So. That’s my story. That was my life from about 1993 until the middle of 1998. Yes I survived to tell the tale, but so did the scars; mostly invisible. I didn’t realize that the aftereffects would echo through my life now, almost 20 years later.
Up until about five years ago, I didn’t enjoy celebrating my birthday; too many reminders of what I survived in 1994. I had a terrible time with crowds until a few years ago too.
I still don’t like to be touched by people I don’t know, and woe to the person who puts their hands on me without my permission. I don’t allow strangers into my personal space when I can help it. And I hate it when people come up behind me; especially people I do not know or do not trust. I usually flash back to the day the Frat Boy held a knife to my throat.
And about my neck…I usually don’t leave my neck exposed, and when I do, I’m doubly careful about who I allow to get near me. With two exceptions I can think of, no one touches my neck. Absolutely no one.
The Lawyer left me with self esteem issues that I still confront regularly. Fans of SNL may remember Stewart Smalley: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it people like me!” Laugh, but I’ve often repeated this mantra to myself, or to a mirror, to get me through a tough time.
I have panic and anxiety attacks. I can usually work through them if I can get to a quiet place to breathe and focus.
I have issues with food after having my diet controlled. I usually have a snack or two in my purse everywhere I go. I have an almost compulsive desire to plan my meals each day, in part to quench that deep fear that I might not be “allowed” to eat later. Intellectually I know this will no longer happen, but my subconscious mind needs to catch up. Friends may recall my seemingly casual questions about whether an outing or get-together will involve food…and now you know why I ask. You should also know that sometimes it takes me awhile to figure out how to ask so I sound more casual and less anxious. Food has also become a source of comfort for me; and I have to fight the urge to eat and eat and eat until whatever pains me is gone.
One of the biggest hurdles for me recently was returning to school for my masters degree. After being told over and over that I wasn’t smart enough or good enough or not worth the additional education, it took every ounce of courage I had to even try. The first time I saw myself in the mirror wearing my cap and gown and honors cords, I burst into tears knowing I’d proven the Lawyer wrong and myself right.
I still have nightmares. Usually they involve the choking episode, but sometimes I dream that one or the other of them is chasing me, and I can’t run. I can’t scream. I can only mutely watch as my apparent doom approaches. I usually awaken myself from these terrors, in tears and gasping for air; if not outright screaming.
Lack of family support certainly exacerbated these issues; and I still cannot forgive my parents for staying in touch with the Lawyer long after the divorce was final.
It’s only been within the past two years that I can finally talk about much of what I survived; hence the publication of my story.
Please share if you know someone who is going through or who went through something similar. It is only by breaking the silence surrounding domestic abuse that we can shed light on this terrible problem.