As part of my recovery process today, after having an “emotional attack” of grief/loss/missing him, whatever you would call it (after an intense and very good support group session yesterday), I decided to take a little time to think back to the people for whom I am very, very grateful, as they helped me in some big or even very small ways feel validated, helped, encouraged, safer, supported. If you have done some of these things for an abused woman in your life, you have no idea how much it means.
I am thankful to and for…
The cashier, some years ago, who paused for a few seconds to simply look in astonishment at him when he was rude to me at the checkout stand. She glanced at me momentarily, and I looked away out of embarrassment. But I thank her for if even for a few precious seconds validating the abuse with that pause and that look. At the time, I was nowhere near a place I could confront or leave him. That would take some years. Those were the days before “verbal and emotional abuse” was recognized as abuse.
The waiter and waitress at the restaurant also years ago who “lingered” at the table just across from us while he was rude and mean to me (but not loud so as to not attract attention. They heard, though.). Whoever you were, your presence validated my fear and apprehension and gave me a modicum of comfort. I didn’t leave him then, of course, but I am still very grateful and thankful for your presence. Just your presence.
The priest I called many years ago after the ex broke down the door, put his hands on my neck and accused me of being unfaithful—completely untrue. He was very drunk at the time and had come in about 3 in the morning. I was pregnant and we also had a two-year old. That was the first time of two (the second and final being a year ago after an interim of 38 years) I left him but returned after I ran out of money and the weekend was over. The priest told me not to rush to return to him and make sure he promised to come in for counseling. He promised, I returned, and things got worse. I wasn’t ready yet. But I still am very grateful to that priest, way back then. Mostly, his calmness. He wasn’t at all afraid of the ex. So the world, I realized, didn’t revolve around my husband…
The friends who understood when I left that night with my little one and found me a safe house. Their family who didn’t question my presence in their home for the weekend, but accepted me there. And when I went back to him, my friends did not judge me, but remained available if needed.
The two women in a conversation (I overheard) about their divorces who realized they had both noticed how their creativity had suffered in the abusive marriage. That shocked me into realizing mine had also. Another step in awareness.
The relative who told me once she hated the way he was so mean to me back then (the meanness coupled with alcoholism resurfaced before I finally left him). I did have a chance to thank her personally for that validation. For some reason, I shared the fear and abuse with no one back then. Those days are over.
My siblings who detected the change in him that I was overlooking (the frog in the frying pan syndrome?) and who began to come over more often, checking on me. I have and will continue to thank them. Sometimes the changes are very subtle and the abused doesn’t see it or it is so much less, maybe, than what used to occur she thinks it can’t be that bad.
My Christian friend who had no idea I left him but told me a few days later the Lord had strongly impressed her to pray for me. This helped lighten my load of pain, sorrow, fear, and guilt. It also validated for me that it was God’s “voice” of instruction to “leave now” that I had truly sensed that night.
The one who told me, after I left, “You need to take care of yourself.”
I was still focusing on him and on fear.
The people who share so much information advice and encouragement on this site and others like it. You have often given me perspectives and information and encouragement that has provided for me the next step, albeit a very small step at times, that I have need to continue moving forward. Each step, no matter how small, is another one forward.
As part of this next phase of my recovery, I intend to continue to remember the little and big ways people have helped me leave, though my leaving took so very long. I will thank them now.
And I will try to help in whatever ways I can help other women like me.
This little exercise is already restoring my spirit today.