Three Years Later: Self-Restoration after Domestic Violence

It was one of those things that needed done. I stared at it and walked past it and stared at it some more. Consequently, as I patrolled back and forth apprehensively and immeasurably full of so much anxiety, I decided to turn off the lights and I turned off the television, climbed the stairs to my bedroom, and headed to bed. It was crucial for me to sleep off all of these rushing feelings and thoughts. It was essential that I gain vigor from the daylight to help me through what I needed to do.

The next morning I woke up with reminiscences flooding my mind of the past five years that I spent with that man. I cannot bear to say his name, but he is the man that took so much of my strength, individuality, reverence, and hope. This is the man who I bequeathed power to destroy my passions and aspirations, my willingness to continue on.

I slowly boosted myself up, positioned my feet on the floor, and pushed my bed head hair from my face. I opened my bedroom door soundlessly, not to make a commotion and walked to check on my son in his room to see if he was awake. Good, my son was still resting.

“Okay,” I said to myself, “I’m going to get this done today before I do anything else! I will complete this task before I take a shower, get coffee or clean up the rest of the house. Today is the day that I need to knock this out!”

I treaded softly downstairs and to that blue tote that sat in the corner of my dining room. I stared at it reluctantly and then I made a deep sigh. This tote has been sitting in the same spot of over a year and I neglected to even recognize that it was even mine. I had convinced myself that it belonged to my sister because I couldn’t dare grasp the fact that it was mine.

“I can get through this,” I said to myself, “I just need to keep my internal dialogue positive as my therapist said. I can and will do this!”

Moreover, I made my way to the little cupboard that stores all of my cleaning supplies and trash bags. I grabbed two extra-large trash bags, headed back to that blue tote and wrestled the lid open. Once I was able to open the lid, the smell from that giant blue box flooded my nostrils and made me feel a bit queasy. That blue box smelled of the old apartment I used to share with him. It smelled of cigarettes and his cologne, the air and carpet freshener that we used to use. Almost every scent that I try to avoid to this day.

It was time….

I sat on the floor with my legs crossed; I rocked side-to-side. That is what I do when my emotions are high. I have persuaded myself that if I rock, move, or fidget it will take the emotional sting away. It is like what you do, or what you see when those who get a paper cut or those who get a burn on their finger. I am sure you have seen it where they pace back and forth shouting profanities and cursing all that are good. Sometimes I curse all that is good. But for the most part, I rock side-to-side  or pace the house to sooth myself.

I went through the box slowly. I made sure to look at everything that I picked up. If it had my name on it, I was to keep it. If it had the name of that man, that man who fought to keep me down and keep me submissive, I were to throw it away.

The pace of sorting through the tote began to pick up faster and faster. I was feeling great! Half of the contents in that damn, blue box were thrown into trash bags! It felt so good! The more I so happened to throw away, the more I was gaining of myself. Page-by-page, document-by-document, his artwork, and military records, his notes and work information, his thoughts — all trash. If only he could watch from a distance, all of the things I was throwing away of his and to see the lack of regard that I had for him, I wouldn’t back down from his aggression and anger. I’m a different person now; I’m a fighter girl.

Of course, I knew exactly how he would react in that moment. If that man walked into the room and had seen what I was doing, he would have grabbed my by my hair and drag me across the room. He would have shouted at me and called me names. He would threaten me and scold me…..

“Stop thinking that. It’s not beneficial right now. I need to stay focused to get this done so I can feel a bit of accomplishment today.”

So I continued on until I found my military medical records.

“Oh, what is this?” I suddenly thought. “I haven’t seen these in years!”

I looked through them and read the notations:

“She has had some difficulty being assertive with her husband.”

“She is very soft-spoken, which can be part of the challenge when a person is trying to be more assertive.”

“She has expressed that her husband is aggressive with her.”

“Group therapy with her and her husband, he was very assertive with her. I discussed with him that grabbing her is wrong. I told the patient to call emergency services if assaults her.”

I knew what was in the records, but it had been so long; that time the man and I went through counseling together. It was said repeatedly in my medical records that I had an issue with being assertive. In that time, everything was my fault. I was too passive and I couldn’t stand up for myself. That was the lie that I told myself and my doctor. It was the lie that I told that man who took everything away from me, too. I told him that I had a problem with expressing myself and that I wish I could be more assertive in the most sensitive and quiet voice imaginable. I said it with the hopes that the punishment that I was given every day would lessen up. You see? The man had excuses as to why he was abusive towards me: abused as a child, mother has schizophrenia, raised by a single father, raised in a bad neighborhood. Why couldn’t I have an excuse to make him stop, love me, and treat me for what I was worth? That was a question I asked the entire relationship….

It always was my entire fault. It was that question that I couldn’t answer. I could never answer and will never want to answer. It’s a question that kept me from living my own life. It was a question that kept me from being happy.

“How could I be so naive?”

“No. It was not naivety.  It was that I was too sympathetic, compassionate, and empathetic. I was too respectful. I was too honest and open, trusting, giving, selfless, meek, mild, and wanting to be loved as much as I loved. It was not my fault. It never was my fault.”

That doctor was too senseless to realize that I was coming to him for assistance to get out of my predicament. I wanted to receive the words that I was not crazy! If I had the audacity to yell at him, I would have! “Hey, idiot!!! The man who I love has wrapped his hands around my throat and choked me out! He’s cut me! He’s threatened to kill me! He’s slapped me and punched me! He’s picked me up by my collar and has thrown me into a wall-locker! HELP ME!!!!!!! WHAT DO I DO!?!?!?!”

I then began to think sarcastically, “But no. It was my fault because I was too passive and I needed to learn to assert myself; at least that’s what the doctor told me and believed. I needed to be stronger! The man that I was with needed a woman who was as strong as him! I didn’t need to be weak and sensitive! Ha!”

“Stop it,” I thought. “The way he was trying to change me into being a ‘strong’ woman only deteriorated my idea of my self worth. Leaving him has made me strong. Coming to the realization that I didn’t love him made me stronger. And he didn’t love me! He was in ‘control’ with me. Cutting him from my life the best I could has made me stronger. Discovering myself all over again has lead me to be stronger than I ever have! I am strong! I’ve always been strong!”

You may think that clearing out a blue tote isn’t anything empowering. That sitting there and weeding through all the stuff that was contained within it was something that is usually done by ordinary people on any ordinary day. Nevertheless, that day was a day that I gained a little bit of my power back. That was the day that I cleansed my mind and worked through those thoughts that I have not engaged with in some time. That was a skirmish with the dark memory of that man who still lingers there in my subconscious. That man who preys on my insecurities and likes to promulgate the negative feelings I have of myself and all of those feelings placed there for over five years of subjecting myself to him and his destruction.

Each day is a struggle. It has been three years since I left the man who anticipated for me to hurt as much as he. I rose from the coals and the ashes that man destroyed me into. I never knew I was a Phoenix until that day my son was born and I burst into flames with passion to fight for the safety of my son and myself. I have been referred to as a ‘firecracker’ every since, and I’m not entirely opposed to the term.

However, I feel as if I’ve evolved to contain as much passion as all of the energy contained within the sun.

And this passion is what I’m sharing with you now.

From this day forward, I prepare to share with you my journey of being a survivor of domestic violence and the fight I had to go through to become who I am today.

– P

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