If you haven’t yet, please take the time to read Part Three. This is a multi-part series. A new chapter of my personal experiences will be posted every Monday and Thursday. Disclosure: If you have any form of PTSD, I do not go into the details of the abuse, but I do describe my time in booking.
I refuse to dream of him. I’ve conditioned to my body to obey this one demand.
The night of the altercation, I had a nightmare of what could have been. The blood that could have been spilled. Mine, his. I woke up with the taste of it in the back of my throat, the smell clinging to my nostrils. My hands ached with bruises, both real and phantom. I could still feel the knife in my hand, a terrible reminder of the way my life had gone.
I had a nightmare not too long after that night. He was throwing things at me, screaming at me as I cowered in a corner, shielding my dog. The nightmare didn’t last for more than a couple of moments. I woke up with a hiss on my lips, anger jolting my system. I was betrayed by my thoughts and my mind. I should be safe when I sleep, if not anywhere else.
Every other night when I sleep, his face flashes in my dreams, a cruel trick. My body has been conditioned to wake when I see him, but I won’t fall back asleep simply because I don’t want to tempt my brain into dreaming of him.
Two days after my release, my mother forced me to recall every time he was abusive. And that was just something I wasn’t ready to face. If I kept it tucked away, it didn’t bother anybody. It didn’t hurt anybody. I was my burden and it was one I would gladly seal away. I didn’t want to remember.
The fear was there but so was the embarrassment. I had once been strong. And when he began to hurt me, I was too embarrassed to admit to the world that I had become that woman. That I was allowing a man to knock me down and speak to me as if I wasn’t his equal. I had pretended for so long, I was willing to keep on pretending.
My mother was screaming at me, demanding I let it go, and still I couldn’t. I was tainted. Just being in their home worried me beyond comprehension. I was smearing the good nature of the environment they had built. I had brought that danger to their doorstep. How could I open up and bring even more?
Finally, I gave in.
Remembering it all again, I pretended to be calm in front for my mother. I told her exactly what had happened step by step the night he was arrested. While she kept telling me again and again how she knew there was something wrong with him. How, next time, she would tell me if she thought the next man in my life wasn’t a good guy.
I told her it helped to talk about it. And then I went into my room and cried as silently as possible, so she couldn’t hear me. I felt filthy. I felt dirtier than I had before. Why should I trust myself to start another relationship if she didn’t?
And when we met with the lawyer just an hour later, I had to listen to her use the same lines. I had to watch her speak for me and cry for me. But it was my story, it was my pain. She didn’t deserve to carry it. How could I let her carry it?
I realized she wasn’t the one I was angry with. It was him. He put me in this terrible position. I gave him everything, I loved him like I had never loved another man and he took it and returned it to me with violence and hate.
The ride back home, I kept my head down, put my sunglasses on, and wept in silence. I couldn’t break in front of my parents, not when my mother was falling apart every other day. One of us had to remain strong. We both couldn’t crumble.
And I quickly understood my mother was only trying to protect me and wanted what was best for me. She would do anything to make sure I was safe and that another man could never hurt me again.
It’s getting easier to talk about him, offhandedly.
There are times I don’t even recall I’m bringing him up. And then somebody else will and I automatically shut down. I don’t want to hear other people talk about him. I don’t want to know what they think of him or how they feel about him.
And one day he won’t have that power over me.
Part Five Coming Soon…
Domestic violence is all around you, even if you can’t see it. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience physical violence in their lifetime. If you’re being abused and don’t have the support you deserve, call the hotline where trained advocates will give you the advice you need. You’re not alone. For more information, visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline website here.
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And as always, thanks for reading – Dani