It feels like everything is closing in. It’s difficult to breathe. There’s nowhere to run. I look across the room and see indignation coming toward me, with vengeance. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I’ve never seen this kind of anger. I close my eyes, I take a deep breath, I see my daughter’s face, and I feel the warmth of my tears running down my cheek – then, I pray. I pray that whatever happens next doesn’t leave my daughter motherless. I pray that whatever I am about to endure, in this very minute, isn’t too much to survive. I pray for a supernatural protection……and then I go to my safe place.
The lighting is dim in here. The walls are thick, and the floor is cool. It smells like my great-grandmother’s house once did. It brings me back to a time when life was easy, no innocence was lost, and I felt secure. It’s familiar to me. I come here often. It has been my escape from the reality of words that were spoken, with an intent to destroy, and, in this very moment, what could be a strike that causes damage I can’t hide this time. What feels like an eternity, has only been a matter of seconds, but, in the midst of this torturous small window of time, my eyes open. I am still here and there he is – across the room. Completely across the room. I know God is protecting me.
I know it isn’t over, but for now I’m still breathing.
For a long time, I questioned what I had done to deserve this. I searched the depths of my soul to understand how I couldn’t see this coming. You see, verbal and physical abuse often go hand in hand, but the line between the two is invisible, more likely than not. The problem is, verbal abuse is commonly disguised as something else. Most commonly, love bombing. The grand gestures and flattery left no room for me to see chaos and red flags. It was deep and it was intense, but it was also short lived.
“If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t care so much about where you spend your time.”
Dinner with girlfriends becomes accusations of being dishonest about your whereabouts. An unintended nap in the middle of the afternoon and unanswered text messages warrants endless arguing over “what you were really doing.” In an instant, you go from being the girl on top of the world to the girl whose world seems to be crashing down. You walk on eggshells. You choose your words carefully. You go out of your way to put yourself in a box because if you dare live one minute of your life outside the realms of their control, you become the trigger to a loaded gun.
Everything started to unravel, at break-neck speed.
It was a black hole that sucked me in, soaked up my goodness, and spat me out when there was no longer any use in me. At the end I was vulnerable, and my mental health had spiraled. My family and friends were left confused as to where the bubbly and positive person they knew had gone. I no longer recognized the image staring back at me in the mirror. Physically and emotionally, I was unrecognizable. And then, it got physical … because I walked away.
Drawing a line between verbal and physical abuse may be doing more harm than good. We only ever hear about physically violent relationships on the news because someone ends up dead. But how many of those relationships began with verbal abuse? Let me be clear – words uttered with the intention to do harm are NEVER appropriate. The line I drew between physical abuse (unforgivable) and verbal abuse (forgivable) stopped me from leaving, and I’m sure it’s the same for many others. Sure, you want to believe things will get better. You hope for the best. You cling to potential. It’s just words, right? It was never physical, until it was.
I will never forget that night. It changed my life. Up until that point, the damage was internal. I could easily hide it. The physical wounds mended quickly, but what took me a while to grasp was how long it would take to heal what no one could see. If you’re reading this and find yourself in the same situation, know this – there is a tendency to self-blame.
It’s not your fault.
Hurt people, hurt people. I know what it’s like to be disregarded and disrespected. Even if it takes a few false starts, keep taking steps to get out. Even though this may feel like a roller coaster you can’t get off of, rest assured, there is a way out. I fought hard to become the person I am today. There is life after the storm.
I don’t ever want to go back to that dark room.
I no longer want to escape reality. I will never again settle for less than what I deserve. I refuse to judge myself for what others have done. My only regret is that no one told me at the beginning of my journey what I’m telling you now: there will be an end to your pain. And, once you’ve released all those pent-up emotions, you’ve faced the lies you once believed about yourself, and rediscovered your sense of self-worth, you will experience a lightness and wholeness that transcends what you thought was possible.
The past will no longer feel like a layer of filth contaminating the present, and you will be able to respond appropriately to present-day events. I often pray for him. It may not change him, but it certainly changed me. I don’t know that he will ever comprehend the depths of damage that was done and I’m not sure if he will ever be genuinely sorry, but I do know this … sometimes we have to forgive those who aren’t even sorry, sometimes we won’t get answers to the questions we have, and every time we incur a wound, it may not be our fault, but the healing is our responsibility. Here’s the good news – we are never alone and fear is not welcomed here anymore.
Welcome to your safe place.
If you’ve read this and need someone to talk to, take a deep breath and know that I’m here.
If you or someone you know are victims of abuse, there is help. You have a voice. Reach out. Please call the Faith House 24-Hour Confidential Hotline, at 1-888-411-1333.