Yes, I was triggered. And yes, I am going to discuss it. If conversations about domestic violence triggers you, then you may want to skip this one.
A conversation over on social media has brought this to mind. Bear in mind that my escape from what I went through will have been forty years ago this coming February. The fact remains that bruises, broken bones, physical wounds heal. A damaged spirit remains, always lurking somewhere in the dark. You learn to live again, but the threat is always there that something will allow those memories and the trauma you survived to resurface. As today.
I can sit here now and look back with a sense of detachment. I can remember and visualize that life as if watching a movie of someone else, even though it is or was, me. The important thing, I now carry it as a lesson learned. I now carry it as an empathic understanding. No matter the level of violence, the emotional and mental suffering creates a place in your memory where you are able to say, I’ve been there. I’ve faced that. I understand.
I went into this relationship ignoring many red flags. I was in my early twenties but still very naive and immature. It didn’t take long before I realized I was in trouble, but not how bad it was going to actually be. The verbal abuse started first. When he realized that my family would not tolerate his actions, he moved us from North Carolina to Louisiana. He had family there who were going to help him. Being so far from my family, the physical violence began. Thing about that, no matter how drunk he was, he knew not to ever hit me where it showed. To make a long story short, I jumped out of a moving car once. While being shot at, I jumped through a second story window onto the roof of a carport, shimmied down a fig tree and hid. I watched him destroy rooms in anger. As a side note, I began drinking wine. A lot of wine. If I was drinking, he left me alone, I was down on his level. Sober, I was a target.
I tried to bring myself to leave many times. Always staying because I thought I was now unlovable and if I left I would spend the remainder of my life alone and lonely. I did leave once, relatives got me a plane ticket home. I stayed for several weeks until he convinced me he had changed. I went back….into hell.
I found a job making a hundred dollars a week. I managed to keep a few groceries in the house and a little gas in the car but nothing else was paid. But if he had no beer. He would send me out to call or visit people and beg for money. I got to where I would go to a pay phone, dial the number and on the first ring hand up. I’d go back and tell him that no one answered.
What finally drove me to leave, to convince me that I had to leave, was the final beating. He was talking on a Citizens band radio and I brought him dinner. He for what ever reason knocked the plate from my hand causing it to sail over my shoulder and across the room onto the floor. I then made a mistake. I turned my back on him to clean up the mess. Then it began. I won’t describe what happened, I doubt I need to at this point. I will say that after a while, I no longer felt the pain. I was somewhere up around the ceiling watching what was happening below. I don’t know what caused him to stop. Maybe he was tired. Maybe his anger spent. Maybe he thought he had killed me. Either way he stopped and I was picking myself up off the floor to move to clean up the original mess. He watched my every move though. The next day I tried to call the police, they asked why I didn’t call when or directly after it happened. I hung up. I had to get out if I was to survive.
I came up with this elaborate plan. I created an imaginary surprise party. I lied to so many people. But it got him out of the house. Someone else drove me to the bus station. Mom had already sent a ticket for me to go home. The person who took me to the bus station, went and found him and told him where I was. He tried to talk me into staying, he grabbed the ticket from my hand and left walking to his car. The ticket agent had called the police. They asked where I got the ticket and on finding that my mother sent it, went back and took it from him. The bus had arrived about the same time as the police, but waited until I walked out, ticket in hand and boarded the bus. He called to me, when I turned to look he asked for money, as if I had any. The image remains of him standing near the car, city police officers on either side of him, keeping him in place until the bus pulled away. I was headed home. The bus drivers kept an eye on me all the way. I remember that well.
When I stepped off that bus in my home town, I knew I was not going back. This time I was staying safe. What I also found, is that I have a heart for those who suffer domestic violence. Male or female, it doesn’t matter. I’ve seen bruises that were meant to be hidden and talked with the wounded. I’ve seen the looks of despair and desperation. I’ve seen the expressions of having given in and giving up. No one should ever have to deal with that. No one should ever feel that way. No one should ever be made to feel they deserve to be hurt. No one should ever be made to feel undesirable, unworthy, less.
Forty years in and I can still be triggered. Now though, I don’t seek a place to hide. I don’t run from those feelings. Forty years can teach one a lot. Forty years can go a long way toward healing and growth. After forty years the triggers don’t make me sad or afraid or seeking a safe place. Forty years of building faith and a stronger prayer life, have helped me find a strength of purpose. Let me find a way, to help you. Let me share, and let me show you how to believe in you. In your strength and abilities. In your value and self worth. Let me help you find your courage to step out of the darkness of abuse and pain and into the sunlight of a new, better life.
There are many places that are out there to help those who are a victim of domestic violence. The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233. There are shelters available, their locations kept secret for a reason. Cities have ways of getting a victim safe. The main thing, the important thing, is making that decision to leave and stick with it. Make gorilla glue ashamed of how strong you are sticking to that decision. Do not, wait until its too late.