There are some people in my life who would probably prefer that I drop the issue of my former abuse done by my late husband. There were plenty of people who knew what I was going through and they CHOSE to not intercede. Once, I was told by someone I went to for help, “NO ONE is going to help you with your problem.” You don’t forget that. While several years have passed, being a survivor of such a horrible time doesn’t just “go away” or you don’t “move on, it’s in the past”. If this were true, victims of PTSD would get better and recover fully. Yes, PTSD is not just a condition reserved for specific professions or situations. From children who have witnessed abuse, horrific crimes or other trauma, to first responders attending a catastrophic accident as well as the soldier who witnesses unspeakable horrors, PTSD’s reach is broad. Don’t ever be ashamed to speak out and heal in your own way. Learn more about PTSD here.
While I’m not thrilled to come back to this topic often, as it represents a painful part of my life, it exists and I will not ignore it. When the time comes for me to feel the need to bring it up, talk about it or remember, I do. I know to whom I can talk to and where I will find support. Sometimes events will come back to me in flashbacks, even in a dream. I might go months without even thinking about it, then one day I’m immersed in stress and remembrance. It doesn’t just go away.
Recently, I ended a personal relationship with someone who had a volatile temper with me and would sometimes suddenly lash out verbally, making me flinch and want to get away. Naturally, they denied it and tried to blame me, and I quickly recognized that displaced blame (typical of the abuser) and got out of the situation, for good. The loss of that stress was palpable and refreshing. I felt that I’d learned a great deal from my therapy and recognized the signs quickly. Don’t ever let someone tell you that they acted a certain way because of how YOU acted. If they do, it’s a hallmark sign of verbal abuse. Learn more about the signs of verbal abuse, typical examples and how it’s NOT your fault here. In some cases, like in mine, the person will vilify you to other people in your life, send emails, letters, texts, some angry, other times narcissistic, some blaming you for their faults. Shred them, delete them, block them. You cannot fix this.
I can recall the time 3:50 PM and how it came with so many emotions. Stomach churning nausea, that “feeling” in your stomach that comes along with sudden stress, almost an adrenaline rush, a feeling that he would be home soon and never knowing what to expect. Would today be a day where I would be verbally humiliated, would I need to not walk past him in case he wanted to pour another beer down my back or slam the can into my head? Would I say something that would set him off, putting me against the wall with his hand around my throat, spitting in my face and telling me how worthless I am? Would he cut the lines to the phone or cable, leaving me stranded by taking our only car for an extended visit when we were low on food? Perhaps the computer screen would be smashed or in one case, the entire computer thrown into a nearby body of water because I didn’t comply with something quickly enough. Or would he come home and be in a good mood, sparing us all? I never knew.
There were people in my children’s life who “trained” them to run to their room and call them if “things got out of control”. The enabling was strong. However, I was seen as the catalyst, the troublemaker, the bitch, the reason for all of it happening. Blame and control are at the core of the abuser’s power structure and his supporting actors are almost always on their side.
After time passes, eventually you learn to not check the clock to see when he’s coming home. You start to relax a little and know he’s never going to be able to hurt you again. You must swallow most of your grief and fear at times, because your children need you. While they are victims as well, you must do your best to recognize the need for extra caution and care when it comes to punishments or conversations about everything. There are still eggshells scattered all around to walk on, but they don’t cut as deeply. Therapy and routines as *normal* as possible helped in my case with all of us.
As time goes on and your healing begins to emerge, no matter how long or if ever for some, there are permanent remnants of what you endured that will always be a part of you. Trust is so very hard to achieve with others again and there is a seemingly natural tendency to gravitate towards calm when possible. However, dating again is terrifying, not knowing what will be revealed slowly as you went through with the prior abuse. Thankfully, over time, I have developed some skills that help me recognize when someone’s treatment of me turns toxic and how to act swiftly, note the signs and be able to make better decisions, retaining well deserved control over my life and my choices. I didn’t have that before and it’s a strength I appreciate.
I have made copious mistakes with my own judgment since then. I’ve chosen quite poorly in dating situations and have suffered the loss of time and allowed myself to be stressed out unnecessarily and put up with more drama than I deserve. I have put up a strong wall this time that will only be penetrable by someone I deem worthy of my time. It takes a lot of time to recognize that feeling that way is NORMAL. It’s not conceited or elitist. Feeling that way finally acknowledges that you are the priority; your healing, your self esteem, your time…all of it. You own it.
I’ve risen above so many things over the past six and a half years. While I mourn the loss of my children’s father and what was taken from them, I’ve been able to very slowly come to terms with his terrible alcoholism and how it destroyed him from within. The person who came to abuse me was not the person I met…at first. He is no longer here to have the opportunity to get the help he so desperately needed and in the wake of his passing, his children have suffered on several levels. It has been a LONG, difficult road to walk to say the very least and there will always be scars. They are there to remind me of what I went through and I will not forget them. I shouldn’t have to. They are MY SCARS.
There are many stigmas in today’s society. We are a culture of diversity, yet it is not celebrated as much as we believe it may be. Mental health still drags with it the chains of stigma, and those who endure it are expected to mostly stay silent about their shame. Well, tough. I’m a nonconformist and I’ll talk about it as much as I damn well please. I’m not here to impress or protect anyone. I found my voice. Took me long enough.
If you, or someone you love is the victim of domestic violence, please reach out, safely, if you can:
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline
Support, resources and advice for your safety
May you find peace.