From the outside looking in, we were a happy family. How could we not be? All three of us, smiling cheery faces, eyes barely showing the cracks within us. And for a time we were happy. I’ll not deny that we had happy moments as a family. Moments that weren’t besieged with fear, with watching every step, every word.
From the outside looking in, you would NEVER have known what happened behind closed doors. You would never had known what fear the young girl was experiencing, what anger the mom was trying to control, or that dad was unaware for most of it.
That’s the thing about abuse. You don’t know. An abuser excels at hiding in public. A victim learns to shut up and become as little as possible. To not bring any attention upon themselves. Bruises can be hidden/written off/explained. You don’t truly know until someone says something. And a lot of times, when someone speaks up others don’t believe them. Especially in cases like mine, when we appeared to the world as a happy family.
But that’s one of the keys to healing, to moving forward. Say something. Tell someone. Speak up.
Living with abuse, or even living after the abuse has ended is like living with a constant weight. The weight of this enormous secret. Something that you’ve never talked about. It is a weight on your shoulders, a weight on your chest. It governs your every move, your every word, your every decision. Your every breathe is tainted by the weight of this secret. Even if you have left the situation where the abuse has occurred, your abuser still has power over you with this weight.
That’s the thing about abuse that no one really talks about. You leave, get out, walk away and it still follows you. It follows you mentally, emotionally, and physically. The weight of this secret is usually a big factor in the healing process, a big factor in all three of the ways abuse follows you.
Talking about it, telling someone, starts to lift that weight. It allows you to feel as if you can breathe again. You don’t have to tell the world, you don’t have to make any crazy public display, just tell one person. A friend, a stranger, a loved one. It doesn’t matter-just someone. Start lifting that weight off of your chest and start taking back control of yourself.
In fact, from my own experience, I had some folks who knew us as a family be shocked when I first spoke out. It was a surprise to some, not so much too others, but overall if I had never said anything no one would ever have known. I also knew though that I wanted to take back control. I wanted my voice back. I wanted to be “normal”.
While I’ll never be “normal”, I have become a person that I like again. I am no longer a shell, scared of the slightest thing. I’ve no longer got a weight on my shoulders/chest controlling everything. The first time I told someone that weight started to lift.
Talking about it, sharing my story, even just to one friend who already had an idea that something wasn’t right, allowed me to breathe a little easier. And slowly, ever so slowly because the healing process takes time, I started to take back control by talking and by writing.
I’ve faced some backlash, and I know others who have faced even more backlash than I have, but the freedom that we feel, the relief, that’s feeling of being able to breathe-that feels better than the backlash that comes. You may lose friends, you may face some backlash, BUT the freedom that you will get, the feeling of relief, the ability to breathe again without this weight. That is something amazing.