The loneliness of a domestic abuse survivor

I feel like I want to fall inside someone else’s skin tonight. Someone safe and warm and heavy. Just heavy, solid, unchanging. Not a mirage or fae, a real person who lives and breathes imperfectly but truthfully and honestly. And lovingly.

The loneliness of surviving domestic violence can be excruciatingly overwhelming. Loneliness falls from the sky, it rises from the ground, it drips from walls and rocks and you walk through the same places you once did, and everything is different. People ask how you are, and you can’t tell them what’s actually happened. Because if you did, if you really did tell them what was going on…

“How are you today? The weather looks lovely. I hope you’ll be able to get out into the sun.”

“Actually, I had a nightmare last night and my skin feels like it’s going to fall off me like the skin of well boiled potatoes because I’m buzzing so badly with how on edge I am. That’s because my ex-husband, you know him, you’re friends with his mum and you saw him grow up. That sweet boy became a man full of rage and bitterness and he tries to exorcize that pain out of him by seducing and sacrificing women at the alter of his ego. I wanted to die, you know? Living with him was torture and he’s actually incredibly crueller than you could ever imagine. Bet you never saw that coming, huh? And being here in Coles is making me feel like I’m in a warzone because every sound rips me apart and I wait in terror for someone like your lovely and well-meaning self to approach me because I won’t know what to say. I’ve lost the ability to know how to do this. So, I’ll probably skip the sun. It’s too bright. I’m going back to bed to wear my special trauma baseball cap I use when the light gets too much and I can’t handle life anymore. Please give my love to your daughter and I hope her baby is well.”

I think there’s a rip in the world for survivors. Once you acknowledge the abuse, address it or leave your abuser, the world cracks. People decide what side of the crack they will stand. You may force friends to stand on the other side confused and in the dark because telling them will be too hard or it will put them in the middle of something they don’t deserve to worry about. Sometimes you lose whole communities, like a church. Sometimes even members of your own family step over that screeching crack of splintering life and choose to stand with your abuser. Sometimes they’ll lie and sign affidavits and try to get your children taken away from you. That happened to a woman I know. She managed to convince the courts to let her keep her child but her abuser keeps trying to discredit her in every way he can and she lives with the hurt of knowing some of her family and closest friends chose a monster over her.

Personally, I’ve lost almost everyone. While married I spent way more time with my abuser’s family than mine, an outcome planned and carefully executed by him. I had nephews and nieces, aunts and uncles. They’re gone to me now. All of my friends were from his church, many actually related to him. I decided early on I wouldn’t put them in a position where they had to either believe I was a mentally ill liar or that he was a perpetrator of domestic violence. Nothing good can come from that and I care about these people. Better to push them gently away. Mostly I feel good about that decision, but I also really want to scream across the divide what happened, what was done to me. I want to plaster Facebook with angry words and show them that I’m not okay.

After I separated I made a new friend who completely coincidentally had also been abused and she helped me survive the first six months of my awakening. But she’s busy, she has kids and a boyfriend. My parents are wonderful and have taken me in and trusted implicitly my version and experience of my marriage, but it feels unnatural to be my age and back living with them, like a once loved song sung slightly off-tune.

So I’m lonely. I want that feeling of infusing with someone I’m so comfortable with I can be naked with them in every way. How to do that, though, when I currently feel physically unwell near any man even close to my own age? My body shuts down, adrenalin spikes and I can’t speak properly. My abuser was a master manipulator and coercer. He reigned as king in the bedroom and touch became something to be frightened of. His desire made me feel sick. His pleasure as I felt pain caused my insides to literally shut down, close in, protect me from being invaded. The terror remains. My body remains closed off. He was the only man I’ve ever had sex with so I want something else. I yearn. I’m so lonely and too sick to work so here I lie in my old bedroom from when I was a teenager, in my thirties, desperate for warmth and touch and taste, and I am cold and parched and there is bitter memory upon my tongue making my glass of red wine turn into vinegar.

Luckily I do have the women from my support group. This kind of trauma is almost impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t seen or lived it, and my ladies understand, and I can be openly, unapologetically myself with them. One day hopefully I’ll be ready to open up to people again who haven’t lived domestic violence, and to love and be loved, and to touch and be touched.

One thought on “The loneliness of a domestic abuse survivor

  1. Reading this catapulted me back to when I first left my ex husband. I know this feeling so well – yearning for intimacy and closeness and warmth and love, but recoiling from it at the same time. My barriers shot up and wouldn’t allow anyone in at all, but over 3 years later, it has happened for me. All I can say is it’s time. You need to heal, you need to understand what has happened as best as you can and the final step is to just let go of it. You may think that’s impossible, but human beings are extraordinary creatures. You need to find the path that works for you, have your bad days but relish the good ones, when they happen. It’s a journey, which is a terrible cliché, but it is. And the rose that grows back in place is usually stronger and more beautiful than before. Take care – sending a big virtual hug!

    Liked by 1 person

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