No Longer A Victim: Poems From A Survivor
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My therapist also suggested I make a ritual out of body awareness. I started lying on the floor in my adolescent bedroom in the evening, when the anxiety was at its worst. I would stretch my arms overhead, then pull my knees into my chest and rock side to side. I did this full body stretch over and over, noticing where it hurt, what felt good, what felt vulnerable and scary sometimes, lying flat on my back like that, I still felt the weight of a grown man pressing down on me, pressing me into the floor like he wanted me to disappear into it.
I began to incorporate breath awareness, and to align my breathing and my stretching until I entered a flow state. Yoga became and remains vital to my healing process. Finally, she gave me a book about the neuroscience of surviving trauma. It sat on my bedside table on top of a book my lawyer had given me about the dynamics of abusive relationships.
I Am Not a Victim, I Am a Survivor
One night after stretching, I opened one and began to read. I saw my former life in those pages, which was startling, comforting and discomforting all at once. I felt angry and ashamed that my situation was so textbook. But I also felt understood.
I felt less alone. It helped me to understand, from a neuroscientific perspective, why my memory of the abuse was so fragmented and difficult to put into a linear narrative. Trauma survivors are often triggered into this visceral remembering by a sensory detail that reminds them of their trauma.
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Reading about triggers helped me identify and begin to manage my own. Learning the whys and hows of my experience from a psychological and physiological perspective, backed by empathetic and rigorous research, has been a huge part of my healing process. I wanted to read more. Something in me broke open when I began to read the experiences of other domestic violence survivors. I grieved their losses and championed their healing efforts. This was empathy. I have always been a feeling person, have always cared for others, but this was different.
I began to feel connected to people again, through shared experiences. Domestic violence relies on the isolation and disconnection of victims from communities and individuals that would help them escape. Before domestic violence, I was a writer. After domestic violence, it was the stories and voices of other survivors that made it possible for me to find my voice and my way back into a writing community again.
And by then, I wanted to tell my story, too. Not every survivor is going to feel comfortable sharing her experience. It was the one thing that was mine motherhood was still too new, though has since become another huge part of my identity. Everyone would know. Not just the writing community within which I shared it, but the small-town community where I was working to rebuild a life as a single mom.
Here are some of the worst things people have asked or said to me since I spoke out about my domestic violence ordeal: Why did you stay so long? I would never stay in that kind of relationship. I would have had him thrown in jail. I would never let anyone treat me that way.
Poetry by Domestic Violence and Rape Survivors
Why did you break up your family? Did you try couples counseling? Did he try anger management? Did you talk to a pastor?
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Did you pray? Do you even go to church?
Have you forgiven him yet? How could you take his son away from him? How can you let him have visitation with your son? How bad could it have been if you can talk about it so much?
Lots of women make these things up, you know. Then there are the amazing things people say, which make speaking up worth it: Thank you for sharing your story. You are so brave. Are you safe now? What do you need? Can I do anything for you? I recognize my own life in your story. You made me feel less alone. I want to leave now, too.
I read your story and decided to see a therapist. I read your story and reached out to a friend I think is being abused. I read your story and gave my co-worker the hotline number you provided at the end.
No Longer A Victim: Poems From A Survivor
Thank you. I hope you are safe now. Thank you for speaking up. I feel less alone. I left him. The first blessing of escaping domestic violence was the safety I found for my son and I, the life I built for us after burning our old life to the ground. Survivors survive every day. Some days are easier than others. She asked me what being healed meant to me, and I said, being who I was before abuse.
Her response changed my life. Like a flipped switch, I suddenly saw myself in that room, a smarter, more humble, stronger person than the version of myself that was susceptible to falling for a charming but violent man all those years ago. It just means, I know what to look for now. I know and have enforced my own boundaries. To soar so high Your heart would sing To feel the strength Of powerful wings.
But, this sweet bird hides in her nest And dreams of worlds above Her severed wings prevent her flight Done in the name of love. The wings were clipped To crush the heart That longed to soar above Destroy all the hope of flight From anger, pain, and love. Love that clipped the gentle wings Demanding that she stay Kept the bird inside the nest But, still she went away. She soared one day, up to the sky And never did return Escaped inside her broken heart Free of love's concern.
Consequences by Marcia Bates all rights reserved. Playground Songs by Marcia Bates all rights reserved. I want to go round and round And never stop I want to climb All the way up To the top! Swing me high And touch the sky I think that maybe I can fly.. Run and hide. You can't catch me. Can you catch A falling star? Hear the voices See the smiles Watch them run For miles and miles She grew so fast The child had to depart But she kept the playground In her heart.
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Teardrops by Marcia Bates all rights reserved. There's beauty in raindrops Redemption in tears They wash away dirt That's collected for years Rain becomes an ocean With powerful tides Tears reflect emotion That's hidden inside.