Your furrowed brow, the visible wrinkles in your lips as they press together: we see how you feel before a single word escapes your lips. Yes, you’re exhausted. I get it.
There are unspoken lines you cannot cross. They stretch across every surface, even those covered in apparent safety. Don’t question us or you’ll be on the other side. Three fingers point back at you. And the unfair mood swings you must endure come out of nowhere, smacking you in the face (the way they smacked us). Unexpected, unfair, unacceptable. But hope still lives inside of you. Maybe someday we’ll change. Get better. It keeps you alive, grabbing at glimpses of normalcy. A smile so faint repairs the broken pieces, the wounded parts. We’re special, and you remember why when the creases surface near our pale cheekbones. The difficulty of watching us suffer only subsides when you grip the memories tighter. So you clinch down on feelings until your fingernails break skin. Because the parts of us you fell in love with are hiding somewhere barely out of reach. And you know you can help us find them again.
Cyclical. Exhausting. Confusing. Can you see it yet?
Loved ones of abuse survivors don’t realize they resent us for unintentionally making them live through a tiny slice of what we endured. While the emotional strain seems unfair, choices were made (by you): ones based on unconditional love and acceptance, a hope for change. Change that will make life easier for everyone. We’ll be healed and you’ll have back the person you remember. At least that becomes truth for you when we get help. PTSD symptoms can go away. The person you loved becomes real again. Your life is finally normal.
But the people we loved question us. Question our behaviors. Wonder why we stayed for as long as we did. Resent the time they had to spend helping us rebuild our lives. Time wasted, in their eyes. Because if we were smart enough, strong enough, loud enough, nobody would be dealing with the aftermath. And we feel it, so we start referring to the others as ‘them.’ And I start writing to ‘you.’ We refer to survivors as ‘us’ or ‘we.’
I’m not implying it’s intentional or ‘you’ are to blame. I am, however, asking you to offer ‘us’ a safer place to land. Try to remember how sick we are. The world hasn’t been kind.
It’s okay to be exhausted. It’s not okay to show it (at least, not to us). We need your support. Your grace. Your love.
The person we loved most in the world tried to kill us. We survived it. Our hearts probably didn’t. Please, please, please try to remember what we’ll never forget.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Get educated. Speak out. Wear purple.