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.

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