The other day someone asked me if I had it to do all over again would I still leave my abuser. My instant response was "ABSOLUTELY". She looked at me wide eyed and asked "How long will it take for me to recover?". That question caused me to pause for a moment.
I couldn't sit there and lie to this gal and pretend that I am some poster child for recovered abuse victim. Full recovery can be a tricky thing to identify.
While most people won't see it from the smile on my face, in many ways I still bear the scars of abuse. I've been away for 12 years and sometimes I wonder if it was worth the cost. Leaving wasn't easy and it certainly wasn't 'free', part of me died a slow cruel death in the leaving process. To this day, I find it difficult to trust others, I still respond poorly when I feel out of control, I do not like using the phone and I still shudder slightly when any male touches my left side. According to therapists, I honestly do continue to suffer from PSTD and depressive episodes on occasion.
What has changed is that the good days out number the bad ones. While I am not the same person that entered the abusive relationship, I am also not the same person that first left that abusive relationship. I also know that I'm on a path towards more healing instead of more destruction and now I want to help others as they begin to come out of the hopeless cycle of abuse.
So I was honest and told this gal that she would always have scars, but in time they would no longer feel like gaping wounds. Eventually she wouldn't feel the need to be defined by her abuse, but would identify as a survivor. There isn't a timeline to healing, because it is a journey of many steps and each person is going to take them at different speeds.
I could tell her this, because I personally have overcome and healed beyond what I believed was possible. Today I function so well that people are often amazed to hear about some of the things I have been through.
The next question she asked was "Will my children be changed because of the abuse." I swallowed hard in response to this question because the truth when it comes to the damage the abuse does to our children is a little more difficult to digest.
My children have been scarred by the abuse, this is a fact that I am unable to deny. They struggle with anxiety and fear that can cripple them from taking risks. There are times that they question even the most simple decisions, because insecurity is part of what they learned during their most informative years. None of them are extreamly trusting of other people, and that brings some challenges to their lives on a constant basis. Ultimately, I have to say that my children were harmed by the abuse in ways that leaving the relationship didn't completely 'fix'.
As we all healed, I learned not to allow the fact that they had witnessed domestic violence to stop them from living life. They each needed some professional help to adjust but I did what I could to get them that help. As a result they are currently emotionally healthy and functioning young men.