My restraining order expires in a week. It’s weird saying that– maybe not because of what it actually means but because that means it’s been three years since I had to face my ex in court and tell a judge why I was afraid of him.
It’s not the sort of experience I ever planned on having. I didn’t dream of growing up to become a woman who got involved with a man who degraded her, mistreated her, threatened her, and made her lose time and energy off of her life. Being in an abusive relationship is like being possessed. So often you don’t even realize until after the fact just how bad it was.
There’s the abusive relationship, there’s the leaving, and then there’s the HOLY SHIT process of realizing what you just went through.
I cannot believe it has been three years.
Two years ago— one year after I’d gotten the restraining order— I had to testify against him in court again. He sued our workplace (after they fired him for what he did to me) This court room experience was ten thousand times worse than the first. They slut-shamed me, blamed me, and gaslighted me in an attempt to make me think “maybe it wasn’t so bad” or “maybe I did something to deserve it.”
I was one year into the HOLY SHIT process when he actually found a way to pull me back into the mess of it all. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like it when my life tries to run backwards. I’ve seen what’s back there and all I have is a big flaming NO FUCKING THANK YOU to all of that.
Last year, on the two-year anniversary of the restraining order and one-year anniversary since the trial, I wrote this post about how I still worried he might kill me. I wrote about the lingering effects of an abusive relationship and many in the comments told me how I was exhibiting signs of PTSD. I don’t disagree with them— the weapons, the egress planning, the constant vigilance are all sure signs— but I think it’s something more. I am forever affected by having been in that relationship. PTSD or not, it has changed me.
I just have to decide whether it’s a good change or a bad change.
In a few days, I’ll no longer have a piece of paper to protect me. Of course that’s all it’s ever been. If he really wanted to come after me, he would— regardless. I think there’s value to that piece of paper though, even if it’s not some sort of almighty mystical thing that repels bullets or puts up a force field. It’s affirmation that what he did to me was wrong, that I was right to stand up against him, and that when we reach out for help, sometimes it will come. We shouldn’t just deal with it or get over it or take the burden of fixing a situation on ourselves. That piece of paper reminds me that a truly shitty situation can be reversed.
I really can’t wrap my mind around the fact it’s been three years.
I remember the horrible feeling of being completely alone. The overwhelming shame of it all, the fear that I’d brought it on myself, that everyone would just shrug and say “well, she deserved it.” I remember the animal-like panic, the feeling of being cornered and having no options, no way out.
But we always have options. ALWAYS.
And no matter how shitty things get, no matter how dark, there is always another side to that experience. There WILL be a moment that is not THAT moment. A time when that all encompassing darkness is just a memory you look back on and say “wow. I survived that.”
I’m not glad it happened to me, but I do appreciate that I’m stronger for it.
August 20, 2015 is a day I pictured as being forever in the future. But it’s almost here. And when it arrives, that restraining order will lose whatever bit of power it had. But as far as I’m concerned, it symbolizes a shift. I’ve reached THAT DAY that seemed so far in the future I couldn’t even conceive of it back then. If you’d told me I’d be married to a guy who isn’t the slightest bit of an asshole I would have laughed at you. I couldn’t see that future for myself. I was bitter, caught up in self-loathing, too afraid to fully hope.
But that didn’t matter. Because you don’t have to have some sort of master plan for your life. You don’t have to know exactly what you’re going to do in order to get X Y and Z in place for the securing of ultimate happiness. You just have to go through each day and make the decision to not let anyone else hijack it away from you. Whether that’s an abusive relationship or a series of choices made out of fear or numbness. Learn to cultivate your life in the way YOU want to live it, and you just might surprise yourself when THAT DAY comes and you look at your life and think “wow. Not sure how I got here, but I’m glad.”
All badassery zen-master-ness aside, I’m totally planning on not being around on August 20th. I’ve read way too many day-the-restraining-order expired horror stories. No Gracias! Last year when I wrote about how I was still afraid, I said I’d be out of the country when the anniversary came around again. You know I never lie to you guys, so I’m jet setting out of here for a week or so. You’ll have to stalk me on Facebook or Twitter to find out where I’m off to.
How have YOU gotten through difficult things in your life? Do you like where you’ve ended up? If not, do you plan to change that?
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