ELIZABETH GILPIN The actress, writer, and producer is most recently known for her widely popular and critically-acclaimed memoir Stolen. The harrowing book explores Gilpin’s experience of being ‘stolen’ from her bed as a 15-year-old and taken deep into the Appalachian Mountains to a therapeutic boarding school. Here, she answers our reader’s question about moving on from a traumatic and abusive relationship to a healthy one.
I should start by saying abusing and mistreating people is never okay.
It is important to know that when it comes to trauma and abuse, each situation is different. If you closely examine an abuser’s life you may see a history of trauma; a person who was once a victim can become a perpetrator of abuse. It’s a vicious cycle that is incredibly hard to break. In my memoir Stolen, I reflect on the abuse I endured at the hands of people who were meant to protect me. I thrived in chaos and pain; it became my normal.
Abusive relationships come in many forms; they are not always romantic in nature. In my experience, when learning to approach a healthy relationship, I need to turn inward. Once you address and ameliorate your own dysfunction, you are better equipped to serve others. I must accept my life story and circumstances to face what happened to me, in turn, learning to understand how much it may still affect me. I have implemented certain practices in my life that I have found to be essential for maintaining balance within myself: meditation, exercise, reading, and therapy are all crucial components of my routine. While this works for me, it’s really about whatever will help you learn self-love and self-acceptance.
These past few years have shown me that it is possible to experience joy while also dealing with trauma. In embracing healing as a process, and limiting self-judgment, I’ve made room for healthy relationships with strong boundaries. Once you learn to love and accept yourself, you’re better equipped to love someone else.