“Sometimes I lay under the moon, And thank God that I’m breathing. Then I pray ‘don’t take me soon’. Because I’m here for a reason.” (“One Day” by Matisyahu)
Gratitude is a funny thing. Because for most people it depends on circumstances. It’s easy to be grateful for things when everything in life is sunshine and butterflies. Its easy to see your blessings when you’re surrounded by them. But when the world around you deepens its shadows it can be hard to catch even a glimpse of enough good to appreciate. Its so easy to forget what we once had (and in reality what we still have) because thoghts can be a fickle thing. Perception can be a cruel King.
The way I try to look at my life is to always remind myself that there is someone out there worse off. Always. There is always someone who would give anything just for five minutes of my life in comparison to their own. This way of walking through this world not only helps me be grateful for what I have but it gives me a strong sense of empathy for the human race. Its a steady way to walk. And it gets easier over time.
No matter what my struggle, someone else is battling larger, more terrifying demons. I’m poor? Well, there is a person somewhere eating food from a dumpster. My ex put his hand on me in anger? Well, some other woman died at the hands of her abuser. My kids wont respect me today and pushed me so far that I sat and cried? Well, there is a mother bringing flowers to her child’s grave this afternoon. I don’t have a car? Someone out there doesn’t have feet. My house is a mess and I am so overwhelmed I don’t know where to begin? Someone out there doesn’t HAVE a house to keep clean.
Its all a matter of perspective.
Keep your eye on the positive and it will begin to shine and grow and multiply and eventually the demons and shadows will fade away.
So…..what are YOU grateful for today?
My name is Tonia and I’m a survivor of domestic abuse. I share this information because I see now that its not MY shame. Its not something I need to hide or lie about any longer. In fact, in case there is someone reading this right now who is currently IN an abusive relationship, let me say that again. IT’S NOT MY SHAME. It is the shame of the person who tears another human being down because of their own demons/insecurities, etc….If you are with a person who thinks it is acceptable behavior to hurt you in any way (physically, verbally, sexually, etc) PLEASE know that it is in no way YOUR fault. No person deserves that. I wish I had believed that enough to get out of that mess long before I finally got the courage to leave.
This blog is going to be honest. 100% honest and not sugar coated. Which means its going to be pretty damn scary for me to write it and actually hit that publish button. But Im going to do it because god forbid one of my readers is currently in an abusive relationship…..I cant be ok with keeping silent and not speaking out. Because the key to stopping violence is to stand up and stand against it. Every voice counts.
Ive actually been a survivor twice. The father of my 4 year old son was an abuser. He was a classic case scenario of being abused as a child and going on to continue that cycle. He and his brothers have all served time for domestic violence against women. He seemed so sweet in the beginning. I remember telling him one day how safe I felt with him. It was less than a month later the first time he hit me. It escalated into a mess of physical, verbal and sexual abuse. I felt trapped. He repeatedly would tell me he would kill me or have me killed if I tried to leave. He controlled the money. He threatened to get my kids taken away. People who say women should just LEAVE don’t understand the elaborate spiderweb of control and power the abuser can weave over a victim. I got out once and stayed in a battered women shelter for two weeks, only to be lured back to him by his promises to change. (I was pregnant with his son at the time.) He blackened my eye when I was 9 months pregnant. Kicked me repeatedly in the stomache 6 days after I gave birth and almost broke my nose. I didn’t get away from him until he got charged with rape on a minor and got locked up. There is a very good chance I would be dead right now if not for that. I was so caught up in that mess that I didn’t even know how to begin to get away from him. That was back in 2009. In 2011 I began dating a guy I considered my best friend at the time. He had always been very sweet and helpful and kindhearted. He was there for me through a dark time in my life and a relationship evolved from that friendship. I trusted in him. three months into our relationship I got pregnant. It wasn’t planned but we were okay with it. At least I thought WE were. He seemed happy. But the fact is, the leading cause ofdeath in pregnant women is actually murder. Most abusers are triggered by stress and the stress of an impending birth can turn some men who are already violent into serious ragers. I miscarried a ek after taking test. I was 8 weeks along and actually passed the fetus and other “products of pregnancy” into the empty bathtub. I called my mom bawling as I cupped the sac in the palm of my hand. The next day I got a little emotional. (obviously, I was a blend of hormones and sadness) He shoved me down hard out in the front yard in front of my kids and the entire trailer park. That was the first time.
When he drank he blacked out. He would swing me around like a rag doll, trying to rip my hair out of my head, punch me or choke me. I blamed it on the alcohol for awhile. It made a handy excuse for us both. But then he began hurting me while he was sober. That changed things up a bit. That meant the abuse was obviously MY fault. (in my twisted brain that made perfect sense anyway.) Any tiny thing could trigger his rage. Even stuff that made no sense to me. He could go from happy and silly to raging and hitting in thirty seconds flat. It was a roller coaster. I learned to walk on egg shells. Which was pretty pointless because no mater how hard I tried I still got punished. If I fought back, if I submitted, if I got down on my knees and begged him to stop. And get down on my knees I did. Many times. Tossed my pride and self worth straight out the window because his actions and words had me convinced I deserved every minute of it. He broke my finger once. Broke my rib another time. I learned to get really good at lying and making excuses and covering marks with clothing and makeup and hats and sunglasses. I was literally never without a mark or bruise on my body someplace. As soon as one began to fade or heal he would replace it with another. I was scared. All of the time. Scared.
To all of my friends. Those times I didn’t show to meet you when I promised. Those times I missed church. Its not because of any of the lies I told you. It was because I was curled up someplace in my house crying and trying to calm my boys down and reassure them all was well. It was because Dave had unleashed his fury on me and then taken off in the van to go get drunk. At the time I thought it was because I was a failure as a woman and deserved it all. I see now it was only because he was not man enough to handle his emotions properly. It was HIS failure. HIS shame.
I lived that for two years.
I still get scared. I have nightmares he comes back and hurts me again. I flinch a lot. I am still jumpy. I guess its PTSD. My new man is incredible. He can be so patient and calm at times. The first time I disagreed with him I braced myself for a storm. No storm came. He didn’t even react. I said to him in awe, softly, with incredulity “Youre not mad.”
He looked at me like I was crazy. “Why would I be mad?” he asked in confusion.
I lived so long dodging blows I don’t know how to get used to falling softly into strong arms. I am learning day by day. He understands where I have been and where I am gong. He is incredibly patient with me. I love him for that. It is scary to love when love has always meant being hurt. But I am trusting because I don’t want life without love. I believe it to still exist. Without the pain.
Where am I going? Into the sunshine. Into a life with no more fear in my own home. I am standing on legs that may falter at times but they remain steady enough to keep me moving forward. And I stand to say NO MORE. No more down on my knees swearing I wil change if he just doesn’t hurt me. No more bite marks, scratch marks. bruises or bumps. No more broken bones. No more scared children in their rooms. No more busted furniture. No more crying in the fetal position, snot running down my face. No more tip toeing around in the mornings scared to wake him for fear he might be in one of “those” moods. No more blaming myself. No more being called a bitch. No more being told to shut up. No more being with a man who says he wants to kill me. No more being with a man who says he wants to go sleep with other women. No more being hurt. No more believeing the lies. the ones he told me and the ones I told myself.
Life isn’t perfect. This new man isn’t perfect. No one is. But I know from here on out Im gong to seek happiness, safety and security for my boys and I. I sat down and apologized to my sons recently, apologized for thefact I hadn’t found strength sooner. And promised them that there would be no more fear in our home. No more violence.
A special thank you to Joshua, Christie, Brandon, Chris and Natalie who were there for me when I couldn’t even be there for myself. You guys are what gave me courage to stand up and finally say no more. You guys are the reason I finally told him to leave. I love you guys so much. For speaking louder than the lies inside my own head. Thank you.
Onward and upward.