Writing is so therapeutic. I actually wrote this a while ago. but felt unsure as to whether I should share it here. However, one of the reasons I decided to share it was because I looked at a picture of myself today as a young teenager, just before this happened. I looked so carefree and for a moment I felt angry at the way my life and myself as a person changed because of this ‘relationship’. On reflection, I realised that my experiences have shaped me because now I’m the person that I was meant to be.
I wanted to share my experiences so that others knew that they are not alone. I remember when the story of Mel B’s marriage came out in the media, so many people said the didn’t believe her because of her strong persona. No one knows the truth of her marriage as no one knows what happens behind closed doors, but domestic abuse affects all kinds of different people. But remember, surviving is more than possible. No matter how weak you might feel at the time, survival is possible. It’s clichéd but what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
I’m currently on medication where one of the side-effects is extremely vivid dreams. Sometimes that has been amusing, others entertaining but I’m currently realising that unfortunately nightmares can be equally as vivid. In the early hours of this morning, I woke up. That is not unusual, I’m a horrendous sleeper. I rarely sleep through the night. But this morning I woke up crying and shaking with fear. This was an unexpected nightmare but instead of my mind conjuring a fictional piece, it was re-enacting a scene from my past, something I thought I had forgotten. The detail of the memory and the intensity of the feelings shook me to the core. It unsettled me to the point I’ve found it hard to relax today.
I’ve never acknowledged it here before but I am a survivor of domestic abuse. It’s something I still find hard to say out loud because in lots of ways, it still bothers me now. The emotional abuse is the hardest thing to overcome. The physical wounds have long healed but the damage to my personality and to my soul has taken even longer to heal. The battering that my self-esteem has taken is a hard thing to overcome. I struggle with it every day and the scars are still there colouring every relationship I try to form, influencing almost every single one of my actions from putting petrol in my car to drinking a fizzy drink. However, I’m aware of it. It’s a struggle I know that I have to fight and I know that I am winning, simply because I am happy.
I didn’t expect to have to remember the physical side and the deeply hidden memories that it has left in my mind. I also was not aware of the impact of my memories. My nightmare was crystal clear. I remembered the complete fear as I waited, knowing what was going to happen. I dreamt about the way my heart raced as I anticipated the event before me and the fear. Hands clammy and mind racing trying to think of excuses and reasons I could use to placate him. I needed to keep him calm and not break the egg shells that I was perpetually walking on. Last night, I could so clearly recall the anger in his voice as if it was yesterday and not well over a decade ago. Every single name he called me felt like it was being bellowed into my ears as I slept. I felt the full force of his strength as his hands clasped my throat as clearly as I remembered the air leaving my body. My memories forced their way into my dreams and I was confronted with the feeling of gasping to breath, whilst his breath was heavy on my face. A face which was contorted with rage. All the while I remember being convinced I was going to die right there and then and all because I had spent more than he deemed acceptable in the supermarket. It all seemed so ridiculous.
At the time, I thought that the whole situation was about a lack of control. He had clearly lost control. He couldn’t control his anger on that occasion because usually his punishments were so controlled, handed out clinically but most importantly, privately. This time wasn’t. It was all so public. In my confused head, I had clearly lost control and crossed the line. I had broken the rules so badly that he couldn’t control his reaction.
Now I look at it a little differently. It was all about control but not in the way I initially thought. I see that there was control. A lot of control. His reaction, by far the worst he had ever treated me, meant that I was now paralysed by fear. I was never going to leave that situation. I would always fall in line going forward. The only person that had lost control was me. I’d lost the control that I’d had over myself and my own life. I wonder now, if that was always part of his plan. To be so extreme that the fear of a similar attack was enough of a stick to control my behaviour? I guess I’ll never really know. What I do know is that he had enough restraint to stop before irreversible physical damage was done but enough to ensure the mind control was there.
The nightmare was hard but I don’t want to suppress those memories or forget that part of my life existed because if I do, I feel like I am in danger of letting myself get ensnared into the same situation again. I need to remember what the pain and fear felt like in order to have my senses aware. I need to spot the signals first. I need to always be on my guard. I need to finally trust my intuition.
However, just because I won’t forget, it doesn’t mean that I won’t forgive. Forgivness is a powerful tool but I had to forgive him for myself, not for him. I needed to gain all of my power back and let go of the hold he has on me. I’m starting to let go of some of the anger at the impact that his behaviour has had on my life. I used to fear that I would never enter into a long-term relationship again because I am deeply distrusting. Thankfully this isn’t the case but I’m unable to say that I give my love freely. I’m scarred and overcautious. I question everything. That makes me angry and that is harder to let go of. My past was lived alone and in fear. I do not want that for my future. I guess it’s a work in progress. All I can do is be aware of my feelings and not let it spoil my life.
I refuse to continue to be his victim. I am not a victim. My anger makes me stronger and fuels me. How dare he treat me that way? Does he not know who I am? I’m fighting back against the defenceless victim that his actions made me and have developed a resilience and strength which has emerged as my strongest traits. I just need to make sure that I don’t build my wall too high and too strong because I realise I have a lot of love to share. I need to retain the softer elements of my personality and not just change completely because that too would be as tragic as if I’d continued to lose myself by remaining under his control.
I say I’m a survivor because I am. I’m still here. The air returned to my lungs and slowly did the realisation that what was happening was wrong. I got out. I never went back and although I’m not perfect, I’m happy. I’m good. I’m grateful for my new life and in a bizarre way, the lessons that I’ve learnt. I now know I’m indestructible. I can’t be beaten into submission or have the essence of my soul wiped from the world because when it comes down to it, I fight back. I rise up. That day didn’t destroy me. Nothing can ever get me as low ever again and even now no matter how low I might feel, I’m not quite as low as I have been. The nightmare will not stop my progress. I have survived this abuse and still gone on to achieve so much.
Nightmares might keep me awake but at least it’s no longer fear and repulsion. I no longer fear the person lying next to me because I dread what they might say or do tomorrow. I no longer feel repulsed by myself and the changes that I saw and loathing myself for not doing something about it. Despite feeling like I couldn’t, I could and I did do something about it. I’m free. I’m a survivor.