Speaking Up and Stepping Out

Lessons from a Life in Isolation

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Photo Courtesy of iStock Getty Images
Photo Courtesy of iStock Getty Images

Alone in the night

I sit,

Awaiting word of what will come next

I look ahead into the darkness

Ready for silence

(Bearse, B., 2018)


Although I was ready for silence, I had become used to living in the chaos. Weekends filled with pointless fights about things as simple as, for example, the type of pizza I would bring home for dinner, or an event that had occurred years ago. I remember so many days and nights spent in my bed, with the sheets and blankets pulled over my body, as he went in and out of the room, slamming the door behind him, hurling insults across the room. I covered my ears, hoping to block out the words, but I still heard every one of them, as I trembled and waited for his rage to subside, which unfortunately often failed to do so for days on end.

Abuse is isolating.

Why didn’t I tell anyone? Why didn’t I call anyone? Ah, these questions seem so simple, but the answers are so very complicated. I didn’t tell anyone for various reasons, including the fact that, by this point in my relationship, I had lost most of my close friends, either due to their dislike of my partner or due to his dislike of them. There was also the fact that I was embarrassed and ashamed that I, a very well educated woman, was putting up with this type of abuse. Third, we lived in a tiny town where both of us were interconnected to many of the same people, and I wasn’t ready for the potential aftershocks of speaking up about the abuse. All in all, I felt completely trapped, and I was literally living in the mountains with limited options for housing, work or escape.

Isolation is how abuse not only starts, but continues.

This is how abuse becomes the unspoken silence that needs breaking.

Speaking out is not easy. But, it is necessary in order to break free from the isolation that keeps one in the cycle of abuse. I know speaking out is not easy as I spent many years in silence, waiting for the ups and downs to even out. However, as a survivor looking back, I have learned that the turmoil was there to confuse and distract me, which kept me further isolated from my friends, my family and MY Truth. The lesson in all of this is that speaking one’s truth is more important than protecting someone else’s lies. When I look back at the years I spent hiding under the blankets, with my phone poised beside me, I wish I had reached out to someone, anyone for that matter.

In the immediacy of leaving my partner, I remember feeling extremely confused, indecisive and lonely. I had forgotten how to function as an individual versus a dysfunctional couple. In the grocery store, I would look around and only see his favorite foods, and panic would overtake me as I tried to focus on what I wanted and needed to eat versus what he would have wanted me to eat. And, as I found my way around a new city, I also felt guilt and shame around pursuing activities I liked to do. Leaving is indeed difficult.

Every day, however, it gets a little easier as the fog of isolation lifts, allowing me to take part in what would be considered normal activities. While it was initially hard to go to something like a CrossFit class without remembering the ensuing guilt and shame from my partner, I now take class with a smile. Every day, I laugh a little more, I reconnect with one more lost friend, and I try one more new thing. This is the joy in leaving and reclaiming one’s life.

Now, many months later, I have that silence I craved and it is not one due to another’s goal to isolate me. This time, it is the comforting silence that surrounds me as a write or as I fall asleep. In other words, it is a silence of MY choosing. In a day and age where mistreating, shaming and bullying women has become almost nothing more than another day in the age of Trump, women, who comprise half of the population, are living in a scary time. This fact alone makes it even more important for me to share my story, speak my truth and begin to shed light on this multifaceted and almost forbidden topic of domestic abuse, of which isolation is almost always a factor.


Want to join the conversation? Do so today by sharing your thoughts or story below as we #breakthesilence together, one word and one voice at a time. #MeToo

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