You know that feeling of familiarity? It is comforting and warm. It can be anything from a homecooked meal to the scent of your grandmothers perfume. It can be something wonderful like a place, a person, an item or a meal, but it can also be something dangerous and toxic. Familiar is not always good.
For so many years my heart and my body were in a state of chaos. Conflicting emotions, an unstable and hostile environment, anxiety was my closest friend. But what took a while to understand since being free, is that this chaos was actually comfortable to me in that it was familiar. I knew how to survive in it. I knew how to live with the certainty that I was going to get hurt. Even with all the pain, at least I knew what to expect. It was familiar. I wish people would understand this about victims of abuse. Sometimes it is hard for us to get past the hurdle of leaving our abuser because it has become our only sense of security. It is the only familiar thing in our lives. Chaos. We don’t know how to exist with out it.
Women who come out of or are trying to come out of an abusive relationship can be misunderstood as hysterical or crazy. They don’t make sense in a world where everyone else exists in relative calm and logical thinking. They might not be able to see past the scary idea of being on their own because they no longer know who they are without the abuser. Their world does not make sense without the gaslighting, accusations, doubt, threats or the constant pit of fear in their stomachs. There is a sense of guilt, shame and doubt when they step out on their own, this takes a very long time to overcome.
Victims of abuse, especially long term abuse, need constant affirmation that they are doing the right thing. That they are loved, that they are capable of making a new life for themselves. They need the wisdom of a good trauma therapist, they need financial help, practical help, and lots of time to process everything. They need to not feel rushed to “get over it” or “move on” or “just forgive”. They don’t believe in themselves, they desperately need others to believe in them and walk with them through all the murky waters of healing. It can be exhausting walking along someone like this. I should know, I exhausted a few friends to the point of no return. I don’t blame them, it is a long weary road. It takes incredible patience, love and a willingness to be repetitive and constant for someone who is suffering with CPTSD or other trauma related issues. I am eternally grateful for my tribe of friends and family who have so patiently walked this path with me.
But, while to road to healing is long and seemingly impossible, you eventually start to see little pieces of hope. And as always, I want to focus on that hope because it is all that really matters.
Normally, whenever I have to return to my hometown for the children’s visitations with their dad, I get a knot in my stomach. The whole weekend is filled with anxiety, fear of running into him, fear of him stalking me, fear of what he will do or say. A flood of mixed memories fill my mind. Some memories so sweet, like birthing my two babies or going on incredibly beautiful hikes…but more often the memories of crying myself to sleep next to a drunken man who had threatened to take my children from me, or memories of being called names and being monitored at all times take over. His voice in my head my constant companion.
But this weekend, for the first time in a very very long time, I drove up to my little mountain town and experienced no anxiety. Instead I felt homesick. Homesick for the friends and the town that I have loved for nearly 20 years. For once, my abuser was not in the forefront of my mind. He was a blimp on the map. I am finally able to see him for what he is. A coward and a bully. While he had me believe for so long that he was powerful and smarter/better than me, I now (finally) see the truth. His power was instilling fear and knowing how to inflict pain to my soul. His power was words and threats. But I have taken that power away from him now. I have proven that I will not back down when it comes to protecting my sons. I have proven that he does not determine my worth. He no longer has power over me.
I can’t believe it has taken almost 2 years to get to this point. Two years that have felt like an eternity. Two years of constant hard work and therapy and tears.
Sometimes his words still hurt, and his voice is still very strong in my head, but I am free from the fear.
So this weekend I got to actually miss my home, yet truly know in my heart that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. The boys and I needed a fresh start, a new home. We need my family around us. We did the right thing by moving away, I am just thankful that we still get to go back every once in a while, and from now on I will be able to focus on the good memories made there.
The place where both my sons accepted Christ and we baptized, the place I went to bible school, the place I have met some of the most amazing people, the place I found a job, the place I have hiked for endless miles, the place I came face to face with God’s goodness.