I need to write. Right now. There’s a sense of urgency in me, a humming along the skin, the kind of urgency where my hands fly across the keyboard and I struggle to keep up with my brain. All day today, I have felt this urgency mounting and just a few minutes ago I felt my mind literally writing the post before my hands had time to catch up. So, I raced to the computer, and here I am.
I’m writing a book. The book is (tentatively titled) The Girl Who Stayed. It delves into the nightmare that was my marriage and the even-bigger-nightmare of my divorce. It is a creative nonfiction piece – a memoir – and will either be a published collection of essays, loosely tied together by one over-arching theme, or it will be a tale. A tale of my life, my relationships, my sense of worth, and my own personally crises. It will not be a sad and disheartening tale, nor will it be a collection of self-centered accounts of my own tragedies. Rather, it focuses on the most important person of any character: the protagonist.
In my tale, it’s not important what happens to the protagonist. Oh no. She is not the most important person because of what happens to her, she is the most important person because of WHO SHE IS. Who is this girl, when one abusive incident happens after another? Who is this girl, when friends and family voice concern and advise caution and her own inner voices begs NO, and yet she stays anyway? Who is this girl, The Girl Who Stayed?
Although I am disgusted that our culture and society is largely “victim-centric” (meaning: we, as a culture, focus on the victim of abusive situation, i.e. why was she walking home alone at night, why was she so drunk, why did she let him hit her), I am more concerned with the true story behind why women (and men) stay in abusive relationships. Moreover, I am concerned with how understanding myself better can explain how I behaved in such a way.
Through my own personal journey exploring why I made poor decisions, I hope that the lessons I learn can positively impact the way others choose to behave in relation to their abusers. I’m not the statistical outlier – I don’t represent a small percentage of individuals who stay in abusive relationships. I am part of the MAJORITY. Statistics show it, sociological research shows it, conversation shows it… the vast majority of people will experience abuse in their lifetimes. They will not leave at the first sign of trouble. They will stay. Why is this?
Now, obviously, the title is somewhat misleading because I am not longer with my husband. I’m no longer with any of them. The last abusive relationship I belong to is the one with myself. How can this change? How will that change affect my behavior? What would happen if I believed, truly in my soul believed, that I was deserving of love and respect and kindness?
I don’t believe that now, and haven’t (ever) that I can recall. It’s just not who I am. I suffer (and have always suffered) from low self-esteem, low sense of self-worth, a disposition to self-sabotage, and now: post-traumatic stress disorder. How did those emotional qualities keep me in my relationship, and what were MY red flags? A man screaming in your face: red flag. A woman who sits there and somehow (maybe even subconsciously) believes that she deserves it: bigger red flag. I want to stop blaming all of my tragedies on other people, and focus inward to reflect on my own behavior. I want to invite others along with me on this journey.
It will be painful. I just started working with a new therapist. My “homework assignment” (from me, to me) is to write down a list of all of the abusive things that happened in my relationship with my ex-husband (because they are the most recent and most pervasive in my mind) to bring to therapy next week. I want to print off of my current writing and review my relationship. The therapy provides an environment where I can process out loud and come to conclusions, without feeling guilty that I am putting my emotional burdens on my friends, family, and lover.
Then I will write. Write like hell. Write when it hurts, write when it’s hard, and write when I am afraid to see what happens next. I’d like to have the framework and bulk of the writing done by June. Will I get through my four-year relationship (and relevant significant events from my entire life) in such time? It’s steep, but I think I can do it. I am currently in the “reporting” stage. Get the information, draw conclusions, be thoughtful, consider how it makes me feel, and try to find some peace. Then put it on the page. At the end, maybe I’ll be able to pull it all together into a piece of literature that might HELP or SAVE someone from the same trauma that so devastatingly affected me. I may appear relatively normal day-to-day, but it’s a struggle. I’m not in any real danger, but I am putting a stop to this nonsense once and for all. It’s time to forgive myself for my past transgressions, and be real about what really happened.
I’m sure there will be a barrage of emotions. Shame, anxiety, fear, exhaustion, frustration, hopelessness. But also a sense of accomplishment, the feeling of freedom from these chains that so weigh me down, and the certainty that what I am doing MEANS SOMETHING. I have something to say about all of it – something I feel very passionately that everyone needs to hear – and I am going to say it.
I suppose I just needed to put that out into the world.