Insomnia: A late night rambling from a survivor of domestic violence

It’s 4:39 in the morning and I haven’t slept. My insomnia started after I married my abuser. Looking back I think my subconscious was trying to tell me to run, warning me, sending adrenalin to my limbs to help me escape but I didn’t understand. It’s become worse now that I’m free of him and getting treatment. One of the many, horrible ironies of the path to recovery from domestic violence is that the better you get, the more you understand what was happening to you, and the more terrifying it can be. Trauma can increase once you leave. Knowledge is power but it is also true sight and what do you do when you realise you escaped, barely, from a monster?

That man I thought loved me only saw me as a means to prop his ego and provide him with a lifestyle he wanted. I was a thing to show off. I was there to serve him.

He abused me. He felt such silent and cold rage that I failed to meet his expectations that he punished me, confused me, messed with my mind, projected his sickness upon me and lied about it all.

I was married to a ghost. Looking back now I see now all the warning signs. I feel stupid, I feel a fool. But I rarely feel anger towards him. He has taken my anger, my rage at him. I rage about the news, I can shake with anger when I hear about another’s injustice. But the anger and rage towards him, the ghost, the vampire, is boxed away underneath a heavy layer of steel fear. I want to feel angry. I want to rage. But I’m scared something bad will happen if I do. The ghost has trained me so well. During our marriage when I would eventually lose my temper at him, confused and overwhelmed, sure he had done something but unable to say what or explain how I felt, he used my outbursts like a bookie holds debts. I gambled and I lost each time. And like a good bookie he tallied my losses, my mistakes, my sins, my disgusting lack of restraint and composure while he sat stone-faced or smirking on the couch. And in the days or weeks or months to come he would expect me to repay the loan, make me suffer, break me because I never had the currency he wanted. Because the currency he wanted was relief from the terrifying loneliness, emptiness and fear an abuser feels deep down. And no other person can fix that.

Of course I should pay for my outbursts. How could he be the bad one when it was me who would sometimes yell? Sometimes raise my voice? A few times scream in confusion and terror?

I can’t sleep because I see so much of it now. But my body and my brain still retains the patterns from his grooming and training. I can’t sleep because when I do I feel myself start to relax and the fear is given room to rise. Sometimes I lie in bed trying not to scream because I am so afraid. He never hit me. He never called me names. But I was terrified of him. Terrified like he was malignant cancer, a pointed gun with the safety off, a dark and twisted spirit born of death and shadows.

Each day as I waited for him to come back from work I grew more and more afraid, dread rising from my belly to soak into the sponge of my lungs and my breath became black with terrible anticipation of the knock at the door. He had keys but he would usually knock. Because it was my duty to open the door for him. I had to smile, give him a kiss on the cheek and be merry no matter the chronic pain in my joints and the chronic exhaustion pulling me down to the floor. I shouldn’t let my illness ruin his return home. But there was always something I had done wrong. Always. And I would see his body change, his face twist, his tone of voice tighten. Would the punishment be an insult implied but not said so that if I called him on it he would get frustrated with me and tell me to stop taking things personally? Would we start a conversation and would he twist what I said until I was illogical and he sighed with annoyance at my inability to have a rational discussion? Would he refuse to touch me, hug me, give me any sign of warmth even if I begged? Would he turn a conversation into a lament about how difficult his life was with me being home-bound by my illnesses so that I fell into a pit of self loathing and guilt?

Sometimes I can’t sleep because the fear calcifies to brittle mounds poking my bones and my chronic pain returns. It’s worse after a letter from his lawyer or an accidental encounter with one of the members of his church. He’s back in my head and I don’t want him in my dreams. When I dream of him I usually wake weak, oversensitive to light and noise. I don’t quite know where I am. I can have trouble speaking and it feels like there are threats everywhere. I spend the day in bed with a baseball cap pulled down low, the blankets over my head, watching TV through a slit in the sheets.

This has been a rambling post. I apologise if it has been confusing or meandering. But this post is an insight into insomnia caused by trauma. Trauma caused by domestic violence. It’s a terrifying merry-go-round. I wish I could get off.

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