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Chained by fear —Freed by Grace.

I was 19 the first time a man ever really physically hurt me.  After it happened once, I never in a million years thought it was going to become a regular occurrence in my life..and even worse, never did I imagine that before it was all over with, I would somehow unconsciously seek out abusive men.  I mean in a room of 100 men I would without fail take home the one that was gonna punch me right- in the face.  My girlfriend used to say:  Different Coat, Different Hat, Same Mother Fucker!  How true this statement was for me throughout my 20’s.

I was 31 years old the last time I felt the powerlessness and misery that accompany getting beat on by the man (or woman, I would imagine) you love.  I remember the beginning and the end of my history of abuse pretty clearly, the millions of incidents that made up my life for 10 plus years are all muddied up, some incidents standing out more than others.

He was a tall well built

man who I would describe as narcissistic, bipolar, extremely emotional, lacking in self control and the art of emotion regulation. He was like many of the abusive men I have been with, he comes off extremely confident, but it is all a front.  He lied constantly and had a vindictive streak that was out of this world.  He did not hear no…. and he pretty much did what he wanted. He was far more emotionally and verbally abusive than physically. He had spent some time in the NC prison system so he was given the gift that everyone I know that goes to prison in NC receives.  You don’t leave prison reformed, or in a better situation, but rather, with a big huge case of racism.  His racist remarks about me and my mixed daughter and his constant emotional abuse eventually came to a head. Once things got goin’, It did not take too long before I was standing in my living room with his huge hands around my throat screaming that I was a nigger loving bitch with n*** kids. This was the last day we were together ….I moved from my house that day and left him their.  I ignored the threats and the bullshit and just left.   No waiting, no talking it over…I just left.  When I walked out of the house that day, I knew somehow at the bottom of my heart that the abuse was over in my life and I had finally turned the fucking page.  What was different this time than the million times before, I don’t know.  Grace.  That’s all I can come up with.  Divine love and grace.

Now I am almost 40 and when I think about this time in my life I don’t even recognize the girl I once was. I was so lost and so afraid, I was completely disconnected from anyone and everyone who could have helped me.  I did not trust anyone to help me because when you have lived like I have, everyone’s help ends up feeling like a big heaping glob of punishment  (help for people that use drugs too often feels overly punitive)when I was young.  I was so consumed by fear and self hatred.  I was chained yet totally free.

The first time a man ever hit me it did not go down the way I imagined, if something like that was going to happen.

I always imagined I would be so strong.  I would stand up for myself.  Hell, I would stand up for all women everywhere! I was strong, so I thought.  I could hear myself telling the man off in my head…I would never be one of those weak women who stayed with an abusive man, NEVER! God they were so obnoxious….

I would walk away and that would be the last time he ever saw me……short, simple…….well, this is not what happened…not what happened at all.

I did not stand up! I was not able to even open my mouth!  I was terrified and broken in an instant.  It did not take weeks or months ….instantly I was completely broken.  My world crumbled around me.

How had the man I loved so much done this to me?  How could he do this to me I wondered?

WHAT?…I was speechless.!  All the lectures I had given other women about how they just need to leave their men came crashing into my consciousness, flashing in my head, and tears came pouring down my face.  I was shaking uncontrollably lying on the floor struggling to catch my breath.

He was still fuming and raging in the other room.  I was terrified…..was this real?  I sobbed asking him over and over why had he done this…I could hardly breath…I could not catch my breath….  as I came close to hysteria…… He yelled ” SHUT UP, shut the fuck up, BEFORE SOMEBODY CALLS THE POLICE”!!!

I whimpered quietly…..,  scared not to do what I was told.  I had not felt this way since I was a child.  But it was worse than when I was a child….I wanted to be comforted terribly, no, I needed to be comforted.  I wanted more than anything for this man who had just threw me into a wall and strangled me to come and hold me. To have sex with me…to love me.

What’s funny is I did not think I was the kind of woman that would stay with an abusive man, yet here I was on the floor, with no intention of leaving him.  I felt a neediness that I had never felt before.  I felt an emptiness, a loneliness that is explainable.  I needed him to hold me….I begged him to hold me. I don’t think he ever apologized to me that night…..but he did hold me.  We had sex that was more passionate than any other sex we had had.  The sex was emotional….I imagine no one except for someone who has been through this understands what I am talking about.  By the next day, I was convinced that I had pushed him…..and that no, he should not have hit me, but I had crossed the line.  (CRAZY, there was no line –I had done nothing that deserved this, nothing that deserved anything not even a long talk , but its crazy what we can convince ourselves of.

We always assume when we are hearing about other peoples situations that we could and would do so much better if we had to go through it.  I have learned a lot of things the past few years and one of the most important things I have learned is, I surprise myself all the time.  I cannot predict how I am going to act. Sometimes, I am braver than I ever thought I could be and sometimes well, sometimes I am just a scared little girl who is embarrassingly meek..  .

WE ALL WANT TO THINK WE WOULD  DO BETTER……DEMAND  RESPECT, kindness, at least decent TREATMENT, WE ALL WOULD LIKE TO BELIEVE we would know exactly how to act and what to do.. But research shows that we don’t usually stand up for ourselves, and we don’t usually challenge authority.  Look at the Stanford Prison Study and the Milgram study.

So often we hear people say terrible things like, “oh, she stays, so she must be into getting hit, that is just something awful people say because they don’t know how to make sense of what they are seeing.  I don’t remember why he hit me for the first time, but I do remember the terror I felt when he did.

I had never seen a man hit a woman, I had never even seen a man make a woman cry, and now here I was, terrified.  My mother and father spent my entire childhood and teen years regulating what I watched and ”to shelter me from this kind of shit, and now here I was dead up in it with not an inkling of an idea about how to get out of the mess I was in.  My boyfriend was a big guy, so not many people were willing to intervene, especially after they knew I had stayed after he had done this more than once.  I automatically became that crazy bitch who just likes drama and wants to get beat up….

Time passed and he grew worse.  His abuse grew worse….and the worse he got the more drugs I consumed, and the more drugs I consumed the worse things got.  Then one day after we had been up for a coupe of days something clicked in his head.   He looked about fuckin crazy, and he was! It was like his soul left. I was looking in his eyes but I could see through him. I know now that he was suffering from psychosis, but all that meant back then was my boyfriend was going to take a hit of crack and then I would watch as he would disappear  from his body and he would become a ruthless shell of a man who had no compassion or love for his fellow man, or his girlfriend for that matter.  He became crazy paranoid…like beyond anything I have ever seen.  He would all of a sudden make up his mind that I was working with the feds and begin to question and interrogate me.  He was sure I was working with the police.  One night he held me at knife point in the closet telling me over and over that if I just told him the truth he would let me go.  He would crawl around in the attic and stay up in there for hours and hours but when he would come down he would be convinced that I was downstairs masturbating in my room with a hole in the wall so the neighbor could watch.  He would force me to take off my clothes while he inspected me and put his hands up in my vagina looking for GOD KNOWS WHAT….it got worse every-time, and every time I would swear that I was never going to do this again and then before you know it there I was …..sitting there with him about to take a hit praying it would not happen all over again and boom, there we would go on another crazy journey into the mind of a crazy man.  It was nuts, down right crazy.  The worst part was most of the abuse I endured from him only occurred while we were getting high so I would tell myself that it was not him, it was the drugs.  I kept using them, knowing full well what was going to happen which is crazy.  Was I addicted to him?  To the crack? the abuse? I have no idea what kept me there.  I have no idea what I was even thinking. I don’t think I was doing a lot of thinking.  I believe it was all I could do to survive.  The nights would go by one after another me watching the hours go by on the clock as I would sit in a dark corner terrified with my hear beating about out of my chest, just praying he would not come screaming some insane shit that was totally nuts. No matter how terrified I became or how close to death I felt like I was I could never call the police.  I knew if I called the police we would both go to jail for drugs and then when he got out he would kill me dead.  I had nowhere to turn. No one to call.  No were to run.  I was bound by fear.

I never left my huband (the first man to ever abuse me), he died of cancer when he was 28 and I was nzk.  I still had 8 more years of abuse and horror to come…..We found out he was sick they gave him 2 months to live and that is exactly how long he lived.  I married him on his death bead to legitimize my daughter, I took care of while he died and I watched him turn his life around to god.  People were so enthusiastic.  They were like “oh, what a miracle”…I never got what all the fuss was about.  He never apologized to me, I did not believe his transformation would have even been meaningful if he got cured from this cancer, and I did not forgive him, so, it infuriated me when I saw people and heard people talking about how Reggie’s life transformation with Jesus had touched their lives…….OMG, I wanted to puke. What a bunch of bull shit …this was no miracle.  This was my fucked up life.

What kept me there?  I will wonder until the end of time why I did what I did …..I have no answers to this day.  All I know is I was bound as if I could not be set free from the chains of abuse and pain until I was set free by grace !

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