stripped down, bared my soul to the world.
I took something dark that happened to me and I decided to let it go, to transform it into something beautiful: Love for myself.
I live and practice yoga today as if my heart has never been broken, proud of the scars in my soul and body, not scared to love again and not afraid to be whom I really am. It’s not what happened to you that will dictate your future, it is what you decide to do with your pain. Let it destroy you, or transform it into your strength.
What will you do with your pain?
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, or abuse of any kind, please, please get help. There is no stigma. You are worth much more than you believe.
Here is a link to a domestic abuse hotline http://www.thehotline.org/help/ Use Google to find one in your local area.