By Dana Rutherford
November is a month that we tend to hear the word “thankful” thrown around often since its biggest holiday is Thanksgiving. As a survivor of domestic violence, it can feel hard to say that you are thankful for what life has dealt you, but what if we took the time to change our perspective while acknowledging and healing from the pain that we have endured?
I am a survivor of domestic violence, and I can declare that I feel incredibly thankful for many moments in my life. That may sound surprising when you hear the horror that many survivors, including myself, have gone through. I have spent years of my life in turmoil, confusion, hypervigilance, exhaustion, and many other negative emotional states, but when I look back over time and through my healing process, I am grateful for numerous aspects of my journey.
Most importantly, I am thankful to be alive. I could have easily been a statistic. He was only getting more and more violent as the years went on. The physical abuse laid dormant for many years until it reared its ugly head towards the end of our relationship. The stress alone from the life I lived often felt like it could send me into a grave let alone the bruises that frequently adorned parts of my body. I can recall days of using makeup concealer on my face and my arms to try to hide what an argument with him produced. No matter what he may have taken from me in those moments, he didn’t take my life. I made it, and for that, I am beyond appreciative.
I am also thankful for what I have learned in this process of metamorphizing from a victim to a survivor of domestic violence. It’s such a beautiful mess to escape and then heal from the trauma of abuse. There were days that I didn’t think my body could physically produce another tear because of the amount that I had cried. I wondered if there was such a thing as a life where a human being didn’t have such a hold on your heart and mind, and as time went by, I discovered there was. I encountered a little girl who was hiding on the inside of my soul who longed to be nurtured and seen. I discovered that same little girl never had the opportunity to be a child, but instead, had to mature quickly due to emotionally unavailable parents with a drug problem that paved the way to an intimate relationship that offered the same. I not only rescued that little girl, but I showed her the love and care that she deserved over the last 30 years. I now love the person I am at 36 years old. I have endured a lot, but it taught me more than any book ever could. I am so very grateful for the education and healing that has taken place in my life.
Because of the above mentioned, I am exceptionally thankful to now take what I have survived and learned and pay it forward in hopes to help others walking through the same process. There is something so very powerful in taking your life back and encouraging someone else to do the same. I don’t know how many testimonies of survival of domestic violence that I read in those moments of escaping the abuse that gave me the hope and courage I needed to not go back. As much as I played a part in my own freedom story, there were also many people along the way that picked me up when the load felt too heavy. That love birthed in me a desire to take my story and do something significant with it. I would no longer let him keep me silent; instead, I would use my voice to speak up for those who maybe couldn’t. Going back to college opened the door to the opportunity to become an advocate for domestic violence, and now my story is my battle cry. I never knew the pure joy that comes from watching another victim find their strength and freedom. It’s a beautiful thing.
There are so many ways that we can be thankful if we just adjust our perspective. If you are still in the abuse, there is life on the other side. I can see where feeling thankful may be difficult in the battle but getting the help you need to take your life back will soon allow you to feel gratitude like none other. At this moment, I am thankful that you made it to this blog post no matter what stage of your journey you are on. There is hope, and I am living proof.