Learning the Purpose of My Story

 

I was raised in a family that had struggled with abusive people in their lives. Yet, I was taught — perhaps unintentionally — that abuse was a shameful thing for the victim to talk about.

“Don’t tell anyone what so-and-so went through — it’s embarrassing.”

“Keep the negative stuff off the internet. You’ll put other people down.”

“No one ever knew that person was having such a hard time. They have such a good spirit for never saying anything. God doesn’t want us to complain.”

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Does anyone see what’s wrong with this concept?

I don’t have this plan of writing this great self-help book or anything like that. I’m not even 100% sure why I let everything out at once when I finally broke up with my ex. Mostly it was my word versus his, I’m not good at talking, and I am definitely the less dangerous person. So, I did the only thing I could to protect myself and just laid pretty much everything out there for everyone I knew to see. And that’s when I learned an important lesson:

DON’T BE AFRAID TO TELL YOUR STORY.

You wouldn’t believe the number of people who came to me in those weeks and months just to say that they’ve been through similar things with an abusive partner or relative. Some of them knew each other for years and never knew that they had this in common. It was shocking really. All because I had done something “embarrassing” by revealing a secret I kept for years.

No wonder the trend of abuse continues the way it has. If you bought a drink that was tainted and made you sick, would you hide it from everyone else? Or would you make sure that everyone knew it was poisoned so that they didn’t drink it themselves?

Why don’t we do the same thing for something that is so deadly? “1 in 3 female murder victims and 1 in 20 male murder victims are killed by intimate partners.”*

Yes there are movements to stop abuse — that’s wonderful — but it doesn’t really seem to hit home until someone you know goes through something awful. And if they keep it a secret, how would you know?

(This was supposed to be a short “aha” moment. So let’s stop the tangent.)

Anyways, one thing I was taught in youth group that stuck with me is that sometimes bad things happen to us so that we can help others who go through the same difficulty.  And the more I heard stories from friends and coworkers and their friends and family, the more I realized that something good can come from the bad by putting my story out there. It had the plus of keeping me sane when I couldn’t tell the difference between my thoughts and his voice in my head.

And guess what? I had a good friend approach me this week because she realized she was in a toxic relationship. Apparently, I was the only person she knew who had gone through something similar. (I’m sure she knows more, but once again, people don’t like to talk about it.) We were able to get together tonight and talk things out. She just needed someone to not judge and validate the decisions she was having to make.

There was a lot of prayer going on the last couple of days! It’s easy for me to talk about what I went through (mostly — there are still things most people will never need to know, and those tend to be triggers anyway), but I’m no counselor! However, I can do my best to be there for my friends. We aren’t all called to be counselors; however we are called to lift each other up (I Thess. 5:11). We at least had a good time of catching up and venting. If anything, those 5 years of pain were worth it if they keep someone else from going through the same — and I truly believe that this is what God wants me to do with my experience.

So tell your story. Don’t be ashamed that you were once a victim. It may be difficult at first. Will it scare some people? Yes. Will some people be offended? Of course. Will it be embarrassing? It can be at times. If you need to do so anonymously, that’s perfectly fine. You should make sure to stay safe. But doing so will do two things — it will help others, and it will help you heal. And those aren’t bad goals at all. 🙂

Story

 

*Bridges, F.S., Tatum, K. M., & Kunselman, J.C. (2008). Domestic violence statutes and rates of intimate partner and family homicide: A research note. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 19(1), 117-130.  http://ncadv.org/images/Domestic%20Violence.pdf

 

Advertisements

Flashbacks and Reminders, part 2

(I meant to write part 2 right away, but life got busy… So here you go.)

When my ex accidentally sent me a friend request on Facebook, I sort of freaked out. It’s been 3 years since I broke up with him, yet he will never get the point. So, I’ve given up and just ignore when he tries to shove himself into my life.

This time, though, I don’t know, I got so angry. And then my mom found out and started messaging me all about him and his continuously expanding arrest record. She was trying to help, but she doesn’t understand. I NEED TO KEEP THAT PART OF MY LIFE AS FAR AWAY AS POSSIBLE.

It’s kind of embarrassing to admit weakness, but even after all this time,  there are parts of me that I struggle to regain control of. Recently,  that’s been my guilt. And the sudden reminders of the past brought it on strong.

I grew up with the guilty treatment being used against me. I was never the most rebellious or independent-acting person because I would inevitably end up feeling guilty about it. By the time I met my ex, I was just used to it.

He used this tactic on me so many times, I just started accepting the blame for everything. He was tired? My fault for running late at work. He stood me up?  My fault for assuming that, after checking 3 times, we were still going out. He got hooked on drugs?  My fault for stressing him out/not telling him not to/being a snob/insert more ridiculous reasons here.

Anyways, I eventually learned that nothing that was happening was really my fault at all. They were HIS decisions and HIS actions. That was a big weight off of me that helped me leave. It’s not something I learned from society… They tend to think differently. Blame-shifting runs just as rampant as always.

Fast forward to this year. Somehow, my guilt complex decided it wanted to come out and play. After hearing about all of his arrests, my guilt started saying, “Maybe he was right. Maybe you gave up on him too quickly. Maybe he wouldn’t be where he is if you had stayed. Maybe he is only doing this cause he has nothing to live for anymore.”

I really had no answer to this. I’m very good at torturing myself with maybes. It wasn’t that I wanted to go back to that at all. It was just me wanting to prevent bad things from happening.

Then I realized… Every single one of these doubts was a condemnation he had used against me when we were still together. These weren’t creations of my over-active imagination; these were inventions of someone who wanted nothing more than to own me.

I can’t feel guilty because I didn’t cause any of this. In fact, I was pretty darn close to the perfect girlfriend. I NEVER said no.

So, I’ve taken ownership of my guilt again. It’s freeing really. No more what-ifs. No more allowing others to control me through guilt. No one is allowed to have that kind of power over me. I’m not perfect, and I’m not really good at not feeling guilty about everything, but I’m trying. And sometimes, that’s all any of us can do.

Flashbacks and Reminders

So, this week has been…um… interesting? I’ve noticed that the more I’m stressed with work, life, etc. the more I tend to have flashbacks and guilt. And the last few weeks have been STRESSFUL! Also, I have had really strange dreams for the last several weeks, and I’m exhausted. I don’t know if the stress is causing the dreams, or the dreams are making me stressed. It’s the chicken and the egg conundrum I guess.

Anyways, my town has movies in the park in May, so I decided to go to the first one. I’ve been going to these for 3 years now. Unfortunately, this time, I ended up waiting for the movie to start for over an hour and then leaving as soon as it started.

I had been waiting for half an hour when these two messy-looking guys came and sat in front of me. One of them was quiet, and the other one wouldn’t stop talking.

The loud one’s behavior started to seem eerily familiar. Then I realized that he was acting EXACTLY like my ex. Loud, boisterous, overly friendly, overly talkative, and making threats disguised as jokes. I immediately realized that, like my ex, he was completely high on at least one drug.

And then I couldn’t get the past out of my head. And I felt my anxiety start rising.

So I checked to see where the event cop was and tried to mind my own business.

Then Loudmouth started drinking. Someone told him he wasn’t allowed to drink without a wristband. Loudmouth started a nonsensical fuss about food stamps, and the guy left him alone.

Loudmouth got louder. Then he brought out the cigarettes…also not allowed. He told his buddy that if the cop came up, he would “bust his skull open.” And then he put his lit cigarette in his nose and stood up in the crowd. He spun around, basically challenging anyone to do anything. Of course no one did.

Anxiety turned to fight-or-flight response.

Loudmouth got louder. His companion even left. So Loudmouth started talking to himself instead. He was even yelling about how he wasn’t dead yet and he couldn’t believe he was gonna do it.

Folks, I’ve seen this many times before. I can guarantee you that right before he sat down in front of me, he took something. He had no teeth – maybe it was meth. Could have been heroine. Could have been a mixture of prescription drugs. All I know is he had a spoon, with his keys, on a necklace. He was freaking WEARING the spoon he uses for injecting himself!

So here we are… me sitting alone with a drunk, wasted addict in his high point… 10 feet away from me.

And I couldn’t find the cop. Anywhere.

And I know better than to rat out someone like that in front of them. Five years of fear knocked that right out of me. So I left. I messaged the facebook page for the group so they could remove the guy, but I wasn’t sticking around. I didn’t even see the first 5 minutes of the movie.

Anyways, it was a learning experience for me. I learned that I can still spot a user in 5 minutes or less. I learned that that kind of behavior causes flashbacks. I learned that I have no patience with that crap (that’s a good thing). And I learned that the rage is still there…I actually visualized hurting the guy. That’s part of the reason I left tonight.

Everyone else noticed Loudmouth and looked away. I couldn’t. It was too much. I want to say that I’m all better. That it’s been almost 3 years, and I’ve completely moved on. In many ways I have moved on, but sometimes, the past hits me hard.

To be continued…

A Pigeon Story

The strangest things can help you in ways you’d never realize. If someone had told me before last night that a pigeon would help me face my fears, I would have laughed. But knowing my life, I should just expect these things.

You see, last week I started following a wildlife rescue called Izzie’s Pond (they do great work. Check them out!). Last night, they reached out to see if anyone could transport a pigeon to their home. Long story short, I didn’t have too much to do anyways and ended up volunteering.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The town where the pigeon was is the very same place I avoid like the plague because that’s where my ex lives. And I do whatever it takes to avoid him even realizing I still exist. This made me a little nervous. But I had that picture of that sad little hungry bird, and I just had to go anyways. But who knew that the pigeon would be located off the same road I drove almost daily for over 4 years to get to that same ex’s house. And I did this ALONE! In the DARK!

Granted, I did play it as safe as I possibly could. But I was afraid to get out of my car, not because I was meeting a stranger to pick up a bird in a box, but because of where I was. I DID get out of my car though (pretty sure pigeons can’t open doors by themselves, lol). And then I high-tailed it out of there 20 mph above the speed limit. But still, I did it. By myself. I needed that. I’ve gotten so tired of anxiety. It will probably always be there. But I do not have to live my life in fear.

And you know what? That pigeon will never have to live in fear again either. What I didn’t tell you was that he is a racing pigeon. Like me, he was “owned” and controlled by someone who didn’t really care about him. The poor thing is emaciated. But somehow, he got free, found some people with half a heart, and will live out the rest of his life fat and happy. And that’s a great ending, don’t you think?

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35