Monday, October 24, 2011

I am a survivor, not a victim

The day I left, I was terrified. The night before, he had kept me up very, very late. It was a cycle that was all to common in my household: I come home after 24 or so hours of working straight, I am tired, I get the kids in and to bed (without disturbing him, or at least trying not to), and then we sit on the couch...or he follows me around. No matter what I say or do, he tells me that I don't love him, that I didn't miss him enough while I was working. I reason with him, I am calm. My integrity is questioned, my character attacked. But I know that it's not what I say or do, it's a time thing. Two hours will need to pass before I am allowed to go to bed...

...but I am tired tonight. I haven't slept hardly at all in 48 hours. I have a six month old who I nurse and pump milk for while working, and another beautiful child who just had her second birthday not long ago. I don't even think about the fact that I would love a hug and to be held and to be told I am loved and that he is so glad to see me. I have been ignoring those needs and feelings of mine for a long time, because it's easier to think you don't actually need those things if you are scorned for asking. It's easy for me to still love him, though, and I don't think twice about gently reminding him that we could go to bed, that sleep would help, that I do love him and remind him of the reasons why he should believe this.

I am not allowed to go to the bathroom. I am not allowed to go to bed. I eventually get so exhausted that I am crying. I am scared to have him in my face, to restrain me from even walking through my own house. I am trying to keep it mentally together even though my mind is being twisted to the point it convulses and I want to kill myself. So I finally have a plan...surely, I think, if I go into Amara's room, I could sleep on the floor next to her bed and he will leave me alone so that I can sleep. Surely, he wouldn't wake his daughter up.

Once I have a chance, I make it into her room quiker than his hands or body can stop me. I am quiet, and I stifle the sickness and terror I feel inside, relieved that I will soon be able to ignore it once again and continue being happy and continue loving him. But he doesn't stop. He stands in the doorway and demands that I come out with him. Amara wakes up and is crying. He is livid with me and will not let me sleep, will not let her have peace. I have no choice but to leave the room for the sake of my daughter. So like every other time, I end up giving in and separating myself mentally from him and the situation until it's over and I'm allowed to use the bathroom and allowed to go to bed.

This time, though, we both know. We know our marriage is over, and I cry silently next to him as I pray and I hear God tell me that it is time. I let him hold me, and I grieve that this will be the last time he does, and that I cannot keep going. This was never supposed to happen to me, and surely not to my children. He doesn't ever hold me, and this is how I know that he also knows.

In the morning, I know that he still knows, because he won't leave for work until I promise that I won't leave him today. I feel so guilty for lying. And half of me hopes that I'm not lying, that he will take the van, leaving me only the car which isn't working very well and which doesn't give me the space I will need to pack us up. I beseech God one more time as I lay there, giving him another chance to give me another day, another chance that maybe everything will change. I ask God to make it clear if I am to leave; it would make more sense for him to take the van since it was working, so if he took that, I would stay. If he went in the car, though, a decision that wouldn't make sense, I was to go.

After I heard a vehicle leave, Amara and I went to the door and looked out. And I cried.

It took me a few hours to pack us up. I called my dad, crying and said something about that it was time for me to leave and that we were coming. My family didn't know what was going on. My friends didn't know what was going on. But I couldn't do it anymore. There was no choice. I just couldn't do it anymore. A friend talked to me on the phone for two hours while I grabbed clothing, diapers, food, and toys and threw it all into baskets and into the van. The longer it took, the more terrified I got. My whole body shook.

I wrote a note saying that we were sorry and that we loved him. Amara drew a picture on it. And then we left. This is the beginning of me being a survivor and not a victim.

In honor of domestic violence awareness month

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