When you are in the middle of something traumatic, you cannot be objective, especially when you would stake your life on it. Immediate stress of the fear and pain you experience aside, the emotional impact has far-reaching effects on your heart and mind for years to come. Everything you do will be somehow influenced, and not always for the good. For victims of abuse, this may initially feel like a life sentence. However, you will be able to readjust yourself little by little as time goes by. I know for some of you, this may not feel like a possibility now, but you are thinking with pain as your filter. Take heart, for this also includes me! In some respects, I have made phenomenal progress from where I was three months ago. However, in some areas, I am still struggling.
Three months ago, I was at the lowest point I have ever been. I had made the decision to leave my home and everything in it behind. When I got to work, however, I tried to continue on as I had been, meaning that I attempted to act like nothing had happened. For a while, it worked. Until he started calling me at work relentlessly, threatening me that I needed to tell my supervisor that there was an emergency, and I needed to leave. When I finally asked him why, all he said was, “You’ll find out when you get here.” In that voice. That was the last time I answered the phone.
He continued to call, and I snapped. Where was I going to go? I couldn’t go home. How was I going to get away from him? The department manager came over to ask me a question, and I uncharacteristically blew him off. Later, one of the girls came over to ask me a question, and I had a very obvious meltdown at my desk. It was bad enough that I thought my two neighbors were in their cubes, but I turned around and there were two other people waiting to talk to me, and both of them had witnessed the whole thing. They all asked me if I was okay, and all I could force out was a wimpy no.
All three of them withdrew, not sure what to do, because they had never once so much as seen me come in to work in a bad mood. And they were witnessing this mess? I was completely embarrassed, and despite the duress I was under, I still insisted on trying to work like nothing was happening! My life had fallen apart and I was in denial!
Then he called again, and I panicked. I got up away from my desk, walked into the conference room, and asked the other girls in the department where our supervisor was. They were quiet at first, because they had never seen me cry. One of them told me where she was, and I pulled her aside and told her I needed to speak with her. I didn’t know how to start, so I pulled up my sleeve and turned away from her as I exposed my forearm to her, and she gasped. The secret was out. Once she got over the shock, she asked me if I was being abused and I nodded. She left me in the department manager’s office alone while she went and found the company employee who handled domestic violence issues.
Once they got me talking, I couldn’t stop. Really, it’s too late at this point to take it back, so I might as go the full distance and let them know. I told them everything that happened the previous night and that morning. I told them when it started, about his drug problem. Everything. There was nowhere left for me to hide this dirty secret. I was humiliated that I had to divulge this to anyone, and I wanted to disappear.
The worst part was when I had to call my father from work and tell him I needed him to come pick me up and take me to fill out the paperwork for the emergency order of protection. It was even worse when I realized that I would be too afraid to leave the building and walk through the parking lot to get to his car, and I had to call him back and tell him he needed to come in the building to get me and that the security desk wouldn’t give him a problem for coming back to get me. I refused to come out alone. And I wouldn’t walk up the main hallway alone, so both women accompanied me up to meet my father. One had written down a list of things I needed to do, and she showed it to my father.
I was completely drained by the time I got in to to go through the meticulous act of filling out paperwork. By the time I started rehashing the whole thing again, I had become a robot. I was in shock, and I couldn’t lie to myself anymore. I stared out the window and I recounted everything and then had to endure her reading it back before she finalized everything. She called court and told them I was coming, and told them they needed to have the paperwork for the order drawn up and done today. When we got to the family court, the clerk was waiting for me. The judge had signed the order before we crossed the town line, and he was served just before the end of the business day.
I spent a long, sleepless weekend looking out windows, jumping at every noise, watching every car that went past. I had plenty of time to make a detailed list in my head of everything that I had to clean up, and it became a mountain. Bad credit. Unpaid bills. Defaulted student loans. Suspended driving privileges and registration. No medical insurance. No money. Back taxes. And a million other things.
My head has since cleared a great deal from the first few weeks. I have taken steps to remedy the financial problems, and if you find yourself in this situation, you need to handle this as soon as you have the need for personal security addressed. It will mean having to tell several people what happened, but you will find in doing so, they are incredibly helpful once they realize why you are having the financial trouble. It is not easy the first few calls you make, but it will get better. I was able to get my student loans out of default and into temporary deferment status, the IRS and the State both reinstated my installment plans without penalty, and the credit card company allowed me to pay the back amount I owed and they put my account back into current status. They also credited my account with one month’s payment to give me extra time to get caught up. And, since I could not remember what paperwork was in the apartment when I left, I also signed up for a credit monitoring service and pre-paid legal services membership.
Fixing the financial mess will be easier than getting that twisted, mangled heap of chaos and doubt out of your heart. That is the hard part. I am fortunate to have the personality I have and the support I have. Without them, I would be a hopeless wreck right now. Instead I have made unbelievable progress. If you are being abused or have just left and do not have a system of support, you need to find one. Since trust is undoubtedly an issue for you, you need to look for people who are going through or have been through abuse firsthand. You also should realize that there are spiritual needs that need to be addressed. Also you will need to seek counseling.
All of these resources combined will help you reach some clarity. Once you get there, you will start to feel the best thing of all: love for yourself. You can never be the person you were before everything began. That does not mean, however, that you cannot be happy and vital and lucid. You will find peace. Just be patient and forgiving with yourself.