She hides behind her smile, her insides riddled with anxiety, her breath shortens while her chest is tight and yet you can’t fathom how deep her troubles run. She disguises it well from the outside world while she fights to get up and face another day.
This friend of yours shares a story with you, one where you aren’t sure if she’s referring to herself or something she’s read, but suddenly you realize, it is in fact her horrific experience. As you continue to politely listen, the shock and disbelief well up. The pain grows in her heart, the agony dims the light in her eyes and as you watch, her body physically changes. She speaks more words, you become uncomfortable and though you don’t mean to, you interrupt her flow with your concerned opinion. Suddenly she turns the faucet off, chokes back her tears and shuts back down. She is experiencing a trigger from a deep gaping wound. Voiceless again, she shoves that secret back down to where it lives.
You didn’t mean to create this reaction. How could you know that this friend standing in front of you has such inner turmoil erupting inside of her? She took a chance on you, trusting you to just hear her cries and take her seriously without judgement or condemnation. So often when she has a moment of bravery and courage to reach out, she does so with the hope of being heard, believed and understood. She hesitates, even retracts some of the information and begins trivializing it once more.
She didn’t “know better”. She struggles with confusion and retraces her steps over the years of abuse. How could she be so trusting, so naive, as she beats herself up now too, feeling so dumb. Over time, she disappeared, even to herself. The coercion and insidiousness of what had become her life, though a little more behind her, the pain engulfs her and she desperately fights to overcome. Her friends observe from their perspective., “She’s a survivor. She’s resilient. She’s strong”. You think you see her solutions and without meaning to, the accusations fly; “if she would just abc, xyz”. “This again?” “Are you still talking about HIM/that?!” These are the worst things you can say to her. All of your well intended thoughts would cause her to retreat back to her darkness where she resides with those secrets that whittle her away.
Never dismiss her need to keep talking. There’s more that keeps emerging with every passing day as she fights for the freedom of her soul. This isn’t one of those things she can keep ignoring and hope it dissipates on its own. No, the poison has to come out with the fear from her oppression. One day you will notice the light returning to her spirit and you’ll know she is healing. Meanwhile, hear her, hug her, just be there.
They have all loved her through the battles they can see, but can you with the ones invisible to you? Is it unconditional or based on her doing what makes you more at ease? She keeps wrestling with the lies she’s been told and the battles still to overcome, wondering if there’s truth to any of it. She is telling you in her own way of her broken spirit, her beaten body, her shame, her wounds, her hurt and her survival. What she doesn’t realize is, she’s truly revealing that she is a conqueror, but she has no idea, not yet. She is still coming out of the affects of his gas lighting leaving her to think maybe she is crazy, but she’s not.
There are days she believes what you dear friend tell her with your uplifting words, but when she needs to run the thread down to the core of its root, listen compassionately, respond with love, offer the gift of your presence and allow her the dignity to process and time she needs to get to the other side. The only way for her to get through it, is to go through it, one hour, one day at a time.
When she comes to you, her heart in her hands, be the light in her darkness and a dose of love because she is running on empty. In doing this, you have given her a gift she will cherish and it reminds her she has another fight left in her…
When she was a young girl, before the insidious abuse began, it was just the 3 of them. Her mama would often make her way into the single bathroom they all shared and look in the mirror beside her then 7 year old daughter and smile. “Do you think we look alike?” she would ask. Daughter grinning back at her pretty mama, “yes!” They would giggle and go about their grooming and silliness before the school bell rang and her pretty mama would head off to work. She was learning at a very young age what being a soft, feminine, sweet little girl was by watching and learning from her very young mama. At 26 years old, she was the most beautiful, kind person in this girl’s life. She loved her with all her heart and she knew her mama did too.
They were essentially growing up together, but she also knew that mama was the adult and she had to follow her rules. Her big brother was only 16 months older than her and he loved them both, but somewhere he began growing up faster than she did. Maybe this is what happens to a young man when there isn’t a daddy around. She loved her big brother. They had fun playing outside, riding bikes and skateboards, tossing the football and playing catch. No one ever told her she couldn’t play like the boys and when his friends came over, they didn’t mind having the little sister tag along, much. She had her own friends too, but being with the boys was fun.
As she got a little older, this eventually started to fade. Either way, she was outgrowing them or they quit liking the baby sister hanging around. This is when that new man came into mama’s life and our lives began to turn upside down. Mama gradually stopped visiting her in the bathroom mirror and she was beginning to look elsewhere for validation and approval. She was turning the corner on adolescence when a young lady desperately needed her mama to keep teaching her about being that soft, feminine, young lady she was emerging into. She was losing her, or was mama losing herself?
Her teenage years were approaching and while other girls seemed to struggle with the normal issues of confidence, self esteem and courage, she continued to spiral down in her own self worth and doubt about her appearances. Boys were the topic amongst all these girls she was getting to know in her junior high days and she was becoming more shy with every passing day. Attention she received embarrassed her and she didn’t quite know what to do about it. She secretly had crushes on this boy and that one, but that was all she knew, how to like them, but not talk to them. She was getting good at hiding.
By the time she was in 8th grade, her family had moved to a new area which meant she had to start a brand new school and make new friends. This was especially difficult for the extra quiet and shy girl she had become. He immediately liked the new girl on the block and by that winter had become her first boyfriend. She had gone from admiring boys from afar to holding hands in public and at school with this assertive young man and she liked it. He was well liked and everyone knew him in this tiny little school. She quickly made a handful of new friends and was no longer angry about being uprooted from the only home she had ever known. This didn’t increase her confidence or boost her self esteem, but it did create an addiction to love and affection that would affect her relationships from there on out.
She learned that being with that special someone no matter the cost, was always better than being alone. This was the pattern she had established at the very young age of 15 when they entered their sophomore year in high school still a couple. What can you possibly know at that age? Was being in a committed, long term relationship normal at their age? Apparently to them it was. He told her often of her beauty and built her up the best he could, but she couldn’t receive his words of her external looks when she was fighting an internal battle for so many years now.
This would go on for years to follow, clear into adulthood. Her inner beauty so lacking in the strength and confidence a father typically instills in his little girl early on. Having an absent bio daddy and an abusive, substitute, narcissistic step monster who began objectifying her at age 14, she just wanted to be invisible and she worked hard to succeed at that. Her mama had long since been able to replace any of the hurtful, demeaning words that humiliated her since she herself was suffering most of the abuse from this monster. Her once, beautiful, spirited, lovely mama was just gone. Deep in the pits of despair she was cast and there she remained until her death.
By the time that young lady was married and a mama with 3 babies of her own, she had attempted to follow the beauty regiment she had learned at such a young age. She often recalled those intimate, special moments buried in her memories she shared with her mama. She recoiled at remembering his disturbing leering and twisted innuendos and once again chose to be invisible, rejecting the advances of her own husband and father of her children. Her head was muddled and certainly fucked up as she thought, what sort of woman doesn’t welcome the compliments of her own husband? Surely there is something horribly wrong with me she thought, but still she couldn’t shake off the shivers that haunted her. Don’t look at me, don’t see me and please, whatever you do, just don’t notice me.
It would be years later, five years post divorce that for the first time in her life, there was a man who did in fact, not only notice her and made her tummy flip, she welcomed his advances and wanted him to indeed see her. After the first 6 months or so his love bombing had hooked her so deeply she couldn’t get enough of his attention and longed for more. At some unknown point in time, after all the confidence and uplifting he had poured into her, she had changed her appearance to the point that he took notice of people noticing her and he loved that. As long as she was by his side, protecting her from other men, she felt safe. For the first time in her life, she thought she had been found and actually loved.
A secure sense of belonging overcame her for the first few years. One day she saw something different looking in the mirror at this indescribable image, she no longer recognized the lady looking back at her. The closer she gazed at the reflection, the more distorted and unfamiliar the features became. She had quietly been slipping away and was reverting back to that young girl, desiring nothing more than to be invisible once again. She had become her beautiful, lost mama after all. Fuck.
The compliments and uplifting expressions they keep tossing at her, are words and verbalized observations of her outward appearance. They haven’t matched her inside disturbance since she was that 7 year old, standing next to her mama, staring in the looking glass. Now she says to them…
Losing sight of that thing that made me smile. Forgetting what it feels like to laugh without explaining the punchline. Stopping to remember how the littlest of things brought a smile to my lips. Quitting on myself when everything I wanted out of life became out of my reach.
Ignoring the words that cut deep inside my heart. Dismissing the aggressive passivity when actions hurt my flesh. Denying the truth when it flashed directly passed my eyes. Lying to myself when I said I wasn’t hurting.
Picking myself back up after the seventh time. Learning that I cannot love too much. Deciding to stop going back to something that remains broken. Choosing me over all else for the very first time.
Mattering more than anything Being exceptional Never being perfect Being exactly who I am
There’s this thing I do when I feel afraid or alone and I can’t or won’t cope with what’s happening all around. I disappear. Not in the physical sense of the word, but into a place of secret hiding where I feel safe. It’s simplistic and calm, but especially it’s quiet. So quiet that I really can hear myself think and there isn’t anyone else there to rearrange those thoughts or disregard them. It’s just me and me.
I guess I started visiting this magical place when I was a young girl. I could walk along the cement pathway Grampa poured to connect my front door to theirs, walk through the front door and make myself at home. This became the space where I could just be. Where everything was in its place and everything had a place. You know, that sense of belonging? I was always welcome anytime I wanted. I knew I didn’t have to ask, but I did just to be polite. Once inside the only rule was, if Mama said no, just ask Gramma.
Their home was always a comfort of warmth, like a big cozy blanket I could cuddle up with. There were cookies in the Oreo cookie jar, usually sugar ones, but sometimes actual Oreos. The gum was double mint and waited for me on the second shelf of the pantry cupboard. Then my favorite and always just for me, was vanilla ice cream in the kitchen freezer with a backup in the deep freeze, with my own can of Hershey’s chocolate syrup waiting for me in the fridge. I’d grab my lap tray from behind the back porch door where it lived and settled in next to Grampa’s chair in the living room to watch whatever it was he had on tv. It didn’t matter to me, so long as I was next to him.
Some nights Gramma and I had our own special “shows” we liked to watch together and we’d spend time on the back porch laughing and having a snack together. Me with my ice cream and her with some popcorn and a pop. I cherished these times and often dreaded having to walk back across that long, cement pathway to the other house, but I got to keep this ritual until I was about 10 years old.
Midway through 5th grade, I was uprooted and moved clear to the other side of town. It may have well been in another state. Grampa couldn’t pour a path that big. My heart was crushed. My safe haven was out of my reach. This is when I learned to retreat inside of my own world where nothing bad could reach me or touch me. It became my new escape. My fantasy world.
I became a different girl when I’d visit there. That girl was fearless. She said what she wanted to say and sang at the top of her lungs. She was bold. She spoke words no one had heard leave her lips and she was loud enough to be heard. She was courageous. She tried things that frightened her out there, but in here, she conquered it all. She was confident. She walked with her head up high and carried herself tall and proud. She was fierce. She was strong. Then one day, she just slipped away. She didn’t know where she had gone or how to get back and she was alone.
Her safety net was shredded. Her life was unstable. She felt uncertain for the first time in this life and she stumbled and fell, forgetting how to get back up, she stayed down. Her light had begun to dim. Her tenacity had slipped through her fingertips. She was becoming invisible and slowly, she disappeared. Where had she gone? This bright light, exuberant young lady, with sparks in her eyes and fire in her soul, what happened to her she had asked, but she had no answer. She had become a shell of herself, the kind that’s kept upon a shelf.
Years passed by and she grew weaker in her heart that once was explosive with desire and hunger for love and for life. She evolved into some version of someone else to keep peace and harmony for others. She realized that the world told her she couldn’t, so she didn’t. She believed them when they struck her down, leveling her to their limitations of her. They put her in a box that they designed and there she would remain, unable to grow and be that little girl who once had everything in her possession.
Gramma and Grampa never knew of her disappearance or maybe they would’ve come looking for her. Rescuing her and brought her back to where she first knew of her capabilities, her worth and her sense of belonging. How she longed for the safety of her home with them. The smells of comfort of joy of connection of acceptance of love and that familiar sense of knowing where she belongs.
The daylight woke her and she jolted straight up in the strange bed. For a second she wondered where she was. She began recalling the night before, replaying the script in her scattered mind, the silent argument, an uprooting of the life she knew and a what seemed like an endless night of collecting her belongings. She needed coffee. She needed explanations, but most of all, she needed him. Why?
Anger began washing over her, wanting to make friends with her now. It was more like a pact really. How else can we assure one another to never go through this ever again. We couldn’t. She knew the game. Hell, she was one of the star players and she was an expert in it. She couldn’t comprehend the situation, but had to do something to distract herself. Her resolution, get her ass to the gym. There she can pick up some heavy shit and drop it back down, just to keep her sanity. Kind of an irony now. This would become her routine, working out alongside her friend. Her friend whom became her trainer, then became her therapist while her therapist became obsolete.
Days passed and for two straight weeks, he showed up there in her personal space. Coincidentally, knowing she would be there, lifting, clearing her mind, she didn’t think so. He said not a word to her, only taunting her, desperately trying to rattle her with his presence as if to remind her of their sacred, cyclical dance. It took all her strength to maintain control of her power. She fought back the internal force. He’d hurt her for the last time. Fuck him.
God had been showing up in her life a lot more, revealing Himself to her, giving her clarity with every passing day. He promised her salvation and protection like she never felt before. As days turned into weeks and eventually months, she began talking, revealing the secrets she had kept hidden. She was speaking out loud for the first time in 8 1/2 years to her friend, the trainer and the therapist. At first she was ashamed and timid, but she was feeling safe with her. The more she shared, the lighter her heart was becoming. To her surprise, what was coming back to her was a similar story as her friend also spoke about her private life she’d been leading too. Their bond strengthened and they were inseparable for the months that followed.
For all those years she was crumbling while he whittled away at her sweet, once light hearted spirit, she couldn’t leave. There had been glimmers of hope, small doses. Signs that maybe he did love her, enough to keep her there. She had to stay with her broken pieces, no matter how depleted, confused, abandoned and abused she was.
Just admitting the truth was a huge first step. With the support of her dear old friend, she had a new found hope. Now was her chance. She had to begin collecting her scattered, broken parts she had left along the way, but how? She began to pray, everyday and for the second time in her life, she didn’t feel so all alone.
There’s a reason we sink before we rise up. An anchor only works when it hits the bottom…
He silenced her with his anger. Afraid to speak another word as a quick slap struck across her face. She sat there in disbelief, what was happening? Then, as he drew his hand back, he followed it with a stern, “get the fuck out”. Without hesitation, she swiftly rose to her feet and speaking not a word. In her mind she asked God, “is this it Lord?” and in that instant, she knew, she would never return to him again.
Her mind was racing after the appalling scene that occurred only moments before. It took her over two hours to mindlessly gather her belongings in the dark of the night. She was replaying the events of the day that led up to his finale of the evening. What had gone so wrong so fast? She kept hitting the rewind button yet nothing was explaining to her why she was packing up 8 1/2 years of her life in a whirlwind like a death sentence she just received. “Get the fuck out” kept flashing over head and made her move more swiftly.
Probably to his dismay and surprise, she wasn’t becoming enraged as her typical, dissociative behavior had surfaced in the past. This was much different then all the times before, more surreal. She had a calmness about her as she loaded bag after bag in her car. The moon was shining brightly on that warm summer’s night, but there was an icy energy exhuming all around, causing her brief moments of panic.
She saw him sitting quietly on the back deck where they spent so many days and nights together, but also to her, alone. Silently, she walked out to join him, grabbing her chair to sit beside him in hopes he had changed his mind, would apologize for his rash behavior and say he loves her. Instead he arose, saying not a word and went back inside. She sat there a little longer gazing out into the darkness without any words, saying goodbye to it all.
She was a little numb now and feeling hopeless. She herself entered the back door, her heart pleaded silently within her own pounding chest. “Tell me to stay. Make this all go away.” His words never came. Sitting down at the dining table expecting him to join her there now to…who knows what? Explain himself, have a conversation, anything, something, but he never did. Instead he approached her with only one question, “got everything?” She nodded and quickly stood to her feet, walking slowly to the door where he was already 3 steps ahead, waiting and she asked her final question fearing the answer, “this is what you want?” Forever in her heart she will always remember the last thing he ever said to her, “I can’t get what I want”. And with that, she didn’t act on the rage that was boiling inside of her. In fact, she used that energy to channel her ability to walk away and know this was everything he would ever give to her and that was nothing at all.
There was a kind of numbness and peacefulness washing over her when she got behind the wheel to drive a mile down the road to the cottage she never could understand why he insisted on her maintaining as a part time residence, until now.
They’ve done this dance too many times to remember now, but he kept count and blamed her for every infraction and incident. Each time just like the time before, he knew, or rather expected her to come back, pleading, crying, begging even groveling to take her in his arms and love her once again. The ties that bound them were unbreakable. She had convinced herself of this and that being alone without him was unbearable, but for a split second, she inhaled what she thought may have tasted a bit like… freedom? And, for the very first time that night, there in the darkness, she began to exhale and she smiled.
She pulled into the not so familiar driveway, got what she needed from her car for the night, unlocked the door and walked into the dark and seemingly lonely place. It felt empty and strange, or maybe that was just her projecting. She began to come down from the adrenaline rush that kept her going for the last 4 hours. She found the bed, right where she left it. The girl, who just earlier that day, had a life that was tortuously familiar with a man she had loved and respected for so very long and now, she felt very displaced climbing into her empty bed. She was ready to drop by this point as a tear streamed down her face she thought, what the fuck just happened?
“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”
Or a little this way and a lot that way, but still I’d like to go back there and kick my own ass for all those things I understand to do differently now, but instead I will learn, I will share and I will grow. Life can be an emotional roller coaster, mine certainly has been, but I persevere. I invite you to experience my journey as I write from the depths of my heart. Please, take what you like and leave, or sell, the rest.
Ever get fed up from the sound of your own voice? Get sick and tired of camping out in misery, the woe is me, pitiful state of being? I have. It was 2 days after Christmas 2019 and a long time friend had sent me the intro to the latest book she received as a gift. I had been inflicted with the flu on Christmas Day, was stuck in bed and was feeling so lonely and as I read it, my heart lifted. I asked her what the title was and as I saw those 4 words, girl, wash your face, I looked up and smiled. Ok God, Your 3rd message for this book. I felt His strong nudge and ordered it on audible. Seemed fitting to be read to since the flu bug I was battling didn’t allow me the energy to actually read. This young, inspiring author spoke truth right into my heart. So much of what she talked about resonated. As she went on to tell her story I thought to myself, its time girl, get started on your own book and blog.
I give myself permission to glance back at my journey so long as I don’t stare. Eyes forward is the goal. The continuing of forever reflecting is serving no other purpose but to remain stuck. Am I merely justifying my lot in life of that claimed stake of a crappy hand dealt? Pity parties are not on the agenda, I know better, but movement feels paralyzing at times. After all, this has been my life. If I don’t keep it alive, who will? There is a time to talk and then there is a time to heal and that time is now. I have told the little girl inside me that all will be well, especially us. Secrets that once kept us safe are ours to reveal and share for our healthy healing process.
The drive behind writing this at all is to save my soul and preserve my sanity and it all comes together right here. I did the whole camping out thing in trying to figure out what happened to me over those 8 ½ years. I began to make myself nearly as crazy as the life I had been participating in, or rather was drawn into so insidiously. It had consumed me. I was gone, but to where?
She sits alone with her thoughts, trying to figure out how she got here, to this dark and lonely place inside her haunted soul. Often wondering if she somehow deserved to be isolated, belittled, humiliated, beaten down and destroyed.
She has found herself unable to sleep again even though it has been 13 months since he pushed her out the door, no explanation or hesitation, yet he still manages to inflict the pain and torment just a little bit and then a little bit more.
As she stood between the door, where her confusing life had been for so long, and the empty darkness of the night, she asked him, “is this really what you want?” And with just 6 little words from his mouth, “I can’t get what I want”, she was banished once again, but this time for eternity. Now for the remainder of her days, she will consider all the possibilities of her wrongness, because after all, she’s spent her life believing the lies she’s been told of her value and worth. So easily discarded like a worn out little toy that no longer would serve any purpose, to him. She laid there with crushing thoughts, could they all be wrong about her, even him?
Little do they know of her true capabilities. She secretly dares them to underestimate her. She is always up for a good round of torture me and see. After all, they were her best teachers of that plot twist game and now she knows how to win. Watch the little men squirm this time as they now have to figure out the rules to this unsolvable mystery, the one he started, but the one she will finally win and end.
When did she become so secretive and clever? Why had she and how did she? By being their rag doll for all of those years. She paid close attention, took notes and now it would be their, his turn to stand and watch in awe of them, her braveness as they, she fiercely regains their, her control and power, the mighty gift they, she so frequently and freely gave away.
I do get to be dramatic today. It soothes and even comforts us, me to express and perhaps embellish a tad, but definitely to expose the truth of the matters. The affects of his, yours and their provocative ways upon my heart, stealing my essence as they desolated our, my soul without our, my permission.
Being devoted to an abuser is seemingly backwards, convoluted and plain sick to the average onlooker and we, I never cared much what you thought, only what he did. Your caring, concerned, compassionate expressions and even the occasional pleas for our, my safety were always going to be dismissed because our, my trauma bond was stronger than your love for us, me. Even the innumerable discarding of us, me throughout the years would all eventually lead us, me right back to his familiarity of destruction. It’s what we, I knew and kept us, me feeling safe, in those ravaging arms. Denial is a powerful mechanism all on its own. Don’t try to convince us, me otherwise. You just don’t understand loyalty, perverse as it may seem. It is what we, I know.
Fearful to leave, terrified to stay, his position of power lures us, me in as the continuance of this mind fuck game he plays engulfs us, me. Who’s the insane one? Really, we’d, I’d love to know.
Eventually we, I caught on to the insidiousness of this lifestyle he claimed as Master of the castle. It’s a ploy architected by the deceitful hands molding his sought after clay of prey. Once captured, he begins to create an image in his depraved mind. All the dimensions of which his new toy will begin to transform into started there.
First, he begins with our, my mind before moving onto our, my form. Rejecting little things at first, pretending to care just a bit, to make us, me trust him and then ashamed enough to get to work on these now, serious flaws that this hideous mind and body have become, in his opinion. In order to obtain the position of his queen in said castle, you, I must know your, my place. Then and only then can you earn it, but have no illusions little pet, you will never be fully kept in his elusive place of honor. You see love, there is no room for merely one queen next to this lord’s thrown. In fact, there’s no room for any solitary girl in his world, only the king of his own mind.
And so the story goes on, ashes to ashes he buries them, me alive. Alone might be better, one day, some day, not today…