Dear New Survivor,
Yesterday I wrote a letter to my younger self, but today I feel led to write to you. You are the individuals who recently escaped an abusive relationship. Some of you have felt the physical blows of your attacker. Some of you are scarred to the core from the emotional abuse your partner inflicted on you. Some of you have been abused repeatedly, by different people, over the course of your life. And some of you are still living in fear. With each story I read, I am heartbroken by the number of individuals enduring abuse at the hands of those who are supposed to love them. I remember feeling so alone in my struggle, and as I read your comments about your newfound freedom, my mind wanders to the time when I was newly free to live my life without him. I remember the sense of peace that washed over me when I made daily decisions for myself, the strength I felt at feeling nothing when he begged me to stay, the numbness that overcame me as I watched myself drift through a process that terrified me. There was the day I laughed like a child, as I ran through the rain, knowing I was free to be utterly and totally myself. I recall the nights I danced in my apartment to the music I loved, knowing he could not turn it off or ridicule my behavior. I remember, all too well, the high I felt knowing I was free. There was nothing that could stop me as I ventured out to a life that was my own.
But there are other things I recall as well, such as my mom expressing concern over my dating again and my friends encouraging me to attend therapy. I remember lashing out when someone questioned my choices and declaring that I was fine. There was no time for therapy. I had a life to live, a job, and school. Anyway, the worst was over. I had left and he seemed to be leaving me alone. I was happy and moving on with my life. The last thing I wanted to do was go and talk about all the negative things that had happened to me. What good was that?
My high continued for almost three years. Of course there were sad days and angry days, but nothing I needed therapy for. I was in control of my situation and didn’t need anyone’s help to move forward. The past was the past and that was were it belonged. Little did I know that by not dealing with what had happened for the last sixteen years of my life, I was doing myself, and everyone around me, a huge disservice.
It took three years for me to start falling apart, and four years before I hit absolute rock bottom. It didn’t happen in the first week, month, or year. It happened when I least expected it. I had buried so much deep inside, not realizing the damage it could cause to me mentally and physically.
There are long-term effects to domestic violence. I tell everyone I talk to and would scream it from the rooftop; LIFE CAN BE BEAUTIFUL!!!! However, it is imperative that we face our demons. They are patient when ignored. They flutter around in the depths of your mind, and survivors are often great at attempting to ignore them. We focus on our new life, children, family, and anything else we can give ourselves to. We tell ourselves, and everyone else, that we are lucky and thankful to be alive and free from the hell we once lived. But deep inside, many of us are hurting and we don’t know when the pain will go away. When we least expect it, our demons come back with a veracity that can destroy us. PTSD, triggers, depression, anxiety, nightmares, failed relationships, anger, and so much more can torment us for years.
This letter is for you, the new survivor. It is not meant to discourage you, but rather to give you hope. Find the support you need now, even if you do not believe you need it. Your future self will thank you. If you are honest with yourself, you will see the signs. The moments of pain when the world is quiet, the negative comments you inflict on yourself, the poor self-image, or lack of inspiration. Your demons are your own, and you alone can control them. I challenge you to take control now. Don’t wait another day or lose one more moment of your life to the abuse you endured.
Take action and begin finding that beautiful life. Don’t remain a victim. Take your journey to the next step and survive as the fabulous individual that you are.
forget me not