Domestic violence is a mindfuck.
Three weeks ago I came home. To my house. I didn't feel comfortable staying where I was after the car incident, and I just didn't know where else to go. And I was so tired. I wanted to come home and sleep in my own bed and stop taking up space in someone else's home.
I didn't actually say that I came home. That wouldn't have been very smart, would it? What I said was: I am safe. Because as long as no one knew I had come home, I reasoned I was safe(r) (than if they knew).
For the record, here is what it sounds like inside the head of someone who's lived with abuse:
I'm really scared, I need to do something to protect myself and the kids. I have a feeling in my gut that this could get really bad. Of course, I'm probably just making this up. After all, nothing has happened so far. Except for the ten or twelve things that have happened thus far. No, I'm sure I'm making it up. But now that I'm sitting here, I don't feel very safe. If we leave again, my daughter will miss her play. She'll be bereft. I'm such a bad mother. This is all my fault. I wonder what's happening on Twitter?
Fortunately for me, I have a number of friends of sound mind. One of those friends has spent his entire career in the justice system, as both an attorney and a judge. He's seen some seriously scary stuff. He's been my ally through all of this. Quite a while back he sat me down and told me that my ex had all the risk factors for serious violence. He went through the laundry list of internal and external factors, one by one.
I countered that throughout our nine year marriage, he hadn't been violent (much). Aside from the assault. And the time he slammed his fist down on the bed next to the baby. And the couple of times he dragged the children by their arms and it left bruises. Oh, and the weapons. But other than that...
He was patient with me. He explained that people can hold their broken psyches together in day to day life. Until, that is, they're under a tremendous amount of pressure (like, oh, let's say, pending criminal charges).
Imagine a broken vase that's held together by tape, he said. The vase is in a number of pieces but you've wrapped tape around the whole thing to keep it from falling apart. It's standing there and it looks like a vase.
But what happens, he asked, if you set a heavy book down on top of that vase?
Almost two years have gone by since the assault. That's a long time. That's a lot of time to talk oneself into feeling safe. Nevertheless, I think about that vase analogy often. The visual is so clear. When my mind gets foggy, I see it and it pulls me back to center.
Anyway, my friend must have figured out that I came home. Because he called and told me I needed to go. Gently, of course. He passed along a name and an address. He made it easy.
So we left again.
We are somewhere new. Somewhere safe. This time, when I say we are safe, I really mean we are safe.
I don't know how long we'll be here.
There are moments when I want to pretend none of this is real. There are moments when I want to lie down and cry and never get up again. There are moments when I'm perfectly fine (and that's when you'll find me on Twitter).
I am grateful for the incredible support we've received. I am grateful for my friends. I am grateful for the people who have taken us in, offered guidance, made us feel welcome, watched the house, taken care of the animals, offered to send money (please don't), prayed for our safety, commented on my posts, written beautiful words. And on and on.
How do I say thank you for all of that? I can't just say, “thank you.” That just doesn't work. But I don't know what else to say. So thank you.
P.S. Thanks, too, for your comments on my last post. I can't reply because I'm having Disqus issues at the moment. I rue the day I installed Disqus.