Have you heard the statement “Once you wake up, you can never go back to sleep”?
How about “Once you Know, you can never Un-Know, and you’re held doubly responsible!”?
(I don’t like this one so much…doubly responsible???!)
I think Bessel A. van der Kolk’s statement is the result of Knowing but not responding to our knowledge, to not choosing to think through our reality, not living our Truth: “As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.” ― Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Each and every survivor of domestic abuse has an enormous amount of courage. To escape the quagmire of living in danger, in fear, under control of someone else…that takes courage.
Where do we find that courage? How do we stay locked into it after we have left? It takes courage to begin a brand-new life, to release the lies and false pretenses we’ve lived under for so long. We have to be very brave to Know what we Know, and take action to release that “self”…to shed the protective cocoon of pretending things are different than they really are and embrace the beautiful wings of our true selves. Only we can set ourselves free. Only we have the power to excavate our shrunken selves, re-hydrate and feed who we are at our core.
Who we really are becomes so protected during our lives in abuse that she is almost withered and dried out, buried so deep we’ve almost forgotten what she feels like. We allow the manufactured person, to take over. We learn to embrace and grow the controlled woman. The one who has no opinions of her own, who guards her thoughts and words, who apologizes for imaginary wrong-doing, who yells and screams in frustration while driving alone, who cries herself to sleep many nights, feeling trapped, used, deeply sad and unloved.
Just when we’re at the end of our rope, when we hurt so deeply that we don’t know how to keep going…just then…he brings flowers home, surprises you with a sweet card about how much he loves you, he apologizes for his outbursts and your bruises, he tells you you’re beautiful and he loves you…and you believe him. Again.
That little spark of hope that the nice side of him will stay around forever…you choose to fan the flame of fantasy that he means what he says…he really does love you. He won’t hurt you anymore, emotionally or physically. You know he means what he says…you chose to believe him, one more time.
Finally, you woke up. Something happened that shocked you from your fantasy that he would change. Someone said something, you read an article, you saw a movie about domestic abuse. Something shook you awake.
Suddenly, after years of living under his control, with his rules, feeling bad about yourself and your life…suddenly you woke up. You recognized the reality of your life, you felt the fear and the hurt on a brand-new level. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The same thing had happened many times before…this was the last time. Suddenly, you woke up and Knew you had options. You Knew you had the power to change your life.
And you do. You left. Maybe you left in the middle of the night while he was asleep, or during the day while he was at work. Maybe you left a note, because talking with him was not gonna happen and would be too dangerous. Maybe you left with the clothes on your back…or you had planned this for a while and had snuck things out of the house for several weeks, storing them with a friend or family member. How ever you got out, you did it.
You did it in fear. You did it in guilt. You did it with shaking hands, wobbly legs, with tears in your eyes. You did it in joy, excitement of self. You felt Awake. You Knew you were taking back control. You knew you were taking steps to end the war inside your head and your body. You Know. You know what you Know.
Those of us who have been through this process also know it’s not easy. There is nothing simple about it. Some days I wished I’d stayed asleep…I wished I was still in my house on the lake instead of a tiny furnished apartment. I wondered how I would make my car payment. I worried that he was right; I couldn’t make it on my own. I was afraid. I told no one where I lived after I left. I was in hiding from him.
How did I survive and grow? The same way you did…and millions of women before and after us.
I clung, sometimes with tired, bloody fingers…I clung to the Knowledge that I have a choice about how I live my life. I accepted that no knight in shining armor was going to show up and save me. I embraced personal growth…I learned the Law of Attraction. I Knew that if I didn’t change myself, if I didn’t change my mind-set, my thought process, nothing would change. I acknowledged that I don’t attract who I want…I attract who I am. I chose to become who I wanted to be. I chose to create the life I love.
Like you, my choice was not easy. I questioned myself. I sometimes missed my abuser. I often felt guilty for tearing the family apart. Uneasiness was a common emotion for a long time. I was walking in uncharted territory for myself. I had never lived alone. I had never been fully responsible for myself financially.
Like you, I kept going…baby steps forward. A new life was forming. I Knew I was on the right path. I Know what I Know. It took a while. I created My Life. Through coaching, reading, participating and gaining confidence in Me, I excavated who I am. It took weeks, months and years…eventually I was able to release what I thought was love for my abuser. Eventually I was able to see him and myself through clear eyes and emotions. Eventually, I healed and released.
“As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.”
We survivors of abuse have an enormous amount of courage.