I’ve committed to myself that, after Christmas, I will deliberately and mindfully wade through ten years’ worth of recollections, of hurts, of memories. Of what was done to me and how that feels. I’ll enter those howling winds, that scene of desolation, and learn once more to feel. To get out of my head and have the courage and grace and integrity to hold my own emotions as something worthy of respect, rather than something to shove beneath the surface of my mind as inconvenient and intrusive realities – which, admittedly, they are.
A big part of domestic violence for me was secrecy. It’s still a problem for me. First, I had to keep things secret to protect my then-husband, to protect my marriage and my security, to protect myself. Now, it’s hard to talk about what happened because I have to protect others – real people for whom violence isn’t a daily reality. At least, that’s what I tell myself, and a large part of that is true. But a primary function of not telling people much is that I then don’t have to witness their reaction. I don’t have to see in their face and in their body language, and hear in their tone of voice, how horrible this stuff is. I don’t have to face their compassion. I can stay in my head, and I don’t have to acknowledge my feelings.
Which is all very well, but the things that have happened to me are important. Big things: rape, beatings. But small things, too – each nightmarish, illogical volatile spiral from calmness to violence or abuse; each small humiliation; each tiny moment of compromise, of loss of integrity, of loss of power, of loss of self-respect. I’ve survived them all. Just as a broken bone, once healed, is stronger than the bones around it (I think; I read it in a book and it seems to make sense), I’m stronger for what I’ve been through. Or at least, I will be.
But I can’t truly say that I’ve survived these things unless I honour them. Unless I’m willing to talk about them – not willy-nilly, not intrusively, not to the detriment of those for whom I care – but unless I’m willing to draw these things into my consciousness, make room for them in my being as well as in the dusty mental box labeled “Things that happened to me that I don’t want to think about”, I’m not honouring them. I’m not honouring the feelings that come from them: the grief, the guilt, the anger, the shame, the heartache.
I don’t know what honouring these feelings, these recollections, looks like. But I do know this: if I don’t honour them, they’ll come out anyway. And I’ll be ashamed of them. I’ll see them as weakness, as inconveniences, and I’ll try to push them away. If I make space for them, acknowledge them as vital steps towards re-building myself – well, I kind of feel that I might have less of a fight on my hands.
We’ll see. After Christmas.