What’s it like to find yourself trapped in darkness so thick you can’t breathe from the choking, so dense you can hardly move, yet somehow you managed to break free of the shackles that have you bound, immobilized, and ensnared?
What’s is like to find yourself emotionally naked, gashed open, and so vulnerable you felt like your heart had been ripped out of your chest, yet you somehow managed to reclaim the core of who you are and rebuild yourself and patch the hole left inside?
What’s it like being chained in the abyss, darkness enveloping you except for the sole dust-laden beam of light cascading through, falling upon your head, as the lions, ravenous and desperate in hunger, lurk around you, encircle you, and prepare to pounce, yet somehow you are stolen away to safety at the right time in your hour of need?
What’s it like be cast into an angry, storm-churned sea, to be dragged down against your will, and just as you make your way to the surface, you get pulled back in and thrown against the crags, pinned by an invisible force, yet somehow the jagged points crumble into sand and the swirling mass calms and allows you to crawl away?
It’s like seeing the last of the bruises fade away and the redness and swelling subside.
It’s like the first time I realized I no longer saw him lurking in the shadows, lying in wait to cause my destruction.
It’s like not having a panic attack even though I discovered I fell asleep without the bedroom door locked or because I wore a skirt to work.
It’s like walking down the street and not having to look over my shoulder every five seconds in anticipation of him being behind me.
It’s realizing that it doesn’t matter if my legs succumb to a weakness from an injury he caused but it means the world that even I struggle to pull myself back, I am able to stand again and walk. Even if I have to fight. Even if I stumble around. Even if it hurts, I work my way through it.
It’s realizing that it doesn’t matter if panic attacks attempt to steal my peace but it means relief to know that even if it takes every last bit of my energy, I ride it out. I don’t allow myself to be overrun and become out-of-control, and if I see it coming I bear up and fight. I wrestle it down. Even if it takes all I have. Even if it almost wins. Because even though it almost got the best of me, almost will never count.
It’s realizing that it doesn’t matter if I can’t do something perfectly – whether it falls short of my expectations or yours – but it means I care enough to put in the effort, even if I do not succeed. Even if I have to try again. Even if others see my failure. Even if they show their disapproval, I know it’s far worse to not try out of fear of what someone else thinks and expects. Because as long as I give my best, as long as I put my heart into it, there is even success in that alone.
It’s realizing that it doesn’t matter if I have a hard time singing from the constant pressure I have on the left side of my throat since he threw me against the wall and choked me but it means I am alive and that I am free if I feel comfortable enough to let the song out. Even if my voice breaks. Even if it gives out. Even if I momentarily lose control of tune, I know it’s far lonelier and more burdensome to try to keep shut up inside that which yearns to be free. Even if you criticize my inconsistency. Even if you judge me. Because as long as the song I sing comes from my heart, it will always be the most beautiful thing you have ever heard.
It’s knowing with every fiber of my being that even though I make mistakes, I am valuable and worthy of respect and love and compassion and mercy.
It’s knowing with every fiber of my being that it’s okay for me to make choices instead of being someone’s puppet.
It’s knowing with every fiber of my being that I am stronger than I give myself credit for, but being humble enough to admit and appreciate that I was given help to build that strength.
It’s knowing with every fiber of my being that even though I do not have the perfect body type, even though I can’t wear the best of clothes, struggle with being self-conscious at the clumps of veins the impacts of the metal bar left behind, with the crooked bottom teeth and damage to the right side of my face from being punched, or the cysts below my skin where I was kicked repeatedly, I am still beautiful. I carry myself with pride, and I hold my head up, because he didn’t ruin the best parts of me. I am beautiful because I choose not to hate but instead always try to encourage someone when they are battling distress. I am beautiful, because even after the desperation, I still open up my heart and give someone my trust, because I love completely, because I am genuine. I am beautiful, because I am me.
And just like the song goes, I was not built to break.