Survivor Story: Forgiving Myself Was Part of My Journey

Submitted by: Tracy, Survivor

The path out of an abusive relationship is long and filled with obstacles that survivors must overcome during their journeys to heal. Understanding the severity of what one has escaped while reliving memories of abuse and battling through the trauma, guilt, and shame take their toll. On top of this, many survivors also face the expectations of others that they should be willing to forgive their abusers for the pain they caused.

Tracy endured abuse for three years, during which she regularly lived with the threat of losing her life. Five years after successfully breaking free, she discusses how the abuse affected her before and after leaving, the realizations of what she lost, and why her focus has been on forgiving herself. Her story serves as a source of hope that things will get better and a reminder that we all deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and loving-kindness.

Last night I was given another wonderful evening. I remember leaving each of my children’s rooms after tucking them into bed and saying our special good night messages. This morning, I was given another beautifully chaotic morning. Five children successfully went off to school, a toddler over to Grandma’s house for the day, a husband off to a meeting, and I made it out the door to go to work.

I say that I was given another morning and another night because nearly five short years ago, I was not sure I would have lived to see another day. Five years ago, I would have gone to bed bruised and broken only to wake up crying and scared. I would have been repeatedly assaulted and had my life threatened. For three years, I lived steeped in this misery and had many failed attempts at escaping the dark life in which I found myself trapped. It was the life I had hidden away from the world, and, what was most devastating to me, the life I hid from my family.

Although five years have passed, the memories have not faded. I still remember getting trapped in his abusive tornado of threats, blackmail, and manipulation. I can recall the moment the physical abuse started and how quickly it escalated. Quite a few memories include the presence of weapons. I woke up in the middle of the night with him standing above me, holding a gun, and I once had a knife held to my stomach as I was forced to drive away with him for a vacation. I remember being tied up, kicked, punched, cut, and sexually assaulted.

On some mornings, I would wake up to find my purse, keys, and wallet missing so I could not get to work or important family events. He often threatened to kill himself or me if I left him. I remember the seven-hour standoff with the police at my house when he was in another state, and how, after some attacks, I would regain consciousness after passing out from being strangled. I remember being hit across my forearms and head with a hockey stick and him slamming my head into the hood of my vehicle. He let the air out of my tires so I could not escape. I hid bruises and made up stories, and I felt trapped, embarrassed, scared, and alone.

While I was not even close to perfect, I tried my best, and I gave everything I could for this individual. I sacrificed things that I will never get back – time with my children, vacations, money, and a part of my soul. During difficult times, I supported him and wanted nothing more than to see him succeed after overcoming some issues that had troubled him earlier in life. I financially supported him and his son, and I was his biggest advocate and caretaker while he battled his mental health illnesses. 

What I realized is that this individual had no qualms with taking everything from me and giving nothing in return – other than false hope, disingenuous apologies, lies, emotional hurt, physical pain, debt, and scars. This man did more than just physically and mentally abuse me. He stole my memories with my children for those three years, he took my money, and he damaged my soul.

Five years ago, I gained the courage to stand up to the tornado that came into my life and destroyed everything. I was finally strong enough to give my children and myself a new life. Since that day in 2015, when I decided to no longer be a victim, I started my journey of recovery. I can honestly say that it has not been easy. It has been a struggle, but a good struggle, not a bad one, not like the struggle to breathe while being strangled. For me, it has been a good struggle, one free of abuse, focused on rebuilding myself. 

Although I have started to heal, I still deal with the effects of the abuse, I do not like to be home alone. Normal house sounds send fearful chills down my spine, and I worry – Is he in my house? I shut down and feel trapped in normal conflict, and when I am upset or intimidated, I hide and need to be left alone. I have spent countless time repairing strained relationships, building up my personal confidence, trusting men, learning to let go of the past, and – most importantly – forgiving myself. 

Part of this journey is forgiveness. I am not in the space to consider forgiving my abuser. Perhaps that will come later in life, but who really knows? My focus has been on forgiving myself. Numerous times, I have mentally beaten myself up for exposing my children and myself to such an abusive person who took away three years of our life, but thankfully not one day more. I have been able to pull myself out of my own personal battle, and I have forgiven myself by focusing on how proud I am of myself for leaving that dark life – and that dark individual.

Midway through 2015, I was blessed with the opportunity to purchase a home. This gift brought me to a new community where I met a safe, loving, and understanding man who became my husband in 2017. He has never judged me for my past and understands I am still recovering. He loves me for who I am, even though I am damaged with scars. In 2018, we welcomed our son into an already blended family with five kids and have been living a good life focused on each other and our family.

After reading my story, please listen to the song “One Call Away” by Charlie Puth. Have faith and believe that there is a Superman out there for you, ready to set you free. If you are living in the dark world I once lived, know there is someone out there that will protect, understand, respect, and love you the way you deserve to be loved. I pray you get the strength to stand up for yourself, your kids, your family – and leave your tornado.  

I am proud to say that I am no longer a victim of domestic abuse; I am a survivor. Tonight, I will have another wonderful night, and tomorrow I will have another beautifully chaotic morning.

**If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org, chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777, or send a private message through our Facebook page. For crisis services, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

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