This is my 5th Christmas away from the wospos. I am sitting here remembering that first Christmas away from him, I just wanted to give up and die, but like someone here recently said, they would give up if they could but they don’t know how. That is the problem, we have to carry on even when we don’t want to because we don’t know how to give up. We don’t feel strong enough to carry on, we don’t know how to carry on, but we don’t know how to give up so we end up doing the impossible. We may feel weak, other people who can’t relate to what we have endured may think we are weak because they see us crying, not eating, and looking so broken but the truth is we are being the strongest we will probably ever have to be. Somehow we make it through every single day, some days hanging on to one little frail strand of our sanity.
While I was taking my little “sabbatical” I was still reading the comments every day and was touched by the caring and compassion shown each other, there are some people who have really reached out lately, Ellie, who says it like it is and calls a spade a spade with compassion and caring, Fee, who has been through SO much herself shares so openly and gently in hopes of helping someone else, a new person to the blog Lonely who is right in the middle of her own nightmare and inrecovery who is also facing her own battles still reach out to others. Ellie is one of the “old timers” as are others who sit quietly in the background reading people’s comments and reach out to offer support when they see a need, (I can’t possibly remember all their names without forgetting someone so please do not be offended if I don’t mention you by name). I am naming those who have been actively commenting recently, but throughout the time I have had this blog there have been many who have offered up their loving support. At times my eyes fill with tears that leak down my cheeks as I read a comment from someone I know only a few days or weeks ago was going through their own terrible pain and self-doubt yet they offer support to someone else. It is such a testament to the type of people who fall victim to a narcissist, even gripped with their own pain they hold out a hand of understanding and support to others. They allow themselves to be vulnerable and reveal their own skeletons in order to put a person at ease and show they are not alone, we all have things we are not proud of.
As I read, a picture came to mind.
Another victim comes in and is hanging over the edge of some huge drop off, they are dangling there, they are tired and struggling to not let go of the frayed rope of sanity they cling to. Below them is a huge black abyss, nothingness waiting to gobble them up and they are so tempted to just let go and allow themselves to fall fall fall and just get it over with but as another strand of rope breaks away a hand appears, and then another one and another and the victim hears voices saying, “Don’t let go, we are here, we will help you.” When she looks up she sees smiling faces and all these hands reaching out and just as her grip on the rope let’s go someone grabs her hand and she feels herself being pulled back to the light and safety.
I get all choked up reading someone who themselves were hanging from that cliff not long ago reaching out to others.
I remember the surprise I felt the first time someone called me strong and said I was an inspiration and my insights had helped them be strong. The LAST thing I had been feeling was strong! but it made me assess where I was and I realized I was no longer hanging by my fingernails, I had some how made it through the days and nights that were a living hell. I didn’t know how, I never thought I would make it but I had so that had to mean I was stronger than I thought.
That’s the thing about strength, we never know how strong we are until we are tested, if we knew we could make it through something it wouldn’t require strength. If you catch my drift. It is only when we are pushed to the brink of total despair do we exercise our strength.
Let me give you an analogy;
I had never wanted to be a scrap metal hauler, it was actually the LAST thing I wanted to do but I had wanted a truck and any other avenues I had tried to make money with a truck had not been successful so I finally agreed to haul scrap out of desperation. When I first started I was embarrassed, there was such a stigma attached to scrap haulers, that they were uneducated, dishonest and thieves, so I worked after businesses closed for the day as often as I could, so I wasn’t seen by people I knew.
I had a hell of a time lifting some things and on occasion worked hours struggling to load heavy things onto my truck. I would get so frustrated, thinking I could never do it, even end up in tears at times; but my pride would not let me quit. I was determined to figure out a way to get whatever onto my truck. I became quite imaginative in my efforts. I remember one night imparticular I had a big brake drum from a semi that I had run one of my tie downs through and had managed to hoist it up to the edge of my deck but no matter how hard I tried I could not lift it over the edge and onto my deck. I ended up driving all the way home with this thing dangling off the back of my truck. If I would have been seen by the police I would have been ticketed for sure and I am sure any one driving behind me didn’t tail gate watching this 100 lb brake drum swinging from my deck. The next day I was able to stand on something and lift it onto the deck.
After about a year I was able to single-handedly hoist 16 brake drums in a row onto my truck while the mechanic stood watching me, saying he needed a woman like me. (In your dreams buddy, hump your own steel) The day before my first heart attack I had such a load on my truck and was lifting such weight that I had attracted an audience and got a standing ovation when I put the last piece on the truck.
I felt so discouraged that night struggling to get that brake drum on the truck but the next day I managed to get it on and as time went on and as I struggled with other things I started to enjoy the challenge. The embarrassment and shame I had felt about being a scrap hauler was replaced by pride and confidence. I am still proud of what I was able to accomplish and I am still remembered as the Lady Witha Truck and the first and only woman on the west coast to successfully, honestly and legally and without the help of a man haul scrap for a living.
And so it has been with finding my strength since leaving the wospos, I started off as most victims do, feeling ashamed, embarrassed and very weak. It has only been with time that I have come to realize I am strong and I can do it and over time the shame and embarrassment has been replaced with pride and confidence. I no longer care what assumptions people make about me when they find out I was a victim of abuse because I have proven I am not weak, stupid or in some way lacking. I have gone from being a victim to being a proud survivor and I hope now I can be an example to other victims and a voice for those who come behind me and not found their voice yet.
Five years ago no one could have convinced me that I would ever feel strong again, it was the worst Christmas of my life. JC was introduced to a woman through friends (because unbeknownst to me he had been complaining bitterly about my mistreatment of him for months beforehand), I was hurt, broke, without family or friends. I had been homeless and a girlfriend had arranged for me to move into the trailer next door to her. The guy worked out-of-town and was only home 6 weeks out of the year. I didn’t know him, had only talked to him on the phone and I was hesitant but I didn’t have any options and I could live there for free. I moved in sight unseen and was horrified when I saw the place. It looked like a crack shack if I had ever seen one, filthy, cobwebs draped from the ceiling and brushed my hair as I walked in. He was a heavy smoker and the walls were stained brown, it was dark and dank and God I wanted to run away, but I couldn’t go running back to the wospos so I stayed. I slept with my coat on and put a blanket down for Kato so he didn’t get bugs from the couch on him and I cried. I don’t know what I would have done without my little buddy, he laid his head on my lap, I just remember thinking I can’t do this, I can’t do this!!
It was 3 weeks before Christmas. I wore two pairs of rubber gloves when I cleaned the bathroom and threw the rags away, it took me 8 hours. I went through a couple dozen green garbage bags loading up the garbage, I opened the curtains, washed walls, vacuumed, and washed dishes that had stuff growing on them, I threw away some pots that I just could not stomach trying to clean. One week before Christmas I was finished and the owner was expected home in a few days. I had nowhere to go for Christmas and was not looking forward to spending it with a total stranger, but I was proud of my cleaning job and despite the depression that had overcome me when I saw Christmas trees on sale for $10 I bought one on an impulse. I put it up, it was dry and left needles everywhere but once I got the lights and decorations on it, it looked pretty good. I strung lights outside and decorate the porch with evergreen boughs. I wanted to show my appreciation for him letting me stay there but I had no money and hoped my efforts would convey my gratitude. He was so impressed when he got home, he said he didn’t think he was at the right place.
He wasn’t there more than an hour when he told me he had something to tell me; he had a “little’ crack problem and when he had time off he liked to have a couple of beers and do a “little” crack. My stomach flipped, I had suspected but had thought my friend would never set it up for me to move in with a crackhead, I thought she must not know. Long story short, his “little” problem with crack was a huge problem and he spent most of his days home locked in his bedroom. I slept on the couch because he brought a woman home and I didn’t want to be in the bedroom next door to his. They spent all night answering the door, she told me it was her daughter bringing her something. The next time there was someone at the door I answered and an asian man almost jumped off the porch, he looked at the house number to make sure he had the right place and I said, “Wait right here, I’ll go get them.” I couldn’t help myself, I knocked on the bedroom door and told her that her daughter was at the door.
I did cook a turkey and he did come out and eat. I was absolutely and utterly broken. My truck was broken down, I was living with a crackhead stranger, and my family had turned their back on me. It is a blur of misery and every single day I swore I could not survive another day.
I know this Christmas there are a lot of broken souls out there. I know there are people who are thinking they cannot possibly make it through the holidays, that you will never again enjoy Christmas or have anything to be joyful for again in your life. There is little I can do to ease your pain, I wish I had a magic formula that I could share that would make it all ok for everyone, but I don’t. It is something you are going to have to endure anyway you can, if you have children you will have to put a smile on your face and fake it as best you can and find time for a private little cry when you can. If you do have family or friends, force yourself to go out even for a little while, you will feel better to get out of the house. Surround yourself with loving caring friends if you can. Christmas can be a tough time for some families and if you don’t feel comfortable being with your family don’t force yourself to partake in the sickness, do what feels good for you.
And know, just like every other day of the year, this one also only has 24 hours and it will pass. Try to look forward, not back, there is a new year waiting for you and you don’t know what it holds. That can be scary but it can also be exciting, it is a chance to start your new life, you are in control, you make the decisions from this day forward.
And always remember that you are not alone, we may be thousands of miles apart or only a few blocks, we have never physically hugged or held each other’s hand but we all have a bond and are there for each other. We have a shared knowledge and strength that not everyone else has, we have slept with the devil and survived. If you can survive that you can do one Christmas.