I guess it was about four years ago that I learned October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. It was the same year I became aware of Melissa Dohme, and learned about her escape from a violent relationship. I immediately felt a kinship to this young woman…because she too had survived her partner’s attempt to take her life. Instead of hiding, like I did for more than 20 years, she bravely came forward and told her story, over and over and over again. She stood up in court and spoke at her abuser’s sentencing. She has spoken to groups countless times about her survival, and has become a true advocate for the rest of us. She inspired me to finally speak.
And speak I did. I published my story on this website. Writing about what happened opened the floodgates and allowed me to write about other things, too. Being honest about what I survived allowed me to find solidarity with others who lived through such horrors. I have been thanked for telling my story. I have been told I’m strong for speaking up. I have been privy to stories similar to mine. I wrote not for the accolades and admiration; and not even in the hopes of finding others like me. I wrote because I wanted to heal. I could no longer carry it inside me and hope that the pain would magically pass someday. Getting the story out of my system has been a tremendous help. It’s also shown me who my friends are. Sadly my story has driven a larger wedge between my blood family and I. My family was not a close one, and the fact that they not only didn’t believe me, but didn’t support me drove us farther apart. I have accepted this, but still have to remind myself on a regular basis that my immediate family is harmful. We are mostly estranged by my choice.
So here I am after almost 20 years in a partnership, alone again. It’s a little weird because being alone has brought up triggers I didn’t know still existed. It’s frustrating. Very frustrating. My former partnership was or became unhealthy; even toxic. To remain would have done me more harm than good. Even though I know this in my heart of hearts, that does not make this journey any easier. What’s interesting to me is that recently, all I have wanted to do was go home. And by ‘home,’ I mean the place where I grew up. It is interesting because I vividly recall spending most of the late 80s and 1990 wanting to get OUT of my hometown. Granted, initially getting ‘out’ for me was moving about 30 miles south, but it was far enough. A few years later, I picked up and moved 1200 miles away to a place I’d never even visited before. And the last six months before I returned to New Jersey, I was so homesick I would dream I was back home. The dreams were so vivid that I could smell the bay and hear the ocean waves. And then I finally came home. If you’ve read any of my other writing, you know that my return to New Jersey was anything but peaceful, and I once again left my hometown, eager to get away.
This makes me wonder if I use ‘escaping’ as my way of handling things I cannot face. When I’m upset or angry, my first thought is to run and hide. So in my desire to return ‘home,’ am I once again escaping something I cannot face? Maybe my desire to go home is rooted in the need for familiarity. It’s kind of funny; my hometown has changed so much since I was a resident there; but everything feels familiar when I visit. Or, am I seeking safety? Feeling safe is a priority for me. Physically safe, emotionally safe, mentally safe. Safe to be myself, whether that self is happy and lighthearted, or having a difficult time and in need of support and love. The last several months have been a literal roller coaster of being very happy one moment and then holding back tears the next. I don’t mind showing the world my happiness…but I want to hide when tears threaten to fall. It’s a struggle, and not a pretty one. I still have a hard time asking for help when I need it, and I think it goes back to my need to feel safe. I think that I am afraid to ask for any kind of help and support because I don’t feel safe enough to do so. I also think that because I struggle with asking for help when I need it, I don’t go about it the ‘right’ way. I wish it was easier. It’s hard to admit that you need someone, or you need their support, or perhaps companionship, or even a stupid hug. I mean, it’s hard for me. Is it this hard for everyone else? I question myself on a regular basis, wondering if what I’m feeling and thinking is “normal.” I also wonder if I am looking to the wrong people and in the wrong places for support.