Good morning my friends! I am taking an intensive graduate course for the next few weeks. My good friend Amy Daumit, author of Forget Me Not, Learning to Live With Me and For Me and creator of Forget Me Not Advocacy Group, and a domestic violence survivor, generously offered to write a guest blog for me. Here is her story:
Over the course of several years I have been on a bit of a journey, if you would like to call it that. This journey took me far away from the person I am. So far away, in fact, that I didn’t recognize that person in the mirror. She looked the same on the outside, but if I really looked into her eyes, I didn’t know the person staring back. She was empty. She had little interest in anything. She found no joy in the happiest of occasions. She was a shell.
This was very distressing for obvious reasons. But what was far worse was that I couldn’t comprehend how I had let my life come to this. I was a strong, independent, ambitious woman. I had a plan for my life . . . and this was not it.
They say it takes half the time you were in a relationship to get over it. For me, that would be eight years. I was over him within months, but being over how the relationship affected me is a whole other story. The damage that I incurred over those sixteen years has created a number of obstacles that I’ve had to overcome.
My abusive relationship began as a blissful, high-school romance. But, within months, there were signs I refused to see. It seemed that everything he did involved trying to control me. With every good thing that came of our relationship, his behavior and anger escalated. It started with guilting me for wanting to spend time with family and friends, to putting me down and calling me names, to manipulating circumstances to hurt me and raise himself up. Soon, everything he didn’t like about his life was my fault, and I paid for my “wrongdoing” with emotional and physical attacks.
I didn’t look right, cook right, clean right, make enough money, work enough, exercise enough, eat right, or lose enough weight. His temper would flare over the simplest of things, resulting in broken keepsakes, slaps, arm bars, wrist locks, chokes, being slammed against walls, being kicked and punched, being pinned down, emotional abuse, and my broken spirit. Through all of it, I lied to friends and family, covered for his actions and absences, and protected him with all I had. I learned that:
There is nothing you can to do to change someone who does not wish to change.
It took me sixteen years to decide I could take no more, and several months to walk out. Being accused of cheating that was the catalyst that finally propelled me out the door. I had done nothing but been faithful, in every way, while he treated me like the dirt beneath his feet. I could take no more. I didn’t realize the damage that had been done and what I had waiting for me. I had to work through health issues and psychological issues. I had to learn to interact with others again and start picking up the pieces of my life.
As I write today, I can say with confidence that I am no longer looking at that same reflection, but I am still learning to live with me. It has been exactly eight years since I faced my fears and walked out the door. Eight entire years since I said I was done and made the heart wrenching, terrifying decision to leave my marriage. It has been a journey like no other, bringing me to places I never comprehended, lows I don’t wish on my worst enemy, and a new love I never knew existed.
In December of 2015, while contemplating how far I had come and how happy I was in life, I felt compelled to share. A small voice inside of me encouraged me to share my story. I sat by a bonfire engaged in an inner dialog with this voice.
“No one cares about my story,” I brushed the voice off. “And, even if someone out there does, I tried the blogging thing. My story is a needle in the haystack of sad stories and crippled lives.”
“But you can self-publish,” the voice continued.
“Self-publish? Self-publish what?” I entertained while questioning my own sanity.
The yule fire crackled in front of me and I stared into the flickering flames trying to ignore the craziness of my inner thoughts.
“Focus, Amy. Find peace, meditate, stop trying to work on something!” my rational, logical side scolded me. I pushed the thoughts deep and drew in a long, steady breath.
Silence surrounded me.
“But you have a story to share!” the inner voice interrupted. “Others should know they can have this kind of peace. Others should know that abuse is not the end of a fulfilling life. There is more!”
I finally conceded. “Fine, I’ll think about it. Maybe writing my story from beginning to end will be the final closure I need to move forward.”
By the end of the week, I was picking at the keyboard, trying to record my thoughts. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. Within two months I had poured out my life-story on paper and started blogging on the side as additional thoughts interrupted my story line. Sometimes I cried, sometimes I laughed, but no matter how I felt at the computer, it seemed that each time I walked away from my writing, I put behind me the experience I wrote about. With each paragraph I felt the weight of years lift from me and I knew that everything would be okay moving forward. Life was good and I was finally free.
Another amazing thing happened as I shared my story and blogged about my thoughts on healing and domestic violence. Individuals I didn’t know started to reach out. They thanked me for sharing, told me about their experiences, asked me how I got to where I was, and shared some of their innermost thoughts and fears. Some of them had suffered at the hands of their intimate partners, while others had experienced abuse at the hands of a parent. Others still were rape victims or victims of sexual abuse as children. Some wounds were old and some were new, but there was a common thread; they each struggled with the damage the abuse had caused. And, with each story my heart broke more.
No one deserves to be broken at the hands and actions of another. And the long-term effects are so much more than many realize.
“Maybe there is something more you can do?” my inner voice piped up again.
After a lot of thought and contemplation I decided that I wanted to help young people avoid domestic abuse before it starts and support those healing from it. Not a shelter or legal service, but an educational program geared toward giving people the tools they need to recognize and avoid abuse. And with that, Forget Me Not Advocacy Group was born, named after my blog and subsequent book.
It is important that we never forget ourselves, no matter what life throws at us. But, how can we do that in a culture that hides domestic violence in the shadows? It is up to us to bring it out into the light and call it what it is. There should be no shame in sharing our stories, no fear in directly confronting abuse as unacceptable, and no silencing those who struggle in fear and isolation.
Through my story, I hope that others can relate and know that you can have a beautiful life after abuse. You can leave. You can be free. And, through Forget Me Not Advocacy Group, it is our goal to shed light on DV, educate our young people so that they can avoid abuse before it starts, and bring awareness to our community so that they are more prepared to support those who need it.
2016 has been an amazing year. I’m looking forward to all 2017 has to offer and excited about where Forget Me Not Advocacy Group is headed. I invite you all to join us in our journey to stop domestic violence before it starts, through education and community awareness, while supporting those who are healing from it.
Thank you Amy! I am so proud of all you have accomplished, and all the ways you have grown since you left your abuser! One of the best lessons you have learned is that:
Being in an abusive relationship is not the end of your life. Leaving it and moving forward are just the beginnings of a wonderful life without abuse.
Also, you have taken your tragedy and pain and used them to propel you to help others. As King David said in Psalm 138:7-8:
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will vindicate me;
your love, Lord, endures forever—
And Jesus tells us:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
God has not abandoned us because of our abuse.
Question: What part(s) of Amy’s story speak to you? How does her story encourage you to move forward with your own life?
I pray many blessings over you my friends,