Stop Abuse: The Internal Struggle of Walking Away
We find it so easy to stand outside of a situation and tell others exactly how they should be handling what is happening to them. I know I had no problem telling my friends or family how crazy they were for staying with someone that verbally or physically abused them. I would give them details of exactly what I would do if it were me and I would offer them step by step instruction of how to save themselves. I handed out these words of wisdom as if they were the absolute gospel. I did not have the ability to wrap my mind around why any woman would choose that lifestyle. You can imagine the turmoil that raged within my spirit when I became an abused woman. I had all the answers for every abused woman I had known, so how did this possibly happen to me? How did I go from warrior to victim?
Why Women Deny Being Abused
Studies suggest that 1 in 5 women are involved in abusive relationships. I can only imagine what the actual number would be if every woman admitted to the abuse they endure at the hands of a loved one. There are two very distinct stages of denial. First, the woman is in complete denial about the abuse. There is no admittance to anyone, including herself, that she is being abused. The second stage of denial is where the woman admits to herself what is happening but she still refuses to let anyone else know what really goes on behind closed doors.
Women have a variety of reasons for denying what is happening to them. Some of the most common reasons are pride, fear, salvation, and stability. That list probably sounds strange to you. I know those are words that are associated with mostly positive things so it is peculiar to hear that they could be reasons to deny abuse. Let me go more in depth with my personal experience with each one.
I was the friend that everyone turned to in their times of need. I was the 'strong woman.' I valued how my friends looked at me and I didn't want to do anything to jeopardize what they thought or felt. My sense of pride wouldn't allow me to even suggest that there was any type of storm brewing at home. I would let everyone down and ruin my 'strong woman' image if I even hinted at any type of trouble in my relationship.
Naturally, I had fear of what he would do if I ever told anyone but my fear was more about what other people would think. Would anyone even be able to truly help me? How would they come up with a solution that I couldn't think of myself? Would they secretly love the fact that the 'strong woman' was now struggling and in need of help? What scared me more than anything was giving power to what was happening to me. In my mind, words have power. Therefore, I would give a new life to the situation and I would never be able to fix it if I actually said those dreaded words....I'm being abused.
I could find a way to fix everything on my own. That's what I did in life, I fixed people. He loved the part of me that understood him like nobody else could. He loved that I listened to his heartbreaking stories from his childhood. He told me how much he needed me and he had searched for me his entire life. How could I possibly let anyone know that he was hurting me? I couldn't. What I needed to do was save him from himself. I had to fix all of his broken pieces and make him the great man I knew he could be. I would be his salvation and he would find an even deeper love for me once I brought out all the potential I seen in him.
He was already taking care of me. I was even able to quit working and stay at home. He had jealousy issues that played into the decision of me not working but that's only because he didn't want to lose me to some other guy. After all, he's been cheated on and hurt before so I had to understand his fears. Things are rough right now and he's hurting me but it will get better. I don't even have any money any more and I can't go back home. Where would I go? See, I can't talk to anyone because they're going to pressure me to leave and they won't understand how much he needs me. He provides my stability and I can't lose that just because I haven't given him what he needs to change. I just need to try harder and everything will be great again.
Fixing Your Abuser Is Destroying You
It became my mission in life to save my abuser. I was going to find the cure for him and his anger. I knew that eventually I would do or say the perfect thing that would magically turn him back into the man I met. I was going to save him and our relationship. I was going to be the one to beat all the odds. Little did I know that I'd be killing small pieces of myself along the way.
I researched all of his symptoms and I found that not only was I dealing with an abuser, I was also dealing with a narcissist. My life was entirely consumed with my desire to save him. I spent all of my energy trying to find a magical solution that does not exist. I never stopped to see what was happening to myself during this process. I simply longed for his healing. I would twist our good days together into signs of hope. I would not allow myself to see the situation for what it really was and I would not accept that these wonderful times with him were just part of his cycle of abuse.
The beautiful times together became more and more fleeting as our relationship went on. Good days for us no longer existed. We may have acceptable moments but our relationship and the word 'good' no longer belonged in the same sentence. I was having anxiety attacks on a regular basis and I dreaded looking at the clock and knowing it was time for him to come home from work. I struggled to put on a smile for anyone, including my son, because I felt completely broken and defeated. My mind and spirit were tired and I just longed for peace that never existed in my living hell.
I struggled with depression, anxiety, and a generalized fear that I was losing my sanity. My days teetered between non stop crying and overwhelming sadness, to days of not feeling anything at all. I had tried everything possible and there was nothing that made this man happy. There was nothing that saved me from his abusive nature. I was completely broken and I struggled with daily life, I struggled to get out of bed of a morning. The thought of suicide was always in the back in of my mind. I had allowed him to have complete power over my life and I had allowed him to kill pieces of me; one word, one bruise at a time.
You would think by now that I would have had enough and I would gladly go to a shelter to escape him. Yet, there was still a small voice inside of me that said I had to stay with him and make things work despite my mental health deteriorating and my utter and complete state of misery. My relationship with him had caused me to hurt everyone close to me, including my son. How could I cause my son pain and not find a way to make this work out? What if my abuser's change was just around the corner and I walked out? Some other woman would get the greatness that I deserved and that was completely unacceptable to me.
Leaving Your Abuser
You know you deserve more in life than what your abuser is giving you. You know that being alone is better than being hurt on a daily basis. You have fantasized about a life that does not include being screamed at, verbally and physically attacked, humiliated, and unhappy. The question is how do you make that fantasy a reality? Is there even an ounce of strength left inside of you to take that first step in leaving?
I know you feel like it is just easier to stay with him because the mere thought of starting over is utterly exhausting. The problem is, if you stay, the situation alone gives you a slow and torturous death. Parts of you have already died. You are not the same person you were before enduring his abuse and chances are you will never be that person again. What you fail to realize is that you do not need to be the person you were before abuse. The person you were prior to this is exactly why you wound up tolerating such unacceptable treatment from another human being. The last thing you need to be is the person you once were.
I had to have a long talk with the people that truly loved me to know that it was acceptable for me to walk away from my abuser. I could feel the strength inside of me begin to increase after I heard that they would be delighted for me to leave him. They forgave me for the pain that my relationship had caused them and all they wanted was for me to be safe and happy again. This was the spark I needed to walk away from one of the worst things I had ever experienced.
I knew that I had changed and the journey ahead was not going to be easy. I also knew that it could not possibly be as difficult as the road I had been on. I was still with him but I began to reach out to community resources for abused women. I found a counselor that I was able to talk to over the phone to help navigate the roller coaster of emotions I had to deal with. I now researched how to leave my abuser instead of how to fix my abuser. I was investing my energy into a better future for myself and I was increasing my strength one day at a time.
I came to the realization that even though a part of me still felt sorry for him and wanted him to be better, I had to leave that piece of me behind for my own well being. The day finally came that I ended the relationship. He did everything in his power to lure me back in. He made empty promises of change, he threatened me, he cried, he screamed. The difference was that I was now full of knowledge about what was happening to me and I could see right through his tactics to drag me back in.
I gave him a part of me that I will never get back. I've also come to accept that it was a part of me that needed to be given away. I had harbored things from throughout my life and they led to me being the perfect victim for an abuser. So, he can keep that part of me because I definitely don't need it.
The internal struggle that abuse victims face is often the most difficult thing to deal with. You have a battle within yourself between what you wish could possibly happen and what you know needs to happen. You have to realize what is going on within yourself and you have to know that it is perfectly natural to feel the things that you do. If you begin to invest your energy into yourself instead of your abuser, you will find your strength has been there all along. You have the capability to escape this life and be happy again. Only you can save yourself from your abuser. As I always say, "You had no choice in becoming a victim but you do choose how long you remain one."