I just laid my newborn son down on the chair in the livingroom. I am 6 paces away in the hallway, flat on my back, my hands trying to peel his fingers off of my throat. I can’t breathe. My toddler and preschooler sons are a few feet away, in the doorway of their bedroom. I always thought it I was choked like this one of two things would happen. Either I would summon the werewithall and kick someone square in the balls, gaining my breath back. Or I would panic and flail and struggle and die. Neither happens. Instead, I continue to try to get his steel fingers off of my throat and somehow, despite the fact I cannot breathe, I find my voice (in a whisper, barely a voice at all) and I plead “My babies, my babies, my babies.” I am trying to break through to him, his face a contorted mask of rage, I am trying to remind him that my young children are right there. I am not panicked except for that, that my children will watch me die and carry that with them. I am less afraid of the fact I am sure I am going to die right now and far more afraid of what it will do to my babies.
Finally he lets me up, just as the world around me starts to funnel outwards and turn black. I am sobbing on the floor. He leaves. I am alone. With my children. Still here.
I do not recall what motivated him to do that. All I know is I did not call the police that day. The mark of a good abuser is to be able to manipulate the abused into believing it is all HER fault. I am sure I smartmouthed or burnt something or made eye contact with a man at a store. Whatever it was, it warranted him trying to kill me. And my brain had become so twisted at that point that I blamed myself and was grateful he had let go, gotten up, walked away, and given me back my breath. As if it was a gift from him, this ability to breathe. I recall how scary it was, later, within a half hour, when my whole throat swelled from the inside and I could hardly breathe or swallow and I thought “What if I have to go to the hospital? Then they will know.”
Know what? That I am a bad girlfriend. That I deserved it. That I fucked up.
This is the beginning of a story. And the ending.
This is how being abused feels. Like a whirlwind of blame within yourself and it very rarely dawns on you that it might just be his fault as well. Or in entirety, actually. That the reasonable reaction to not making dinner on time or being friendly to the male cashier or having a bad day and acting like a bitch is NOT to hit/stomp/punch/bite/choke/shove. I would not allow my toddler to behave in such a way.
This is a small glimpse into my past. Into where I came from And the fact I will always know what it feels like to not be able to breathe and believe, be 100% CONVINCED you are going to die on this day. If nothing else, death does not scare me so much anymore. Leaving my babies does though.
This is also the rest of my story.
The fact I have not had a mark on me from a man in 2 years now. 2 years. I used to have at leats one mark on me every day. A scrape, a bruise, a bump. Always something. 2 years is an amazing amount of time to be walking around without any marks on my flesh. It has been 6 years since that day. I have been breathing every single day since that one took place.
I am still here. I am still breathing. Sometimes my breathing gave way to sobs. Sometimes my breathing helped me laugh out loud. My breathing helps me sing to my baby daughter. My breathing gets faster when I make love to my fiancé. My breathing is harder when I am sick and the my sweet son brings me a cup of tea and some cold medicine. I can smell the flowers in the vase on the counter. I can hold my breath and swim underwater at the ocean on our family vacation and burst back up into the sunshine and see my love (the one who never put marks on me and never will.) holding the toddler and laughing in the waves and there at the shore my oldest son holds the baby and the others are there in the sand building castles and cities and I am grateful grateful deeply grateful to be here in this moment. In every moment this life has to offer.
This is living. And I am doing it. Not just surviving, but thriving. Planted someplace new now, blooming.
Take a look around. This is home. This is family. I am safe. Take a look around. And BREATHE.
If you, or someone you care about, is currently in a domestic violence relationship of any type (male or female, abuse knows no gender.) and you or a friend/family member need help, please call The Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) This number is open, free and available 24-7. You can also go to http://www.thehotline.org/.