A year later: Brand New life, Same Old Me.

I know, I know, it’s been a while.

And, honestly, I think I have tried to write a post around 15 times over the last couple of months. This time, I think I’m actually going to get somewhere because I have something to say.

There have been a lot of major life changes for me and my baby in a very short amount of time. Long story short, I got into law school and moved to a new town. Although a change was needed, it left me confused about my blog and the work I thought I was supposed to be doing.

I think, perhaps, I may have lost my way.

For me, it felt like law school was a new start. I didn’t have to be the abuse girl anymore. For the first time in around five years, people looked at me differently. I wasn’t just the girl who “got pregnant out of wedlock with that awful guy” or the abuse victim or a sob story. I had accomplished something that was extraordinary. After a whole lot of people looking down on you and pitying you for a long time, it can be easy to get addicted to approval. When people asked me how my life was going I could say the magic words, “I got accepted to law school” and they saw me differently. I felt like I had real worth. For the first time in forever, it felt like I could move on, forget the past, and take another stab at living out the dreams that I have always wanted. I have been through so much in the past year…

It was about that suddenly that I realized, on a sunny day in July, that a year had passed since I left.

It has been over a whole year and I have not only survived, but thrived. No going back, no more pain. I had lost everything and have come out on the other side with more than I ever could have imagined.

I guess some people could see me as a success story. Some days I see myself that way, like I am some kind of poster child for abused women everywhere. Some kind of role model of how your life can be if you’re strong enough to leave. I guess that is somewhat accurate.

But at the same time, it’s not.

I don’t know how to feel about this year milestone. It hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t all been success. I have had really difficult times. I have had times when I wanted to give up. I have had times when I really wished that I hadn’t left simply because being on my own felt too scary or overwhelming. I still have days when I have severe panic attacks and have to remind myself that I am safe and that it’s over. Days when I have to call one of my best friends and hear it from her to believe it, so that the images in my head will stop and the memories disappear. My son just stopped having the night terrors that were a result of his father’s abuse around three months ago. But most importantly, even when we have bad days, we are safe.

I suppose that’s why the term “success story” doesn’t sit easily with me.
On one hand, we definitely have thrived. On the other, it has taken a lot of dedication, strength, and faith to be able to make that happen. I think that is why making it to a year on our own is such a bittersweet landmark. I’m so happy that we are making it, but accepting that this is the road that I was forced to take is still difficult sometimes.

That is exactly why putting down the blog and stopping all work on my book was so easy. Talking about abuse is hard. It’s a subject no one wants to think about…least of all those who have lived through it. I got sick of thinking about it. I got sick of writing about it. And going to law school, even though it is very difficult and strenuous, is easier than working with abuse victims most of the time. I was in church a week ago, trying to really pray and figure out what to do about the blog when God convicted me about this very subject.

Just because it is the harder option doesn’t mean that you stop. Just because I’m going to law school doesn’t mean that the blog and my work stops.

I started thinking about where I was a year ago. And I don’t think I can find a lower point in my life. I had gotten to the point where I thought that my life wasn’t worth living. I was poor, hopeless, beaten and used. I remember thinking that I could never go to law school. It was impossible. My situation was too bad and we were broke. I was always alone, waiting up for someone who would only come home and berate me and slap me around… if I was lucky. I used to cry so hard that my face would be numb and my eyes would be stinging, just thinking about the life that I had given my son. I felt like a complete and total failure because my son deserved the best and the constant violence and sadness we lived in was not worthy of him. I feel like I had to fight my way out of that darkness to give my son the life that we have now.

Our lives then and our lives now are like night and day. I think, outside of some incidents with Pip the cat, our lives are completely peaceful. I really don’t worry about anything on a daily basis except school. And every single night is peaceful and no one is hurt.

For instance, last night my son got up in the middle of the night and he didn’t scream or cry. Instead, he just asked for some milk and a snack. And as I typed, he laughed and watched the Wiggles with his head on my shoulder. A year ago, I would not have believed that 1 a.m. could be so peaceful. When my son looks up at me and I realize that he has no clue what 1 a.m. was like a year ago, suddenly all of the bad days are worth it… and I have to remember that I am way too hard on myself.

Sometimes, I pressure myself to be successful so that I can be that poster child.
I make myself work harder so that people know that it’s possible to escape. So that other women who are being abused every day can know that their lives can change. But, I’ve lost sight of what is so important about this milestone of a year. Not the degree I got or the one I will get. Not the financial stability I’ve been blessed with or the new start I’ve been able to make. Not even the bad days I’ve had sometimes.

We are SAFE.

That peace is all that matters. At the end of every day, I get to put my child to sleep in a house with no screaming or beating. I get the peace that comes with knowing that my home will be peaceful until he wakes up. And, at 8 a.m. on the nose every morning like clockwork, I get woken up with his sweet little face right on my face (along with his perfectly rancid toddler breath) yelling at the top of his lungs “Hiiiiiiiii Mama Liza! Eat eat, waffles!” With no one there to get angry simply because he is awake before noon or to see him as an inconvenience.
When I think about going from that state of constant fear and anxiety to having perfect peace and safety, I know that stopping my work with abuse is wrong. As I prayed about what to do, God reminded me how I felt crying in the middle of my kitchen floor a year ago, how desperate and trapped I felt and how much pain that other people in abuse still feel every day.

It is wrong for me to have the gift of that peace every day and not to try to help others when I know there are still people sitting where I was a year ago.

So, I’m going to start writing again, working with abuse victims, and trying to spread abuse awareness in any way that I can. Not because I am superwoman or a success story, but because I am human and know that no one deserves to feel so hopeless, depressed and weak that they believe that abuse is their only option.

I deluded myself into thinking that having a better life meant that I could forget everything that I went through. That maybe I could pretend to be this perfect girl, in a perfect school, with the perfect son, with a perfect little life and I CAN’T. Mostly because most days my house is a mess and I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off while my child is a naked blur of mud and snot.

That’s my life, guys.

I’m still the same woman. I’m just in law school now. And that’s okay. Because where I was isn’t where I’m going. And going through all of that pain and making it a year on my own made me a hell of a lot stronger. Burying all of that and pretending it didn’t happen doesn’t help anyone… least of all me. I have to keep working for those who are still stuck in abuse so that maybe, they will start believing that another life for them is possible.

Because that is what is the most important thing in battling abuse: giving hope to victims so that they believe they can have better lives. You have to believe it is a possibility for it to become one.

One day last week, me and my son were playing with a water hose outside. He was splashing around, making a huge mud puddle and pretty much ruining my driveway. He had the biggest smile on his face and was laughing like crazy. Suddenly, he looked up at me and said, “I’m happy!” I started laughing so hard and then I noticed I was crying. Because suddenly I remembered why leaving was so right and why stopping the work is so wrong. I feel like I have finally given my son the life he deserves.

So, It’s a year later and we are happy, free and SAFE.

If you are stuck and you think that you will never ever EVER be able to live a life you deserve, think again. You can always have a better life. You just have to keep fighting for it.

And, trust me, it will be completely worth it.

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