Updated: Dec 28, 2018
“Staying in an abusive relationship for the fear of public judgment is like allowing oneself to be buried alive to impress a coffin maker.” -Dr. Jacinta Mpalyenkana, Ph.D, MBA
Abuse is not ok. Never. No matter what you are told, it's not acceptable. It took me several years to figure out that I didn't deserve the treatment I received during my marriage. I was so brainwashed that I actually believed I was the cause for the abuse I endured.
It took years of therapy and one very wise counselor who told me, "God does not like divorce, but He did not intend for you to be abused by your husband" for me to realize the Lord wanted better for me. That He would not hate me if I filed for divorce. That I would still be one of His children.
My counselor was right. I was not created and put on this earth to be abused and torn apart. I was not meant to feel worthless, abandoned, unloved and broken. I know now that my calling in this life is so much greater than being a punching bag for a mentally-ill person.
I am learning to be open about what happened to me. I've accepted the truth of my past and am extremely grateful the Lord turned me into a survivor. A survivor whose experiences He can use to help others. I can relate to and show empathy for those who have been in or are in similar circumstances. I can give support, acceptance, reassurance and love. Most importantly, I can share His love.
But being open about what happened to me has been a challenge. I have been met with so many negative reactions since my divorce. Initially, I wanted to run and tell everyone what I had lived through in search of affirmation. My ex-husband told me over and over that no one would believe me because they all thought I was crazy, he had made sure of it.
I wanted to prove I wasn't.
Unfortunately, he was right. I was called a liar, a faker, crazy, an attention-seeker, manipulator, you name it. Even by members of my own family. It was heart-breaking. I learned very quickly not to speak my truth to avoid the disbelieving, minimizing, negative reactions of others.
The hurt was just too much to bear. It seemed no one wanted to hear my story, to support me, to acknowledge my pain so I bottled it up and hid it in the depths of my heart hoping I would just forget it was there.
Avoidance of dealing with the pain negatively affected my recovery. For a long time after ending my marriage, I hid my intense pain because everyone was telling me to "just get over it." Such incredibly painful words. I was unable to heal. The pain was still there, slowly eating me alive from the inside.
I felt so broken. Every day was a battle just to get out of bed. I was sad. No, more than sad. I was devastated. I still felt as broken as I did during my marriage. May be even more so. Crippling anxiety set in, depression soon followed, and I became almost non-functional. Social anxiety took hold and I became unable to face others. I locked myself in my house and refused to come out.
I spent years living this way.
I look back now and realize how much time I wasted by not dealing with the abuse and the damage it caused right away. Had I purged myself of it at the start I would have saved myself so much grief. So much pain.
I honestly think had I dealt with the pain right away, I wouldn't still be dealing with the intense waves of anxiety and depression that pummel me relentlessly at times. Or dealing with the social anxiety that makes me want to hide away from people forever.
I should have found a friend or a small tribe of loving people I could trust with my truth. Instead, I did what I thought was acceptable. What I was told so many times to do by people I trusted and thought would understand. I tried to "just get over it." I was too scared of the judgement of others, so I chose not to deal. I didn't follow the steps of recovery and it set me back. Way back.
Today, I am blessed to be a different person. I've realized that recovery is essential for me to go on and to fulfill my purpose in life. I can't hide away forever. Within the last year, I've started walking through all the steps of recovery and have been successful at reconnecting with myself and with others. I created a safe home for myself and my children and found a handful of people who are supportive and understanding. I rely heavily on the Lord. I pray constantly.
“Recovery unfolds in three stages. The central task of the first stage is the establishment of safety. The central task of the second stage is remembrance and mourning. The central focus of the third stage is reconnection with ordinary life.”
- Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence - From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror
I have dealt with the grief head-on and I've mourned. I've come to terms with what happened to me and I am now honest about it with others despite the possibility of a negative reaction. I let them react how they will, because I now stand firm in my truth and refuse to put it back in that bottle. I refuse to pretend nothing happened to me. Because it did. It was real. It was scary. And it almost destroyed me.
While I will never be the person I was prior to being in an abusive relationship, I've realized I have evolved into someone much better. Every day, I move further along in my recovery journey and gain strength. I have learned there is power in using truth to help others. There is power in sharing hope and encouragement to those who need it. There is great power in being a survivor.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please know there is always a way out. If someone comes to you with claims of abuse, please do not take their words lightly. Believe what they say. Be there. Support them. Reassure them there is a way out. You may be the only beacon of hope they have.
“Recovery can take place only within then context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation. In her renewed connection with other people, the survivor re-creates the psychological facilities that were damaged or deformed by the traumatic experience. These faculties include the basic operations of trust, autonomy, initiative, competence, identity, and intimacy.
Just as these capabilities are formed in relationships with other people, they must be reformed in such relationships.
The first principle of recovery is empowerment of the survivor. She must be the author and arbiter of her own recovery. Others may offer advice, support, assistance, affection, and care, but not cure.
Many benevolent and well-intentioned attempts to assist the survivor founder because this basic principle of empowerment is not observed. No intervention that takes power away from the survivor can possibly foster her recovery, no matter how much it appears to be in her immediate best interest.” -Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence - From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror