Saturday, April 26, 2008

feeling is believing

Wouldn't it be great if you could buy a product, like a bar of soap, that you could lather all over your body that would cleanse and coat you with the feeling of being understood? What if you could buy a lotion that you could rub onto your skin which would then seep into your pores with the message that your gifts matter? What would happen if the candle you were given to hold flickered a friendly message that your own personal light makes a difference? Can you imagine how it would feel if someone you regard highly walked right up to you and said...... "Do you realize how much I appreciate you?"

Sure it's best to be able to tell yourself these things, but in order to be able to do so, we have to hear it, see it, feel it, inhale it all around us or we don't even know HOW to believe in ourselves.

I spoke with a woman recently who spent many years in an abusive marriage. She was a brilliant reflective intuitive human being. I was so impressed with her demeanour as well as her eloquence. It seemed like she would be the LAST person stuck in a violent relationship but I've learned that outward appearances can be deceiving. And when it comes to covering up scars from the deep wounds of shame produced by being emotionally, physically and/or sexually violated by someone whom you had fallen in love with and who supposedly loves you, the mask worn in public is difficult to peel off.

This woman had been told for many years that she was ugly, fat, useless, stupid. She was told that no one would want her............she was unlovable, but good enough to keep for a screw every now and then......when he wanted.......when he commanded. Her husband told her that he felt sorry for her because she was so homely. She was told she wasn't allowed out of the house on her own............that he didn't want her family coming around because they were nosey liars who just used her anyway. He isolated her, and treated her like a slave. Not even her neighbours knew because this man she was married to was gregariously outgoing to them when they met on the street.

And she her home which was like a prison, and away from anyone who may have been a support. She stayed because somewhere along the line she began to believe him. She stayed because she was afraid of him. She stayed because she had lost touch with the people who mattered in her life and she felt all alone. She stayed because she thought no one would believe her. Fear, shame, guilt, anxiety........these were her feelings pulsating through her day after day. They ate up her self-image and spit out a belief that perhaps her husband was right. She was unlovable............a fat, ugly homely unlovable nobody. She believed this because she felt this.

One day, something snapped in a twig snapping deep inside a forest. She realized for the first time that she was slowly dying inside and it mattered to her. There was a dawning of an inherent desire to survive and in order to do so, she needed her freedom. Her inward feelings of self-loathing turned into an outward energy fueled by a new understanding that she mattered and that she wanted a second chance to thrive. A safe harbour was needed. It was then that she called the local Transition house for victims of abuse and they arranged to help get her out of there and into a safe haven.

Two months later, we meet. Her home for the next year or so is also in a supportive living arrangement, an apartment securely tucked away on an unassuming street in the city, unknown to even the neighbours that it is a safe house for victims of violence. Men are not allowed entry into the building. She is learning to believe in herself while surrounded by people who point out her gifts and her beauty. She laughed when she told me how one day recently she realized how much she liked her own company. A cleansing of sorts has most definately begun. Her own candle was relit by others around her who care.

Psychological damage rarely happens overnight. Rather its a subtle accumulation of collateral which eventually weighs a person down, wedges them into a corner until they call for help......if they are able to call for help. Of course, there are situations which register automatic anxiety and grief. That's much different than the type that wears and tears at the spirit through ongoing abuse. This woman will continue her psychological healing for the rest of her life, no doubt. She's aware of that. But she's also aware of the fact that she is empowered to seek out the feelings inside her which fuel her beliefs and understanding that she is beautiful both inside and out.

Life has begun again for her and she's not going to let it slip out of her own hands again. She has learned the power of her own mind. The light around her glowed with hope. Her light makes a big difference.


Gypsy said...

As you may know Dana I was that woman once and every now and then those ugly taunts still echo in my brain. To this day no-one in my family or my real life knows of the abuse I suffered at the hands of someone who was supposed to love me. It's really quite remarkable how adept you can become at showing a different face to the world when you are covered in shame, fear and self loathing.

I hope this woman finds the strength to heal and find her inner worth. There is a wonderful world out there just waiting for her to discover.

kenju said...

For whatever made her realize the futility of her marriage, I am grateful.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

It is a miracle that she somehow saw the light, by hersself...Where she got the courage would be very interesting to know...So many women are so beaten down and frightened that they cannot make any kind of a brave move like that.
How good that she did get out of that abusive horrid life. Much great good luck to her.

Awareness said...

Gypsy.....I think the echos become more and more faint, but they never leave do they? Whatever experiences and traumas we face and live through leave remnants which challenge and reverberate. However, I do believe that the frequency lessens as does (hopefully) the intensity.

And look at you now......your own trauma is a part of your life story and perhaps fed your resolve and high standards you live by.....treating others with undue respect and love and being kind to others always. I also dont think you'd take any shit from anyone now, am I right? Plus your optimism and attitude toward fighting your MS is inspirational. am I. This woman doesn't seem like she's going to look back much....she's very focused on her own healing and in her future surrounded by good people whom she is learning to trust.
One of the amazing things, even in the world of Oprah and Dr. self help books and testimonials, it's amazing how often victims of family violence feel like they are alone and unique in their pain. What is so life affirming is to be able to talk to others who are in various stages of healing. This happens right away when someone leaves a situation like she did and enters into a safe house.....the shame lessens, and the resolve to find a personal wholeness is instilled. really is a miracle, and doesn't happen very often does it? It's easier when a woman lives in a city or town with supports as opposed to in a more rural area where they really feel isolated and disconnected from services. She is a brave woman!

Baby-Sweet-Pea said...

This post is so amazing. Wonderful that she had to courage to leave such a relationship. Much luck to her as she continues her journey.

Gypsy, I read your comment, how no one in your family or your real life knows about what you went through and how you overcame the are one very strong woman. To do it without the support of are amazing. I hope everyday you look in the mirror and see what an amazing person you are. An inspiration...

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

This post is so IMPORTANT. Its so true that we all long to be understood, to feel that we matter, to believe we are appreciated.
I needed to hear this - sometimes all the past messages we still have in our heads mingle with messages that are not meant to harm us. The damage can last for years. I am so glad this woman broke free.

I need some of that soap and lotion....

Under there... said...

This is amazing. I cannot fathom how one person could be so cruel to another. I truly hope she welcomes many new and good things into her life now that she ahs fearlessly said goodbye to the toxicity of that fellow.