I saw myself for the first time tonight. Sitting on my bed after an hour of heavy cleaning with my hair thrown back into a disheveled ponytail, I sat promoting my previous post (which is being featured over at The Good Men Project) and smiled. Some days I have to remind myself that I’m quite capable of doing extraordinary things. Tonight, however, my moonlight debut on another site reminded me, without an entire battle in my head (at least, initially).
It’s funny that a small thing like being honest about my past makes me feel like I’ve conquered another demon. Things like that chip away at walls that have been standing for years now, but even more when someone else sees the opportunity to help others by sharing my tiny victories. Really, all I did was say, “Hey, you’re trying to fit me into a mold that I won’t ever fit,” but what’s so special about it, is saying and knowing that it’s not because I’m wrong; it’s because the truth is rarely shared in cases of abused women, because we’re too scared to stand up for ourselves. We’ve lied to ourselves and to others to protect ourselves from a greater hurt. So this victory isn’t really about me. It’s about every woman in the world that has thought she might die before sunrise. I hope you’re listening to me, gorgeous. You’re a survivor, too. And it’s also for the women who might still be looking for the right moment to escape. So the rest of this post is for them, the survivors and the abused, because they need more reassurance than anyone ( I still have to remind myself of these things too).
I looked in the mirror today and saw myself. That’s not to say that I haven’t always had mirrors in my house. What I mean, what it really means, is that for a second I saw that I have high cheek bones and an amazing arch in my eyebrow. My lips looked fantastic. I saw that I could go without that extra application of foundation.
I saw myself the way I used to see myself. Before Mike. Before life was too fragile to believe that there would be a morning. And I wasn’t even looking for it. I just happened to glance in the direction of my closet, where I saw myself for the first time in a mirror, without feeling sadness or the need to apologize for being so cruel to myself. I was just there. And I was beautiful.
It’s taken me a year and a half of more fear, more crying, and more pain to get to a place where I saw myself in a mirror again. And I honestly don’t know how I lived without that for so long, but I hope that you’ll keep pushing until you can do that too, because everyone deserves to feel whole. Everyone deserves a little piece of comfort in their own skin. After a long struggle within myself, I felt that tonight, even if for only a brief moment.
The victim in me is realistic. Yes, I feel great right now and know that I’m growing. But the dim lights around me bring a little bit of the fear back. I just put a post up on a site that reaches people who don’t come here regularly. Part of me reverts back to the woman who lives in fear: Mike could find me. What if he visits that site? What if he figures out that I’m the writer? What if he comes after me? I’ve heard a few footsteps in the hallway. Is this the moment that he reappears?
The answer is no. The cause of fear is simple: I’m starting to feel good things again. I’m starting to feel like myself again, and any time this happened before he took that away from me. When I started to show strength, he showed his too. So my PTSD is sending me into state of panic. Fortunately, my therapy has taught me that this is happening and I’m much more able to deal with it than before. My body is simply trying to protect itself from harm. But he’s not here anymore. And I have no reason to feel this way.
So I looked in the mirror again. And I spoke kind words to the girl I saw a few minutes ago. This is what I said:
You’re alright. In fact, you’re more than alright. You’re alive. You’re safe. And you’re free, pretty girl. Your door is locked, your location is unknown, and it’s okay to be scared sometimes. But don’t let the fear take over; it’s not real anymore. The reality is that you’ve put your life back together. Every day you wake up and tell yourself that you’re okay, you are making your life better. And you’re beautiful. You saw that tonight. It can been seen regularly. Just keep going, dear. Keep fighting. I know it’s exhausting. I know it’s not fun. But it’s worth it. Remember that the next time you feel like he’s outside of your door. He’s not there, Fina. Opportunity is.