The realisation that years of my life were not at all what I thought they were was like suddenly and unexpectedly being drenched from above with a vat full of ice-cold water. Shocking, disorienting, disconcerting… and cold. Nothing changed but my perspective. One last incident of violence, police, leaflets, solicitors, court orders, internet searches…the truth seeped in: this relationship was abusive, characterised by his power and control over me. Splash! I became victim, controlled, abused, unloved, single parent, confused, betrayed.
But it got worse. I can finally chuckle at the moment I realised I had lost me. A friend asked me the most innocuous question: “What colour do you think I should paint my kitchen?” The first thing that sprung to mind was ‘____ would say blue’, and I couldn’t move past that to work out what my own opinion might be. I did not have a clue.
Our preferences and desires form a major part of our personality and identity and consequently affect our decision-making. An abusive man, particularly a headworker, gains power by subtly applying a mental filter through which the actions, thoughts and attitudes of his victim pass. The relationship was over but the filter remained and as I worked to be free of it I found little to replace it. It was like I had been sieved out of myself. I lacked the confidence to trust myself rather than the conditioning. Meanwhile other well-meaning but rather controlling personalities circled like vultures. I had no basis or foundation within myself because I didn’t even know me.
Somewhere along the way I attached myself to Jeremiah 29:11 in the Amplified Bible. It wasn’t an emotional bolt of lightning moment. It was something I believed, identified with and clung to. If it were true, then there was hope for me; a good life ahead and the ability to fulfil whatever plan God had for me despite the mess my life had become. It talked about God’s relationship with me, how He saw me, and the impact that could have on my life. It gave me a foundation and a springboard from which to launch the rest of my life, one day (or fewer) at a time. For a long time it was more like balancing precariously on a dish at the top of a pole than being firmly planted on a mountain-top. But it was miles better than free-fall!
Reconciling myself to God’s ideas about me, and (re)discovering aspects of His nature have been more important to me than the restoration of any natural relationships (which hasn’t happened in case you’re wondering!), and has been my only satisfactory route to peace.
Often, particularly where there has been domestic violence, reconciliation within is a better objective than reconciliation with an abuser, and at any rate is the only place good decision-making and the planning of a good future can come from.
This process did not change me from victim to survivor, instead it freed me from being defined by an experience.
Image by Mihai Tamasila, stock.xchng images.