One year ago, I got one of the worst emails of my life.
It wasn’t very long, only about 4 paragraphs. Yet its content would irrevocably change me and the trajectory of my future.
The message was from someone I didn’t know who was threatening to attack and even kill me. “I’m going to make your life a living hell,” it promised.
It seemed to have come out of nowhere, and I was terrified. Particularly because I had no idea who the sender was.
Eventually, it came to light that the sender was a close family member.
Rather than assuage me, this frightened me even more. How could a family member threaten me with such terrible things?
I simply couldn’t comprehend it.
Despite the fact that we now knew who it was, the threats continued and even escalated, expanding to include more detailed explanations of just how she was going to hurt me and direct threats to many of my other family members.
Life seemed to spiral out of control. I was in and out of courtrooms, alternating between mental breakdowns and irate rage on a seemingly daily basis.
I became suspicious and mistrustful of anyone I didn’t know. I pulled away from my friends, unable to deal with the constant questions about the status of the harassment.
It was far worse than the worst nightmare I’ve ever been able to imagine.
Eventually, my anger towards her dulled and was replaced by anger at how grossly I’d been failed by the court system.
Ineptitude piled on top of laziness, which piled on top of a system already under-resourced and stretched far too thin.
I spent countless hours begging someone, anyone in law enforcement to help me. No one seemed to care about what was happening to me and my family.
It seemed like an unbeatable problem.
Finally, I woke up one day and decided that something needed to change. Perhaps I couldn’t get the results I wanted in the timeline I hoped for. But I could decide how much of my time, energy and emotions to give to this miserable situation. She had stolen enough of my life already; I wasn’t going to give her any more of it.
Here are 4 tactics I learned to help conquer an unbeatable situation:
I had to learn to be realistic about what I actually could change. I wanted to go in, guns blazing, and have police officers stop the problem as soon as it began.
I spent hours raging on the phone, or crying in bed because things weren’t going the way I wanted them to.
Eventually, I had to learn to accept the ugly truth that the justice system is slow, inefficient, and often corrupt.
I couldn’t expect everyone I spoke to, to care about my problems. It sounds harsh, but once I was able to accept that, I was able to adjust my expectations accordingly.
I no longer stormed and sobbed when things didn’t go my way because I wasn’t expecting them to go my way. It was just a nice surprise whenever they did.
The attacks that I received were incredibly personal. They directly attacked my self-worth, directly targeted my own specific struggles.
It was easy to let them overwhelm me. It was easy to believe them.
And yet by doing that, I was ignoring so many wonderful blessings that I had in my life.
A husband who adored me. A lovely, welcoming home. Good relations with the neighbors.
Legions of friends who would do almost anything for me if I asked them to. By listening to and believing the negative lies, I was drowning out the positive truths that surrounded me every day.
Once I started to focus on the good in my life, it became so much easier to let the bad go.
I have grown a lot during this experience. But I am no saint. I still have times when I start overthinking the events of the past year, start wishing for revenge more than I should.
Earlier in the year, I would have stayed dwelling on such thoughts as long as my angry little heart desired.
Now, however, I have recognized that such thinking always makes me mentally spiral in a dangerous and unhealthy manner.
I have trained myself to notice when I’m starting to spiral and to change my surroundings as quickly as possible.
I move to a different location to work or go visit a friend or do a quick yoga routine.
Anything I have to do to refocus my mind and energy on something positive and avoid bringing my mind into that toxic state.
Counseling has been a big part of my life over this past year.
I had to come to terms with the fact that there was absolutely nothing I could do to make this stop.
Yet even if the harassment never stopped, I wanted to learn how to live a meaningful life in spite of it.
My counselor helped me navigate those turbulent waters and find a place where I was in a healthy and happy emotional state, even if the storms were still raging around me.
Now that I’m in a healthier personal state, the stings of her lies don’t pierce me nearly as deep as they used to.
As I write this, the death threats and court hearings still continue. The legal system is still inept.
Nothing about the initial situation I wrote about has changed. But I’ve changed. I had spent many months, shed many tears, trying to change something I had no control over.
Yet I finally learned the secret to beating unbeatable problems – changing myself.
A change of perspective, a healthier attitude, and a more positive outlook are the miracle drugs that can cure almost any ill.