I’ve thought about doing this post long before now – however, I’d start typing and that’s as far as it ever got. Truth is, it’s strange how surviving abuse can impact you, even years after you’ve left. The journey from the suffering to surviving the escape from the abuse into survivorship does not come with a manual, and sure as hell isn’t an easy carefree road map. There are no highlighted routes or imperative notes of advice written down in conspicuously noticeable places – as much you may desperately subtly search. There is however, an army of survivors on the other side of the border serving as guides ushering those fleeing abuse through the minefield and out of the darkness, we wouldn’t have even had the landmarks along the way to help us find our way back to life.
In the early months, other survivors are vanguards of our recovery, standing tall and dependable like a lighthouse offshore, lighting our way past the jagged coast and rough seas that can cause shipwreck in despair without guidance. Never looking only in one direction, they constantly search and scan the horizons so as to catch each of us coming out the darkness and fog and provide the light we so desperately need to make our way out. They ask for nothing but give their all. They glow with the divine light of hope. The hope that says living after being shredded into pieces is possible. The hope that says you will find your way. The hope that sings to you with the promise that the shame and silence and loneliness and confusion and hurt will shed and fall away in layers, slowly easing the burdens off your slumped shoulders, draining the ache from your heart, and filling the dark void within you with peace. The hope that says, best of all, that you won’t have to make the journey on your own. It’s also the same hope that warns you there will be battles to wage and setbacks along the way but assures you that it’s a normal part of the healing process while simultaneously providing sources of guidance to keep you moving forward.
At some point, you become steady enough to move forward on your own, and you begin the process of becoming a lighthouse in your own right. But it’s not something you notice about yourself, and it’s not something you are aware of until others tell you. You tend to find that once they tell you, it’s not really even something you are comfortable enough to believe. We never see ourselves, our courage, our strength, or our boldness as others do, in part because of the conditioning we endured during the abuse and the resulting decline in self-esteem or confidence causes us to underestimate how amazing we really are. Those amazing things are characteristics of other survivors of trauma, not ourselves. Or so we unfortunately often believe.
We end up doing a huge disservice to ourselves with our lack of self compassion and objectivity.
Laying on my living room floor, coming back from a state of unconscious, with my boyfriend standing over me, angry, bitter yet crying (again), and desperately trying to justify his actions (again) I decided that this would be the last time, his parting gift to me, so familiar yet so shocking (again).
When you’re in a relationship of domestic violence, you believe them when they say they won’t do it again, when they say that they’re so sorry and that they love you so much, when they describe themselves as utter c**** for ever having done that to you. And each time you forgive, and you hope, and you stay another day.
Don’t get me wrong I enjoy a drink (a good g&t or maybe even a nice large glass of wine) However, his drinking upped and it turned from ‘just’ a shove or hands around my throat, it wasn’t ‘just’ clenching my wrists until they felt they were on fire or telling me that nobody would have me, that nobody loved me and the proof of that is that even my own family didn’t (abusive partners store snippets of your insecurities and use them against you whenever the mood takes them, my biggest one being away from my family and the worry they’d forget me).
I don’t have kids (thank goodness really), but it was health issues and the loss of a family member that put everything into perspective and I finally found the hidden strength I’d lost belief existed.
He was always doing things like taking my keys whilst I’d go for a walk, search my car, and remove my house key – locking me out so I’d have to beg for him to let me in. I didn’t have the money I earn now, and I’d well and truly put myself into isolation which gave him even more confidence and freedom to do whatever he liked, he was safe in the knowledge I was going nowhere.
I spent many a night, being physically thrown around and emotionally battered and still begging him not to make me have to leave again. I convinced myself he was the best thing that happened to me, I convinced myself that I was not a victim but that I was giving as good as I got. I couldn’t see any bad in him, in fact, after every fight I made myself love him again, what choice did I have?
When I talk about my DV story I still can’t believe it happened to me. I am a strong, very independent women. I’ve taken on bigger twats in my life than this one and yet…?!We had a big house, he worked in a great company in the city, I had a fulltime job, both had nice cars blah, blah, blah. On the outside we had it all, the picture of a happy family, a couple deeply in love, a couple who had a great life. I think I had even convinced myself of that, it didn’t happen to women like me, did it?
At the time I hid the abuse. I wore baggy jumpers, made excuses for why I couldn’t attend events or see friends and always joked that we’d drank too much, and that was why my eyes were puffy from tears (again). My little sister once tried to insinuate that he was abusive, I got super defensive at her and put the shutters up (as always) – I was not a victim.
I couldn’t bare the thought of anyone thinking I was in any way allowing someone to treat me this way? Why would I? I’m not stupid, I know that you don’t take crap from bullies, and yet?
But that night, when my head hit the tool chest, I realised I needed to leave and that life is far too short.
I had to fess up to my family, and my inner circle, that I had in fact been a victim of domestic violence. I had to deal with all the practical and emotional shit whilst ensuring my friendships and relationships with family didn’t get effected.
He moved back home with his mum and dad, under their wing whilst they continued to spit venom at me.
My life was broken; his carried on.
Domestic Violence can happen to anyone, I know that now because it happened to me. We were living a middle classed life that from the outside was enviable. The whole time I was at war with the man I kept in my life.
Now I’m out of it and in a good life, it shocks me that I ‘allowed’ the abuse to continue for all the years that it did? Hindsight is a beautiful but often cruel thing.
I feel it’s time to share my story with other women or men, by way of supporting them, empathising with them, empowering them, showing them that DV isn’t EVER about them but about their abuser and that they ALWAYS have a choice.
If you are a survivor of domestic violence, and you suffer through depression (or have in the past) but cannot share because you worry your vulnerability will be mistreated, I want you to know that you are not alone. I see you.
You are not pitiful.
You are not a burden.
You are not worthless.
You are not weak.
You are a warrior, and you are worthy of being alive.