I wasn’t prepared for this. I thought I was, but how could I be? How could anyone be? The more I stand outside of that belief and look in, the more real it all becomes to me.
This kind of thing happens every day. A thing that victims, survivors, navigate. And then there are those who don’t make it. The people whose navigating days are over.
My ex husband was released from prison two days ago.
Maybe typing those words, much like saying them out loud, makes them more real. It makes them exist in the world.
I’ve toyed with overwhelm. I’ve battled fear. I conquer the want for isolation daily. I have embraced what makes me real, what makes me human. It is not easy. For those who don’t know what it feels like to have been abused, imagine your own personal Hitler, Stalin, Castro, or dare I say ISIS. Imagine a person seeking complete control of every aspect of your life. Someone who wants that power and control and will take it at any cost. One who is energized by the very fear you feel. Who feeds off your panic, terror, paranoia, tears, sorrow, exhaustion, lonliness & despair like a leach.
When you’re in this state of panic and exhaustion you start to get tired, you don’t take care of yourself or the things that you are responsible for nearly as well as usual. You get sick, maybe gain weight, maybe lose weight, make little mistakes that could be costly; run a red light, forget an appointment, forget your wallet, miss deadlines at work, seem flaky or forgetful to people, become withdrawn etc.
Thus begins the slow and painstaking breakdown of a person.
Sometimes, even if you’re aware of what’s going on, you have little power to stop it. You feel like you’re falling down a spiral staircase with no end in sight. I tend to feel like I’m pulling a heavy load while neck deep in quicksand. And this…this very feeling is what the abuser counts on, hunting the weak and wounded to feel powerful.
These empty, insecure cowards are in among us all. We see them, just like we see their victims, every day. At the grocery store, the hospital, our children’s school, dance class, soccer practice, on TV, on a sports team…
I wasn’t going to write this. I was going to keep the appearance of a strong stoic woman, while fighting this battle in silence. But then who would I be? If I am not true to my brand, who am I? This is not Sarah Shuts Down, this is Sarah Speaks Up! And so I will share that I am scared too. It hurts. I struggle. I know how it feels to fight this battle for freedom, for life, again and again, wiping the tears from my face as I hear my daughter’s footsteps approach, hoping she wont see me crying.
I made this decision before I was posed with the question, “What will you do when he gets out?”. I decided that I will continue my work. I decided that I will be an example of boldness and tenacity. I decided to fight harder for those in need, including myself. No matter how tired I feel, how much my head aches, how badly my eyes sting. I will reach out to friends and family for help and support, just as I am there for others in need. I am no different from any other survivor. We are all one family, sharing a common thread, the understanding of what the other is going through.
For my friends, for my family, for my clients, for my coworkers, for my kindred spirits, for my daughter, for myself…
I decided that I will not be quiet even if I am afraid. I will not shrink or shrivel even if I am trembling. Against all odds, I will not stop Speaking Up.