Every year on the anniversary of the day my ex moved out, I celebrate my freedom day. As I look over my writings from each of those days so far, I marvel at how much I’ve healed and grown. Some people might choose to try to forget the day, believing that moving on until it’s barely a memory is the answer. Perhaps I will one day. But for now, I need to remember. I need to remind myself of how much I lost, and how much I’ve gained since then.
No person who survives abuse should blame themselves. That’s easier said than done, and something I still struggle with. Why did I allow her to control me for so long, to isolate me, ruin my finances, and destroy my self-esteem? Why did it take two road trips, and the support of friends on the other side of the country, for me to free myself? Before it happened to me, I would see people in abusive relationships and couldn’t fathom why they would stay, why they would keep going back. But abusers are smart and manipulative. They know exactly how much they can get away with before you hit the breaking point – at least for a while, until their anger builds up so much that they lose control.
I knew that when someone hits you, it’s abuse. She knew I would know that, and I believe that’s why she never hit me. I didn’t realize that emotional and financial abuse are even more insidious and devastating. I have a friend who survived an abusive relationship in which she was beaten and injured many times. She said that the bruises heal, but the things they say to you, and make you believe about yourself, stay with you forever.
When abuse isn’t overtly physical, it’s even harder to get other people to believe you. I still feel like many friends who never saw how she could be don’t really understand. I pushed people away because I didn’t want them to know. I was embarrassed and afraid. How do you tell people that your wife screams at you and threatens to leave you stranded in bed, or in the bathroom, if you don’t do what she says? That she’ll break your computer if you don’t stop talking to one of your best friends? That you never go anywhere because she says you’re too fat and it’s an embarrassment and an inconvenience. That you spend every day living in fear of the person who is supposed to love you, choosing each word carefully, apologizing for every tiny thing that might arouse her rage, until it is so ingrained in you that your friends tell you to stop constantly saying you’re sorry.
I share these things now because I will no longer allow her to shame me. I will no longer accept them as true, because they aren’t. It’s not my fault that I need help because I have a disability. Size 18 is not embarrassingly fat. I have wonderful friends who love and support me, and talking to them is my right. I will not apologize for my existence, for being a strong person who speaks out for myself and others. I have goals and dreams for my life and will no longer allow anyone to hold me back. I am determined to live a full and active life and do something that matters, that makes the world a better place. Every day is my freedom day.
– Peter Bosman, “The Great Unknown”