This Is Your Breakthrough: A DV Survivor Shares Her Healing Journey

Sheryl Hatwood, is the President and Founder of Endless Voice Productions LLC, and  a survivor of domestic violence and abuse. Her latest work, “The Wounded Soul” was inspired by her life experiences.

Dealing with molestation as a young girl, yet remaining silent and battling with domestic violence – ignited her expression of voice to pen and paper- turning the sorrows that once silenced her into success.

Her latest work, “The Wounded Soul” has inspired women from all walks of life to discover their true, authentic self despite the pains of the past. As a survivor of abuse, suicide attempts and eventually finishing school after being a drop out, Sheryl is on a mission to put an end to the shame, guilt and embarrassment that many victims face.

How can women who have experienced abuse begin to rediscover their voice? How did you regain your confidence after your experiences?

“Abuse is perpetuated when victims decide not to speak about it.  As long as you remain silent, you will remain a victim.  When we reveal these experiences, we will find our strength and ultimately find our voice – a process which will entail self reflection and self-development.

My life changed dramatically after years of self-development, reading self-help books, reading the bible, going to church, and re-experiencing who I was meant to be.  I also realized my experiences did not define me, but rather what I decide to do with those experiences – remain a victim or become a victor over my circumstances.

I acknowledged the pain, I walked through my fears.  It’s a mindset change, and it is ongoing.  There are days easier than others, especially where I have felt defeated, but when I look at what I’ve been through and I’m still standing, I know I have the strength to continue.

Each challenge makes me stronger.  I do not let the fears stop me, fear encompasses so many other self-qualities, and it is debilitating.  Fear validates your excuses. Personally, I had to change my self-dialogue to stop looking at my incapacities and focus on my abilities.  What you concentrate on grows, and I made a conscious decision to concentrate on being the best me. My confidence evolved throughs these changes.”

Was faith or spirituality a part of your healing journey? If so, please elaborate.

“My faith and spiritual nourishment were definitely important to my healing.  I was empty, functioning on my own will and desires.  I was ready to “try” God, because everything else had failed.  I grew up in church, so I knew of God, but I did not know Him, and I wanted to know Him.

Who is this God that allows these things to happen to me?  What I came to understand is that God never left me, I left Him!  

 Today, I am convinced that nothing can separate me from the love of God, absolutely nothing!  Its my favorite bible verse to fuel me is Romans 8:38-39.

The self-help book that really helped me was “One Day My Soul Just Opened Up” by Iyanla Vanzant.  This book helped me have honest conversations with myself, and I learned to trust my feelings and not negate them.  I also realized that I needed to heal before introducing anyone else into my life. My healing journey is continual and it continues when I am able advocate for and acknowledge the victims of such abuse.”  .

What 5 things have you learned about yourself as a survivor?

  1. I am an overcomer.
  2. I am a woman of courage.
  3. I am determined and confident.
  4. I am compassionate and loveable.
  5. That God has a plan and purpose for my life.

What 4 pieces of advice would you give to your younger self?

“I would thank my younger self for the lessons I have learned along the way.  I would probably tell her not to be too hard on herself, to trust herself and let her know that she is enough!”

Did you participate in any counseling? Was it helpful?

“I went to one counselling session, but did not return.   I did not find it helpful, I found it hard to talk about all the specifics of the abuse, to relive it.  I was not prepared to talk about it again, so I made the decision not to go back, and I did not talk about it.  My life spoke for me after that, I was emotionally limp, spiritually deficit, and began masking my pain with the use of alcohol and drugs – my coping mechanisms.”

How did your domestic violence and abuse incidents affect your mental health? What kept you intact, or grounded?

“I did not take any time to process what I went through. I self-medicated with alcohol and drugs, parties, men – I was emotionally numb.  I wasn’t living, I was just existing. I was depressed, and attempted suicide, so my mental health was not well. I believe my Christian upbringing saved me.

While I was drinking and drugging, I was unsettled, I could hear some of the scriptures in my head, that I had to memorize in Sunday School – and would be angered that I was remembering them at a moment I have tried to define as “ having so much fun.”  When the drinking and drugging did not work – and I was faced with me – I didn’t even know me anymore.  I was desperate for a change.  Desperate! I knew that in order to get anywhere you have to leave somewhere behind.

Long story short, I grabbed a bible and began reading in Proverbs.  I prayed, I cried, I screamed, because God did not take my life.  I blamed Him for sparing my life so I could continue to live in hell.  A hell that I created!  My thinking was warped.  Then I just became still.  I was silent.   I began again from there, it was a long, relapsing journey, but I made it!   My life today is the antithesis of how is should have been.  God spared me.  He kept me intact and sustained my life.”

What is the “Wounded Soul”? 

“The Wounded Soul is a theatrical play I wrote, and directed.  This story is a transparent view of my life.  The angle is a 3-dimensional view of my life through the eyes of my soul, my youth and from a restropective viewpoint of today.  The story relays child molestation as a catalyst for my life leading into domestic abuse and substance abuse.  The premise of the story is overcoming challenges!  It debuted in 2018 and completed a run in Manhattan to message around Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The reviews have been great, the testimonies humbling, and encouraging me to do more, shows in other cities, churches,  and schools. I understand the conversation should continue around domestic violence awareness and child molestation.  The feedback also helped me understand what other  families have experienced.  My story has given some the strength to talk about it, and I have been able to guide them to agencies I have partnered with.  It really inspires me to do more.  I have since created the Annual A Woman’s Worth Awards held every year in March.

There is a nomination process with certain criteria and 7 categories, where each winner across is acknowledged for overcoming their challenges and are reaching back to help others.   This show has opened up opportunities for me to speak at Women Empowerment events. The audience has been impacted, but the impact for me has been humbling.”

“I have found my purpose, and I understand why my life was spared.”

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