I had no intention of sharing this until a dear friend reminded me that I was given a gift and my story, even if it is just a small fraction, could become a page in someone else’s survival guide. So, here we go, please be kind.
Oh honey, hush your mouth and keep your dirty laundry to yourself. Ladies don’t talk about what happens behind closed doors. Besides, if you tell anyone, what will people think? How will they treat you? Imagine how they will look at you!
No one will ever:
- Find you beautiful.
- Love you.
- Find you worthy.
You’ll always be:
- A frigid bitch.
- Living in shame.
- Find someone who accepts your past.
- Be worth a damn.
- Get out of this alive.
When I find you:
- That’s it.
- You’re finished.
- I’ll kill you.
If you ever tell your story:
- No one will believe you.
- Everyone will turn their back on you.
- No man will want you.
- Are damaged.
- Are broken.
- Are unworthy.
- Deserved it.
These are just a few of the things that have been said to or go through the mind of someone who has lived at the hands of a manipulative, narcissistic, abusive partner.
Abuse is abuse. And whether these “confirmations” are a direct result of that relationship, something your very fragile, tender self has told you, or are the words of the enemy whispering in your ear, they are real. They take root. They manifest.
October is not only Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is also National Domestic Violence Month. I won’t get into the statistics. You’re all adults. You can read. But what I want you to do is list all of the women in your immediate family, your inner circle, your tribe, sorority house, or office. Now, make a mark for every fourth woman you’ve listed. Those marks represent the number of women who will be victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. An intimate partner. Let that sink in.
I never considered myself one of “those” women. You know who I’m talking about. “Those” victims. Crying all the time. Hiding in shame. Covering bruises. Telling others all the reasons they HAD to stay. I was NOT a victim. How dare anyone suggest otherwise. I lasted in a relationship that spanned less than two years. 17 months to be exact. But that relationship took me 17 years to admit.
It was my daughter’s senior year in high school. I remember vividly the day I finally spoke those words. I had been working on a second master’s degree in counseling, so I KNEW what I needed to do to heal, but never could. Until, one day, I literally sat in my car and cried. And by cry, I mean those big crocodile tears. Sobs actually. I thought I had healed from the scars, but realized I had never even cleaned out the wounds. After having to deal with harassment and threats of violence AGAIN that led to restraining orders and concealed carry licenses, those wounds were bleeding as if they were brand new. Thankfully for spiritually and physically strong family and friends, we once again emerged as a survivors.
It took all of this, along with deep conversations, prayer, and tears (so many tears) to be able to tell you:
You are more than a victim. You are more than a survivor. You are more than a statistic. There was nothing brave about me leaving in the middle of the night all those years ago. There was nothing but fear that motivated me. On occasion, I still live in fear of judgement and acceptance and what would people think if they knew my real story. Would they still be accepting of me as they are now if they knew the things I had battled with. What I still battle with at times. Would they still include me in their inner circle? Would I be lovable? Would I be worthy of love? Would another man find me irresistible if he knew what I had been through – which I will spare you all the details. Would someone want to dry the tears or hold me tight when the night terrors are so real you wake up grabbing your pistol? Would I ever heal from the self-loathing and lack of self-worth?
Looking back, I remember two days in church with Pastor Duane in which all of that self-doubt, self-loathing, fear, and a burden I was not meant to carry were lifted. It was about 4 or so years ago. One in particular included Pastor Duane telling a story in which I was an active participant. I remember that day as clearly as if it happened this morning. It was the first time I ever truly heard God’s words telling me, I love you. YOU. In all your brokenness and self-doubt. All things you were not meant to carry. All the people I have put in your life to protect you, to help you, to love you. The next time, was actually nailing my burden to the cross. There isn’t anything more powerful than that. Writing down the word, “abuse”, and nailing it to the cross. I think I hit the nail so many times, with such ferocity, that one of the guys actually had to pry the hammer from my hand.
Fast forward to a year or two ago:
I remember one day, when the cowboy and I were still together, I told him I wanted to write a book. I can’t tell you where I park
my car when I go to the grocery store, but I can describe that day perfectly. I was sitting out on the back patio, and after my morning devotional and talking with some women I know, I felt God had reignited the passion and purpose to write a book. But not just any book. The title and premise would be the same from a plan God had given me years before, but the scope would change. It would focus on the strength and courage of other women.
When I told the Cowboy what it was I was wanting to do, his response was simple: Do it. I thought to myself, this can’t be true? Did he not understand the scope of the project, that I would also be telling part of my story? And his response was the same. Do it. No one could do it better and how else are we going to change the world? Unfortunately, the world wasn’t so kind and I let the enemy remind me terrible things about myself. Fears I had buried. Planting doubt and literally chopping down my courage like a tree.
And then, time passed. Life happened. The book project has been dormant in my notebook for more than a year. But it was still nagging at my heart. Then in a text message from a retired law enforcement officer (and dear friend) I was reminded: But what if you could make a difference? Help someone else out? Help them find the courage to overcome? To do more than just survive another day? And so with this post, I begin again on the journey. Of letting another piece of my wall, my armor fall. Letting the world see and know the real me. The fragile, once broken into pieces me. The one who finds strength and comfort in a God so big that he has gifted me so many abilities to help others. The one who finds joy in sunrises, sunsets, the smell of rain in the desert, baking for others, and family. The one who laughs when she snorts, who loves too deeply and unconditionally and hair and jewelry are too big. The one who used to be afraid of her own shadow, standing up for herself. The one who avoided confrontation and spent the majority of her adult years being a people pleaser. Once again, without any rhyme or reason, I’ll be putting everything into God’s hands and move forward with a project that I can only pray will give another human being hope. Encouragement. Solidarity that they are not alone.
If you are still reading this, and are in need of prayer, comfort, encouragement, or a safe place, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. You are braver, stronger, smarter than you know.
You are loved and prayed for, rejoiced in and divinely created.
If you are interested in sharing your story as part of the above mentioned project or are in need of prayer, please feel free to contact me.