If it’s one thing I am reminded of every day without fail, it would be that this life even with the occasional pitfalls, battles, and struggles, is absolutely divine. I have had several conversations with others who have some emotionally burdensome things to work through focused on whether or not we would change the thing that put us through all the hurt we endured as a result. A few of them were still too embroiled in the hurt to choose anything other than wanting to go back and make a choice that would keep them from going through it. The rest said that while they wouldn’t change going through it, they would still want to work things out so they would avoid the emotional struggles that came with it. And my response every time was a question many of us find difficult to answer when we are still trying to work through our pain and faltering confidence.
“Do you love or even like who you are now in this moment of your life?”
Those who were still in the thick of their suffering said no but expressed the hope that once they worked through to the end that they would. The others said yes with little hesitation. So I asked them another question.
“Do you think you could be who you are right now if you did not go through this situation in your life?”
Most agreed that they could not but still feel like they could have done without it. I’m sure we all could, but life just doesn’t give us these options, and having hindsight doesn’t give us the ability to blot out some decisions and events or even people to spare us from pain and suffering. We face financial hardship, we are afflicted with illness, we are in accidents, we make poor decisions, and we lose people we love. There is no way for us to go through life in a bubble and come out at the end unscathed.. not even those of us with best of circumstances. Things befall us unexpectedly, people hurt us and leave us, but we still go on.
Invariably, they shift the focus of the conversation to me and pose the same questions I ask them but ask me – deliberately – to answers those questions with the abuse in mind. Don’t forget they know about the struggles I have with lapses in confidence, depression, never ending battles with debt collectors from the financial abuse, PTSD, panic attacks, and anxiety. Some days, being in my head is a nightmare. Some days, it’s the best day ever.
Do I like myself at this point in my life taking all my battles and faults into consideration? No. I don’t like myself, I love myself, faults and all. Stresses and peace. Do I think I could be who I am right now had I not been tortured by my abuser? Absolutely not. True, I might have nightmares or panic attacks or debts I didn’t rack up. I wouldn’t have migraines or be hardly able to walk in the winter from all the pain screaming and coursing up and down my legs, hips, and lower back from injuries I sustained. These are obstacles I could do without.
Here’s the thing. During the four years I was abused, I was constantly told how ugly, fat, stupid, worthless, weak, pitiful, and disgusting I was. A good day was one that his verbal assaults didn’t descend into a brutal physical rage with me trying to dig the tips on my fingers into the carpet to get leverage against him pulling me around the room by my hair because I knew at some point, he’d pull out the metal bar. He made sure early on that I understood the danger I was caught up in when drove me out into a wooded area at two in the morning. As with all similar incidents to follow over the next three years after this, the tire iron incident was a warning. He wanted me to remember that he had the ability to end my life, that he was willing to go that far to teach me a lesson if he felt it was required. The most disturbing thing was the lack of conscience. If he did end up killing me, I knew he would leave there for someone to find (or not, depending on where he left me), and he would just take off and go live his life as if it never happened.
The physical abuse escalated into a dizzying spiral of fear. I lived each day never knowing if that day was going to be the one where he went too far. Several times he came dangerously close to killing me. However, while some of his more brutal attacks revisit me in the few hours I sleep each night, it’s the emotional abuse and recalling how desperate and distraught I was to see pieces of myself falling away and vanishing as though they never existed. It’s reliving the last moments leading up to that day where he completed his emotional gutting of me and I felt all hope escape me that can still overwhelm and crush me as though I was still that thin, delicate shell he’d created so he could stuff me full of his hatred of me. The weight of being nothing more than a shadow of who I was and now an extension of him. His punching bag. His property. And I fell into an abyss of despair that almost ended permanently when I decided I couldn’t bear to live another moment. He was witness to it, and he gathered up the phones and keys, called me crazy in his vile, colorful, devilish way, and slammed the door behind him on the way out. I lived. The abuse continued.
Two years, three months, one week, one day, and one hour after leaving him, I still have a swirling chaos of memories in my head I try to forget. Things I was subjected to and things I saw from the sidelines unwillingly that no one should know is even possible. Sometimes when I make a mistake or drop something, I hear his voice hissing in my ear. Still, I love myself.
The important thing to me isn’t what I lived through, but my response to it and how I handled the trauma. When we endure and finally become free of it, we become aware of our own strength. We value and even love ourselves. We become more thankful for even the smallest of things around us. We become more compassionate toward others, including ourselves. For me, the greatest gift has been embracing the vulnerability that I once spent years running from. I have learned the impact I can have on others simply by opening myself up and letting others see the wounds and scars, and the fulfilling part of it is being a piece of their healing. Hearing their stories and seeing their wounds and scars as the strength they truly are. To be called amazing by another survivor is to be set afire with hope and love and compassion. I would never have gotten such a wonderful gift without my pain. I would take none of it back if someone ever gave me the opportunity. Instead I carry it with me and share it with others, inviting people in and letting them know that the fairy tale is a lie.
And what does this have to do with things to come? I have decided to shift the focus of my blog onto others. There are a few survivor profile posts in the works, and hopefully they will become a regular feature of my blog. I still struggle with talking to people I don’t know, but I feel the only way to overcome this is to immerse myself in it. My first conversation with a survivor on the west coast happened this past week, and I am excited to be able to sit down and do a write up of her story and her domestic violence services organization. I have another one in the works, and a few others planned after that. There may be some changes to format and other content as well.
For the next several days, I plan on playing catch up on blog reading. Even with the most current version of IE, I have been unable to access my reader since WP updated the format. I was unable to resolve the issue, so I have installed another browser. So if you see more comments on other blogs than posting here, you know why. It’s been too long.