These days I live my life by intention and choice. I embrace my yoga practice as a priority in my life. I make the choice to have a meaningful relationship with a man I love. Choices about how I react to chaos around me or life events are up to me. Looking for wellness in my options to eat and drink and be active make me realize I am in charge.
My life has not always been one of intention and choice. I have lived a life in survival mode where I just made it from moment to moment hoping for the best. A recent conversation with a woman who needed to talk about her difficult relationship brought memories flooding back and I felt compelled to write. A picture of a particular night flashes into my head. Sitting on the floor of my sister’s apartment with my arms around my children. As we sat together, I was trying to comfort and calm while I too was crying. For more than an hour, the banging on the door and the yelling outside of it were continuous. Short intervals would allow me to settle the children, and then it started again. My sister paced, stopped to check on us, and paced some more. Finally, my sister said “enough” and loudly advised that she would be calling the police if it didn’t stop. It didn’t stop. The problem on the other side of the door was my husband, the children’s father.
My sister did call the police. By the time the police arrived, he had gone home. I remember being questioned by a female officer and telling her that since he didn’t hurt us physically I would not press charges. She thanked me kindly and said she could see that the children and I were afraid. “What you and your sister have described and what I see in front of me is domestic abuse”, she said. They would be headed to arrest him at home.
“You said if I fall you’d be there to catch me, and I believed you…till I hit the ground.”-Unknown
This was the second time I had gathered the children and left our home because of the intense rage and yelling I didn’t want them subjected to. I didn’t know if it would get worse and didn’t want to take a chance. I am embarrassed to write the following words. We did go back home a few days later. Three times I took my children from our home to protect them and me. Each time he waited a few days and then called to apologize and tell us how much he loved us and needed us. He invited me on dates. He sent me flowers. I wanted everything to be okay so I pretended it was true.
While writing this, I read in Good Housekeeping magazine that one in four women “experience severe physical violence at the hands of their partner and nearly twice as many endure psychological aggression“(1). Takes your breath away, doesn’t it? Scary statistics.
I look back and wonder to myself, “who was that woman?” Here is the thing that makes you so sad when you look back at a relationship. Things start falling apart so slowly you don’t notice how bad they are until they are really bad. Have you ever stopped and thought “what the hell am I still doing here” or “can this really be my life”? People who haven’t experienced it hear you say emotional abuse and don’t take it seriously. Here’s the thing. You do not care about what other people think. This isn’t happening to them.
I didn’t wake up one day and say “oh no, I’m a victim.” I, like most women being emotionally abused, didn’t recognize that I was being mistreated. You learn to manage your life and denial is seriously your friend. The world becomes smaller as you limit your friendships without realizing it so no one knows the truth. Emotional abuse involves a regular pattern of verbal assault, threats, and continuous criticism. Other tactics might be intimidation, humiliation intended to damage your self esteem, and control (2).
If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I am no longer part of that destructive relationship. I am sharing this in the hope that if this hit home to you, you may be ready to acknowledge your situation isn’t healthy. Please know that you are worthy of love. You are deserving of respect. You are human and allowed to make mistakes. Talk to someone, a friend, someone in your church, a counselor. Tell them how you are feeling. Try to spend as much time away from this abusive person and begin to recognize how you feel when surrounded by support. Someone who loves you won’t make you feel afraid, stupid, or unlovable. You are a beautiful work in progress who someday will be living life by choice and intention. Happiness is your right.
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