Two weeks ago I wrote to you about my experience over the last year in choosing to leave domestic abuse and my extended family choosing to support my abuser because he is a man. As a survivor, I had been living in fear and shame for far too long. Fear of abusive behavior and shame that I was being abused.
It took me over a year to be brave enough to write about this portion of my life. The love I was met with was overwhelming. Yet the private love I received was deeper than the public support and has been steadfast through my healing. I am equally grateful for both. You see, love was my lifeline. I’d like to focus this week on choosing love when fear feels overwhelming.
I have always believed that love has more to give than fear. I have lived through incredibly painful experiences and in each experience, love has somehow stayed within and around me. Love is a gentle reminder that peace is possible; that the world can be good. There are incredible people in this world and we are worthy of a life of freedom to enjoy it all. Fear tells us we will always experience pain, then shame tells us to hide that pain. Love has soft and open arms, gently whispering this isn’t so.
Leaving Fear Behind
When I left my abusive marriage I was still able to hear was the whisper of love. I was too lost in fear at the time to fully embrace the love that was (and still is) available to me. I knew I was no longer willing to live in abuse and could barely hear the pulse of my own heart.
When I first left my marriage, I was terrified to tell anyone what had happened. Like many survivors, I hid the abuse well. I was ashamed and even my closest friends didn’t know the extent of what I had experienced over the previous 5 years. Only my sister knew what had really happened.
It’s scary, you know? I had somehow been conditioned to hide and protect my ex-husband and was terrified to tell anyone what really happened. Yet the whisper of love told me to speak, to seek love, and to look for help in order to restore myself and my life.
At the time I was hurt beyond measure at the actions of my extended family. At the same time, I was overwhelmingly met with love by my immediate family and friends. I was also cared for deeply by an amazing trauma specialist who helped me beyond belief by first giving a name to my pain, domestic violence, and then helping me heal. If I had chosen to stay in a mindset of fear over one of love I may have missed the love inside the incredible people that were already walking alongside me. Shame and pain told me to hide, love told me it was safe to come out.
At first, the pain was unbearable because, while incredible people were showing me I was loved, I was also hurt and quite honestly blindsided by the actions of my extended family. To this day I continue to be disappointed in their choice to turn a blind eye to the abuse of their own family.
The pain of coming out about abuse made me understand on a deep level why so many victims stay in abusive relationships. When you are leaving abuse you are already scared beyond measure and the systems and people you come out to do not often make it easy. Many times they actually make it harder (another topic for a different time).
I was and am incredibly lucky to have the family and friends I do. As I was met with more pain they held me tighter. They showed me love time and time again. They showed me who I was when I could not see. I leaned into the love of others until I could find the love inside of me again.
I cannot explain it and yet love has been my saving grace. Remember the two wolves? My wolf of love was starving and I needed to feed it to find myself again. What I didn’t tell you is that an incredible community carried me back to my own wolf when I couldn’t walk there myself.
Truly Believing in Love
Yes, I have experienced trauma, but it’s just a fraction of my life. I have also experienced love, which is the foundation of my life. I have long believed that all people are equal and are born deeply in love with humanity. Living through a traumatic experience made me realize that even though pain is real, the healing properties of love are more real. At the end of my marriage, I can tell you I felt absolutely unloveable, but I still had a heart full of love to give. Today I rest my hand on my warm heart and know I am fully lovable and have plenty of love to give. And I still get my heart filled with love from others.
To my parents, my mom tribe, my sister, old friends (and a new one), my employees, and perfect strangers who have shown me love as I’ve walked over the coals of pain; thank you. When love whispered to me a year ago I was worthy and my life was worth living, a life free of abuse, I was terrified to embrace it. Love has set me free.