Saturday, January 4, 2014

You are Loved!

It's that time of year again for me.  January 4 is almost like my New Year.  Each year that it comes, I am thankful that I saved my own life that day in 2002.  Many of you have heard this before, some have not.  

January 4 was always a great day for me prior to 2002.  It was my Papa's birthday and he was one of my favorite people!  Plus, it's exactly one week before my birthday, so it essentially starts off my birthday week ;)

In 2002, I made the decision to take back my life and leave an extremely abusive relationship.  It was mentally, physically, sexually, and psychologically abusive for a short 5 months.  Sure, that doesn't sound like a long time.  Most of you would ask why I stuck it out that long.  All I have ever said to that is that you don't know what's it's like to have your life or your family's life threatened if you were to do so.  Fear can make one decide to stay, reason and justify almost any situation.  It takes tremendous empathy to understand this.  When I decided to leave, several important people who I expected to understand this- did not.  This list of people includes: law enforcement officers, legal representatives, some family members, numerous friends and coworkers.  What helped me understand this difficult concept was the image of a frog in boiling water.  It is dropped into the water and pot before the water is hot, right?  It stays, innocently swimming around not knowing what's happening.  As the water begins to heat up, the frog is still unaware of what's going on.  It barely feels the change.  Before the frog knows it, the water is boiling and it has no way out.  That's the explanation that helped me realize why I even chose to stay over leaving for so long.  

And while we're on that..."staying for so long"- 5 months isn't too terribly long.  I am thankful that I did not stay years.  I am thankful that I did not marry him, as he had asked.  I am thankful that we did not have children, a mortgage or a place together.  I am thankful that there weren't any permanent ties other than heartstrings.  

Many women I met in shelters, counseling, the court system, etc. were in these situations where they let the water continue to boil for years and years.  They had so much more baggage than I.  I even began to think that I didn't belong in their company because I didn't stay long enough to be respected in their eyes.  That was an interesting facet that I only faced around those women...that I didn't stay long enough to even be considered damaged or affected enough.  In their eyes, it was like I had to be in the relationship a certain, unsaid amount of time in order to seek help or be in the same boat.     

Nay, over 5 months was enough to turn my world upside down.  I had never had such a fight with my parents.  I had never been cut, punched, slapped, attacked, disgraced, tortured and generally disrespected by any other person in my life.  It stripped me of my confidence, hope and self-control.  I was filled with thoughts that he was the one who could save me.  That I just had to follow simple instructions in order to prevent this treatment.  

When I did make the decision to leave, the family, friends and authorities that supported me and stood by me helped me recover and return to being myself.  However, those 5 months changed me.  Certain facets of my personality have entirely changed since then.  It continues to affect me in certain ways.  I am anxious when I hear knocking on my door.  I am fearful to the point of hyperventilation when I have to go to an ATM at night.  I became promiscuous afterward, I imagine, as a way of rebelling against being so loyal as well as a way of exercising some control over intimacy.  I gained weight to prevent unwanted attention from men, from depression, and I also imagine as a form of punishing myself in a self-defecating way.  Making myself on the outside, how I felt on the inside...unwanted, ugly and damaged.

I turned 22 exactly one week after I left.  The majority of my peers for this situation were in their 40's or older.  This was my second relationship.  Imagine that- 22, bringing up charges against this guy, facing some really difficult feelings and situations, having to justify why I stuck around for 5 months and fight for myself to earn respect and justice from our legal system!  Some ladies never had the chance to make it out.  Some didn't ever bring up charges.  I realize now that I put up a helluva fight for the life I had then and for the life I wanted to have in the future!        

It has taken a long, long, very long time to recover from a 5 month stint.  It will continue to be a part of my life forever.  Although, it might not sound like it- I am thankful for going through this because I learned that I am a strong person, that I am resilient, that I have the courage to face challenges, authorities and feelings that most people do not.  I also have become less trusting.  This might sound like a negative quality.  For me, it has been a good thing because I realize that not everyone is what they say they are and that sometimes the water is just heating up.  It's a sad fact, but my purpose in writing this most every year is to create awareness.  

If you suspect that someone you know is in an abusive situation, you have to just keep on loving them and dropping little nuggets of love all around them!  It MUST be their decision to save their life.  Otherwise, they'll keep going back and ending up in the same situation.  I am, by no means, an expert or a therapist so don't get me wrong.  These are just my opinions and what worked for me.

If you feel like the water is heating up around you- PLEASE take an honest look at the situation and seek help!  It has to be you!  He will not change and it will not get better.  It is nothing that you are doing wrong.  You are not too provocative, sassy, sarcastic, lazy...whatever he is telling you.  You are a human being and like Mary J. Blige says, "you can do bad all by yourself."  Seek couple's counseling or therapy if he is willing to.  I'm not saying leaving is the be all, end all resolve for everyone's situation.  Either way, it's not going to be easy, but there are plenty of resources and people that understand what you are going through.  It HAS to be your decision!  You MUST fight for your life!  

My dears, you are worthy, loved, brave, and stronger than you know.  

All my Love, 




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