Tuesdays at Ten: Fear

Joining in with Karen Beth’s Tuesdays at Ten. This week’s word Fear

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I’ve come to know a lot about fear, after having lived a largely fear-less life for about 35.5 years of it. I’m thankful my encounters with fear came to me late in life, as I was relatively stable and balanced and so was, perhaps, more equipped and so more able to deal with it. I was weakened, towards the end, however, from years of abuse: emotional abuse – the most insidious kind – and, later, psychological, financial and physical. The abuse had, I now recognise, weakened me to such a point that I didn’t really have the strength to find me any more and so, without my me, my essence, my internal compass to guide me, it was easy for him to manipulate me, to play with me, puppet-like, whilst he implanted, enacted, his devilish Machiavellian plans. Had I not been thus weakened, I would never have succumbed.

As it was, I did. I became a shadow of my former self, protecting him from any accusations of abuse, because, I thought – through my fog – he loved me, loved us, was simply stressed and, as such, needed my help more than ever. I, the dutiful – devoted – wife played along, a deadly dance, the praying mantis at my side actually ready to eat me whenever he felt it would be necessary. I feel nauseous as I think of all the evils committed against us. I spent months, this last year, trying to find an explanation, trying to understand but, you know, there’s no understanding to be had when you’re dealing with someone who’s mentally ill, who has a psychiatric condition that means he has been shaped to act this way.

Shaped. There’s a word. I remember a friend telling me a while ago how Shakespeare wrote “She unshaped me”…as I read her words, I realised that’s what he used to do to me: unshape me. He’d got me so low, so uncertain, so unsure of myself that I had become unravelled, unshaped, uncertain of even my own mind, my own desires, feelings and my own sense of self-preservation. It’s frightening, looking back, how it happened. I can see how it happened, now, but when I was in the middle of it, I wasn’t able to see. They liken abuse to a frog in a pot of water that’s slowly heated: the water starts off at a manageable temperature but as it’s slowly heated, the frog doesn’t feel the gradual change…by the time the water is getting too hot, there’s no way out….the frog is trapped, unable to move because it’s lethargic, dumbed down by the slowly increasing temperature…

That’s what abuse is like. I can vouch for it. You know its wrong, of course, that he shouts, belittles you, makes fun of you, acts inappropriately at intimate moments, doesn’t let you see friends or speak to your family, but you’re so good, you make excuses, assume he’ll change….the thing is, he won’t, he doesn’t. Instead, it gets worse. But, by then, your confidence is shot to pieces and you’re like the poor frog: you can’t see a way out because he’s worn you down to such a degree that you can’t think straight, you can’t act normally, you can’t behave as you would normally.

Aside from this, there’s the fear. The fear he’s instilled in you. The fear that he’ll seriously harm you (not ‘just’ bruises in places people can’t see) or that he’ll carry out his threats and take the children or enact any number of other threats that he makes against you. When you’re not thinking straight because you can’t think straight these threats feel so real they strike fear in your heart and make you submit constantly to this evil game, because if you can’t leave, there’s only one way through: submission. Submission for survival. Locked in to an evil dance, one side fearful, the other side feared. A fear-based power struggle known through the ages.

It’s said that woman exposed to domestic violence don’t report the violence until an average of 68 incidents have occurred. Why? I can’t speak for everyone, only for myself. And I, myself, say that my case is one that bumps the average up: I experienced probably more than a couple of hundred incidents (that are classed as crimes) before I reported the abuse. Why did I wait so long? I passed through many stages: hoping he’d change (“He’s just stressed, he’s never been like this before”); denial (“It really wasn’t that bad and, anyway, he’s not like this so it must just have been an isolated incident”); self-reproach (“Did do something that provoked that reaction?”); initial fear stages (“OMG, this is happening and its not getting any better….but where do I go? Who do I tell? I don’t want to break up the family”); deeper fear stages (“OK. He’s an abusive man. He’s threatened me physically, many times and now he’s enacting the threats…how do I leave? Where do I go? What about the children?); sheer terror (“He’s likely to kill me – or harm the children – if I leave, so I can’t leave”); blind-terror provokes action (“He did something so bad, I have to get help. It’s the only responsible thing to do for the children)…..

These stages, all of them, really, are lived in a blanket – a fog – of fear. And the confidence/acuity/sense of preservation that was taken from me by the abuse was further eroded by the fear he created. It’s a paralysing fear. A fear that takes away any last shred of common sense and knowledge of what you should do. Because, when you’re that low, that terrified, you don’t – can’t – think straight. Your options are not clear. And when you perhaps only have one chance to get out and to report what’s happening, that chance is analysed, re-analysed and then analysed some more, all possible ways it can go wrong being picked over, all possible problems identified and possible solutions thought through….the whole process of trying to report it is fraught with anxiety-creating worries, with problems…and those problems generate their own fears….so your mind (which is usually strong) feels like a battlefield…with no safe place….your confusion confounds you and you find yourself stuck. Paralysed. Unable to move. Unable to make a decision. Unable to go anywhere. However unbelievable this may sound, your reality in the face of that at that point seems more bearable than the unknown because in the unknown, you can’t count on anything. At least where you are, things have a regular pattern, take regular turns…you know it and you can deal. In contrast, when it’s reported, you don’t know what will happen. You don’t know what reaction he will have, how much support you’ll get (whether you will get support), you just don’t know….

There’s fear all round when you live with abuse. It’s worse than the slowly-boiling frog, actually, it’s a Chinese water torture with boiling water, the fear penetrating your very essence, driving you crazy…the lack of options enducing pure panic, an emotion you can’t deal with, as that would be the start of some sloppy slidey crazy making. For your children, you accept the fear you know (because it’s only the too many unknowns surrounding your children if you report it that stops you reporting it) and you buckle in to withstand the abuse. You know it’s not OK for your children – obviously you know that – but you’ve seen him work his evil magic, his sinister manipulations, and you fear what would happen if you go to a custody battle. He’s capable of charming his way out of anything, however grave (you’ve witnessed that with your own two eyes, many times). And – bottom line – you can’t accept any move that would increase the risk of your children being left alone with him. Because you fear what would happen if they were.

See? Fear. It’s everywhere when you’re an abused Mama. My Gran always used to say, “Better the devil you know”. I lived with that for many years. Out of fear. The darkest years of my life. Stolen from me by the fears he’d instilled in me. I remember a film I watched when I was a teenager – “Strictly Ballroom” – there’s a line in it that stood out at me, at the time, one I remember often nowadays, now I’m almost free of him. The main character says to the girl he’s falling in love with, “A life lived in fear is a life half lived”. It rings around my head, often….I wasn’t living even half a life during all those years of fear. It was, simply, not a life. It was me existing not living. Barely existing.

That’s a sad thing indeed. Sad for anyone but it makes me so, so sad for me, because I have so much to offer but, also, for my children…they shouldn’t have had to see their Mama (their beloved Mama) living in abject fear. We’re working on recovery, all of us together. We’re resilient. We love, we laugh, we see the bright side (only the bright side). We’ll make it. And, slowly, as hope replaces fear, we’re forgetting. Memories, from traumas deep, resurface often, but they’re popping up less often now, for all of us. Time is, as they say, a great healer.

[Rather a heavy post in the midst of all the Christmas posts, but I feel, in my heart, it’s the right thing for me to be doing, baring my soul here, telling my story of abuse…because abuse happens everywhere to too many many women….perhaps more of us telling our stories about abuse – and the un-shaping – and fear – it causes – will break taboos and make it easier – somehow – for women to feel they can reach out for help. Because it’s not OK, in any way, shape or form, for women to live their lives in fear. It’s not OK that women have to live their lives in fear because systems are still not in place that enable women to feel that they have a clear and safe path out, a pathway that would protect them, and their children, from the moment they leave until the moment their abuser is charged].

[Image from here]

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18 thoughts on “Tuesdays at Ten: Fear

  1. Chelsea says:

    Wow thanks you so much truly opening up and sharing such a powerful story! I truly believe in your blog and the good it can go for women everywhere. Did you end up telling? Is that why he did the theft and all? How did you finally break free? Sorry if that’s to many personal questions! Anyway, I’m so glad you and the kids are out and that hopefully living in a fog is lifting and that daily fear is no longer a standard!!!

    Like

    • iwillbloom says:

      Hey you….less fog…..less fear….but big trauma footprints that still wake me up at night….[recovery and healing are long processes]…..(will email you xxxx)….thank you for your kind words….much appreciated – it was one of those ‘Should I post this?’ posts…..

      Like

  2. Barbara says:

    Well, friend, I did say I love to read your heart…and this is surely your out-pouring of your heart and soul – to share your life so openly…I know what you share can be a help to others who may be going through what you have been through. It never ends – the nightmares and thinking back and remembering. I cannot say “I know how it is”, but have been through an attack at gun point and survived that to talk about it. Remembering and the nightmares continued for some time; but knowing the attacker is in prison helps me to .move past it (and it was way back in 1998-yet I remember that date every year! Your words are beautifully written, even for such a word as “fear” and for such a situation. Praying you continue to heal and can find the stolen “YOU” and move on with your children…Thank you for sharing your heart and soul!

    Liked by 1 person

    • iwillbloom says:

      Oh Barbara, my goodness….how truly awful that you had to live through that (I’m in shock reading your words). We can’t know where we draw our strength from until we’re required to find strength we didn’t know we had. Thinking of you, Helen xxx

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      • Barbara says:

        Yes, I DID survive and live to tell about it; one day I may share from that experience for I was working at a church when it happened, as their church secretary; and they all thought I would LEAVE because it happened IN THE CHURCH…we help each other by sharing – even the bad parts of our lives…thank you again!!

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      • iwillbloom says:

        Oh my goodness….totally agree….we overcome through sharing our stories….xxxx

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  3. Karen Beth says:

    Your honesty is INSPIRING! Your story on fear is SO courageous! Thank you so much for sharing this story and really shedding light on the very thing people turn their heads to. I love that you are really open about the very things I feel needs more light. THANK YOU so much for sharing this and being a part of my Tuesday at Ten.. I am HONORED!

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Thank you so much for your comment (it means so much)….I don’t talk about it all with many people (the irony of sharing it on the internet when I don’t talk about it privately isn’t lost on me!)….but the people I have braved and told, they’ve all asked me the same question, “But why didn’t you just leave?”….as if it’s really easy to ‘just leave’ when you’re being abused. Thanks, again, for your comment: this was one of those posts where I was unsure whether to hit ‘publish’….

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  4. Hopeannfaith says:

    Hey there … I can tell you the nightmare does end; and while the recovery is a slow process, fast is just a coverup! Your post is powerful and is going to help many, many women who need to know they are not alone and can get out.
    Thanks. I’m always impressed.
    Blessings.
    Andrea
    *PS: my post today was a little heavy too. 😉 we gotta write it, it’s how we get it out.

    Like

    • iwillbloom says:

      Hia, thanks for your comment…..recovery has to be slow, as you say: it takes ALOT out of you, so you need a lot of time to put things back in and then put everything back together again….[totally agree – writing is the best therapy]….thinking of you all, wishing you well xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, what a brave and raw sharing of yourself dear Gal. It touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. In my social work career I worked a bit with women who had been abused physically and sexually and it was eye opening in many ways.

    One thing that is clear to me is that you are a survivor and you are no longer a victim. You are a strong woman doing right by your kids and your life. Keep up the great work.

    Thanks for sharing and God bless xo

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  6. Romi says:

    Hi. Thank you for your comment in my blog, and thank you for sharing your story here.(((hug)))

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  7. poetry joy says:

    Oh, Helen, this is such a courageous outpouring, a litany of pain that needed release, a wound crying out to be lanced. I had eyes full and heart heavy for your situation as I read. My heart goes out to you. Although I have the kindest, sweetest husband in the world, I can relate at the fear and shame level to some degree due to having gone through childhood sexual and emotional abuse.

    You write movingly and beautifully, with grace and faith shining through the pain. And isn’t this just what Jesus came for? To release the captives and set us free. Christ’s coming is real, gritty and earthy. So it is appropriate to share your story at this season.

    Yes, we (all who have suffered abuse of any kind) are survivors, not victims! That’s fighting talk, friend. May you continue to heal and grow strong in the telling. Keep up the good work! Blessings and prayers. xo

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Thank you *so* much for your kind, considered and beautiful comment….so, so much appreciated. Thank you. [I’ve not been reading your posts this week as I’ve had very little time and I want to savour them all on Sunday!]…blessings for you too xxx

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  8. Jackie says:

    Powerful testimony, powerful words written in pen to bring healing, and reshape the time that you have lost. Those feelings you pen, mirror the stages of grief, for no one steps in to a relationship thinking it will end in abuse. Instead we walk through those stages until we can realize what was lost, grieve and become strong enough to reshape our lives. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Hi Jackie – yes, that’s the worst of it…the lost time. My ‘best years’ (20s/30s) as everyone says…. Thanks so much for your comment – I appreciated it so much that you took time to write, and such a thoughtful response. It is like a grieving process and I think it’s helped me to treat it like that because, as you say, only through grieving the losses (for they are multiple) can you get stronger…. Thank you.

      Like

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