Inside the Heart of a Survivor: RAGE
(originally published June 16, 2016)
We hear about the resiliency of those who survive violent relationships, their courage and bravery.
I want to talk about rage. MY rage. My anger and yes…hatred. Pure, ugly, hatred and rage. I had trouble coming to terms with my abuse. I didn’t have counseling. I didn’t know how to talk about it or if I even should. I knew a small handful of women who survived similar things, and I felt like it was a secret club. We talked around our stories. We spoke in soft voices. Sometimes I couldn’t bear to listen to the stories of others who also survived. It left me feeling guilty that I couldn’t be there for a friend trying to get through the same thing I’d survived.
Two years ago, memories surrounding the whole period of time leading up to and then into the first abusive relationship confronted me. A reconnect with an old friend brought everything to the forefront, and I was forced to face it. One specific day in 1993 was a turning point; and had things gone differently on that day and in the days before, who knows what my life could have been?? Who knows who I would be today, what I could have achieved?!?!
I had no choice but to face this massive trigger head on. It slammed into me like a rogue ocean wave, and knocked me down emotionally. The power of my feelings sent me first to my heavy bag, to rain punches on it while I screamed “WHY?!?!?!?!?” until I was hoarse. A flood of tears streamed down my cheeks until I was too blind to punch anymore. I threw my arms around my bag and wailed like a lost child. I didn’t understand why I had been “chosen” to endure domestic violence. I fell to my knees as my legs weakened, and ended up in the fetal position, sobbing. As a believer in “karma” and “everything happens for a reason,” I had yet to find the “reason” for what I survived. What was the “payback,” and what had I done in my first 22 years that led to nearly five years of verbal and physical abuse that almost killed me?!?!?
I spent days mourning the loss of the life I thought I could have had; the life I envisioned when I was a younger woman. The career I dreamed about, the friends who didn’t know how to handle the broken me and who either said goodbye or exited my life without a word. The places I thought I’d visit and the experiences I was certain I would have. I have never been so enraged and full of hate in my life. I felt cheated. These men go on with their lives, while I have to face this shit for the rest of my days.
It’s true that time has healed some of the wounds; however, there will be residuals. I will struggle with self-esteem and body image issues because of the ugly words and punishments hurled my way. I will forever have a need for personal space, and I will never be comfortable if and when a stranger touches me without my permission. Nightmares have lessened in frequency, but they still come. The most recent one was this past February-I remember my nightmares; it is hard to forget being awakened by the sound of your own screams as the dream of being strangled slowly fades from your brain. Oh, you didn’t know? The frat boy tried to strangle me with his bare hands on my 23rd birthday. Thankful for turtlenecks I was that year. This was AFTER he held a knife to my throat and told me no one would miss me if he killed me then and there, and BEFORE the PD said I had no grounds for a TRO. They saw my injuries and turned a blind eye. And yes, I’m angry about that too.
I will face down triggers for the rest of my life. Some of them I am familiar with, and know how to work through them. Others are newer; and I’m sure there are some I have yet to face. One of my biggest fears is facing a new trigger in an environment where I cannot ‘escape,’ such as at work. I used to be a fearless woman; and now there are days that I encounter fears I cannot name. And it all makes me angry. It makes me angry that I will probably never know why this happened to me. Angrier when I wonder who I would have become had I not been through this. I have times where I am all but helpless with rage; especially after a new trigger appears. I know it isn’t good to feel such hate. I am probably supposed to find a way to forgive these men…BUT I CAN’T. I.CAN.**NOT!**
I walked away in 1998; almost 20 years ago, and I still can’t forgive. Will forgiveness lessen my rage? Will it ease the nightmares and the fears? Will I ever have answers???