Holding on to secrets…and releasing them

Guest post by Candace, survivor and former SafePlace client

My story, like that of any survivor, is hard to share. Should I risk possible embarrassment and judgment from admitting I was in an abusive relationship? Or will it help drive me further into recovery by sharing my voice? During my time at SafePlace, one of the most common concerns I heard from fellow survivors was they had lost their voice. This is absolutely how I felt during my worst times and occasionally still feel when life gets stressful. Though I have moved forward gracefully and happily into a new, powerful life, the doubt lingers sometimes. Am I good enough? Am I choosing the right path? What will people think about it? Today, I am here to brush those worries aside, be brave, and tell my story. I talk about my past partly to release the secrets I’ve held onto for so long and partly to let others know they are not alone. The road to recovery might be winding, but I can still be a whole person even with a broken past.

I was with an abusive partner for about two years. I already had pretty low self-esteem when I met him, but he helped make it so much worse. He treated me like something less than human. He considered himself virtuous and me as a servant, sent to take care of him. I didn’t feel good about myself, so I tried to fix him instead.

I lived my life in fear around him. Fear that I would make the wrong decision, say the wrong thing—anything to tip off his anger. Our physical fights mix together in a blur now, but the fear is something I will never forget. It’s so easy to watch violence on TV and yell to the victim, “run away!” In real life, panic creates paralysis over the body. Each time he put his hands on me, I knew it was already too late. Of course, I still tried to escape, but I had to wait until he finally let me go.

Though my injuries were never life-threatening, I felt like I died a little each time we fought, especially the last time. On that dark day, I knew my life was over. I saw a bright light, and then my soul leapt out of my body and ran through an open door into the sunlight. I knew if I could just catch up, maybe I could survive. I felt such remorse for letting myself get into this situation until something clicked—he was the problem. In the end, I had to make the decision to let him go, permanently.

After my escape, it took several years before I decided to really deal with my abuse. Three years after the last incident, my abuser tried to re-enter my life. I felt myself crumbling away and forgetting how to stand up to him, like I’d done in my head. I knew I couldn’t face this on my own, so I turned to SafePlace. I am so glad to have found an organization focused solely on helping people like me. It was such a revelation to know I wasn’t alone and that complex emotions were common. SafePlace provided me with room to experience my feelings and realize my own power. It was a tough journey, but eventually I saw things change—in my mind and my life. Today, I know that even if doubt sneaks in sporadically, I am still a confident and complete person with a healthy future ahead.

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