I had an insight today that staggered me. Every now and then things happen that reminds me that I’m not as far forward in my progress as I think I am. In many ways, recovering from domestic abuse is like recovering from alcoholism. The temptation to believe your own bullshit and kid yourself that you’re okay is always there. I wouldn’t be the first woman to fall off the wagon and I can guarantee I won’t be the last.
Down in the deepest, darkest, snarliest and most messed up parts of my psyche, I was holding onto an anger that I couldn’t let go of towards the people that I love. It was stupid. I forgave my abuser a long time ago. I forgave myself for letting it happen to me. I’ve made my peace with so much of what happened and even learned to be grateful for a lot of it because of the woman it has made me today. But I just couldn’t let go of that anger.
Why was I angry? Because I felt like someone who knew me should have seen what I was going through and helped me. Someone should have rescued me. Someone, anyone, should have seen that I was hurting and told me what was happening because I was too blind to see it for myself.
It’s probably the most irrational anger I’ve ever had, especially since I’m now aware that the vast majority of my friends and family didn’t have a clue what was going on. I’d always been introverted and moody – they assumed my withdrawal and isolation was some sort of extension of that, especially since we’d always seemed so “normal” on the outside. Not one of them had a clue what was going on behind closed doors and I can’t blame them for that because I was one of the two main proponents, albeit unwittingly, of that deception. I thought I’d made my peace with that anger. I thought I’d let it go. I thought I’d forgiven the people I love for not taking a second or third look at my increasing withdrawal and isolation.
Turns out I was wrong.
Something happened today where I found out that someone I love very much is in a relationship that sets off every alarm and warning bell in my brain. Honestly, it’s like a crazy jangling nerve-screaming siren-fest in my head right now. The behaviour of that person’s partner over a consistent and lengthy period of time is so classically abusive that it could have been lifted straight from a Domestic Abuser’s Manual.
I’ve never felt so helpless in my life.
Before you assume that this is some passive aggressive means of communicating to this person that there’s something wrong in their life, you should know that they never read the blog and will never see this. I just feel I owe it to myself and to the survivors that have spoken to me about their experiences to be as open and honest as I can about my own processes, as I promised you all I would be from day one of my journey as an author.
So why do I feel helpless? I feel helpless because I know now, only too well, that the only person that can help this person is themself. There is absolutely no-one that can help them, not even me, until they are ready to ask for help. If someone had said to me all those years ago that I was a victim of domestic abuse, I’m not sure I’d have believed them. It was only making that realisation for myself that gave me the strength to walk away and rebuild my life. There is nothing I can do. Nothing. And all that keeps going through my head is this:
I am so glad that no-one knew what I was going through.
All that anger that was clinging like a leech to my insides has suddenly evaporated because I know now that knowing what was happening to me back then would have caused unbelievable hurt to the people around me and forced them to feel as helpless as I feel right now. Knowing would have fixed or changed absolutely nothing because I wasn’t ready to make that change. On balance, the guilt that they felt for not knowing seems a small price to pay for missing out on the hurt of knowing.
So, to my friends and family, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I’ve been angry with you for all this time. I’m sorry that I couldn’t let it go.
My name is Ivory and I am a survivor.