The thing is, most of us post-abuse people don’t talk about it much. It’s so very personal. And it’s also so very – you know – taboo.
You may already be thinking ‘oh no, I don’t want to read about that stuff‘. If so, bog off. Close the door on your way out.
Taboo. Yes. It’s not really the kind of thing you can bring up over afternoon tea, or even after the church service, when they put out the generalised “if you’d like prayer, make your way to the front”. How can you explain, in two neat minutes, that your life as a kid reeled from one terror to the next, with attempts at normality in between (only serving to heighten the terror when it inevitably came again) and most of your adult years succeeded in breaking you into a thousand jagged shards? How do you explain, without everything you battle so hard to keep tamed, so hard to keep from bursting out and spilling over and making such a mess… and making them feel uncomfortable. Dear God the last thing I want is to make someone else feel uncomfortable, because what the heck does THAT say about me – other than ‘welcome to the freak show’?!
What do you do if your personal pain has been so big as to rival a tsunami in its devastation and you know that if you do explain, you fear you’ll simply end up overwhelming them and the last thing you want is pity?
Answer: you don’t say anything. At all. You learn to keep quiet. You keep your own counsel. And you remain stuck.
Except here. On the page. In blog land. Here where it’s not so in-your-face as you read. I can’t see your reaction. You have the space to contemplate and take it all in. I don’t want pity. I would very much, passionately, like to share the realities of living with the fallout of abuse. I would like to share the realities of having to fight, day after day, of having to pick myself up and carry on, of doing my best to be a loving mother despite my head being besieged by ghosts and memories. I want to do this because I know I am not the only one. How many others are there who live this half-life who have never told anyone?
Lately, my nights have been plagued by nightmares. They rise from memories of the past, and are muddled with my life now, and things I have seen, or heard, or read about. My husband, my child says something banal, something utterly innocent, and I react with the visions from the nightmares in my head.
On days like this, it is torture.
What am I trying to say?
Every day is a struggle. Every day I have to fight myself. My instinct is to stay in bed, curled up in a ball. Actually, my instinct is to go and jump off the bridge and into the river and end it all. But I don’t. I try to stop the visions and replace them with new ones. The grace of Christ picks me up and keeps me going. I can’t account for how I get through the day; it is, truly, only by grace.
My dear Frank gets the brunt end, which I hate. Yet I cannot thank him enough. My hero (he has more than earned that title) puts up with so much and yet he still loves me. I wonder if he needs his head examined. I wonder how he could possibly love me? And yet that is what people like me do. We constantly undervalue ourselves. We constantly think of other people’s feelings before our own – even when we’re going through about the shittiest experiences you can imagine. I don’t apologise for the language. I think it is appropriate.
I can rationalise that I am not a piece of human excrement, despite the life experiences. I can rationalise, and by grace each day I get through, each day I succeed at being a good mother, at being kind to my husband’s elderly aunt, kind to the children of strangers, etc., each day I do these things is a day I can look back on with something resembling positivity. Sometimes the rationalising doesn’t work. The nightmares break in, despite my best efforts. When you wake up each day with a head full of horror and muck and nastiness, it is so hard to be normal.
So this is what I want to say, to anyone who is reading this and would like to know how to respond to a person recovering from abuse, be it sexual, spousal or any other kind: please, give them the space to feel what they feel.
Give them support to do what they need to do, say what they need to say.
Let them know they’re wonderful and special and amazing.
Chances are, their head doesn’t tell them those things. Chances are, the voices from the past are constantly dragging them down. They need to hear they are loved and worthy of love – to undo all the years of being treated the opposite. Help them to live one day at a time.
With thanks to East Meets Breast for inspiring this post.