November is Family Violence Prevention month and I’ve decided for this month to dedicate Fridays to a post on the subject.
I was in an abusive relationship for 4 years 9 months and know the terrors of what can happen in your mind and life when you fall in love with an abuser. I know how it hurts the one’s you love, your family and friends. And, I also know that we can stop it. We can break free and when we do, life opens up in limitless possibilities.
We can stop abuse. It takes all of us to commit to not do the things we do or contribute to its presence in our lives. I cannot change an abuser. I can stop their abuse in my life.
A Journey of Love
For four years nine months I endured a relationship of escalating terror. Looking back, I can’t remember what it is that kept me so stuck in his abuse. Looking back I wonder sometimes, what was I smoking? It must have been powerful stuff. And then, I remember the fear. Fear soaked into my pores. It damned the blood pounding into my heart. It permeated every crevice of my mind, consuming my thinking with terrifying reminders of why I could not leave him.
When it was really bad, and the abuser raged or sat in silent condemnation of yet another of my transgressions, I would slink into a closet, close the door and sit in the dark, my eyes shut to any crack of light trying to enter the dismal confines of my mind. Repetitively I would pet the pooch’s silky fur, clinging for dear life to this one being who laid her head upon my scrunched up knees and loved me unconditionally. Sometimes, when he held onto the pooch and would not let her come to me, I would crawl into the closet and dig my nails into my wrists, scraping the skin back, trying desperately to feel something, anything, other than the pain of being me. I wanted so desperately to peel my skin away, layer by layer to reveal the veins and vessels that carried the blood of life within this person who felt so dead to me. I wanted to see who lived within me. I wanted to expose the bones that were supposed to hold me up yet seemed to be crashing down from within me. I wanted to die.
It is hard to describe how he implanted such terror into my life. It was a moment by moment seeping away of my essence. When I met him, I was a partner in a communications firm. I had my home, my daughters, my life. He kept telling me that everything I had was nothing compared to what he would give me. I would say, “But I’m happy with my life today.” And he would laugh and ask me how that could be and he would remind me of what a mess my life was. I couldn’t figure that one out. My life wasn’t perfect. But it wasn’t a mess either. Yet, he persisted and rather than laugh back at him, I retreated into silence. Perhaps he was right. Perhaps all that I had accomplished meant nothing compared to all that he had done and wanted to give me.
And then the stalking and the phone taps and the threats of bomb’s under my car and the stories of evil men threatening to kidnap my daughters and drug them and put them into the sex trade began. And I fell into despair. The unreal began to feel too real and I could not risk challenging the truth.
By the end of that ride, I did not exist. I had completely submerged my identity and scrunched it up into a tiny pocket tucked high up into the corner of my mind as I became the vessel of his deceit. We were in hiding as he tried to evade the police. He was searching for a way out of the country. I was searching for a way out. Of life. Of being there with him, And so I existed, telling myself that at least I had gotten him away from the one’s I love. They didn’t deserve him and his abuse. But I did.
For four months my daughters, family and friends didn’t know where I was. And I was too afraid to call and tell them I was okay. Because that too would have been a lie.
I was not okay. I wanted to die. Every moment of every day. Waking or sleeping. I wanted to die. I watched buses and semi-trailers looking for an opportunity to fall into their path or crash into the solid substance of their massive sides as they sped through my life. I counted pills. I fondled razor blades. I imagined death in every form and prayed for it to come and end the darkness that was my world.
And through it all, I stayed silent. I acted the role he needed me to play to convince those who needed convincing that we were who he said we were. Even though I knew it was all a lie. I had become his lie. I was his shill. His creation. The only truth I held onto was my love for my daughters. To take my own life would be to make a lie of my love for them. And I couldn’t do it.
And then, at 9:14 am, May 21, 2003, the police walked in and arrested him and I received the miracle of my life and thus began my journey into myself, into beauty, hope and the joy of living free of his abuse.
It has been an amazing journey since that beautiful day in May. A journey filled with sorrow, tears, laughter, joy. A journey like no other. A journey of Love.
I am blessed. Once upon a time I was an abused woman. Today, I am a victor. Today, I know my power comes from within me. Today, I know my own strength. I cannot stop an abuser being who they are, but I can stop abuse in my life. And I have.