Apr 1, 2011

Vanilla Ice Cream

The day I come home bleeding, standing sideways
against the door, my roommate buys a carton
of ice cream at the store and declares this the day
she loved something other than chocolate. i'd cleaned
it up before she carried her plastic bag inside. wiped
the tiny crimson polka-dotted trail up the wooden
steps and to the bathroom clean. i'd sat there for three
whole minutes. for another hour after that. staring.
holding the frosted bar of soap in one hand
until it fell against the tub, watching the chalky trail
it made as it swooped along the basin and settled quietly
by the drain, and I couldn't help but to
picture the artistic moment it must be. the sunlight,
pouring in the window as if it were a warm day,
as if the sun had my permission to shine in this room
that was meant to be dark, the cross-like shadow
of the window pane hanging crooked
on the opposite wall. and me, the faint trails along my face
to match the bathtub as it dried. 'This is a special day,'
she said after she took a bite of the bright white

ice cream with a plastic spoon. 'I never thought this day would come.'

Mar 1, 2011

What About The Person I Used To Be? Do I Ever Get Her Back?

One of the saddest things about abuse is that even after you get out of the abusive situation, or away from your abuser--if you are lucky enough to do so-- life doesn't just go back to the way it was beforehand. It's not like waiting out a thunderstorm so that you can play outside again...even when the clouds move on and the sun shines, life doesn't continue the way it did before the storm. Instead, surviving abuse is like getting through a storm, only to find that the dark clouds move from the sky around you, to form a squall within your own head. 

For me, through the worst parts of the abuse, I simply prayed to stay alive. I prayed to live through the day, through the night, through another week until I could make it to the day when I got my life back. I was one of the fortunate ones. I did get out. I got away from my abuser. And I got back to my life, only to find that when I did, I was no longer in it. 

The person I had been before; the happy kid, the carefree and wild and innocent girl who wore bright orange spandex to field hockey practice the first day the temperature dropped below 30 degrees and pretended to fall flat on her face while walking in the middle of a crowded mall because her best friend bet she wouldn't; the girl with that huge, ridiculous smile on her face that radiated from her fingers to her toes.....she was gone. Looking back, I watch the process: the slow stripping of confidence, the way my abuser etched away at the strong personality I was unaware anyone could touch, piece by piece, combined with my own desperate attempt to rid my body of any semblance of feeling, all burying me as far away as possible and leaving nothing more than an empty shell to take my place. 

I'm not sure, really, where the weight of the destruction lies for each individual victim. For me it was shame. Shame; that shut me up, that kept me smiling just the way I had always smiled, and forbid me from ever trusting myself again. The type of shame that clouded me from seeing anything beyond the distorted view of what had happened. The type of shame that never let things be anyone else's fault other than mine. The type of shame that made me hate the sound of my own voice, the glimpse of my own reflection, and made the thought of letting the girl I was close enough to see the girl I had become, unbearable.

It took me years to realize that the shame I felt, was given to me-- wrapped nicely in a pretty package that looked a lot like love, and even after I broke myself from my abuser's hold, I still held the shame he left behind and thought it was my own. 

So....how do we get our lives back? How do we find our way back to the person we were before the abuse and merge the pieces of ourselves together? I've spent most of the past few years since becoming a victim, convinced that I am serving a life sentence while my abuser walks free; wishing for some outline of steps to follow to get back to the person I lost and to figure out who I am now, but willing to settle for knowing that any of this is even possible; all of which leaves me wanting to scream out to someone, anyone: Am I even heading in the right direction? Will I ever get to the end of all of this....will I ever be ok again???!?!

And then, ever so slowly, it begins to come back; tiny flecks of me that force their way through the numbness and the fear.  For me, this process started by chipping away at the shame the same way my abuser chipped away at me. Piece by piece. So slowly that I'm sometimes not aware that I am making any change, but as I look back I can see how far I have come. I don't have to be the abuse. I am not the crazy jealous rage. Not your reason for it. I am not the rape. I am not your lie.

And I realize, that although I prayed for my innocence and naivety back, I now have a deeper awareness in my own ability to make an educated decision based on what I want; although I wished to disappear from it all, I now see the strength I earn from fighting through; although I swore that no one would ever understand, I now have a better understanding for other victims; although I cursed the years I lost because of abuse, I now appreciate every moment of my life I have; although I wanted to hate a world with so much pain, I am surprised by how much love surrounds me.

I am more than what someone tried to make me. I am more than just a girl left alone on her floor. I am more than an empty shell, a sleepless night, a silenced voice. I am more than what has happened to me. 

Feb 28, 2011

Never Let The Hand You Hold Hold You Down

Help Spread Awareness About Teenage Dating Violence

Today is the Last day of Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. Want to help spread awareness, provide support for victims, and speak out against dating abuse?? 
Help out by checking out "Life After Dating A Psycho"

Follow @LifeAfterPsycho on Twitter

and "Like" them on Facebook.

Then, share Life After Dating A Psycho with your friends and family. 1 out of 3 teens in a relationship will experience some form of abuse by the time they graduate from college. Even if you think you don't know anyone who has been affected by teenage dating violence, chances are, you do. Help spread the word and be apart of creating a safer world. 

Feb 3, 2011

"Reviving Ophelia" Hit Close To Home

I just finished watching the Lifetime movie, Reviving Ophelia, inspired by Mary Pipher's book of the same name. Great movie. Made me cry like a baby. But great movie. 

It's not like I haven't been thinking about relationship violence lately. I've spent every moment possible writing and researching for this website. I've dug up stories, dug up poems I wrote when I was sixteen, I've looked at pictures, I've read other people stories, I've read statistics, over and over. Not once have I shed a tear. I'm a survivor, after all, not a victim anymore. I am strong and I am above everything that happened to me, and I am beyond an emotional response to violence. And then, as life has a funny way of working, I was (metaphorically) knocked flat on my back as I saw myself, my own lifeless eyes, in Elizabeth's face (the main character who get caught in an abusive relationship).

Whatever percentage of my reaction that was a testament to strong acting is complimented and compounded with the realization that, not too long ago, this was my life. It was not a movie. It was real. I still believe that no one will ever understand what I went through or how bad it was, but this understanding helps me to realize that as much as I would like to say that I know what each victim is going through, I don't. One of the most damaging parts of abuse comes in the moments when we are alone with our thoughts. Some of the worst words said are inside our own head, as we try to rationalize something that has no founding in sanity. Just as no one will ever know quite how bad things got for me, I have no way of knowing exactly what it is like for anyone else, but I do know that our similarities far outnumber our differences. If we all think that we are all alone, then it turns out we're together in that. 

Watching this movie also acted as a loud reminder of why it is that I am starting this website. I am so happy to see more websites and resources growing awareness for the topic of relationship violence. This wasn't always the case. I spent hours, when I was in high school, trying to find some sort of answer, some sort of help. I googled "help me, please" about a hundred times. I sat on the floor of a Border's for hours on end, flipping through books and trying to find myself in them so that I could read a way out of the hopelessness. And I put on an Academy Award worthy performance in front of the world. I was perfectly fine. My life was perfectly perfect. Perfectly. Perfect. 

The saddest part of the entire movie, for me, was the end. In an effort not to spoil the movie for anyone who has not seen it, (I highly recommend checking it out,)  all that I will say is that if time allowed for an accurate portrayal of how long it takes to get out of an abusive relationship sometimes, especially when you are enrolled in the same high school as your abuser and have to spend a few more years together until graduating, the audience would see the abuse dragged out for much longer. 

It is not an easy process. It can't be done pain free. It's not fair. In fact, it's so unfair that it will shake your faith in humanity for a while. It has the potential to ruin your trust in the world. It takes a long time and every step of the way it seems completely impossible that things will ever get better. If anyone out there is stuck in an abusive relationship right now, trust me, I understand how impossible it seems. Looking back, I still have no idea how I got out alive and how I got my life back. But, somehow, I did. And somehow, you can too. I can tell you from personal experience, that thankfully, it is possible to survive an abusive situation. Things can get better. You don't have to live like this forever. Keep reaching out for the help around you and keep taking it one day at a time. You deserve so much better and none of this is your fault.

So bravo to Lifetime for helping to raise awareness about the seriousness of teenage relationship violence. I hope that it encourages people to lift the cloak of silence from this global problem. And I hope it helps victims reach for a way out, know they are not alone, and find hope that they can use the people around them and the resources available.