I have stated previously that what I have experienced with Keith was not Domestic Violence.
Many have and do consider that a statement of denial. To a certain extent, that would be an accurate assessment. It is difficult to see oneself as a victim when you’ve been in the position of being the one to deal with the difficulties and dysfunctions of life, which I have, and still be standing, walking, talking, breathing and still fighting to be and do better.
It’s a difficult and painful admission to make that someone whose heart, effort, and intent has been to do and be good, someone whom you’ve invested your heart, energy, hopes, and dreams into, is too broken, wounded, and damaged for your love and effort to heal. It’s hard to see and accept that the wounded brokenness you see so clearly in that person, which resonates so deeply inside of your own wounded brokenness, is incapable of seeing and accepting responsibility for his own healing process.
When your identity becomes so very wrapped up in being the strong one who doesn’t give up, who keeps fighting through, who won’t abandon another the way you’ve been abandoned, then each and every time their pain and dysfunction batters against your inner damage and you break down and do the very thing you swore never to do – abandon them – the guilt, the shame, the criticism of your inner self, joins with the other’s voice, compelling you to go back.
When you look around and see doubt, confusion, and condemnation on the faces of the people in your church, your place of employment, your children’s school, and in the community at large, there doesn’t seem to be a safe place to talk honestly about what is happening inside of your life, your relationship, or your head.
Add into the mix the knowledge and experience of social stigma associated with mental health disorders and illnesses, which have been lifelong companions for you and are likely factoring and unidentified in the person you love, whose love you believe in, and it seems like there is no safe choice.
As a society, we blame spouses and domestic partners for how they are treated by their significant others. We criticize, we shame, we blame, we judge, and become emotionally and verbally abusive to the ones who “choose” to stay in these kinds of relationships.
Then, we wonder why others, or we ourselves, stay.
“Damned if I do, damned if I don’t.”
Domestic Violence isn’t necessarily what I thought it was. My perception and experience did not match what everyone was telling me it was. My participation in the continuation and perpetuation of the cycle was not a willful and conscious decision to be a victim and choose a man over my children, although that is what they experienced and perceived.
We have both been drowning people reaching and grasping onto one another in our efforts to keep breathing and keep our heads above water. People who are drowning need trained, educated, healthy, attentive, and aware people who know how to keep themselves and the drowning person safe while getting them from the deep and dangerous waters to the shore.
I’m filled with remorse at the knowledge and understanding that, while I’ve been drowning for the entirety of my children’s lives, I have pulled them in and almost drowned them with me.
I’m finally learning and recognizing some truths so many have judged and deemed I had no excuse for not seeing and knowing previously.
To those persons I would say that a drowning person will not reach out to the circling shark for help.