The comfort of not knowing ~Ivory~

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.

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6 thoughts on “The comfort of not knowing ~Ivory~

  1. So one of my very best friends went through this. Myself and our other BFF had literally no idea. At that point in time we were divided by distance and all busy with hectic and clashing schedules, so it was rare we got to properly catch up.

    We talked about it afterwards, this other BFF and I, and felt so incredibly guilty – how could we have not known what was happening? How could she have been going through this without us realising? Were we neglectful in our friendship? Had we missed some sign or hint from her that she was trying to give us in order that we could know what was happening and try and help?

    I don’t know.

    • The thing with being in a relationship like that is that you don’t even know yourself what’s happening. I don’t believe you were neglectful or that there were obvious signs you should have seen. And even if you had done something, your friend would probably have brushed it off or explained it away somehow. Denial is such a massive part of what is wrong with those kinds of relationships.

      The important thing for me (and for your friend) is that we had friends around to help us pick up the pieces afterwards. That was when I learned who my true friends were – the ones that mourned with me and held my hand on that long and messed up road to recovery. The ones who stuck around even when I was distant and lacked affection. The ones who believed me when I admitted what was wrong instead of giving me some version of “but you’re so [smart/articulate/middle class/pretty/whatever] so there’s no way this could have happened to you”. It was my most loved friends that gave me a reason to live again, to grow from strength to strength, to learn love and not be afraid of it. Being angry with them was such a small part of the massive and overwhelming love I have for them that I hadn’t realised until today that I was still holding onto it.

      Believe me when I say that it’s my most loved friends who have given me the strength and tools I need to deal with this situation now and I hope I handle it with even half the grace, panache, kindness and love that they did.

  2. Wow. What an incredible realization. Letting go of that anger is almost a universal theme, applicable across the board to so many traumatic ordeals we go through as human beings. I think it’s normal for at least a small part of you to be angry, whether it’s misguided or right on point. And what I’ve found regarding forgiveness, anger and lingering pain is that those negative feelings will rear their ugly head now and then. Do we ever truly get over things? Or do we simply come to a more comfortable place, make peace with it as best we can, and find some serenity in the time and distance away from that period of our lives? There will always be something or someone to put us right back to that dark place, but that’s ok. Even if it is forgiven, it cannot be forgotten, and that includes the pain.

    • You’re right – it’s one of the things I struggled with most after I got out. I thought I’d be right as rain after a few weeks of counselling and a new life situation, but something that traumatic stays with you your whole life. The anger and pain does pop up at the most unexpected moments. I think we make peace. I think we accept. I think we forgive. I think we learn from it and in some cases even learn to be grateful for the lessons we learned from it. But you’re right – we never forget.

  3. I still have that anger creeping up from time to time. Why couldn’t anyone see how much I was suffering. Why didn’t anyone stop it.

    I never thought about it like this before. It is a horrible feeling to see someone going through abuse and the worst part is not knowing what to do. Eish.

    I need to let go of this as well. It’s so weird how I can forgive myself and my abuser but still be angry with everyone on the sidelines….

    • It takes a lifetime to learn to let it all go. There are pieces of anger you won’t even realise you’re holding onto until much later and in some cases I think it’s okay to be angry with those on the sidelines. There are some people I’m still angry with after all this time for not believing me when it all came out. It’s a totally pointless anger and serves nothing except the perpetuity of distance between us, but I can’t let it go yet. Maybe one day…

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