We remember this month, like another birth day.
Maybe not the day, maybe not the exact time, but sometime in the future, you will look back and remember the month that you first, and finally met with some peace. The struggle has been long, the path riddled with pain, but there will a come a time when you tell the story, your story, in past tense. For me, I have two months. The month he finally left (for good), and the first month he left me alone.
There is no quick out unless there is a catastrophic event, so these two months were 8 months apart for me. None the less, I remember them like they were yesterday, the latter the more important of the two, because even as I traced my steps, and lived in a pattern of certain alertness, I began to be able to feel the relief from his daily assaults. In the beginning, I counted the minutes or hours between the trauma and pain he inflicted. As I began to rip my life back, piece by broken piece, it was a whole day, and then another. And then the days became a week, and then a month. That month, that is the one I felt some relief, some sense of direction, and a smidge of strength through the sheer exhaustion.
In the “escape house”, (the house I moved to in an unannounced 8-hour turn around) I can remember laying in the silence, waiting to hear him over me, pacing outside, getting to me, but slowly I began to believe in the silence. There we were, almost safe. He did find us, but it was never again the havoc we had lived in before.
I paused in writing the paragraph above to take a break, the eerie feeling of him invading my safety still shakes my core at times. In this pause to compose myself, I received an email from someone wishing to remain anonymous. I cannot even tell you how closely her story parallels the one you are reading now. So, since I tell my story all the time, I will share with you, her story. I am not changing a thing, because it is not mine to alter, and it had me glued to the screen, line by line. Her only wish was that it help someone else.
The water of the shower drips so lightly it barely saturates my hair. A vast difference from what I am accustomed to, however a small price to pay. I can barely locate my shampoo/conditioner combo liquid I bought on the way down due to the confined space these people refer to as a shower.
Overcoming such seemingly difficult circumstances I manager to lather my hair. I am happy, stoked even on my newfound freedom from the thoughts that plagued me for the past six months. As I rub the cheap liquid through my overpriced highlights I think of tomorrow: a run through the unknown trails at the back of the neighborhood perhaps leading into the Wright Memorial, that’ll be fun.
I am excited.
Darkness. Immediate terrifying darkness. You don’t have time to react, you are stunned. There I stand. Water still barely dripping down my clammy previously optimistic body now seems too quick a flow. I see nothing, I feel nothing, I am frozen in new senses of the word.
There I stand naked, in every sense. Devoid of emotion, thought, and all senses. He is here. He has found me. Everything I thought I escaped is mere footsteps, feet, maybe inches from me. This is the moment. I crouch. I tremble. I am defeated.
My plans to escape, to move on, to conquer, to not let what has happened to me run my life have all flown away and here I lie for the taking. Could have been an hour, could have been three minutes, could have been seconds, nothing happens. The darkness will not go away. The deafening silence will not cut. The bracing for what is to come next will not let my body loosen up. Tense. Ready. Spent. Relieved even. Nothing happens.
The water gets colder. The moment becomes more real. No one is coming. No one knows where you are nor why you are here. This is your life. My knees attempt to lock to stand and only through the support of the scratchy tile am I able to stand up straight.
I stand up. I am up. I hear nothing. I think of outside. I think of what is going on outside and I start to cower again. That thought. That thought, the original thought I disregarded earlier: NO ONE IS COMING.
I am up. I am standing. Not normally an accomplishment, however for the moment a victory. I stand. Thinking of my surrounding still a plan is not formulating. ***, ***, doesn’t *** live here, these thoughts are trivial and silly. I turn the nozzle. The water ceases. More silence. No one is coming.
I take that first step. The step out of the place I thought to be my last. I stand. Without knowing the outlay of the bathroom, having merely a peek prior to renting the place, I hope the movement I see is a reflection in a mirror. I am now functioning. Locating a towel. Wrapping myself slowly I move slowly into the main room.
This room scares me because of all the windows and the lack of reliable shades. He is watching. He so delights in this slow torture and I have no choice but to oblige. I creep slowly through the room. My wetsuit brushes my foot, only startles me for a minute, trip over a cord, but I am moving toward the door.
The door represents everything I am afraid of, however is not a choice. I reach the door. January — great towel weather. My foot hits the gravel. I feel an immediate yank of my arm. I brace myself.
My mind has begun playing tricks on me. No one is there. I take a breath. I am here. I am standing. I am okay. The first time I have felt okay in a long time. Not in the clear, mind you, but okay. I smile.
The before and after of my life are unimportant. There is a moment in everyone’s life where, no matter what they have been through, they have to make a decision on how they will live their life.
Hiding is a waste of time, it will always find you. Denial is a waste of time, it will always find you. I was not brave enough to face my fear, but I am fortunate enough to have that moment where I was forced to.
The moment. Who you are. Whether something is going to define you or you are going to define yourself. You know. It kills you that it defines you. It kills you that it happened. It controls everything you do and everywhere you go. It doesn’t have to.
Not everyone will get to have that moment I did. But, I can tell you: he is not there, he is not watching, he does not control you, and you can stand up. And when you do you will get your life back.
Wow. As an advocate for victims of domestic violence, these words, these victims stories still leave me in awe of the survival we are capable of. The astounding will a survivor has to make it through despite every fiber of your being failing you, failing to give you faith, strength, to decipher the shadows from the truths. I still catch myself going, “It wasn’t just me? This really happens?”
My friend is right, you can stand back up, and you can get your life back. Get to your month, get over that hill and your life is waiting to be put back together, just there on the other side. Like an old friend, saying they have just been there waiting for you, beyond the pain, glad to have you back.
I am grateful for the people I have met, other survivors, trusting me with their stories. Believing that we can make a difference, and choosing to let me speak for them if they cannot. I hope this reaches exactly who it needs to, and I hope it helps too.
If you would like to share your story, or know someone who might, please reach out.
Sending you some love and light.