Since birth, I have been conditioned to feel shame. Shame for who I am, what I do, the choices I make, the way I dress, the people I hang out with, how I feel, what I eat and how I eat it. So much of my life was giving up my identity to serve the will of my mother. I dressed how she wanted, I hung out with people she wanted me to, and I gave up every part of me in a pointless pursuit of her affection. Every relationship I have ever had after that has been the same. I never felt allowed to be myself. Not only was I still carrying shame from my mother, those partners treated me the same way she did, enforcing those life long patterns and beliefs. There was shame for everything. I felt so much pressure to try and be who my partner wanted me to be and not enough time on myself. Most times I was ridiculed for my ideas, laughed at, and talked down to. As the years went on and my weary soul grew tired, I started to, piece by piece put myself back together. I started to find my voice and let it get louder and louder until one day I stood up and just like vomit, it came out. "I can't do this anymore. I'm done." That message was more for myself than it was for him. I choose me that day. Since then I have changed more than I ever thought possible. I am closer to the person I always wished I could be and every day I learn more about who I am and what I am willing to settle for. Now that I have started dating, I found myself again in the arms of those same men. Like some sort of cruel joke. The good news is, I am seeing it and being strong enough to leave it. All of these changes and awakenings have taken their toll on me this week. I will say that healing is a true disgusting bloody mess and sometimes it just hurts.
Last night I wanted to go for a walk and watch a funny movie. I needed a good laugh. So off I went, an hour and a half earlier than normal. I was half way, just turned around when I heard him yelling from across the street. As the product of an abusive household, yelling is a huge trigger for me. It puts me into fight or flight and I panic. So naturally I wanted to get out of there as fast as possible, until I noticed who he was yelling at. She looked terrified. I knew he was going to hurt her. For a moment I kept walking the opposite way, trying to talk myself out of the reality that was unfolding. Then I gathered up all of the courage I could find and I followed them. I watched him yell at her for two blocks. Too scared to do anything more than that. Three people drove by and two other men walked by as he screamed at her. No one did a thing to stop it. I knew it was going to escalate, I have seen that kind of rage before. I called 911. Thankfully, a close friend drove by the second I dialed and I was able to assist from the safety of her vehicle. We watched as it got physical, too scared to do anything else. Thankfully someone else was brave enough and stopped long enough for the woman to get in the car and be whisked away to safety. We then spent the next hour and a half waiting and speaking to police officers. When I gave my statement I was visibly shaken. He asked me if I had ever seen anything like that before. I had. "I hope not a personal experience." he said. It was. At the end of our conversation the officer reminded me that triggers can be very powerful. When I went to bed all I could think about was how I should have done more. My heart hurts for her. My wrestles sleep was plagued with nightmares. I woke up foggy and hurting. My body had relived my trauma through this woman's experience and I was feeling the post rush of chemicals, memories, fears and emotions. Not only that, I was so upset and ashamed for not doing more, it made my brain want to play it over and over in my head. It was this that made me realize how much shame I carry for myself. Not just for who I am and my choices, but for my lack of courage. Courage to stand up for myself, courage to stand up for others and courage to speak loudly. I know that I couldn't have done anything different and I am proud of myself for what I was able to do. But it has taken work to get to this point today.
I have never been very vocal about my experiences with domestic abuse. Again, shame. The problem is there are so many other reason why most women don't ever talk about their domestic abuse. This experience got me thinking about how far I have come. Every romantic relationship I have ever been in has been abusive in one way or another. Physical, mental, sexual. That ends now. I feel strong enough to recognize the patterns and shut them down. I also know that I can stand up and take action. For her and for me.
I wanted to share this story for a two reasons. One, to try and make the topic of domestic abuse a little less shameful. Talk to your friends, come out of the shadows, share, be brave. If one woman can stand up and be brave about her experiences, she will inspire someone else. And two, to remind you that if you are witnessing a domestic dispute, call it in. Don't wait for it to get physical because once it gets there, its ugly.
Love and showgirl kisses,