It’s been almost seven years since God set me free and I can see my journey finally coming to an end. This season has been a time for grieving and a time for healing, a time of mourning and a time of laughter, a time of tearing down and a time to rebuild — and now the time has come for moving on.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; 11
When my journey of healing began I never thought I’d feel normal again, whatever normal is I suppose. Perhaps a better word is — healthy.
As I’ve been walking towards healing after too many years of losing myself in a life of abuse something interesting has happened — a new person has begun to emerge. A big part of my healing has been about rediscovering me — or what many describe as ‘finding yourself’. Grieving and healing is a gradual process and we don’t often see the change happening immediately, until one day something seems different. And that is what happened a few weekends ago when something I said sort of jolted me — one of those ah-ha moments — making me stop and take notice of the person I’ve become.
I’m a different person.
Others have noticed and commented on it too. I’ve been told I appear more confident, seem stronger and definitely happier. What is happening on the inside is apparently showing up on the outside. That person whose identity disappeared in the pit of abuse for over two decades has slowly transformed into someone I never knew myself to be.
I no longer continuously doubt myself nor stress over every little thing nor live in a constant state of worry. My heart is joyful, there is contentment in my soul, and I’m much more discerning no longer worrying about disapproving looks or comments.
My healing did not happen overnight though. It’s been a long, slow, and at times, painful process. The road leading me out of abuse has been full of potholes, speed bumps and detours, yet also filled with many lessons along the way. One thing I’ve learned is that healing cannot be rushed. It takes time, patience and finally, acceptance to allow the work needed to heal the gaping wounds which abuse leaves behind. And I’ve also learned that a person is never the same after abuse. Once the wounds are scarred over, the healing complete, we are different. We are not the same person we once were. You see, every step we take in this life transforms us. Every road we walk leads us to where we are today — right here, right to this very minute in time — right to where God already knew we’d be.
And my journey through abuse has brought me to the life I have today. It has transformed me in a way that perhaps I never would have been otherwise. But isn’t that how life is? A forever evolving transformation molding and shaping us. No matter what it is we walk through, no matter where our journey takes us — we never stay the same.
In 1989 I married a man whom I knew deep down was not the best choice. I stayed because honestly, I was scared I’d be alone — or maybe it was just too hard to think of looking for someone else. The night I made the critical decision to stay would sometimes come to haunt me over the following years. But as I now realize, things always work out and despite what went on in that marriage I have two wonderful sons I wouldn’t trade for the world, and my life today is a direct result of all I walked through in those twenty years.
I never thought to use the word abuse in the beginning and it took me years later, perhaps close to ten years into the marriage before I could say it.
Was I ever hit? No. Was I beat down? Yes. Over and over for years. Verbal, mental, and emotional abuse, eventually with spiritual abuse being thrown into the mix. I was never good enough. I certainly wasn’t pretty enough and told often. I didn’t look as beautiful as his first love whose photo I discovered he’d kept in a box all those years and our neighbor’s wife was a much nicer person I often had pointed out to me. I was never competent enough or smart enough. Instead of offering help he mocked; instead of love he poured out sarcasm and anger; and instead of kindness he gave self-satisfying smirks.
My feelings were of no importance. If I was sad he was mad. If I was upset he was mad. If I was slow to do something he was mad. If I was indecisive he was mad. If I was hurt he was mad. If I was happy he was, well, mad. And if I was mad — he was suddenly the poor victim.
They say before marrying someone who has been married before to talk with their ex to get a clearer picture of that person. I should have talked with the woman he was briefly married to before me. Interestingly, this came up one day with my youngest son and he quizzically looked at me saying how his dad had told him he’d never been married before. How odd that out of the blue a parent would tell their child they’d never been married, especially when they had. The night of that critical decision of staying or leaving was the night my ex insisted I meet his ex-wife. I was less than thrilled and that made him mad. He snubbed me all evening while chatting with his ex-wife and best friend whom he had also invited over. And after the two had left my ex continued giving me the silent treatment. Once in our relationship, I believe before we were married, he off-handily made mention of how his ex-wife had been the abusive one — backing him up against the wall and pounding on his arms leaving bruises. I always thought it strange how he shared that with me but as time progressed I would often get this image in my mind of how it must of really been — he antagonizing her with his snide cutting words all the while smirking at her until she finally blew and let him have it. Only twice that I remember in twenty years did I let him have it, not with my fists but definitely with my words.
It’s funny, while some memories have a way of growing so dim and blurred you can barely remember them, there are some which remain so sharp and clear they never seem to go out of focus. And one of them for me was on the day after our first son was born. Sitting in the hospital bed, exhausted and trying my best to care for this little person, my ex stood there criticizing my attempts to breastfeed — if only I didn’t hold him that way he mockingly scolded me, how did I think our son could nurse like that. The tears were ready to burst forth when in walked the nurse to offer support. My ex began letting her know how he’d tried telling me what I was doing wrong when suddenly that nurse shot him a look so harsh it made him shut his mouth and slink out of the room — and truly, if looks could kill, he wouldn’t have made it to the door.
Over the years I knew that other people saw it too, but no one ever spoke up. No one ever defended me or put him in his place, and I think that’s when I begin reasoning away his behavior. I would tell myself I was too sensitive or couldn’t handle criticism or take a joke. I put the blame on me for what he did. No wait — that was him who told me those things, but it was me who came to believe them.
Like everyone else around us, I never held him accountable for his own crap and he never took responsibility. He placed the blame on me, just like how I was to blame for our son not wanting to nurse. Everything was my fault. How he reacted, how he responded, how he treated me and our sons — it was our fault. At least that’s what was shoved down my throat so many times I came to believe that I was responsible for his actions and behaviors.
Have you ever been told to forgive and forget? I find it interesting that Christians especially like to use that phrase even when it’s not found in the bible. Of course we are commanded to forgive, and not just forgive but forgive seventy times seven. Forgiving someone for their wrongs against us is simply a way of setting ourselves free from bitterness and anger, and stepping aside to allow God to deal with that person. Forgetting on the other hand would be foolish because every thing we experience in this life is a lesson we learn from. It’s not that we should walk around for the rest of our lives dwelling on what happened to us or wallowing in self-pity, but rather we should learn from our experiences in order to not repeat the past. And the way to learn is through remembering.
My ex used to spat at me how I could never forget anything — well, yeah, he was right. I did remember very vividly how he treated me and our sons, and I could recall with great detail every word which cut to the bone. How could I not remember? You do not forget when someone treats you with malice and a lack of empathy, especially when you live with that daily. But I often felt I needed to learn to let things go and needed to stop dwelling on what happened and just sweep it away. After all that’s what he told me — and unfortunately for me, what many others told me too.
But then I would remember — I would remember that nurse and the disgusted look she threw at my ex as he attempted to get her to side with his criticism of me. And although she didn’t say a word her knowing look spoke volumes. That memory which remained so vivid in my mind over the years helped to keep me grounded in reality. When I would question myself, when I would silently chastise myself for getting upset over ‘nothing’, the memory of that nurse would play loud and clear in my mind and for that instant I knew it wasn’t just me. Someone else had once seen it too and had the courage to let him know how wrong he was.
Twenty years took it’s toll on my heart and soul. I had become someone who was so doubtful of everything, worrying constantly day in and day out, to the point of losing sight of who I once was. Actually, I worked hard at being someone different, someone better — someone who was not me. Because that person was never good enough. I spent years trying to keep the peace, trying to make peace, trying to find peace — if only I were different there would be peace I reasoned. In the months before my ex walked out on me in 2009 with some grand fanfare to supposedly save our marriage I had become a shell of a person. I wasn’t living life, life was just swiftly moving right on past me while I felt like I was standing still and becoming invisible. I had all but basically given up. I reprimanded myself often that perhaps I just didn’t have enough faith in God to fix my marriage or that all I really wanted was to just leave because it was too hard.
But then something strange and truly amazing happened — he left. God had set me free. And things started to change in my life.
Healing began to take place on that day almost seven years ago, but it wouldn’t be until years later I would finally notice it. Healing is a strange thing because it happens in it’s own time, at it’s own pace. There is no time frame for healing. It is dependent on many factors, but eventually it does happen. And one day something seems different. The wounds are less tender and noticeable — and it becomes obvious, healing is taking place.
And that’s how it was a few weekends ago, while my sister-in-law and I stood in my newly decorated kitchen and she complemented me on having a good eye for decorating. I simply replied that I’d never thought that about myself before and went on to say how I’m much more discerning and patient these days, not rushing into decisions but taking my time until I’m happy with something. I don’t worry about making mistakes but feel more confident to dive in and just do it. And as my words filled the air between us, I felt as if I were hearing someone else say them. I wanted to look around and ask who was this person not fearful anymore of doing something wrong or being criticized? Who was this person so sure of herself and capable of making decisions?
After my sister-in-law left, I stood in the middle of my kitchen smiling at what I had created and the most wonderful feeling rushed through my whole being. This was me — I was that person no longer afraid, no longer unsure, no longer walking on eggshells — but healthy and loved. I had finally found myself — or perhaps I’ve been here all along but needed the time to reemerge as I learned to trust again and see that I’m good enough just as I am.
Walking through the healing and grieving which is necessary after years in an abusive marriage hasn’t always been easy. I’ve walked long, hard terrifying steps into an uncertain future and on occasion glanced back scared of being dragged into the past. But just as it always does, time has healed my wounded soul and broken heart. And while my scars remain they are no longer raw painful wounds requiring more healing, but rather gentle reminders of what was and what will never be again.
A dear friend once asked me if I would do it all again — would I walk through everything all over. With a knowing smile I simply said how I used to regret not leaving sooner but the reality is I am grateful for my journey because I would not be right where I am today.
My journey has molded and shaped me into the woman I am and in the end, I know without a doubt the Lord directed all of my steps. As I look back on the ever so dimly memories, I can see how the road which seemed impassable at times was only possible with God leading the way. And as it turns out, I never lacked faith in God doing a miracle, I simply couldn’t fathom how He would do it.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” ~Proverbs 3:5-6
As a new year begins I am wrestling with the decision to shut down my blog. I’m ready to move on to other things and while this blog has been a source of healing for me and a way to connect with other women on similar journeys, I feel it has served it’s purpose and it is time for me to move on.
Admittedly, it’s difficult to let my blog go as I’ve worked hard to develop it and have connected with many people through it, but sometimes, although hard, change is for the best. And don’t I know that!
I would love to stay in contact with anyone who wishes to email me and I pray that those who have been led here, have found the needed encouragement and hope to make the necessary changes to live a full, healthy, happy life. Remember, a life filled with abuse is not life nor is it honoring to God. And although choosing to leave can be hard, I promise, there is abundant life on the other side and you will survive — you will actually thrive like you never thought possible!