To all the Warrior Mums

To all the Warrior Mums, I wanted you to know that I am with you.  I am with you on this journey. Perhaps you are raising children while in an abusive relationship or perhaps you have left and now you are dealing with the aftermath. Either way I know it isn’t easy.   I am with you because I am one of you.

I am a mum to three amazing children.  Two girls and a boy.  They are 15, 11 and 9 years old. They are the lights of my life and I love them very much.  They have often been the reason I have gotten out of bed each day.  Especially when I was in the chaos of my first marriage.  My marriage was abusive.  He not only abused me but he abused my children in various ways.  For the longest time I thought staying in my marriage was the best decision for my children.  I thought that it was better to have two parents, even if it was painful, than to be from a broken home.  I figured the later would be a harder battle.  How wrong I was.

It wasn’t until my oldest, who was 9 at the time, came to me and asked me why did I let daddy treat me so bad that I started to think my children were being affected by the abuse.  When she also asked me to leave him, begged me in fact, I knew that it was hurting my children more if I stayed.  So I broke through my fog of denial.  I faced what was really happening in my home and I reported the abuse to the RCMP.  This started a six year battle of going through the Domestic Violence Court (Criminal Court) and Family Law.  It was painful. It was exhausting and it was traumatizing but in the end I was awarded sole custody and my ex was given no access to our children.  You may be familiar with such a battle.  Moments where you have to sit in the same Court room as them, walk past them and even look at them.  Moments where it feels like your heart is going to leap our of your chest because it is beating so hard, but you do it.  You face all of those battles because you are a Warrior Mum and you want your kids to be safe.

Yes YOU!

Perhaps you have had to send your child/children on a visit with their abusive father.  If you have stayed awake at night wondering if they are safe or thrown up in the toilet because the anxiety of it all is just too much to bear, I have been there too.  I know what it is like to pick up the pieces after such a visit.  To have your children wetting their beds, soiling their pants, suffering nightmares and struggling in school, all because a Judge says equal time with each parent is best.  I get that.  I have been there too.

Like some of you I have had my children turn on me at times.  I have been told that I am weak, that they NEVER want to be like me and that I have poor judgement.  I too have cried by myself when they talk like that because you know that you aren’t weak.  You have fought battles that they know nothing about.  You have taken beatings for them.  You have taken abuse that you would rather not talk about, for them.  It was better if you took the pain, right?  Yes I have been there.  Please know that you are NOT weak.  You are so STRONG.  You have faced Lawyers and Judges, Police Officers and angry family members who don’t support you.  You have done this to try and protect your children.  To keep them safe.  You and no one else.  That makes you Amazing!

I know that the journey is not easy.  I know that they get angry and take it out on you because you are safe.  I know he’s probably left you little money, or isn’t paying child support so you make sure you feed them first and sometimes yes you go hungry for them.  I know all of this because  I have been there too.

Why? Why do we do it? We do it because we have loved them since before they were born.  We have loved them since we saw that little line on the pregnancy test or their little heart beat on the ultrasound.  We vowed at that moment to love and protect them always.  We do it because we are mums.

So please do not give up hope.  Hold on during the tough moments and cheer them on through their victories. Hug them and kiss them and do all you can for them.  You can do it.  You can do it because YOU my dear are a Warrior Mum.

Peace,

Janet

Why do Survivors of abuse revictimize themselves?

Often, in my work with Survivors of Domestic Violence, I hear  stories about how they are re-victimized or they try to be.  Sometimes I have even heard from their current partners (who are not abusive) who say, “She keeps poking at me.  Trying to start a fight and wanting me to hit her! Why? I have never hit a woman!” This got me thinking as to why some Survivors do this, more to the point why have I done it?

When you live in an abusive relationship you live in a constant world of chaos.  You “walk on egg shells” wondering when will the next explosion be? Your whole world revolves around your abuser.  You cater to his (or her) needs.  All simply because you want to keep the beast happy and not suffer more abuse.  The abuse does happen though, you never know when and over time this constant chaos attacks your self worth.  You start to believe your abuser when he (or she) says that you deserve the abuse.  That they wouldn’t have to treat you this way if you just behaved better.  You never give up trying to please them and your  internal compass is gauged by their behaviour.   You lose yourself.

At one time I lost myself. I married a man who abused me physically, sexually, financially, verbally and emotionally.  I lived in a world where I was paralyzed by fear. Every decision I made had my abuser in mind. Would this upset him? Will he yell at me (or worse)? I did not make decisions based on my own wants and needs.  They were based on what kept him happy.  That was how I survived.

After 15 years of abuse I finally broke free and separated from husband.  I was over the moon! I no longer lived with daily abuse.  I was free!  In time I started to date again and eventually became engaged to a wonderful man.  A man who would never intentionally hurt me. A man whom I felt safe with. We have a good relationship.  We are equal partners and neither of us try to have control over the other like in an abusive relationship.  So then why have I felt the need to create a situation where he might abuse me? Why would I want to go back there?  This question puzzled me for quite awhile.  Let me tell you what I realized.

I realized that I created situations with an unconscious desire to be abused.  I did this because one, deep down my low self esteem had me believing that abuse is what I deserve.  Two abuse was familiar.  I knew how to exist in the chaos of abuse.  After 15 years of abuse I no longer knew h0w to gauge my day to day life without abuse happening.  Here’s an example.

When I started dating my now fiancé we planned a birthday party for me.  Well more like he did with my kids.  I was excited, but a little nervous.  I had not had a nice birthday celebration (without abuse) in years.  “Did I deserve one?” was my internal question.  I woke the morning of my birthday to my house decorated with balloons and streamers.  Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to me and I even had breakfast in bed! It was a lovely morning.  Then my fiancé and I went out for lunch.  Now that was not as fun.  I basically chewed him out the whole time and every little thing that he said to calm me down made me even more angry.  After lunch we were driving to an appointment and I kept poking at him, pushing for a fight.  At one point I even jumped out of our car (at a red light) and walked to my appointment in a furry crying my eyes out.  Now you are probably wondering what my problem was. I know my fiancé was and to be honest so was I.  I did not understand what was going on inside of me.  This started to happen every holiday and birthday.  Then it started to happen on normal days. I would pick at him until we fought.  Guess what, once he yelled back I felt calm. What???? Yes I felt calm.

Chaos, fighting, abuse, whatever you want to call it is what I knew for 15 years.  It is what I thought I deserved so when he finally yelled back I felt calm because suddenly I was in a familiar world again.  I understood this world and I could function in it. Crazy uh? That is re-victimization and something so many Survivors do to themselves.  It’s not that we really want to be hurt again, but it is what we know and until we have a stronger self esteem it is what we think we are worthy of.  For me the holidays and birthdays were a huge trigger because my ex always abused me worse on those days.  So to have a birthday where balloons were hung for me and I was given breakfast in bed was, well it was completely foreign to me and it scared the hell out of me.

In time, as I healed,  I recognized the  unhealthy pattern and I started to re-victimize myself less.  It helps that my fiancé also recognizes when I am trying to re-victimize myself  and we name it.  I now know that I do not deserve to be abused.  I do deserve balloons on my birthday and so much more!! I am also learning to trust an abuse free life.

Recovery from abuse is a journey full of bumps and yes there are victories. Times where you heal and move forward.  If you recognize the re-victimization pattern in yourself or someone you love name it.  Acknowledge what is happening.  Talk it through with someone you trust. Change can happen once we see what needs to be done.

Peace,

Janet