Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Survivor Speaks

A Survivor of Domestic Violence Speaks Out:  

It’s NEVER ok to live in fear

My earliest memories are of my Father’s rage….rage directed at me, rage directed at my Mother, and rage directed toward the world. I can remember as a small child hiding under the desk in my bedroom and pulling the chair securely in front of me …not really sure if it was intended to cage me in, or keep him out…either way it made me feel protected.

The memories continue to flow….holes punched in walls during angry outbursts, objects thrown with the intent to mar leaving bruises and scars, and angry outbursts filled with threatening and angry words. This was my normal. I figured it was everyone’s normal.

I was programmed early in my life to believe my actions were responsible for the behaviors of others. I was afraid to say what I felt, what I believed or what I thought…for fear it would bring the turmoil I would do anything to avoid.

I often listened from my room as my Mother incurred the wrath of a hideous temper that could be woken from its dormancy by an infraction as small as opening the “wrong” canned vegetable at dinner time. She was a talented professional woman with a successful career, yet she accepted demeaning physical and emotional abuse on a daily basis. When the attacks would move from her onto me she would leave me to fend for myself as she hid in her bedroom. In her mind she was incapable of protecting her child or changing her circumstances.

 She instilled in me a need to sacrifice myself, no matter the cost, to ensure calm.  The fear of the violence and irrational behavior was far greater than any sense of self I had.   Apologizing for things I didn’t do, changing my plans to soothe others changing moods, and never speaking my own truth for fear of bearing the brunt of unwarranted anger. This “enabling” mentality is what poisoned my ability to have healthy relationships myself.

As I navigated my early adulthood I found myself in a series of relationships that left me bruised and battered both emotionally and physically. I was forced to take physical relationships further that I wanted to for fear of being hurt.  I was afraid to “be myself” for fear I may do or say something that would upset my significant other and would make me the focus of his anger once again. I lived a very closed and lonely life for many years.

When my life became completely unmanageable I finally sought help. I found a wonderful skilled counselor who helped me unravel the many layers of the onion that was my life. I learned that it truly is NEVER ok to live in fear. The people you hold close in your heart should be there because you want them there, not because you are afraid of what will happen if you put them out.  You deserve to live your own life, not one that is manipulated by fear. You deserve to be happy, and it is ok to want that.

What amazes me as I look back on my life is that many people saw the signs of what was happening, but no one said anything. There were obvious bruises and cuts, there was screaming and crying often heard coming from my childhood home (and later my apartment), and there were many events missed because of fictitious illnesses designed to conceal signs and effects of violence. If some of the bystanders had stepped in and said something or guided me toward resources perhaps I would not have had to endure the pain to the extent I did.  Perhaps my mother would have found her strength and lived a much happier healthier life.

There is no real way to know. But moving forward please understand the power you have as a caring observer. You truly have the power to change lives for the better…use it wisely.

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