For ten, long, miserable years, I was a battered woman. There. It’s out in the open for the world to see. It can’t get much starker than printing it in black and white. When you pick up your chin off the floor, let’s continue. *smile*
Why am I telling you this now? There are a few reasons. The most important one is that I’m finally ready to say the words out loud without fainting from mortification and fear of judgment. Secondly, another writer challenged me that if what I’m posting is not necessarily a challenge to me, then it might be mediocre content. I don’t do mediocre. I don’t want to address the same things in this blog that can be found in a thousand other blogs. There are some topics that are just ugly and they need to be addressed because those thousand others can’t, won’t or don’t.
Domestic violence more than ever is a subject that needs to be faced head on and eradicated as sure as any other deadly cancer or disease. Like heart disease, it’s a silent killer, but more importantly, it’s an ignored killer. There are people in the world, which at this very moment, need to know they are not alone. They need to know that someone understands, and cares. I do.
This is a gnarly subject that’s uncomfortable for people, and because of that discomfort there are wounds being allowed to fester and ruin peoples – and I mean women, children AND men’s – lives. Abuse is a corrosive and perpetual cycle – not only in the physical damage it wreaks, but also in the toll that it takes in the emotional and mental sensibilities of the person at the end of the fist. It is a soul stigma. It’s a bitch of a hole to crawl back from. I know. I’ve been there, and I’ve crawled back. There are others that need to know they can do it too.
Before the condolences and sympathy start rolling, I don’t need them, nor do I want sympathy. That’s not the point of this blog. This post is about the strength and the heart of any person that crawls back from a festering pit of self-hatred, self-doubt, fighting through the tears and disappointment, stands on their feet, fights back and succeeds. There are millions like me. I’d rather hear a stadium full of cheering applause. I’d rather be an inspiration for others to follow my path. Many stories do not end in such an inspiring manner as mine does. It is they, which deserve sympathy and condolences, because they don’t have the opportunity to live life with a second chance. As Martina McBride sings, they are Concrete Angels. I am, very much a live.
The question that I’m most often asked when speaking with people about domestic violence is, “How could you have been with someone that hit you?” It’s a genuine and curious, yet repugnant question, since it implies that someone in an abusive relationship makes a conscious choice to be with someone that tortures him or her physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually, financially or otherwise. Yes, there is more than one kind of abuse, and I’m here to tell you that the broken bones, cracked ribs, broken ear drums, black eyes, choke marks and steel toe boot bruises in my chest were only a passing worry once I knew I was going to live to see another day. The answer is so much more complex than simply leaving. It was a gut wrenching, stressful place in which to exist. But exist I did – for a long time. The titanium that forms my eye socket and bridges my cheekbone is only a simple reminder of a path traveled. Nothing that is encompassed in my experience defines me, but it has REfined me, and the way that I look at life, react to circumstances, and it has most certainly affected my level of compassion. You never know what someone is facing in his or her life. It doesn’t have to be as serious as abuse to be relevant or deserving of kindness. We all could use a little more compassion. But I digress.
I want you to know how to recognize an abuser. Abusive people are ordinary, good looking, normal people like you and me on the outside. On the inside they are manipulative, insecure, sociopathic narcissists (not like you and me on the inside). Could you identify someone like that from outward appearance? I couldn’t until I experienced it – and it is not appearance that identifies them to me. The abusive beast reveals itself through a slow unveiling that rips back the layers of self esteem and self confidence until they are gone, and only then are the personality traits completely revealed in their full glory. At that point in the cycle, it is too late to leave, and it becomes a battle for escape.
Abusers are not all drunken, drug-addicted beings that are characteristically generalized in the movies. You might be surprised at who is disposed to the classic behavioral tendencies of an abuser. They are men, women, and children; they are police, lawyers, thugs, secretaries, and playground bullies, celebrities, and college professors and more. They can be your next-door neighbors, or the pastor at a church. The look of an abuser is indiscriminate. They come in every color, age, shape and size. While there are certain demographics that identify characteristics there is not a mark that says someone will or won’t be an abuser. Once I understood that, I began to understand that the entire situation wasn’t my fault. It gave me a place from which to begin rebuilding myself. That voyage is much to much to post in a single blog, but you will find many exercises and lessons throughout past posts, as well as future ones that I implemented throughout my journey on the way back to me – I won’t always point out that it was an abusive situation that was the catalyst, because they work equally well for many different situations. I am not a result of the abuse; I am the result of constant hard work, complete self-honesty and taking a step forward when I didn’t think I possibly could.
I’ve realized that by not talking candidly about my experience that I am hiding a part of me that can inspire and encourage others to find the resolve to take that first step in fighting for something better for them selves. My first step is to say to others out there: You are NOT ALONE and there is a healthy and fulfilling life left to live. You’re going to have to reach out and grab it and hold on for dear life and believe in yourself like never before – but it’s there – and it’s worth every second of pain and every tear that falls.
Yesterday, I met an incredible woman. She’s lived through a horror story similar to mine. We bonded immediately. Not in the fact that we’d both lived through horrible circumstances, but rather what we did to move forward with power. She had never had someone, a friend that understood the way that I did. Now, she does. What she doesn’t realize is that by sharing her story, it is SHE that has inspired me. She’s amazing, beautiful, a great mom, and a go-getter. I’m so utterly proud of her. She also motivated my desire to start this conversation.
I’m proud of all that I’ve accomplished since the day that I sat down to start figuring out what color I liked. (Yes, I had to start from the bottom and work up as I fought to regain myself and rebuild my self-esteem). Recently a friend was talking me through a difficult situation, and they reminded me to always be proud. They don’t know the impact of their words, but trust me when I say that I’ve gone back and applied those words to a lot of different situations throughout my life. In every circumstance I found something that I could be proud of. Through failure, success, grief, anger, happiness, and joy – every situation leaves you with SOMETHING to be proud of. You just have to learn how to recognize it. I’m most certainly proud that I crawled back from the pit of hell to live a rewarding and opportunity filled life.
All days are not bright and joy filled snoopy dances. Today was one of them (and I didn’t feel well on top of it). The key for me is to recognize and acknowledge my feelings and understand that theses days are rare and pass quickly. Considering the alternative outcome that could have been my reality, I embrace the emotion and go out of my way to be extra kind to myself. I am still smiling. That’s good enough for me. Most people never know, and only realize that I’m much quieter than usual.
I’m not going to lie to you and say that writing this post doesn’t make my belly quiver. It does. It’s challenging me to my limits. I feel vulnerable, and being vulnerable is something that I struggle with. I know that there are people that may criticize my decision to share this part of me. I also realize that it won’t resonate with everyone. Like I said, the topic is a queasy one for many. For me it’s a triumphant story, one that included a long fight back from circumstances that could have easily ended my life. Instead it left me with a soul stigma that has evolved into a soul insignia, and left me with an opportunity to extend my hand to help pull others up if only by the mere fact that they now realize they are not alone. That is my motivation. I step up for the people that won’t or can’t.
You’ve all heard me say countless times – Move Forward – Look Up. It’s my mantra. Those simple words were at times, all I could utter as I navigated my way through a journey of self-discovery, rebuilding, and loss and all the emotions it carried with it. Faith and simple words are what carried me through so many times that I didn’t think I had the strength to get through the day. But I always did. No matter the circumstance. You can do it too. You are never alone.
In a certain sense, there is final healing for me in writing this, or at least there will be once I hit the Post button. If you’re reading this, then you know I succeeded. It’s a “secret” that I’ve held closely unless you are someone special to me or had a reason to know – and admittedly there are not that many. The landscape is different now. I’m choosing to be proud of what I’ve accomplished instead of being shamed by something dark and miserable. I write this as the sun is setting, but for me, the sun is rising and the road has opened before me. I feel like I can take a deep breath, exhale and love a part of my life that for so long I’ve hated. Breaking that final chain is worth any risk that saying these words publicly can pose.
Finally, I am free.