Today at work, I was yelled at by a patient. He was an older male with a deep and commanding voice. It started with just a few sentences that were questioning at first. Then he moved on and started blaming and ridiculing. He ended with raising his voice and being blatantly disrespectful. The whole transaction took only a minute or two. In those few moments, my body remembered what my mind has been fighting to forget, that I was abused. In those few short moments of that man yelling at me: I could feel my heart start thumping in my chest, my forehead, neck, and back started sweating, I started getting the feeling that I was going to throw up, and every muscle in my body tensed up. It was almost painful. No wait, it was painful. I started to cry.
I headed to our break room and the tears just started pouring down my face. I couldn’t decided what emotion to feel because they just kept coming and going: anger, fear, hurt, embarrassment, and the list goes on. From the outside, I am sure it looked like I am just a really sensitive woman who gets my feelings hurt easily. On the inside, it’s a whole different story. For anyone who knows me well, I am not the type to take that type of treatment. I will usually give it right back or stop it before it even gets started. I couldn’t speak back to him. My voice cracked when I tried.
I have shared my story of abuse several times publicly. I started a nonprofit to help educate others about domestic violence and strangulation so they can better assist victims and survivors. I have went to years of counseling and support groups. My mind knows right from wrong in relationships now. If anything, I have went to far the other way, I am the first one to run at the sign of a red flag. I was diagnosed with complex post traumatic stress disorder and I was not happy when that happened. I fought it hard and raised a fit about having it in my chart. I didn’t want something that officially said that man (my abuser) had broken me or that I had given him the power to do so.
I don’t know about other survivors but my battle with recovery is almost daily. It is the little things that catch me off guard. I went out to dinner recently and a man placed his hand on my back. It is something that while I sit here typing this, I know was respectful and innocent. When it happened my back muscles tensed up and I started that same nauseating and sweaty feeling. It is the feeling I have become to despise. From time to time, I will see someone who looks just like him. I will get a panic feeling and I can’t move. Those times are few and far between though thankfully.
From the outside, people tell me I am brave. If they only knew the truth. My mind has moved on. It is ready for the future and has forgiven past hurts. I don’t understand why my body can’t do the same. I know my counselor told me that my body most likely will never forget. I remember the first time we talked about it years ago, I said to her, “I refuse to let that happen”. She was right and today on my ride home from work, I cried. Actually, I straight up bawled. I excepted what she said on that ride home. It is part of me but it does not define me.
My friendships have changed a lot over the last two years. I have people who have accepted the parts of me that I try to hide, some probably better than I could ever accept myself. I have also lost friends who weren’t understanding. I have tried to hide that I am still affected by what happened to me and I will not let that happen anymore. I am not defined by my past. It was a life lesson, not a life sentence.
Today was a day of freedom for me. I will accept that my body remembers and stop trying to hide it. After all, the mind has a way to protect itself during abuse, the body does not. I have been very adamant about staying in my safe zones because I am afraid of my body remembering something in public and being embarrassed. There is nothing wrong with my scars and I know that. The only opinion of me that matters is my own. Here is to standing courageous and moving on. Today, I thank God for my strengths and my weaknesses. It is the emotions that I feel that remind me I am alive and I am thankful for that.