What a life this has been, so far! It has been full of “what if,” “if only,” “I should’ve…could’ve,” and “If I could just go back…” But, we can’t. The past is passed, the future may never get here, and all we truly have is the gift of today. That’s why they call it the “present.”
While I was in the throes of domestic violence, I would never have believed or recognized it would eventually become a tool to help others. When you are in the midst of the abuse you step into a self-protection mode. My focuses were to try to keep some semblance of sanity, make sure my children were not harmed, and that there was a dry roof over our head, warm food on the table and clothes in the closets. We were furnished with many other of life’s amenities like cable TV, nice new cars, the latest toys and electronics, but one thing was missing―peace. Unfortunately, while I was just struggling to maintain and keep as much of the abuse secreted as possible from those outside our four walls, I was dropping several balls constantly.
What are some of the lessons I learned while going through my own bout with domestic violence? Here are a few, and my earnest heartfelt desire is that you will have the foresight and wisdom to learn from my mistakes:
LESSON 1 – It will most likely only get worse. Faith is a great thing to exercise, and prayer can sustain you, but the truth is, it will most often than not become worse, progress from verbal and/or emotional abuse to physical violence. Know the red flags and get out before the physicality begins. BUT be sure you have developed a Safety Plan first. Rule #1: BE SAFE!
LESSON 2 – Keep a clear head. You see, during the worst and final times of my own endurance of domestic violence, I became dependent upon prescription drugs. When I say dependent, I mean as in terribly abusive. The script called for 1-2 a day, but it was nothing for me to down 8, 10 or 12 in less than 24 hours. Who suffered besides me? My children. They had a mother who was walking around in a daze, unable to focus on their needs. Statistics tell us that a great portion of women who are victims of domestic violence will turn to chemical dependency. Often it is alcohol. In my case, and ashamedly so, I sometimes mixed the two. That is called desperation. My goal was just to get the pain to stop, or at least let up for a short period of time to give me a chance to catch my breath.
LESSON 3 -There is a good possibility that your children will reproduce in their own adult life the environment in which they grew up. The longer you stay, the more negative life skills they learn. They hear yelling, they learn to yell. They see disrespect, they learn to be disrespectful. They watch their mother cower and feel inferior, they will either do the same or extend every ounce of their energy to prevent their spouse from putting them into that same position. It’s a fact: Children learn what they live.
LESSON 4 – Get help! Counseling is not a dirty word, and counselors can make a difference. It was when I finally began seeing a psychiatrist in our town that my mind started working at a higher level. I began to see that I did have value and worth, and wasn’t the stupid, ugly, worthless woman I’d been referred to for over a decade.
LESSON 5 – Again, don’t forget the children. I managed to cram one year of single life into about 10 months, and it was nothing for me to toss a $20 bill on the table for a pizza to be ordered as I walked out to go partying. Thank God that later in life a spiritual level was reached so that I could ask for, and receive, forgiveness from my children for the wrongs I had done.
LESSON 6 – I also learned that just because the aggressor said it, did not make it truth. I was not stupid, ugly, worthless, ignorant, undesirable or any of the such. I have come to realize that if what is being said does not line up with God’s Words, then it just ain’t so. (Pardon the southernese!). Truth is truth, and God is truth, so that is what I choose to listen to and receive these days.
LESSON 7 – And finally, for goodness sake, if you are well on the other side of being the victim, have made it out of the abusive relationship and the abuser is no longer part of your life, do not beat yourself over the head with it. What happened 5, 10, 20 or even 30 (Yes, some of us will dig that far back) years ago does not define who you are today. You have come a long way, baby! There has been God’s grace, healing, forgiveness, faith, hope and restoration. You have become more empowered, self-aware and more alive than you ever imagined. Don’t hold the past against yourself, and don’t let others hold it against you, either. Nobody walked in your shoes but you. Only you know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what you went through.
There is nothing pretty about spouse abuse or domestic violence, and it affects far more than just the victim. But, as I have said time and time again, “The past is passed. It is for learning from, not living in.” My constant prayer has been, for years and years, “Dear God, do NOT let me miss the lesson. Please don’t let me miss the lesson here. I do NOT want to take this test over again.” That’s about the time His grace kicks in, along with His Wisdom, and I get the point!
Learn from your experiences with domestic violence. There are tons of tests to be taken, and passed, but do pass them. There is much valuable knowledge to be gained… And put the past in the past. Learn from the it, just don’t live there!