Domestic violence takes many forms and, although the abuse usually begins with one person, it can quickly become a learned behavior. When you grow up in an abusive environment, children pick up on the behavior and begin to mirror the actions of their abuser in one form or another. You can never tell which way one child will respond to the abuse compared to another. Some children will become afraid and submissive, while others will be afraid but will respond differently. My response was to become a fighter no matter the cost. One time we asked my mom who the angriest kid growing up was and she said I was and my siblings agreed. I was shocked by this because, I knew I was angry but didn’t think I was the angriest. But to be fair, I had many reasons to be!
Other than anger, emotions were taboo in my house because they only served as invitations to be ridiculed and laughed at. Vulnerability was a weakness and you never showed your emotional cards. I was a scrapper and would fight my way through anything and everything and can’t remember crying outside of getting a beating. However, there was one time when I allowed myself to show how I was feeling and I paid for it greatly.
In our house the only way that we settled disputes were with yelling matches, throwing things at each other and with fist fights. I don’t recall why, but on one occasion, two of my family members and I were arguing and I found myself on the wrong side of the argument. Words became heated and they ganged up on me, knocked me to the ground and started punching me. This was the first time that I had two people beating on me and I felt helpless because I knew that I couldn’t win against them. I had no way of stopping them and I finally gave up and started to cry. When they realized that I was crying they stopped punching me, burst into laughter and started to make fun of me.
Whenever I think of this situation, I wish I had taken another hundred punches rather than to have let them see me cry. Crying meant weakness; weakness meant failure; failure meant vulnerability; and vulnerability is never a safe place in an abusive house. In that moment, I promised myself that I would never let anyone see or make me cry again…ever! The promise that my 11 year-old self made would have repercussions on my mental psyche for years to come.
In a toxic environment, you do what you have to do to survive moment by moment, hour by hour and day by day. Being laughed at was worse to me than any punch and my only recourse was to make sure that I never allowed anyone to see me in a vulnerable state again. Vows are powerful things to speak into existence and they hold our hearts and souls captive until we break them off. A self protective wall was built around my heart that day and it would take a lot of hard work to break it down. Eventually, I had to go back to that moment and break the vow I made in order to find freedom in learning to be vulnerable and to trust people with my heart again.
The most important part of this story that I hope my readers would grasp is that it takes years to unravel abusive programming. It is not easy to come out of a domestic violent home and live a productive and healthy life. If I could go back in time, there is one thing that I would change and that would be to prioritize finding the time and money to get counseling. This would have fast tracked the processing and healing that I needed to go through. Instead, I gave in to the misconception that, once you accept Jesus into your heart, you no longer need counseling, medication or help because your life will be easier in every way. I would like to personally debunk this idealistic viewpoint.
Jesus has been my best friend for over 30 years and I have a very strong faith which is what has gotten me through every hard thing in my life. Having said that, faith does not prevent struggles, it does not prevent hardship, it does not prevent medical obstacles and it does not bypass the necessity of the healing process. As I previously mentioned, early on in my Christian walk I was convinced that, if I just had enough faith, I could be healed from my past without the necessity of counseling. This was not only unfortunate, but it was damaging because if anyone could have benefitted from having a good counselor, it was me. God gave us brains, intelligence and education for a reason…because He knew we would need it!
What I have witnessed in my life is God’s faithfulness to walk with me through my hardships and helped me to grow and become a better person through them. I am thankful that I have gained the wisdom that has allowed me to be grounded and to stay real. My family and close friends know how hard I have worked to stay in a positive mindset, choosing Love over and over again. I have no regrets about how I have handled the struggles in my life and I stand confident in the strong woman that I have become. But the road to get where I am today was very long, very hard and sometimes lonely and discouraging.
Victims of abuse need to be understood, valued and appreciated for their tenacity to overcome. They also need to be Loved for who they are in spite of the unfortunate cards they were handed in life. Who around you could use words of encouragement? Who around you needs to feel valued? Who around you needs to be honored? Recognize the accomplishments and efforts of those who have overcome because they are most likely still on their journey to being whole again and could use uplifting words to spur them forward. Never underestimate the power of positive words to a weary soul!
Until next time, honor those around you and stay safe!
Leave a Reply