Growing up in an Italian American family in Queens, New York, in the ’70s, Francesca Miracola was trained from an early age to keep up appearances at all costs; but behind closed doors, her parents’ toxic marriage served as a blueprint for dysfunction. So when she met Jason Axcel at a bar as a twentysomething, she normalized his emotional and physical abuse, just like she’d learned to do—and then married and had two children with him.
But something in her clicked one night when Jason strolled out the door after a vicious fight that left her degraded on the floor. She decided she was done.
Except Jason wouldn’t let her go.
Even after they eventually divorced and Francesca moved on, Jason—keen enough to recognize that she was the same broken girl he’d met a decade earlier—refused to leave her alone. He called the cops to her home with bogus claims; he bombarded her with provoking emails and texts; he stalked her every move; and, worst of all, he used their little boys as pawns in his campaign. Then he went for the jugular and sued her for custody. But Francesca was stronger than he’d given her credit for.
Raw and illuminating, I Got It from Here is one woman’s story of saving herself and her children from the grips of a sociopath—and from the inherited trauma passed down by her own family of birth—while learning to trust in the inner voice that’s been trying to guide her all along.
This book gnawed at me for years until my breast cancer diagnosis finally motivated me to write it. When the doctor gave me the news, my first thought was my children, I feared I would leave them too young. My second thought was the book, I feared I would die without having written it. Soon after my treatment I began writing, primarily for my children – I wanted them to understand my fears and therefore only know my love. Also, from a young age I felt a pull towards healing and a desire to connect with others in a way that inspires them to do the same. Sharing my story with the world offered me the chance to do just that.
2. How did you use the principles from A Course in Miracles to overcome domestic abuse?
I hadn’t yet discovered A Course in Miracles at the time I escaped from physical abuse. But unbeknownst to me at the time, I did apply a core principle of the Course to set myself free – love. My love for my baby boys was much stronger than my tolerance for abuse.
The next phase in overcoming domestic abuse focused on the emotional torment that continued well after the physical separation. During that period, I discovered the Course and embarked on my spiritual journey to peace.
One of my favorite quotes from the Course is, “Let me look on the world I see as the representation of my own state of mind”. I learned whatever I was experiencing externally was simply showing me what was going on internally. That wasn’t easy to accept at first, but once I did, I took back ownership of my life.
I focused on the painful emotions within me, those were the wounds I needed to heal. The Course helped me shift from a fear-based, chaotic mindset to one of peace. As I settled my mind, I reconnected with myself. The real me was not weak or damaged, she was powerful and wise, she radiated light and love. I found the strength to stand in that truth and no longer tolerate anything less than peace and joy in my life.
3. How did you deal with your own anger, fear, and concern for safety about your children?
Prior to discovering A Course in Miracles, I didn’t deal with my anger and fear, I blamed the circumstances I thought caused them. This of course put everything and everyone outside of me in control of me, which only intensified my anger and heightened my fear.
My anxiety surged through me; it basically ran my life. I could not enjoy anything because I was hypervigilant about what could go wrong. I was especially worried sick about my boys and strategized about how they could spend time with their father without falling victim to his ways. I depleted all my energy trying to keep the enemy close enough to soften him yet far enough to be free of him. I lost myself trying to keep him at bay and resented the hold I thought he had over me. Resentment eventually turned to anger which later boiled over in rage.
I fretted I’d never be happy, I feared I’d never be free. I suffered through constant chaos and misery until I was literally on my knees begging for peace. That’s when I found A Course in Miracles and finally looked within to resolve my anger and dissolve my fears. As I focused on and healed my internal state of being, my external circumstances improved.
4. What advice would you give to other women and men who are experiencing domestic abuse, but are afraid to leave the relationship?
Instead of focusing on trying to fix, avoid, or maneuver around the other person, focus on what was going on for you that made you wind up in the relationship to begin with. When you identify the fear-based beliefs that are making you vulnerable, you will find the strength and wisdom to get out, get help, and heal.
The Course helped me realize that whatever was happening to me reflected what was stirring inside of me. The more I focused on my ex and the story of what he was doing to me, the more I gave him power over me. It was a freeing moment when I realized I was the author of my own life.
5. What was going through your mind while you were still in the relationship and how did you cope?
My mind was split between dreams of escape and strategies to make it work. I coped by normalizing chaos and tolerating abuse, it felt like my childhood home. I told myself that enduring the situation was a sign of strength, and deluded myself into thinking I could fix or manage it.
Even when I thought I had enough and boldly changed the locks, my mind remained preoccupied with both fearful and vengeful thoughts. It’s no wonder the divorce was as sick as the marriage. It wasn’t until I humbly said there must be a better way that I opened to the possibility of peace. As I healed my mind, I no longer needed to cope. I was free to live.
6. Did forgiveness play a role in your journey? IF so, how?
Yes, forgiveness played the key role.
The Course taught me that forgiveness is not a holier than thou pardon of another person’s “sins” or an unresolved acceptance of what they “did” to you. It’s more a letting go of grievances, not so much to give others a free pass, but more to free your own soul.
Practicing forgiveness felt like a detox, anything that was twisting me in anger and blocking my happiness needed to come up so I could take an honest look at it and let it go. At times it felt like an exorcism, certain stories unleashed my rage. Other times it felt like grief, certain memories brought to light all the years and relationships that were lost to nonsense. It wasn’t easy to unearth my own feelings of wretchedness; I was tempted to continue blaming others for my misery. But the concepts from the Course helped me push through.
I came to realize that as I let go of the anger I had been directing at other people, a heavy burden was lifted from my own shoulders. I softened a bit and recognized all our behavior is either love or a call to love. I became more compassionate and less judgmental as I realized we’re all just here to learn. I became less bitter as I recalled only the love or need for love that was real in every situation.
Forgiveness turned out to be a gift from me to me. I started to feel lighter, happier. For the first time in decades, I was at peace.
7. Anything else?
Please visit me at my website Francesca Miracola to learn more about my book and coaching services. In the meantime, here is a little more about me:
Francesca is an Italian American from Queens, NY, currently living on Long Island, but in her mind she’s a free-spirited wanderer. She wants to travel the world, but she’s afraid to fly, although a glass of wine gets her through most flights. Francesca’s mostly an introvert who greatly prefers deep, meaningful conversations to surface small talk. She keeps her circle small, and she’s still debating if that’s a good or bad thing. She’s a breast cancer survivor, but she rarely defines herself as one – probably because she feels like she’s been surviving something most of her life. She’s funny; at least, she makes herself laugh. Francesca graduated cum laude from New York University and worked in financial services for twenty-five years, even though she wanted to be a therapist. That’s probably because she needed a therapist. Francesca finally wound up on her true path as a student and teacher of A Course in Miracles, author, life coach, and founder of Protagonist Within LLC. Francesca is a wife, a best friend, and above all, a mother.