“I remember the first time as if it were hours ago (special thanks to the PTSD for that and the flashbacks). I remember the shock that came over me as it happened.”
This warrior woman rescued herself and her 3-year old son from the terror of physical and emotional abuse. She fought against fear and has now created a safe haven for her family.
1. Briefly describe the abusive situation.
My life’s story is not the worst you’ll ever hear, I wasn’t hospitalized by him or my child taken from me but it is the worst chapter in MY life’s story so for me it’s existence gives me chills. I wouldn’t have ever dreamt this could happen…not to me. Not to us. I was married for 10 years to someone I had know since I was 5 years old. We married when I we 18 and at first I thought that my real life had begun, happily. Until our first argument a month into our marriage. I quickly realized that things were not ever going to be the same. He started out with verbal abuse, name calling and put downs. But then since he saw that I wouldn’t just sit and cry, that I would argue back and defend myself.
He began to be physical.
“Fighting each day within myself to just survive my days.”
I remember the first time as if it were hours ago (special thanks to the PTSD for that and the flashbacks). I remember the shock that came over me as it happened. This is the man I vowed my life to, the man who was supposed to protect me? What happened to the love? I convinced myself that it wasn’t a big deal, that I was a “tough chick.” I could handle it. And every time that something else happened, I told myself it was my fault. That if I didn’t talk back, or argue then it wouldn’t get to that. Just like he said, he had an anger problem and I shouldn’t push him? During these days, I lost more and more of myself.
Before I knew it I couldn’t recognize the person I had become. Fighting each day within myself to just survive my days without breaking down. I even managed to hold a steady job and go in each day, even when I was hiding black eyes and bruises. It’s sad when you remember your very first time wearing foundation wasn’t for a prom or a wedding but to cover up the huge bruises on your face from when he slammed you against a metal apartment heater.
“I knew if I didn’t get out, he would end up killing me.”
And just when I thought life couldn’t get any worse, we found out my son has autism, at 3 years old. So many things run through your mind at this time. “What is autism?” “Will my son be ok when he grows up?” “What happens to him when I die, who will take care of him?” While I’m panicking and trying to figure all of this out, I find out he’s cheating on me from his best friend with someone at work. Yet even after that I still stayed.
2. How did you get out?
Honestly throughout the process I completely lost myself. I became angry and tried so many times to leave but couldn’t. The last time he choked me, something inside broke. I knew if I didn’t get out, he would end up killing me. But I couldn’t understand why I stayed. I thought maybe because He was my first and only at the time that it was somehow because of that bond. Little did I know about trauma bonding at that point. So I started having affairs, I felt that would break the ties. It eventually did…but the cost to my self respect was tremendous. This wasn’t who I knew I was, this wasn’t who I wanted to be…
3. What were the biggest challenges you faced after you got away?
The guilt, I never expected to be that person. Nor do I ever want to be again. And of course the PTSD is no picnic.
4. When and how did you start feeling in control of your life?
When he kicked me out (yes HE kicked me out not because of the affairs, he didn’t find out about that til after but because I disagreed with him and wouldn’t lie about the abuse). But then he kept asking me to come back, that he was sorry and let’s work it out. The fact that I could say no and stay away this time, meant that I was taking control of my life’s direction, finally.
5. Any tips for dealing with flashbacks?
Find a way to ground yourself, a way to reconnect with reality. Flashbacks can be intense, there have been times where I feel like I can feel his breathe on top of me. And it’s something I still struggle with. But I try to just breathe and remind myself, I’m safe and Im ok. Eventually things settle down and I’m left with the subsequent come down for about a week or so. But what helped me is knowing that this is normal for PTSD survivors. Going thru all of that without knowing it had a name, made me feel crazy and alone. Now I know that I’m not.
6. What are some boundaries you’ve put up to protect yourself?
Oh this is a hard one. My triggers, my s/o knows my triggers and knows what happens if they are reached.
7. What are some techniques you use to bring positivity into your life?
Prayer. I hated God for a really long time. I was raised in a very strict Christian house and I tried to do everything right. I would plead God to make the pain stop, to please hear me and rescue me. When he didn’t right away I became angry. I felt betrayed by God. I didn’t understand there was a purpose behind all of this, a purpose to get stronger and learn. To grow. Growing can be painful but I know now, I survived when I didn’t think I could. And it’s all because of God.
8. Do you have any advice for people in abusive situations?
Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t stop trying to get out. Picture yourself outside of the cave that they’ve placed you in. Envision your life, happy and safe and free. Never forget who you really are and who you want to be… but get out. Don’t let the fear of your abuser and the unknown trap you in your hell.
9. What are some things that would have made it easier for you to leave?
Knowing that I would be ok. Knowing that my son would be ok. My fears were of him being angry and doing more damage.
10. How can society help you more?
Don’t judge, don’t assume it’s easy just to leave. In these situations you are mostly in shock or what’s happening. You think things will change, that somehow the light will get turned on and the pain will stop. That they will care enough to repair the damage. It takes a moment of clarity, a click so to speak, to understand the reality of everything.
11. What are things you enjoy doing now?
I love to spend time with my son and new husband, singing, drawing, living.
12. What helps you see the beauty in the world?
Knowing that I’ve seen the ugly helps me to truly recognize the beauty.
13. What makes you feel confident?
Knowing that I’ve survived this and everyday with PTSD and depression. It’s a war in yourself and it takes strength to get up in the morning and keep going.
14. What makes you feel beautiful?
Knowing that my heart is still here, loving people. It’s hard and it hurts but no one can ever tell me I was bitter because of it.
15. What makes you feel empowered?
Breathing. At times even breathing feels weighted. There are days where you feel as if your gasping for air. But being able to just take a deep breathe makes me realize I’m still in control. Also speaking about all of this, it helps me realize I am not the only one. It’s empowering to know there is a community of people who are getting stronger too.
*If you or someone you know might be experiencing abuse, please see my resource page for support.
***If you survived abuse and would like to use the story to help encourage others, please email me at [email protected]