I find myself in a dark place. I’m taking slow baby steps with my two kids by my side and a crumbling marriage on my mind. I can’t see what is ahead and I cannot wait to make a fire. I do not know how to make one even if I tried. These are strange territories, there is thick darkness all around me, my heart is sinking beneath the weight of the past 6 years, and my mind is screaming all kinds of menace at me. I can barely think!
My body shudders for terror and my hands clench with fear, my kids moan with fright. They grab my hands, each on one side. I can feel their bodies tremble as well, even in this darkness I could feel how the tremor of the horror I felt, crept through my veins into their tiny hands. I drag my two kids closer to myself, I try to take quicker baby steps, but I must go slowly still. I’m feeling the grounds around me for pitfalls; I do not want to end up in some booby trap, not with my babies.
I know I have to make a fire, I need to, so I can see my way in this dark place but the screaming in my head will not stop. It would not let me think. I can hear all the voices of accusation from the last six years, they are growing louder and angrier. How did I get here? How did I find myself at this unfortunate bend? How is it possible, that I am here now, with two toddlers and a fractured marriage, walking blindly through a dark, dark, dark place?
Have I made the right decision to leave? Is this the right thing to do at this stage of my life? To be without a husband and a home? Should my kids be a part of this now at this point of their development? Should I have stayed for their sakes? Should I have bore it all; the verbal abuse, the mental degradation of my self-pride, my self-esteem and my beliefs? Should I have stayed to receive the constant battering of my mind, bore the loss of my self-dependence and self-containment? Should I have let him suck out the life from me so long as he didn’t lift a hand to physically overpower me? Should I have bore it all in silence?
Where does one draw the line between verbal abuse and physical battering? How does one determine the PH value for abuse? When does it cross from alkalinity to acidity? How long before verbal abuse morphs into physical battering? What are the parameters for determining how and when physical battering can lead to maiming or death? When do you take precaution? What is precaution? Is it the loss of faith and belief in the vows that you’ve hung unto for as long as you can remember? How does one condone abuse? Do you shot your ears from without or from within? Without I can hear him call me all these names; he has given me an identity that is tantamount to useless and worthless. Within I can hear the indictment, of self-abasement and self-accusation. So tell me, how do I shut out the accuser? Who is the accuser? Is it my self-absorbing husband or my guilt stricken self?
Daily I am becoming this monster, this monster that he has brandished me, this monster that I have remorsefully nurtured, like a werewolf, I have become this being, and I cannot recognize who I am becoming. My head is swelling with regret and anger and with confusion. My heart pounding with fear and with terror, and frustration, for I became a prisoner in my own home. I thought a woman’s home was meant to be her castle, her palace, her fortress. I thought it was meant to be her citadel, her stronghold, not her jailhouse.
When I look in the mirror, I do so, not to examine the shadow I have become, but to find the girl I once was; that rich, zesty, and centered girl. She held her own and had this strong presence about her. Her voice rang out with gusto and with pride. Her strides, long and assertive with strong athletic feet that bounced with exuberance. Her vision sharp like that of an archer, her bow in one hand, arrows in the other, she had a dream, she had a plan. This marriage was meant to be part of that plan. I stare into this marred image, searching, hoping, weeping. Where has that girl gone? Is she asleep? Did she fall off a cliff and break a limb? Is she badly injured or is she on a journey? Will she be back? Will I still be here when she returns? If she returns, will she find a home or a wasteland? Will she recognize this body to be encapsulated by it? Will she recognize this battered mind to embody it?
After much pondering, I chose liberty above detention. When it came to it, I had to choose my humanity above being a werewolf. I chose my sanity above mental torture and deficiency. I chose this temporal darkness and I reject the artificial lighting of my glorified prison. Permit me to say that I chose life above death; death of who I am — really and truly — my worth, my beliefs, my dreams, my values. I chose my invaluable self. Hence my new creed and statement of belief; I choose my true authentic self even though now, I am only a shadow of that girl. I choose my strong, beautiful, and ambitious self, even though now, all that is left are shards and pieces of what she used to be. I chose my strength, my resolve, my dreams and my pursuit of happiness, even though there is barely a trace of such left.
My heart is wrenching in two places as I walk away from the one whom my soul loves. I can barely contain this feeling, for it is gruesome as well as liberating. I feel pain and I feel joy. How is this even possible? Why does following my dreams have to be so grisly? How can love suddenly transmute to abhorrence? My heart is wrenching, and I feel bloody lumps of flesh fall off and splatter around me as I walk away with a broken heart. Which brings me to the question; am I walking away from love? Am I walking away from what could have been? Or am I walking away from abuse; am I walking away to find safety? Am I walking away for dear life?
One minute I was contemplating jumping off the balcony of my home, the next minute I am scrambling with my kids in one hand and in the other, a dozen fragments of what was meant to be my luggage. I am desperate for life. So I chose to leave through the front gate and not the balcony. I chose a flight to safety by plane, not a leap off the terrace with despondency. After much running, I find myself here, in this dark but safe place. It maybe dark now, but soon, would light up with brightness, and with sunshine from within, like the rising of a phoenix. I know I will find myself again. It may take a while, but look out for me like you would the rising dawn. It is not too long from now.
I do not know where the road ahead is going to bend, but first, I must fight my battles and overcome my demons. I must overpower each of these growling voices within; monsters fighting for my soul, I am certain they will not win. I will yet rise. First I must heal, I must believe again, I must hope again. I must awaken the girl within, I must find my strength. I must choose my life again. I must love my self yet again. I must nurture my dreams again. I must get back on the race. I must run to win. I was born to win.
I don’t know how to fill this hole in my heart but with each step I take towards the light, I remind myself that this walk is not going to last forever. Nothing is cast in stone. Everything is but clay in my hands. I smile. I’m hopeful. I can now see the light ahead. It is like a tiny dot on a thick black blanket. Like a sparkle at the end of a tunnel. If I can hold that image long enough, I know it would emerge anytime now and the light will flood my being again…
…but first, I must fight my battles…
Tell me when, the time we had slipped away,
Tomorrow turned to yesterday,
And I don’t know how…
Tell me what can stop this river of tears,
It’s been building up for years,
For this moment now…
Tell me how the road ahead is going to bend,
And how to harness up the wind,
And how to say goodbye?
Tell me how to fill this space you left behind,
And how to laugh instead of cry,
And how to say good bye?
– Michael W. Smith
“For Vanessa and all the women who suffer abuse in silence. XOXO”