I’d like to preface this by saying not all people who are abused are physically harmed, however I was.
Sometimes it’s so hard to be safe.
I think as an adult we all know that.
We have all felt like we were going to be hurt in our lives; And we’ve all gotten the taste of pain from friendships to romantic relationships to bosses, even our kids sometimes break our hearts. However for those of us who have been abused, in my case by a diagnosed narcissist, feeling safe is scary.
My main reason for the long post ahead: I want to talk about social media, because that’s such a huge part these days of how narcissists hide.
Abusers come off as one thing when they really are another. The victim hides their abuse, in fear of shame and embarrassment. We hide them to protect ourselves from getting hurt futher.
I saw this meme and I loved it, because I am that person that loves out loud, but as I’ve looked back at past posts I can also see I have lied out loud… and I made it look like love. I have covered up bruises, quieted the nerves in my system with antidepressants, realizing that was the only way to stop the shaking I felt after I’d spent nights awake fearing for my safety. I know people out there wonder why didn’t you just leave, but did you know that upwards of 75% of murders that happen in domestic violence situations occur after someone has left their abuser? Quite frankly, sometimes it’s safer to stay. In fact, statistically, it is safer.
Read that again: Statistically, it is safer to stay in an abusive situation.
I don’t want to focus on that, I want to focus on what happens when we do leave. Whether we are ever really safe or not, that has yet to be seen. My abuser is alive and well, as far as I know. We’re on a fresh round of a restraining order which includes a no-contact and no-abuse and no possession of firearms order. But… it’s a piece of paper. Does it make me feel safe? No. Nope. No. It’s a paper versus a narcissist. I’ve had to relive everything in court, with videos and photos and medical bills and police reports. So much of which went unanswered because of her military background. And yet a piece of paper is the best anyone can do. I am not safe, am I?
I do not wish harm on her, but I do not wish her well. I wish her, quite poignantly, karma. While I don’t believe that karma is always negative, I think karma is as karma stands; you get what you put out. And I can see that in my life, because I put out as much good as I possibly can, I love 100%, and I am, genuinely good, it is all coming back to me. I might not be great and I certainly have flaws, but I am good. I put that good out there over and over and over in my 37, almost 38 years of life, and finally I have it. I can scream from every page of my social media how wonderful my relationship is, and while I don’t know why I deserve it, it’s real.
But you can see it and wonder is it real? Because you’ve seen this story before. You’ve seen all the good things. You seen all the wonderful things and you never saw the bad. I remember messaging my best friend from the emergency room of Sturdy Memorial Hospital, where my then abuser was sleeping peacefully after a public argument that landed me here. I was finally so afraid of the abuse that was happening and this had happened publicly in the middle of a side street in Boston. My hand had been slammed in a door and my abuser was afraid I would tell. This was something that other people probably saw. Not to say that this was the first act of violence, but it was the first one in public. The first public one that was more than just yelling at me or physically towering over me to remind me of who owned me. This was breaking me. I knew I wouldn’t tell anybody else- at the hospital the officer that stood at the check-in never separated us. The nurse never asked me privately if I was in fear. But here I was in a bed, shaking in the wee hours of the morning in a suburban hospital because no way I was going to a Boston ER on a Saturday night for a bloodied, shattered hand, telling my best friend what happened.
If I was ever killed, I wanted people to know it wasn’t an accident. This was a cycle of abuse I’d been living through and I needed people to know. I need people to know it wasn’t an accident if I didn’t wake up. So I quickly shot off a message on FB Messenger telling my best friend, with a photo, where I was and what had actually happened. I told her I wasn’t going to tell the police that story. I hadn’t told the doctor that story. I hadn’t told the intake manager that story. And I couldn’t have told them any different, because there was an officer standing there but they didn’t separate us. Standard protocol is to separate two people so that they can screen for domestic violence. But in this case, late at night, a lesbian couple, they did not separate us. And instead, I lied about what had happened. But I told my best friend. There wasn’t much she could do but I needed her to know.
* * *
Fast forward to filing an extension to my order last month. My wife by my side for the second time in this saga, in the same courtroom. The couple ahead of me fighting over an order, the ex-husband showing a text message of his then wife has said happened. I shook. I was violently rolling my teeth over my tongue. I was fighting the urge to run. And I knew then: the story he shared, the text message, was the story she told everyone. He had asked her to send the story of what she would tell everyone at work about what happened to her eye. It started with I bent down and hit my face on the doorknob. I, too, had been in this situation. It is how I learned to never share information about explaining things without saying: Instead of telling them the truth, I am going to say that you…
I gritted my teeth and said to no one: No one hits their face on a door. My wife grabbed my hand. I felt her understand a lot more about me in that moment.
It wasn’t 3 years earlier I was on social media where I made jokes about how clumsy I was, I talked up that story. I let people know what an idiot I was. Me. And the truth is I was an idiot, but not an idiot because I had slammed my hand and a door. I was an idiot, a true fucking moron, because here I was continuing to protect my abuser. I protected a person I was more than physically and emotionally and financially afraid of at this point, now I feared for my actual life.
But you can’t just leave.
You can’t just leave, especially if you have kids. Where are you going to go and who is going to protect you? Their father? Now he’s in danger? Who can you tell the truth what happened to so that if something happens to you, or God forbid they come after your kids, what happens next who will protect you? The short answer is, no one. A piece of paper, perhaps? This is what protects me now.
As an aside: One of the most dangerous places an abused woman can go is to an expected place, like a friend’s house, because that is where the abuser will look first. A safe house or battered woman’s shelter is safest, but these are often full.
But beyond that, I protected her. My social media was shield of glory for her. All the good things, the accolades, the shining fantastic human that she was, was a lie. A lie that I perpetuated to protect myself. A lie I also told myself.
So what happens when the abused are actually safe?
What do you do as a survivor when you have the partner in private, that you used to brag about having in public? What happens when that person really does communicate with you, and listen to you, and makes you smile, and gives you butterflies, and holds you every night as you go to sleep, and sometimes in the middle of the night when you wake up and you’re shaking from a nightmare they grab onto you and pull you back. And they wake up and they don’t remember doing it, but they did. The finally keep you safe. The person who kisses your forehead, who holds your hand on every car ride, who wants to take you out on a date. The person who would rather be next to you, even when they’re annoyed, than anywhere else with anyone else doing anything else. What happens when you actually have that person?
For me, the answer is simple. I share. I share the truth about my past, because if you recover loudly hopefully no one else does silently."If I recover loudly, it's because I refuse to let you die silently."Social Media for the Abused #PTSD Click To Tweet
It pisses them off when you recover loudly and I don’t care who I make angry. I am doing my best to no longer worry that my own loud voice will be my death. I am here with so many other survivors of domestic violence. And we’re recovering loudly and I’m loving loudly. Because I deserve it. Because I stood in the face of friends and family who knew what she was doing, and watched, turned their back and still befriend, knowing the illness inside. I am louder than you, because it will save lives.
People look at my past and think they know my life, they think they know anything about me. And while I haven’t changed my Facebook because that’s just kind of an ebb and flow timeline, I am still eternally grateful that my Instagram got hacked, my entire past erased. A fresh start. One that can celebrate my marriage to an absolutely wonderful partner, one that shares how stunningly beautiful my girls are as they grow up, one that can showcase how co-parenting doesn’t have to ever be toxic but can truly be one of the greatest things you’ve ever done for your children. (Their Dad is a good dude.) You can look at my past and think you knew everything and look at my present and wonder if it’s true… I won’t correct anything anymore. I will just keep living, sharing, and loving out loud.
There is a huge possibility that you don’t understand the trauma I went through to get where I am- to get to you seeing how happy I am that it is palpable, but I hope you celebrate with me here. I won’t stop sharing how horrible my past was, how terrible my abuser was to me, or how hard it was to pull myself out… and finding happiness isn’t, sadly, everyone’s story. Sharing is loud. Sharing saves lives.
I will tell you one of the hardest things to do is to share when you are happy, because the carefully cultivated lies of a happy relationship were shared with such purpose, that this happiness feels so fragile. But love, while calm and peaceful, is not fragile. And you just want people to believe, you want them to see how truly happy you are now and wish that you could go back and delete the lies you told to protect somebody else from their memories… All those times you didn’t protect yourself over the reputation of someone else. To keep you safe.
But I can’t go back and I can’t change the past. I can just keep moving forward. So do Kim and I have hard days and easy days? Absolutely. But everyday is my favorite day of being her wife because it’s one day more that I love somebody who loves me back so wholly, purely, and completely. It’s one day more I get away from the horrors. And I will not stop sharing… Because our love is absofuxkinlutely beautiful.