I’m a conflicted person. There is always a battle going on inside me interrupted by beautiful moments of clarity, happiness, and peace. I often feel as though I’ve fought a battle from the moment I was born. Some unknown internal war that rages battle against my well-being and true peace. I have a memory that is far too good for my sanity. I can remember flashes of events from childhood and every year that sits between those formative years and now.
I remember light-hearted games of chase around my grandparent’s home. Childhood conflicts with friends or worries that I just didn’t fit in. I remember being terrified of kindergarten and wanting the comfort of the family I had known and been surrounded by for my first five years. I remember losing first teeth, finding a voice through writing. Making friends and growing to love school. I remember first crushes, hand holding, and kisses. That one amazing year I spent at summer camp. Just two weeks that made me realize I could accomplish whatever it was I truly wanted to do.
More vividly I remember the bad…
Memories of Saturday nights praying my father would not come home…and that if he did he would leave us alone. I remember literal prayers that he would not hurt my mother and begging for him to leave us and go far away. I can remember thinking that I had to be a barrier between he and my sister – he and my mother. I can remember the few times my sister decided to call 911 and then being heartbroken when my mother lied and told them nothing was wrong. I wanted her to be strong too. I didn’t yet understand how anyone could want such a mean person in their life. There wasn’t enough good in him for me to tolerate the bad.
I remember the first time someone else I thought loved me hit me. I remember exactly what I was wearing and what set him off…I remember that day as the beginning of a cycle I thought I’d never break. There would be several more years of ‘setting him off’ and wondering just what the hell I had done. I remember it all and the last time I saw this person, the day I decided to choose myself, has been passed for almost nine years….
Nine years of happiness, trust, love that doesn’t require abuse of my mind and body. Nine years and I wonder if I’ll ever really be completely free.
The thing about becoming a victim of domestic violence is that is never fully leaves you. Even if you escape, there are parts of you that are forever altered. You don’t have to let it define you, but you have to decide how far you allow it to alter you and how you can fight back. Abuse was a part of my life for longer than it wasn’t. It’s been a challenge for me to learn to live in a world that is not FILLED with chaos. I assume that ‘normal’ people don’t go looking for things that are wrong. That they face them when they come along and then go back to the happiness. I assume normal people don’t face a deep-seated anxiety over almost every aspect of their lives. Maybe they aren’t always waiting for the bottom to drop out…maybe one day I’ll know what that is like.
Most stories of domestic violence don’t start out as horror films. They start out as most romances do. There is happiness and the giddiness of falling in love. There is a trust that is slowly built up and then shattered. There is a wearing down of the spirit and soul so gradual that you don’t even know what is happening to you. Those who dare get involved often get hurt and give up. If you’re content to sit in your misery, they aren’t sure how to reach out and help. They’re scared to get pulled further in.
The isolation begins gradually – maybe your partner doesn’t like a certain friend. Over time they’ve made you feel as if they are all you have. When the heavy abuse starts, you already feel broken and like you have nowhere to turn. Your mind, body, your entire being is put before a firing squad. They leave no part of your trust and spirit untouched with their blows. Domestic violence isn’t just the physical or sexual abuse – it goes even further into you until you’re not quite sure who or what you even are. If you do get the courage to speak out, they’ll often pull you back in. Ask me how many times I said I was ‘done’ only to accept a tearful apology, often accompanied by a gift and sweetness in attitude I hadn’t seen in months. You crave those small pieces of happiness – they are water to your poor parched soul. They are a life blood you didn’t know could still flow.
Thankfully for myself, I still carried hope. I was bruised and shattered, but there was still part of me that he had not been able to touch. Someone had been able to reach out and touch a part of me that was still alive. That person made it clear that I didn’t deserve this and I was worth so much more. That person is still, almost a decade later, my support. They have not grown tired of dealing with the aftermath of a monster that they never had to get involved with. Without that support, it could have taken longer to escape and choose myself. But that decision began with me and it’s important for other victims to realize that you can have happiness beyond the abusive relationship. You do not have to live in fear. Love is not enduring abuse. It’s also important to remember that if you don’t leave, you may not continue to live…
Physical bruises and cuts heal. Scars slowly fade, at least a bit. The biggest reminders you are left with are all emotional and mental. For years happy days were marred in abuse that happened behind closed doors, moments where you were pulled away from everyone else’s happiness. It is entirely possible to wake up from a dream, a flashback, nine years later and still feel as though the abuse is fresh. It is possible to lose yourself inside those memories and relive that fear. If you let it – if you let the abuser – they will control you for the rest of your life whether they’re in it or not. What you have to do is find a way to face those fears and you meet them head on. You tell yourself you’re stronger than they are and that YOU WON.
You chose life over abuse, you let it go. You use it as fuel to rebuild a happy life. And you go back to living…