I’m Lisa, a survivor with a future, because of my past.
I’m not sure I’d be here had I lost the will to fight. Night after night, I was tested. I saw my mother abused in ways I still can’t believe; blood on the walls, scuffling in the kitchen. My skin still crawls when I think back to those nights. Life was painful, and the torture was repetitive. If it wasn’t the ongoing violence at home, it was the name calling at school. There was no escape. I started to believe I wasn’t worthy. I felt like a failure, destined for nothingness. I didn’t believe I could change my life or my situation.
I really believe that because of what I felt growing up, I ended up in the very same type of violent relationship. I had such low self esteem. My friends were moving on and doing great things with their lives, while I felt like the weight of my traumatized past was creeping up on me. When I started dating my ex, it was definitely to escape. I needed to be a part of something. I was tired of feeling like I had nothing.
Within the first 3 months of our relationship he was hitting me. I was abused much in the same way I saw my mother abused. Beaten, humiliated, and cheated on. I spent four years living in hell. I didn’t realize I was repeating the cycle. The relationship felt like my very own personal dilemma, and I didn’t feel like it was in any way connected to my childhood. I think if I would have allowed myself to make that connection, I would have had to realize I was in a bad place a lot sooner than I did. But I wasn’t ready to give it up at that point.
The more my relationship became my identity, the harder it felt to get away. I spent a lot of time with him and his family. We did everything together. I thought that was how it was supposed to be in a relationship. Besides, I didn’t feel like I had too many alternatives. My family wasn’t exactly thrilled to have me around. They seemed happy that somebody else was taking care of me. Even if I was hurt, I was wanted.
It’s my understanding that the way our lives turn out is a direct reflection of the things we believe. And for me, a gradual but significant shift in my beliefs was brewing under the surface, waiting to be realized and acknowledged. With each fight, each time I was hurt, the truth for me changed a little, until one day, my life, my truths, were no longer working. I was being beaten regularly and relying on people who didn’t want me to rely on them. I had nothing and I had hit rock bottom.
I had started to realize that the pattern of our relationship was not going to change. I knew the relationship was getting worse. He was going to keep me isolated in our room, beat me when I questioned him and unconvincingly apologize when he felt I had suffered enough. The week leading up to our split was riddled with violence. I had been sleeping in a separate bedroom and could feel the tension building. I am sure if I had not left; I would have condemned myself to death and worse, left my children without a mother.
The night I left was my life’s turning point, it was letting go of all the false comfort of trying to survive in a dysfunctional situation. I would never let myself be a ward of anyone again. I filed for a restraining order and never looked back.
I spent a lot of time wondering what compelled me to leave, even when it seemed all the odds were against me. How was I able to persevere despite the barrage of obstacles? Although I wasn’t sure at the time, I later found out it was something strong.
I attribute this realization to the people who have entered my life during this transition. The ones who took the time to encourage and nurture my growth. Leaving was not easy, neither was realizing which path to take. I felt the need to transcend further, I just wasn’t sure if I was capable. I felt broken in a way and scared that I would only go so far just to be defeated by an onset of troubling memories. I hadn’t realized the power to overcome my childhood experience was the same strength needed to transcend other obstacles in life.
Children of Domestic Violence helped me realize I could take my resiliency much further. I learned that their aspirations for empowering lives after childhood domestic violence matched mine. I shared with them my desire to shape my resiliency into more than just “getting by”. They shared their experiences and guiding truths. I felt a weight had been lifted. Knowing that many of the people involved with the foundation had themselves embarked on the same journey as I made me feel like a better life was definitely accessible. They showed me that it was possible to beat my past before it could beat me. I feel like there is nothing I can’t overcome or achieve. Hope, Empowerment, Inner Strength – that is the true meaning of resiliency. The right messages were given to me at the right time and now I‘m awake.
My journey isn’t over – I still have many lessons to learn and obstacles to overcome. I’m just not afraid to take them on. There will always be good and bad, that’s really the only thing you can count on. The cycle proved that, and so did breaking it. I have not been in another violent relationship since. I am now free to make the choices I want, and achieve the goals I set. Knowing that I have broken the cycle has made the biggest impact in my life; and having people who saw in me the makings of success, have made it that much more meaningful. Had my shift in beliefs and the resiliency inside not been nurtured, I may have been stuck spinning my wheels in the same destructive pattern indefinitely.
Sharing my experience is important. It’s inside of us all, the resiliency that keeps us alive, the instinct that tells us to press forward and survive, IT MEANS SOMETHING. It’s there, waiting to show us the way to a better life. This can be your realization too, your empowerment, your accomplishment. Just keep persevering, never give up, and it will happen for you too.
Full Q&A With Lisa