The human spirit has such immense strength! When I was at the end of my abusive relationship I didn’t think I could make it through the nightmare I called my life, but I did and by the time it ended, I had realized I wanted to be with someone who treated me, the way I treated them. I am not perfect, but I am respectful and honest and caring and loving. I wanted honesty and I wanted someone who would accept me as imperfect and love me even more for my quirkiness.
How do you get there? I’ve had so many people tell me that I should write a book on persevering. I don’t know if it is something that can be taught. I think it is something that you are born with. Something that is innate in you to survive and not be cast aside. But it is not always easy. Sometimes, I want to lock myself away and rest. I’ve been fighting for my life for as long as I can remember. In middle school and high school, I was picked on because I was pretty and because I was smart. Jodee Blanco who wrote “Stop laughing at me” will tell you that people are bullied for everything that is right with them. Something I had wished I had known back then but I always had a sense of self and really didn’t care what people thought of me. I always knew who I was, and it bothered people. I was a hard one to shake and I didn’t care about the status of my friends. I still don’t care what people think of me. I live pure of heart. Take me or leave me. I will never intentionally hurt someone and I think being true to yourself and not hurting others is a pretty good way to live.
Later in life, my first serious relationship, turned into an abusive one. He had a temper and often struck me or threw me against a wall. I ended that even though we were engaged. I knew I deserved better. I had no issues walking away from him because he had a temper.
My ex husband was more covert. It built gradually. It was less obvious that he was abusive at first and by the time I realized he was, I was really in deep with one child and another one on the way. For 27 years, I built a relationship believing that I was not worthy of love other than what he was giving me. I believed that all that was wrong in our relationship was my fault. He had me so brainwashed. It wasn’t until I had children that I started to come out of the fog he had created around me to keep control of me. I realized one day that everything he threw at me verbally was what he was missing in himself. My sense of self made him feel very insecure and to keep the peace, I dumbed myself down. Friends used to tell me I wasn’t myself around him. I couldn’t be without repercussions once we got home.
But one day, my best friend from high school, Chip, said to me, “I need to know that you have a plan to get out and I want you to know that I will help you with anything you need in the house. Karla and I are here for you.” This was a man who never got involved and if he was getting involved, he saw something very seriously wrong. I promised him I had a plan, which I did. It would be altered here or there as I was worried about my boys being alone with him, but I had a basic plan. That day, his honest talk with me shook me awake and I went home with the strength of a warrior. Something I had always possessed but had locked away to keep the peace. From that day on, I refused to keep the peace. I didn’t go looking for trouble as I’m a pretty easy-going person, but I also didn’t allow my boys to see him walk over me anymore. The stronger I got, the worse we got. He had lost all control and was doing everything he could to gain it back. I was done hiding it from people. I was a victim of domestic abuse and he made me his target as well as my older son. My children were bystanders and I wasn’t going to be ashamed or smile any more when business associates at the bank told me how lucky I was to have such a wonderful man as my husband. I began not caring about this perfect image that he wanted to portray to the outside world when I was living in hell as were the children. Children and Mom’s or Dad’s and Children should not have to have an emergency escape plan! It’s not right to not be able to feel safe at home. We all deserve a normal, respectful homelife. No child wants to hear a parent berate another.
Even though I did everything I could to do things right for my children, the one thing they have told me is they wish I had gotten out sooner because they always knew it was coming because of his yelling all the time. He always put me down in front of the boys and would yell for hours on end or give us the silent treatment. They understand why I stayed but they think I still should’ve left. Their reasoning was if Dad was mean to them, they would ask a judge to not make them go there. I guess that was one possibility I hadn’t thought of because after we separated, my older son, wanted no contact and his psychologist said he would support him in that decision. I thought he was too young and felt like it was running away from his Dad, so I did not allow it to happen legally. I did however, allow my children to hide in the bathroom of the school when their Dad came to pick them up or take the bus home, so they did not have to go with him. At the same time, as they got older and were able to handle themselves better, I encouraged them to see their father and work it out and whatever that meant to them was their journey. Both now at 21 and 19 have come up with ways to deal with their father that suit them and when they are faced with issues, they will talk to me, but they are adults now. All I do is offer experience and suggestions. They must work through it with their Dad on their own.
So, how do you persevere? Self-talk, a good support system, when you can’t persevere, you fake it. You look at it like a war or a chess game because it is. You plan, you be as prepared as you can for their attack, you allow yourself down time if you need it. You must want your life back more than he or she wants to control it and trust me, they NEED that control. I wanted my life back. He put me through hell and abused me through the courts and I broke down and I felt defeated, but not once did I say this would be easier if I had stayed because every day was a living nightmare, and this had to end some day now that I was out. I refused to give up on me. I got out because I needed to be able to be me. I kept myself going on little things like being able to open a window or curtain without him telling me to shut it. I left dishes in the sink if I couldn’t handle one more thing and I didn’t worry if I was going to be berated or yelled at. My son’s “ticks” went away the day his father left. We all slept better. We had no emergency plan. We just lived and those moments of not walking on eggshells, kept us going through all the dark times. He continued to harass me and try to abuse me through the court system for 6 years but that is nothing compared to the 19 years of hell he had already put me through and I could walk away from him. I could hang up on him. I had a way to remove myself from him and more importantly, so did my kids. If he was in a mood on the phone, they would tell him they were not going to see him. They protected themselves and they had a way to do that. We all felt empowered.
Remember, abuse many times is an unequal distribution of power. Once YOU shift that power, you can get through anything. It doesn’t mean it won’t be hard. It will be. Their need for control is far greater than anything in their world and they will make your life hell, but they were already making your life hell so move forward, so the end is in sight.
Remember, you can’t take nothing from nothing. You aren’t losing a thing. You are gaining your life and if you have children, your children’s lives back and that friends is worth persevering for.
Be a warrior.