As I hunched over the sink in the hotel’s bathroom to wash my teaching clothes for next day’s dance classes, I paused, looked at myself in the mirror, and for the first time said to myself, “This is NOT OK anymore.”
My mind raced as I recalled this morning’s shaming, ending in another episode of him standing over me, screaming at me to pack my things and leave the house while he calmly went and took a shower. As always, I was in a state of shock, his berating tone echoing in my ears, loud enough for everyone to hear in the small community in which we lived, and definitely loud enough for our animals to go and hide.
What was I to do? Stay, as I had for years, and await more insults and then a barrage of apologies that I could almost guarantee awaited me, or leave for safer grounds. I decided to leave for safer grounds.
So, as I was hunched over the sink, I had to take a long look at myself and apologize. It truly was no one’s fault but my own. I had let this happen and it was killing me. Every day a little part of me was dying inside as I became more and more exhausted, and more and more a shell of who I once was.
This event occurred six months ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. It haunts me and reminds me of why I must never return to this way of life, for my own safety, sanity and overall health. Every day is a struggle, a struggle to let go of the past, to forgive myself and to see each new day as a gift of freedom. Leaving toxicity is not easy, oftentimes dangerous, and it takes the courage to leave everything behind. And, I feel I can say this with truth behind it, as I have nothing to my name except my name itself.
However, the word “nothing” is subjective, as I have the most important “thing” of all – me. In addition, I am now starting to have my physical and mental health back; two very important “things” in anyone’s life. For example, I now sleep through the night without the fear of being awoken. I do have nightmares, but as the months go on, they dissipate in frequency. After months of neglect, I am also finally taking the care needed to address my physical condition, which was in great disrepair. Most importantly, my overall mental health, and former state of living in a fog, has begun to lift. I can think and see more clearly, and this, my dear friends, is so very important in moving forward after experiencing trauma. In other words,
Don’t let these moments DEFINE you. Let them REFINE you.
How does one do so? My journey began by admitting that I was in a toxic and abusive relationship. I remember many a night spent on the phone with the National Domestic Violence Hotline, telling them yet another story and at the end asking, “Is this abuse?” From there, it is important to start sharing your story and asking for help. This, too, can be very hard to do. In order for the abuse to truly refine you, the following step is very important: forgive and accept yourself and the situation.You are NOT alone. It is NOT your fault. And you are NOT to blame.
All in all, the number one reason to leave a toxic relationship is you. Yes, leaving for the unknown is scary! I am scared, not only of what’s next, but of publishing these words. However, I am more petrified of not sharing my story because the longer I remain silent, the longer others will as well, and we no longer need to be ashamed. Instead, one by one, we need to speak out, stand up, walk out and move forward. We are called survivors for a reason and I for one, plan on doing more than just surviving; I plan on LIVING.
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