There was a time when I never wanted to talk about it, at least not publicly. I never thought I would. In fact, several years into my journey, the majority of people around me saw nothing but smiles. Truth was, my world was unraveling into devastating chaos.
It was never due to shame and not even due to denial.
But in today’s world, it seems that everyone is desperate to have a cause. Everyone wants a platform. No matter the scenario, there is always someone looking to somehow identify themselves with the pain of a situation or a cause to gain sympathy. And quite frankly, it cheapens and leaves those that have actually walked the dark paths of pain silent. Women and culture clash at times, and those that speak up are sometimes deemed “overdramatic.”
For four years my story has stirred in my heart, but I know that when it’s put into audible or written words, the risk of judgment is imminent. Yet, one consistent theme that has rung over and over in my life the past few years has been the words “your story.” There are a million reasons, especially as a mom, to keep your story silent. But without a shadow of a doubt, I have felt a gentle stirring in my heart, “Tell your words so the world can heal. There is purpose in pain.”
What Happened When I Finally Shared
What happened next was remarkable. You see, a miracle happens when people, in due time, allow their lives to become transparent.
I never felt more alone than the moment my story began.
The memory of my hands shaking when the court advocate handed me a shelter pamphlet is etched in my mind forever. I had resolved to the fact that no one had ever experienced this world-crashing moment—no one I knew ever had. But as I found grace around every corner in the following months, I purposed to never let my pain be in vain, vowing to never let another person feel the sting and shame of being alone in their shattered world as it crumbled down around them.
I know what it’s like to be put into a chokehold to get your keys away from you while six months pregnant.
I know the pain of being told where and how you would get shot to death if you ever defied that person.
I can remember the terror of being locked in a car, taking sharp turn after sharp turn, so my head would bounce off the passenger window.
I know how it goes when your cell phone is hidden and the landline’s unplugged so you can’t call for help.
I remember the pain of having the locks changed on my home and my bank accounts drained so that me and my six-week-old newborn were suddenly without a home or money for diapers.
I remember the tears dripping down onto my son’s face as we hid in a room afraid of the mood that would meet us on the other side of the door.
I know the pang of hunger when you cannot afford food or clothes because your paycheck gets taken from you…month after month.
“F*ck you” started to sound a lot like “I love you” because I heard it so often.
I can tell you what it’s like to look over your shoulder all day every day in case he was angry…wanting to see what was coming your way.
I can still feel the fear of being told I would be living on the streets, penniless, and never see my baby again if I ever tried to leave.
My Story Became a Saving Grace When I Surrendered It
Have you ever heard the phrase “pain identifies pain?” What was once a burden of being the “only one” to ever carry the initial shame of abuse suddenly became the lens from which I could see hurt all around me. It broke me, yet it strengthened me. With each hug I could give someone and honestly utter the words, “I know how it feels,” a small piece of my heart was restored. It wasn’t because of their pain, but it was because each time I could rejoice that this sweet soul didn’t have to feel that stark and stinging loneliness that I did.
But do you know when your story becomes a spectacle? When you tell it with a self-centered heart. I feel that’s the reason for so much animosity in our culture. So many people want to rile others up, pointing out injustices, stirring up the “hear me roar” mentality. Anger doesn’t solve desperate breaks in our culture. But, your story becomes a saving grace when you surrender it…truly seeking the purpose in it. And then, when you give your story the breath of your words for the sole purpose of bringing others healing, miracles occur. That is my vow, and it’s become my prayer.
Our Relationships Are so Often Made up of Profile Pictures
We show the best sides of us with the most flattering filter. Oh friend, so many around you live their lives as a profile picture. But under your nose, right this minute, there are loved ones of yours that are in silent pain. That co-worker that seems withdrawn or fake in their “happy” could be scared to walk into their own home. And worst of all, sometimes the mental scars are far worse than physical bruises. Flesh heals. The brain and heart often don’t.
When I began speaking my truth, I didn’t expect any outcome. I just knew what I was being led to do. I finally began to speak because although words can hurt, they can also heal in unimaginable ways. So, here are my words, here is my transparent life, and here is my story. And whatever yours is, speak it, tell it, hug others for sharing theirs. Silence kills too many of our chances to unite humanity. There are too many hurts not being hugged with love. There are too many hearts left broken for far too long. So this week, love on someone who forgets what real love feels like. You don’t have to know what to say. And above all, don’t ask him or her why they stayed; hug them because they got out.
Have you ever seen someone with a semicolon tattoo? You might start to take notice. It’s for those whose story could have ended in tragic ways, where, in writing their story, they could have ended it with a period. But instead, grace and strength found residence in their hearts, and they pressed on. Their story is now being written with a semicolon. It’s a short pause, but it’s not the end. It’s not their period. There is more to come. And they will keep writing. My story isn’t over. Neither is yours. And let me remind you when you start to forget…you are loved, and you are strong.
(If you need help, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233.)
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