Twenty plus years later, I still remember the shame I felt after it happened.
My parents had moved back to Atlanta to run their business, and my then-husband and I decided to visit them. I grew up in Atlanta so it was “my” town and I was excited to show him the city where I grew up, take him to The Varsity to eat the best chili dog he’d ever eaten, and show him the houses I grew up in and the downtown area.
It was a warm spring afternoon, the sun was high in the sky with very few clouds and the azaleas and dogwoods were bursting with color and form. We were downtown walking near a water fountain. Jack made it clear that he wasn’t having much fun strolling down memory lane, and he started to pick a fight with me. I’m not clear about what we were disagreeing about, but it doesn’t even matter, it could have been about anything.
What I remember vividly is my husband grabbing me by the hair, and pulling me along for several feet and then ripping the barrette out of my hair and flinging it across the cement towards the water fountain. It skimmed across in front of several people, breaking in two pieces, and I remember looking up at one man, he looked at me, he was wearing a dark suit carrying a briefcase, and he took long strides. He had somewhere he was going. He was too busy to help me. This was my problem, not his. I sat on a bench, quietly, ashamed, crying, hoping no one else saw what just happened. Jack had yelled at me, too. I can’t remember what he yelled, but I wanted him to be quiet. People were looking at us. I wanted the earth to swallow me up. Or God to take me. Whatever, anything, just please let me disappear.
And that, my friends, is what compels me to write this blog because if there is just one of you that feels shame for what someone else has done to you, for how someone else has made you feel less than or made you feel afraid, I want you to know you are not alone, and that you don’t have to feel that way anymore. You no longer have to suffer in silence, feeling responsible for causing this violence against you, whether it’s verbal, emotional, sexual or physical. It’s not your fault.
I got free from my abuser and if I did it, trust me, you can too. You are a person who is worthy of love and respect. Don’t accept anything less than that. I understand that it is a process, so here is an idea for you:
Do something everyday that makes you feel happy (ride your bike, take a walk, hug your child, meditate, paint your nails). And while you feel that happy feeling, tell yourself how lovely and lovable you are. Because you are.
And don’t forget to do this every single day– do something that makes you feel joyful and happy inside and while you feel these good feelings, tell yourself you’re lovely and lovable. You’ll start to feel the difference in your heart and you’ll feel stronger and less able to be around the negativity because that’s not who you are. Then one day, you’ll wake up and know, this is the day. This is the day you’ll leave. Because that joy you’ve been feeling has been gathering up strength.
You’ll drive to your friend’s house, or the police, and tell them what’s been happening to you and your littles for so long. You’ll leave hell on earth, and enter a new life that you’ll love, and then you’ll begin to love yourself so much.