Friday, September 19, 2014

One Year Later

This week marks One Year since leaving what may have been the worst relationship of my life.  I've debated whether or not to talk about it, because the details are hard and the story isn't pretty.  But at some point, you need to let go of the things you've been holding on to and that is what I'm doing.  If I can help one person, if one person can see something in my story that helps them... then it isn't in vain.  This is my story.  

September 21st marks One Year since The Incident that ended with the police taking my now ex-boyfriend to jail. The past year has been a jumble of complex thoughts, situations and emotions. 

At first, I tried treating it like any other break-up, even sharing tips on How to get over a break-up.  I expected life to go back to normal.  I expected to feel free again and while in some ways I did, it wasn't what I expected.  For a long time, I thought maybe I was just feeling Fragile and needed to be handled with care for awhile.  I was hurting, bothered, upset by things that I couldn't put a name to just yet.  I was exhausted.  I was struggling with depression.  I was having nightmares.  I was anxious.  I was stressed.  I just knew that something felt "wrong", toxic, and as if it were feeding on me.  

For a long time, I struggled to identify exactly what was wrong.  I had physically scrubbed my house and bleached everything, even buying new sheets.  I started getting acupuncture on a regular basis for the stress and anxiety.  I smudged my house with sage and sweet grass.  I got an energy healing session (Reiki).  I reached out to friends who had stuck with me during our relationship and tried to resume a normal social life.  I made Resolutions.  I pushed myself to try and find joy in my hobbies again.  But I couldn't seem to shake the feelings of doom and gloom.

Then one night my landlord left town.  I had gone downstairs to feed his cats and as I was leaving his apartment I was standing in the porch we share and there was a loud bang.  I ran up the stairs, unlocking the door (because I lock my doors now even when I leave for 5 minutes to feed a cat) and slamming it shut, bolting it behind me.  It took me a minute, as I leaned up against the door with my heart pounding in my ears and breathing heavy, to realize my stupid neighbors were setting off fireworks again (it was August).  It was then that I realized that everything that happened had left me wound so tight that the sound of fireworks were upsetting to me.  I'd never felt like that about fireworks in my life. 

Shortly after beginning to realize all of these things about myself, I realized that I had so much fear because I still worry he will kill me.  I have this fear that the door is going to be splintered by a determined kick and he will come after it.  That night with the fireworks, I couldn't see outside because of the lights on the porch and my reaction was because I thought it was him.

And then the light bulb turned on.  What was I doing to make myself feel safe?

I hesitated to describe what I went through as abuse because so many women have been through and experienced worse, as if by being really lucky in that I never took a hit invalidated the fact that everything that happened was abuse.  I felt saying I had been in an abusive relationship was an insult to women who'd been through so much worse.  At some point I realized that abuse is a broad spectrum and while there are usually many things in common between situations, the fear is the same.

Fear is not a feeling I'm able to admit to easily.  For a long time I felt that admitting to being scared or afraid was weak, which probably contributed to why I was so humiliated when I was forced to admit I was afraid and that I needed the help of the police.  It also explained why I struggled so long to admit that I was in an abusive relationship with someone who made me afraid in my own home.  I had been working on forgiving myself.  I had been working on the blame, shame and humiliation I felt.  I had been focusing on finding myself again and being the person I want to be and I'm supposed to be as opposed to the monster I genuinely thought I had become.  I was rebuilding faith in myself and in my intuition.  I had been pushing myself so hard to be "OK", and the truth is that I wasn't because I still didn't feel safe.

It isn't that I feel that I haven't been making progress, because I know that I have.  But progress is like a recipe: you can mix all of the ingredients, and that counts for something, but you aren't going to get the same results if you bake it "as is" if you would if you had all of the ingredients.  Feeling safe was the missing ingredient and as I'm still going through this journey I have yet to determine if it was the one missing ingredient or one of many.

I know that some of the things I am going through right now are classic symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and I might feel afraid for a long time.  I made an appointment with my doctor and we discussed the depression, anxiety and exhaustion and we're working on it together.  I've started paying closer attention to the things that cause me anxiety.  When I'm able to identify what the anxiety stems from, I take the time to identify what the rational and irrational fears are, and then I make changes to make sure I feel safe.  I've spent many moments telling myself, "You are okay. You are safe.  He is not here". This might be something that I will have to continue doing for a long time, and while I haven't been able to tell myself "You Won"... I'm going to get there, because I'm going to be bigger than this.

In the Aftermath there was so much anger, shame, hurt, stress, and blame.  I'm still working my way through the complicated mess of things that both led me to the relationship, and what has been left behind as a result of it.  But in a weird way... I know that I'm going to come out of this a better person.  In a lot of ways, I already feel like I have.

As a result of having been in that relationship, I was forced to look at myself and my life in a different way and really rediscover who I want to be, what it is I want for myself and what I expect from my relationships as well as who I want to be in terms of my relations with others.  I had to take a hard look at what kind of image was being created as a result of the tiny dots that make up my life.  I lost some people and while that hurts at the same time I can't help but think that the people who are a part of my life now are the people who are supposed to be here.

One of the greatest gifts of this experience and coming back from it is feeling my own resilience.  I got my first tattoo when I was twenty.  It had taken me months to decide what I wanted and somewhere along the way I came across the word "Invictus".  The Latin Word Invictus has many meanings, mainly: unconquer, unconquerable, undefeated.  At the time, I wanted it because to me it was a testament to everything I'd been through already and a reminder of my own strength for future trials.  I'd already been through so much.  I hadn't read the poem by the same name until two years after I had gotten the tattoo.  Somehow, after this experience, it seems so much more relevant now.

I'd felt so hopeless at the lowest points in my relationship and there were times I didn't think I was going to make it...but I did and I am here.  As of this moment, I have a 100% Survival Rate of every challenge I've ever faced in this life.  That means I have a choice about where I go from here, who I become, how I conduct myself and what happens after this.  Not everyone is so lucky.  But as long as I have a choice, I should be the master of my fate and the captain of my soul.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233  or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). They have people on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week who can offer support and lists of resources in your area.

Other resources with information about Domestic Violence and Abuse:
Symptoms, Treatment and Recovery from Emotional and Psychological Trauma


  1. That was very touching. Im glad you're working on YOU. It takes a lot, its very hard.

  2. I'm overwhelmed with tears while reading about your journey. You ARE an incredible inspiration and Im so grateful for fabulous you Ash. 💓

  3. You're right,Aussa is awesome. And you'll get there. It takes time. It will fade.

  4. I've always loved reading your posts. The last few have really touched me. It's been five years since my husband left me for another woman. The funny thing was that I really didn't understand that I was in an abusive relationship until he left. I just knew that he was mean to me because I wasn't good enough and didn't do the right things. When he left, I wasn't sure if I was hurt or relieved. Sometimes I thought I should have sent her a thank you card :-) I do know that I slept with a metal pipe by my bed for three years and I put a big knife on the kitchen counter of my house and everyone's house that I visited. I thought I had healed and I was OK but I get triggered still. If anyone grabs my arm from behind me, I completely lose it or if my hair gets yanked, forget it. Trust is still very difficult. I work with domestic abuse victims now and I know it takes years to recover. The journey is a difficult one and I wish you the best. Get "It's Your Life Now" by Meg Kennedy Dugan. It helped me get rid of the pipe and knife. Hugs

    1. Thank you!

      I'm glad you got out and I hope things keep getting better for you. I will definitely check out Meg Kennedy Dugan!