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Last Friday marked an anniversary for me.

I used to define February 26 in terms like: ‘It’s been (blank) years since I left that creep.’ Always in reference to him, to his presence in my life, to his behavior.

Over time, it grew into something like: ‘It’s been (blank) years since I took my life back.’ I was growing in appreciation for myself, but still in a defensive stance—not fully trusting yet, and still referencing a struggle with him.

Last Friday, I wrote in my journal: ‘Eleven years ago today, I asserted my self-worth in a very demonstrable way.’ Now that sounds like a bird who knows the strength of her own wings.

To tell you the truth, there is nothing special, really, about February 26, though I have to admit that I’ve come to think of it as a sort of birthday. On that particular day in 2010—on a Friday, in fact—with the help of a dear friend, I gathered a few of my things and fled to safety, and began the long road that brought me to this blank page, to these words, and to sharing my heart in this way.

Surviving abuse is time travel. Trauma, like grief, is something I experience as going in and out of remission. A face, a thought, a song, a fictional character, a scent—anything can transport the mind to the past. All is well until it isn’t. And when it isn’t, nurturing pathways of support—and the importance of a self-empathy practice—are key components to finding one’s way through the wormhole back to now.

If I’ve learned anything in the last eleven years, it’s this: Every day, every moment, every breath is a chance to start anew, and to ‘assert one’s self-worth in a very demonstrable way.’ Every day is a birthday—for a person or an idea or a new path in life. Every moment, when you look deeply enough, is truly a cause for celebration. And I intend to keep my party hat on as often as I can, for as long as I can.