Dominika Stoica shares how her journal has been a place of refuge and healing during difficult moments in her life, and the importance of never losing sight of our innate worth, especially as women.
I would say to any woman anywhere, specifically to girls or women that feel they are stuck, to never, never let yourself forget about your worth. Not even just in a toxic relationship, but in a relationship that they don't feel like is worth pursuing. Never let yourself feel worthless because every single person in this world is worthy of love and worthy of a good relationship and deserves a good relationship. Every woman deserves a person next to her that will treat her right.
My name is Dominika Stoica. I was born in Łódź, Poland and currently reside in the mountains of Romania with my husband and two children. A journal has been part of my everyday life for a very long time. It's been a source of relief and also a safe place where I could share my joys and my sorrows without being worried about being judged; to be with my thoughts on my own. Journaling has helped me measure the little bit of progress I am making and see the moments when I've done well.
I was always a free spirit. I was a little bit lost in a way that I did not have a strong or safe person as a role model. I didn't have a strong family unit. There wasn't anyone to sit me down and tell me about the difficulties of life or say, “Let's go through what's going on with you.” I didn’t have the emotional safety a teenager needs.
And it didn't feel right. I was doing things a 13-year-olds shouldn't be doing. It felt like, “Well no one cares—it's whatever—I can do this.” But yet still there was something inside me telling me, “This is not right,” or, “this is not me.” I would look in the mirror and say, "What are you doing? This is not what you are, this is not what you feel natural with. This is not what you want to do."
I yearned for someone good to show me the way. My sister, Basia, met missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and told me about the Church. I then began meeting with the missionaries because of her example. It was just a natural moment for me to realise, "That's it. They're awesome!" They were good people with good hearts. They were like angels to me. The Gospel was exactly what I was looking for, without knowing that I was looking for it.
I realised looking back at that first journal that there is something in us that yearns for remembering those early years. In a journal we can read it and see it, but we're also like, "Whoa, I'm glad this is over," or "I am somewhere else now." The journal became a place to share my struggles more than my joys during those years. Although, there was a cheerful sunshiny period of joining the Church when everything was just kind of going on the right track and going in the right direction. But that, of course, doesn't mean that I didn't have hard times. I actually paid for it a lot with school friends that saw me change and make different decisions and saw me become a different person than I used to be. I experienced a ton of bullying.
In general, I was feeling that I was on the right path, even though going to school was a struggle. But then I met this boy who was in my class. I thought that I was just going to be a nice Mormon girl and befriend him to help him see that he is good because everyone thought he was bad. The next thing I know, he falls in love with me.
We started dating, and shortly after I realised, “Okay, I think this is going in the wrong direction. This is not what I want.” Even though I had made so many changes in my life, and even though the Church had helped me so much to gain more self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth, I still was very vulnerable and very easy to manipulate. I kept trying to break off the relationship without success. The next thing I know I'm in a toxic relationship for years. I'm only like 20 years old and I'm thinking to myself, "How did this even happen? How do I get out of this situation?"
I vividly remember this moment at church when I was a new member. I remember seeing so many families and individuals that were examples for me. I thought, "This is what I want! This is what I want in my future partner." I was telling myself that I would not continue the toxic pattern of the family that I had in my life so far, that was going down generation after generation. I would break it and I would do things differently so that I would find myself a good husband and that I wanted myself to be that good, awesome mum, that I would be that supportive wife and that was what I pictured for myself. Then I had to make different decisions to lead me to that path.
But I was still in a very destructive relationship, so that's the time when my journal got it all. I'm pretty sure that many of these pages were written with tears in my eyes. It actually became some sort of a conversation between me and God.
After so many years of being in that toxic relationship, I started to believe that I was not even worthy to pray anymore because I had made so many mistakes. Moments where I would think, "This is it. I'm literally going to be stuck with this man and I’m going to have this miserable life because he's never going to let me go." But after moments of thinking like that, I would say, "No, no, no. This is not going to happen. There must be a way for me to change my life."
All those years I was holding onto hope. I know now that God was carrying me. I didn’t lose my desire to keep fighting. I can't even tell you how many times I approached my boyfriend about ending the relationship. In the end, it got really dangerous; I could see the red lights flashing all over the place. So, I told him I put my papers in to go on a mission for my church. I told him that I wasn’t just saying I was leaving so that he would go away, but making sure he understood and believed that I was leaving, I was physically going away. And that was the end of the story between us. I had time to prepare and to gather everything I needed and I left on my mission as a completely free woman, a free girl.
I don't look back with anger or frustration at the years I spent struggling. The whole truth about God is that His love is so unconditional. That no matter what you're doing, the moment you turn your face to Him, you turn your heart to Him, He's there no matter what. And I think the most important, but also the most freeing and just amazing truth out there is the fact that God is always, always, always there for you. When you think about it, as a child of God, we are a whole person.
But because of the mistakes that we've made, we start believing that we are not worthy of love.
We think, "God must be so disappointed in me, I make mistake after mistake.” Forget that. It's the realisation that we are children of God that carries us. We are all equally deserving of His love. I feel like if we all understood that, and took time to learn that, and have our conviction about it, that knowledge would really help us make so many more positive changes in our lives. That is the energy and strength to gather ourselves and to do whatever it is that we need to do to get out of that relationship, or any other destructive, negative situation we find ourselves in, and leave.
Many times when I was dating my husband, I would mention in my journal how amazing it is for me to see the difference and to be with such a good man and to have such a healthy, good relationship. Just expressing my awe at how completely different this relationship is from my last one and how amazing and worthwhile it is. I wanted this journal to be my way to always express my gratitude for my husband, for him as a person, and for his partnership. So I would just write things I loved about him. I think that none of this could have been mine if I had given up, you know, if I didn't fight. If I didn't find that last ray of hope inside of me to take another step, to try one more time to fight towards change.
I haven't been as religious in updating my journal since I had my second child though. But I do not want to stop journaling. I would love to continue to record my life so I can see that progress and so I can see the changes. So I can see where my thoughts were, then where my thoughts are today. Also as a way to picture my future, to make goals, and to set plans. So, the journals got the good and the bad from me. They get an angry hand, sometimes a shaky hand, and sometimes a very excited and happy hand. The journal is a channel between me and God.
Pre-production: Clare Hamn
Interview: Louise Paulsen
Transcription: Ryan Cook
Writing: Jamie Holt
Editing: Jamie Holt & Amy Epps
Audio: Emma Reyelts
Photography: Radu Stoica & Dominika Stoica