Suddenly, it was 2010 and I was back in that cold bathroom. I could hear the video games being played in the next room. I could feel my hands shaking, head throbbing, face on fire, and the panic of trying to document the situation with pictures as quickly as I could before he caught me. I was back on that bed, curled up and crying with the door locked, hoping that he didn't try to come in. I was 23 years old with the weight of the world on my shoulders.
I couldn't believe what I was looking at. I didn't recognize the girl in those pictures, but I felt her. I felt her pain and her fear. I felt her hopelessness, I felt her desperation. I knew this girl all too well. My mouth fell open and I immediately felt those all-too-familiar knots in my stomach. Within seconds, I had to run to the bathroom to throw up. And after that, there were tears...lots of them. It was so hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I was looking at my former self. And my former self....she was a trainwreck. If you told me 6 years ago that I'd be sitting half way across the country, looking at these pictures, and trying to process the fact that this was me, I wouldn't have even laughed. I would have been angry at you for tempting me with such an impossible idea.
I don't know that girl anymore. It's hard for me to fathom that she ever existed. But she did, and the indention in my forehead, the scar on my shoulder, and the knot on the bridge of my nose all prove it. I was, at one time, the girl I always told myself I'd never be. I was a statistic. I came out of it, not only alive, but swinging. Hard. And you know what the scariest part is? Until the very moment that I opened those emails, the only person in the world who knew about them (other than me), was the girlfriend that I sent them to for safe keeping. My family didn't know. My abusive partner didn't know. My neighbors didn't know. Because that's what domestic violence does...it isolates you. It lies to you and tells you that you deserve it. It reminds you how alone you are and how little anyone cares. Domestic violence is a cunt, plain and simple. And the only way to get ahead of her is to talk. Talk to your best friend, talk to you family, talk to a therapist, a doctor, a stranger...it doesn't matter. You have to break out of that cycle of destructive thinking and convince yourself that you are NOT alone, you do NOT deserve it, you ARE worthy of help, you are worthy of a life, you are worthy of security...and you CAN pull yourself out of it, because no one else can do it for you. Take a look at some of these stats (courtesy of the Huffington Post):
4,772,000 -The number of women in the US who experiences physical violence by an intimate partner every year.
1 in 4 - The number of women who will be victims of severe violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
1 in 7 - The number of men who will be victims of severe violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Worldwide, men who were exposed to physical violence as children are three to four times more likely to perpetrate intimate partner violence as adults than men that did not experience domestic violence abuse as children.
I wish I could post a step-by-step of how to survive...how to break the cycle, or even how to grow the pair that you're going to need in order to save yourself (because it won't be easy). But honestly, I can't remember. That whole period of my life is such a blur. Partly because I drank a good bit at night to numb the pain, both physical and emotional, and partly because I'm just now beginning to realize that I am damn good at putting things out of my mind when I don't want to deal with them.
For now, I can do a few things. I can share the pictures here. I can talk here. I can throw it all out into the abyss of the interwebs and hope that someone, somewhere will read it and realize that she (or he) is strong enough to survive. I certainly did not experience abuse in it's worst forms. In fact, I'm lucky compared to many, many women. But the ugly truth is that it still happened. And the uglier truth is that while this post does include one, real life doesn't always come with a trigger warning. A lot of times, life decides to knock you on your ass and watch you squirm when you least expect it.
**TRIGGER WARNING**The following pictures were not from the same occurrence, they weren't even from the worst of them. But they're the ones that I had the guts to document. The ones of my face were from being headbutted and slapped after an argument related to an affair (I still have a knot on my breast bone from being kicked in the sternum after I fell down) and the others were months later, after having an empty car seat thrown at me when I walked away from an argument. #RealLoveDoesntHurt
This shit doesn't necessarily get easier to deal with. It still hurts to know that I was in that position. It's still scary to think that it could happen again with someone else. And it still has the power to leave my stomach in knots when it crosses my mind from time to time. But here I am, confronting it and sharing it with you guys in the hopes that it will help someone else confront it as well.
If you are a victim, or suspect that someone else is, please reach out. The following resources were found by doing a simple google search of "Domestic Violence Hotline":
- You can TEXT the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Just text "go". You will receive a return text with their terms of service. You let them know what's on your mind, and then set you up with a crisis counselor via text. I texted them myself to see how it all worked. This is a great option if you're a little scared to reach out. The texting option still leaves a bit of a barrier. It's free, 24/7, and confidential.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers tons of resources. And what I really like is that when you visit the website, you immediately see the following pop-up:
- The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: This website provides a red pop up in the lower right hand corner of the screen that reads :Safety Exit. Quickly exit the site if in danger. (Yes, people, it is that serious) Visit this page for resources.