In a past relationship, I experienced abuse. The first time he physically abused me, he bloodied my nose by back handing me in the car because I argued with him. He scolded me saying it wasn’t that bad and that I was being dramatic. Then came the mind games.
He kept saying that my family was against him and talked badly about him, that no one liked him, and I never defended him; when there was never any talk of him and if there was it was never to me. Alienating was next - he found fault with all my friends, family and even our church. If he felt threatened in any way you could be sure he would try all he could to destroy that person. We struggled constantly with his family as well, and things just kept escalating.
Then it was finances; he worked off and on but not with a steady job and it was always someone else’s fault. I have always worked since I became pregnant at 16, and he controlled the money. He would say I couldn’t do it right or didn’t know what I was doing, and when I did pay a bill and paid it on time, he would get angry. He would draw out money from the bank and I never saw it, only to find out when we would get disconnect notices for bills, which he would say was my fault. I couldn’t buy personal care products without being ridiculed or told it was ridiculous that I had to have the basic needs anyone should have. I would tell him that I work in a professional environment I need these very basic things. I didn’t know how to do anything according to him. He would say that my mom taught me nothing, I couldn’t clean or cook right; that I couldn’t have mother-daughter conversations with my girls because I babied them too much.
My life was constant chaos and I had to learn to turn off my feelings completely in order to survive and try to live in peace. I kept it all inside or I would journal. He found my journal one time and said that if I died they would have him arrested because I made him look like a monster. This is the same man who who got angry while going on a float trip, when I couldn’t lift the canoe into the water and he told me that if I didn’t stop being a baby he would just take a rock and bash my head in. I’ve forgotten a lot of things because that is how the mind is - it protects you. But your heart doesn’t listen as easily. I was broken, alone, scared and all I knew to do was pray constantly to allow myself to be a good person and my girls to be good people and make good choices. One day I finally made the decision to leave and I told him I’m leaving. The last thing he said to me was, “Tell the girls and your mom and sister they finally got what they wanted....you have listened to them and let them win.” I walked out that day with the clothes on my back and my soul set free.
That’s the thing with abuse - it takes a tole on a person where you can just completely break down and you learn how to go through life... you hide it, you feel ashamed that you’ve allowed yourself to be in that situation, you’ve allowed your family to be exposed to that, and so you just stay because it’s just easier; because then you get out and you hear people say things like, “I don’t know why she stayed”, or “Well she doesn’t look like she’s abused”, and it’s all put back on the one that’s being abused, instead of the abuser, and that’s probably a lot of why I stayed. Do not judge a person who leaves an abusive situation, and certainly do not say to that person, “Why did you stay?”, or “You seem so much smarter than that.”, or “I would never allow my children to be exposed to that.” Many women do not leave because this is exactly the statements and questions we hear and why in a twisted way, it’s easier to stay than to leave and be judged in addition to all of the other issues that come up. I’ve been asked, “Why don’t you cry?”, and I’ve been told that I haven’t grieved enough or cried enough.....and to those people I say that I’ve done all of that for the years we were together. I’ve cried and grieved enough and now years later, finally my heart and soul is free to smile. I pray for him, I truly do, and I hope he finds his peace.
There were little things along the way but I think I just told myself, “It’ll get better, it’ll be okay, I’ll just work through this.” You know, we’d sit down and we would talk and he would cry, say he was going to do better and that he would go to counseling. Then maybe it would last for a couple of weeks or something and then we would be back in that cycle again - just constant chaos. So I didn’t know what my life would be like without the chaos. I just learned how to live in it and deal with it.
I think that hope is possible for anybody, regardless of the situation. There’s always hope in everything... I think it’s how you approach situations and life. I would never tell anyone that any situation is hopeless. I think it takes an open mind, and open heart and forgiveness, which is one thing that comes to mind when I think about hope. I forgive him totally. And it’s taken me years to get to that point. Even though I’m no longer with him, I forgive him.
I do believe that we all have choices to make and I feel that every person in life comes to a certain point in their life - whether that’s as a teenager or an older adult - that you can make a choice to go right or left. And once you make that choice to go the wrong way, it’s always possible to have hope and turn around and go back the other way, but you have to make that choice to do that. It can be very hard - I’m living proof it can be done. So in every situation, learn from it, grow from it, and just be a better human and try to share that with other people.
Today, I’m doing really good. I mean, I have my days... it’s the first time I’ve ever lived by myself so it’s strange and scary now to live on my own, and live every aspect of life that every adult experiences, even as simple as having the oil changed on my car. Having those everyday life skills without dealing with constant chaos. Now it’s been years since I left and some days it is a daily struggle. You know, some days I still have those thoughts, like, “Well you know maybe it wasn’t as bad as what I’m thinking in my head.”, and then I’m quickly reminded that it may not be as bad as other people’s situations, but I made the right choice.
I think living life to the fullest is every day waking up and being a better version of yourself than you were yesterday...and never compromising whatever belief that you have for anybody or anything. Just take every day and enjoy it. This world has some awesome people in it and I don’t think we take enough time to really stop and disengage from social media and just sit, be still and quiet, and just listen to things around you...just enjoy life, and the outdoors and flowers and dogs and babies, and you know just everything.
My dream for my future would be to have my family and friends close. Also my dream would be to have some education starting at even middle school level for girls of what a healthy relationship should look like, and learn to not continue the cycle they see adults struggling in. I would love to see a community outreach around that, or something in the schools or some kind of education about that.
This story was prepared, written and submitted solely by Michelle in her personal capacity. The content and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of 7 Billion Ones, Randy Bacon Photography and/or any members or associates of these organizations