“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” Carl Jung
Earlier today (well yesterday now!) I had an unexpected encounter with a stranger (at least I thought she was a stranger) who thought she recognised me. I couldn’t place her but she asked a couple of questions and then she remembered where she knew me from. This triggered an unpleasant blast from the past the memory of which made both me, and her tremble. But…
… having done a few replays of the memories, reflecting now some eight hours later on all that’s taken place today, (and many yesterdays ago), I can see even more clearly just how far I’ve come. Not by myself mind. I couldn’t possibly have done it at all without the help, love and support of a number of wonderful people, not least being my fantastic children. Just as I’m being taught on my course how to write psychology essays by effectively beginning with your conclusion, here too I begin (almost) with the conclusion.
And that conclusion is GOOD 😊
Now the story. Tuesday 7th February saw the start of Esther Days run by one of our local charities called ‘Helping Hands‘. It will run weekly and is for vulnerable women to come and meet at a place where they will learn some new skills in a safe and fun environment, and where there will be a number of us around to talk to if they want or need to. This week we had two lovely ladies come to show us how to sew, on this occasion, cushion covers.
I was introduced to the ladies and one of them stepped back and, as I’ve mentioned above, after a couple of questions realised where she knew me from – we’re going back some 35 years! She was only a young girl herself at that time, but vividly remembered her father and one of his friends intervening as my ex-husband became physically abusive towards me – while pregnant!!! Although I don’t remember her (come on, you’re all getting to know me now and I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night!), nor do I remember her dad, I’d like to offer a very big, and public THANK YOU! to them. As far on as we’ve come in our society and legal systems (thank God!), there are some today who still wouldn’t get involved in something like that, let alone all that time ago.
Recalling this situation brought back what had been a traumatic experience for her too, she literally had goosebumps remembering. Like I said earlier, the conclusion is GOOD. After many struggles over many years, further abusive relationships, I have been in a happy (most of the time 😉), stable relationship with a good man for the last 20 years. We’re married now, but that wasn’t a route I was prepared to take initially, so in May this year we will celebrate both 20 years together, but only our 9th wedding anniversary. Even so..
Was it an uncanny coincidence that I met this woman again all these years later? And at a venue running meetings for vulnerable women?
I don’t think so.
I think it was a God-incident telling me I was in the right place, at the right time, and confirming that it was right to volunteer to be part of this amazing team because my own experiences would help me to help them. God can and does use the bad stuff for good purposes.
I’m a lucky survivor of domestic abuse. Some are not. Some still live in an environment of humiliation, degradation, physical and mental pain…
Many people don’t understand why you don’t ‘just leave’ but trust me, it’s never that simple, it’s made all the more difficult because you have no self-confidence, no self-worth, no HOPE. Good grief, by now you’ve started to believe the lie that “It’s your fault” so if you’re so bad who is going to help you, and why would they?
In a very strange way, meeting this lady really helped me – all these years on – know that I hadn’t been crazy. I hadn’t been imagining it all. And I hadn’t been to blame. Other people had seen. Had understood, but were powerless to do more than step in now and again. The law did not used to have the powers it has now for victims of domestic abuse.
The module for my degree course is speaking about things like ‘conditioning’ and ‘pairing’ and as I’ve been reflecting on what happens to us in abusive relationships I am starting to understand – just a little – of what goes on and happens in our minds. Another post, another time maybe. But for now I’d like to finish with a plea.
Please, please, PLEASE have a little more patience, speak a kinder word, and offer a little more of your time – if possible – to talk to any woman you even suspect may be in this situation – you may be the only kind face she sees this month. If there are those you know may be hiding it (and they will, it’s what abused victims do through fear), ask yourself whether you believe that she fell down the stairs, or bumped into the door? Or why she always seems to be down on herself “I’m no good”, “I’ll never be able to…” Abuse comes in many forms and often the horrible, horrible words spoken over us are just as damaging as the physical abuse. If you suspect, keep an eye on her. Until she is in a stronger place within herself, it’s not that she won’t ask for help, it’s that she can’t. Sounds crazy to those who have no experience of this either personally or through a friend, but trust me, comments like ‘just leave’, ‘pull yourself together’, ‘you must be mad to stay’ absolutely DO NOT help. It can make the situation more unbearable because it compounds the feeling that no one understands, or wants to, she will just withdraw further into herself, tremble in fear alone, and take much longer to speak out and seek the help she needs.
Be kind to EVERYONE – you don’t know where they’ve come from, or what they’re going home to.