Learning To Love Myself Again

Words by Faith Atkins

I volunteered to tell my story in hopes that women could find encouragement to leave a bad situation or at least know they aren’t alone. However I have found myself at a loss of eloquent words and unsure of what to say and how to say it. Domestic violence is a tragic and all too often deadly environment. If you are anything like me you never imagined you would find yourself afraid for your life, or afraid to speak because you never know what will trigger the wrath of that person that should be loving you and not hurting you. When I first met the man that would soon become the person to beak me down, he was charming and sweet, we met at church and he was the Godliest man I knew that wasn’t married or taken and he seemed to like me. We struck up a friendship that was one for the best of novels, he made me laugh and feel important, wanted, needed and all  the things you want to feel when you are in a relationship. But one night he crashed at my house because it was late and he was too tired to drive. Several weekends like this led to week nights and then one night I went to bed and he was on the couch like what had become normal, then I woke up to him on top of me with his hand covering my mouth telling me if I screamed I would regret it.  I knew then this would turn out badly but I was afraid, so afraid I lost my voice and coward to his every notion.

At church we were happy, healthy budding couple but I was in constant fear that if I said the wrong thing or got home and cooked something he didn’t want I would pay a high price. He never failed to deliver on his promises of pain, I was just a pawn in his twisted game. He told me if I said a word or asked for helped or God forbid attempt to leave that he would make sure everyone knew I was crazy and that nothing I said could be believed. He would cut my arms so that if I left and told someone what home had become then they would just assume I was mentally unstable. Let me tell you today that you are not crazy, you are not mentally unstable and people will believe you if you find the courage to leave.

I wasn’t allowed to drive my own car, use my own bank account or even have spending money. He controlled every detail of my existence. He dropped me off from work and picked me up, he gave me a list of groceries to buy and how much to spend. I wasn’t allowed to eat with him or at all until he was served and had his fill and should there be anything left then I could have that if he didn’t want it for later. I lived in fear, shame, regret and utter disgust for myself for two years. He told me every day I was too fat, too ugly, too stupid and unworthy to be loved by anyone and that he was doing me a favor when he forced his self on me that first night and then when he stayed in my life. Because if he ever left I would always be alone. I was mentally exhausted and I began to believe him. I had no self- esteem and no self-worth. I would pray for God to take me home, to let me fall asleep and wake up in his presence and not back in that house.

There was a period of three days where I was locked away in a bathroom without food so that I would “realize I was not in control”.  Over those years I suffered bruises and broken ribs, broken fingers, cuts to my arms and legs and more mental abuse than I can list. But there came a day in spring where I found just a tiny speck of courage and said this is enough, he had been cheating and using my car and money for his other women.  I knew that I would rather have him kill me and everyone find out exactly who he was than to go on one more minute in this life like this. I knew this was the moment if he was going to kill me then this was his opportunity cause if I survived I would never allow myself to be hurt again. I didn’t know how or when but I knew this had to be the end of this nightmare. So I got a co-worker to take me home one day before he got home and I change the locks, and put all his things out side and waited for him to get home. With friends and family by my side I cried and fell apart as he beat on the door swearing that I would pay for this mistake, for two weeks I had people stay with me while I looked for a new place to live and changed my number. I packed up and found an apartment and began to let myself grieve and then begin to heal. It was far from easy and more than an overnight process. I still have nightmares and flashbacks and suffer from PTSD but I am stronger now, I am healthy and I am living for me. I hated myself for far too long and believed his lies even longer but I am on a journey to loving myself again and knowing my worth isn’t defined by man or by the man that put his hands on me every day. I am worth so much more, I deserve to be happy and so do each and everyone of you who may be reading this.

It has been several years since I left and finding love isn’t the easiest thing when you are terrified of finding someone just like him but I can’t live in fear forever. I refuse to let it control me and I am making daily efforts to tell myself I am worth it. He never faced charges and I see him from time to time and my heart still stops and I have to catch my breath but he will not have control over me anymore. This is my life and I am taking it back every single day I don’t give in to the mental abuse I endured I get a little stronger. I have a very few good friends who know the details and know that I still have panic disorder and PTSD episodes with certain triggers. They don’t see me as the crazy friend or treat me differently, they love me and care about me and build me up. So if you are in a situation similar or just got out or are thinking of leaving, there are people who love you and will fight with you and for you.

Find a support group or someone you trust and make a plan. Take your life back. There is no excuse for anyone to cause you pain, mental, physical or otherwise.  You are more than your circumstances and it is not your fault. Know that, bury it in your spirit and tell yourself minute by minute, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!

I am not a victim of domestic violence, I am a SURVIOR, a warrior and a fighter for those who think they have no hope. I wear purple to raise awareness and show people there is hope and a way out, you just need a tiny bit of courage and the will to live. I should have died three different times with the beatings I endured, I lost my first baby in one of those nights but I DIDN’T die, I am here and I am choosing to thrive. Domestic Violence kills more women each year than most people are willing to talk about. We must not remain silent, we must raise awareness and show that we as a nation, as humanity will not stand for this kind of tragedy any longer.

If you are anyone you know is being hurt, there is hope and people that can and will help you.

All Time Favorite: La Dispute ‘Wildlife’

For the next two months, Open Our Eyes will be featuring each of our music bloggers’ all time favorite albums and why they are special to them. 

Words by Amber Bettis

“So now tell me how your story goes. Have you ever suffered?”

La Dispute is not my favorite band, as anyone with ears to hear and eyes to read my personal blog can tell you. Nay, that spot belongs to Long Island’s darlings, Brand New. I have loved Brand New for going on twelve years now, since before my brain got rewired by unfounded terror and I found it hard to leave my room, let alone my house. Sadly, there are just some things Brand New doesn’t help with, and severe anxiety is one of them. In fact, Brand New made it worse, with their lyrics about religion and the certainty of hell.

Enter La Dispute.

I can’t quite remember how I found them, but it was probably through a tip in Alternative Press. The first song I heard was “Damaged Goods”, and from that second on, I was hooked. Here was a band that got it, that understood being afraid of trivial things. I wasn’t as sick as I was going to get a couple of years later, but I was still feeling nervous, and definitely on the lookout for bands that were singing songs I could relate to in that respect.

I used to feel like everything was perfectly in order, a normal life… I guess then came a departure”.

I’m going to fast forward, to March 2012. Without warning, without provocation, without reason, something descended on me and grabbed me. Something large, black and gray, and with sharp claws. They dug into my skin and refused to let me go for weeks. I was dying, literally. I was unintentionally starving myself to death. I would hardly eat, because eating required leaving my room and there were things out there. Horrible and deadly things. Why my brain made me think these things, I have no idea. I wasn’t always like that. I wouldn’t sleep until sunrise, and then I forced myself to sleep until sunset– a solid twelve hours, maybe a little more. I would then creep out of my room and snack on whatever I could quickly grab and run back with to my room.

I was sick. I was very sick. I told my friends my phone was broken so I wouldn’t have to text them or call. I was shutting myself off from everyone.

At that point, La Dispute’s ‘Wildlife’ had been on my iPod for months– but I was beyond listening to music, I was too afraid. In those weeks in March, there was a lyric that kept popping up in my head: “Say you think of everything in fear. I bet you’re not the only one does.”

I’m not saying I turned on the album and immediately got better. That only happens in the movies. It took a minute, or literally– several thousand minutes. I took it slow, only listening to that song at first, then starting at “A Departure” and working my way to “You and I In Unison”. That entire album, every line, every tortured scream Dreyer lets out, it was like hearing my deepest fears. It really did help, just to know that people feel afraid all the time. It gave me hope, something that fought off that huge clawed thing, and helped me get the help I needed.

“All the secrets I keep, why are they secrets?”

Why did I not just tell someone how afraid I was? Why did I hide all the things I was scared of? Why did I insist on suffering in silence? I still don’t know. I know that no one else should do that. It’s dangerous and very unhealthy. I could’ve died. The doctor told me that I had severe Generalized Anxiety Disorder and at the time, it had morphed into paranoia, which led to depression. I still get freaked out over stuff sometimes, but I’m on a medication now that helps weed out the real threats from the imagined ones. It’s manageable most days. I still have bad days, but never as bad as they were in March 2012. I’m always going to have GAD, but I’m always going to have La Dispute, too, and they help make the bad days bearable. If I ever meet La Dispute, I would thank them. Even if the songs weren’t autobiographical, I just want to thank them for handing me an hour of hope, for giving me courage to get help.

I could end this by telling you to get help if you need it, but hell, I saw a million things telling me to get help when I needed it. It was a decision I had to make. It can be horrifying, telling people with the power to put you into an institution what goes on your head. It’s scary, I know. I’m begging you to try. Find something that makes you feel even slightly human and cling to it. You deserve a better life. You deserve a life, period.

“In all those giving up. In all those giving in. Until I die I will sing our names in unison.”

Tuesday Tunes: This Is Halloween

OOE collage this is halloween

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I’m talking about Halloween, of course. Because who doesn’t love a holiday where you get to dress up in crazy costumes and eat tons of free candy?? We’ve put together a spook-tacular playlist to get you ready for the festivities. Listen up on Spotify and share with us your Halloween costumes.

1. Jack’s Lament-The All American Rejects

2. Over At The Frankenstein Place-Rocky Horror Picture Show

3. Adam’s Family Theme Song

4. Monster Mash-Bobby “Boris” Pickett

5. Hungry Like The Wolf-Duran Duran

6. The Exorcist Theme Song

7. Bone Garden-I Am Ghost

8. Smile-AFI

9. Tear You Apart-She Wants Revenge

10. Carousel-Melanie Martinez

11. Thriller-Michael Jackson

12. Dragula-Rob Zombie

13. American Horror Story Theme Song

14. Forever Halloween-The Maine

15. This Is Halloween-Marilyn Manson

16. Time Warp-Rocky Horror Picture Show

17. Otherworldly Concerto-The Haunted Mansion Attraction at DisneyWorld

18. Welcome To Mystery-Plain White T’s

19. Science/Visions-Chvrches

20. Up There-VersaEmerge

Tuesday Tunes: Crash The Gates

OOE collage crash the gates

 

It’s finally starting to feel like autumn outside and we’ve got a cozy playlist to keep you warm. Check it out on Spotify and share with us what you’ve been listening to this week!

 

1. Red-Taylor Swift

2. For Baltimore-All Time Low

3. Colder Weather-Zac Brown Band

4. Vicious Love-New Found Glory

5. Pressure-The 1975

6. Girls-Mayday Parade

7. Safest Place-Echosmith

8. Miss Missing You-Fall Out Boy

9. Better Luck Next Time-We Are The In Crowd

10. Layla-Eric Clapton

11. Gone Tomorrow-The Staves

12. Persistent-New Found Glory

13. Young & Beautiful-Lana Del Rey

14. Crash The Gates-Yellowcard

University of South Alabama Domestic Violence Training Seminar

prevention-intervention-education

 

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic or intimate partner violence is a devastating social problem that many of you will encounter on a daily basis upon employment, especially those students in the medical fields, working with children, providing mental health care, or in criminal justice.

Who: All students, particularly those going into the helping fields (medical, mental health, social services, criminal justice, education, ect.)

What: Domestic Violence 101, a workshop facilitated by experts in the community who deal with this prevalent social issue daily

When: October 15th from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Where: Library Auditorium

Why: This training will look good on a resume. A certificate of attendance will be available for participants. Many professors are offering extra credit for participation. Community service hours are also available.

This training was coordinated by the Violence Prevention Alliance and Counseling and Testing Services.