I Didn’t Start the Fire — guest post by Happy to Bursting
Guest post from one of our readers. Many thanks to her for sharing.
At first it was unclear to me exactly why I didn’t tell for so long. But as my world crumbled around me, a new world was being built: one of truth and love, free from abuse. With the telling came a destruction of perceived reality and the building of true reality which would only grow stronger.
My telling didn’t begin by my own work; it began at the hands of my abuser. It certainly was not his intention to reveal that his “dearest” wife was daily used for emotional target practice, but still he did. It was also the farthest thing from my mind to consider that his treatment of me was even wrong and that I might have some recourse against it. Years before I had steeled myself against the harsh perception that I was destined to remain forever bound to the maniac who called himself my husband. So when the day came that I was unable to find a suitable excuse for his outright abuse, I was terrified. How was I to maintain the image of marital peace when I was now being treated the same way in front of others as I was at home? How was I to defend his actions when others were now witnessing the very behavior?
It had been “comfortable” to be abused in the privacy of my own home. No one else saw it, I didn’t have to make excuses, and once I left the doors of my home I began the play-acting that I called my life. Because there were never any bruises, it was not too difficult to hide. Being in a new city among people who never knew “me” before, made it easy for my abuse to avoid notice. For them, the absence of bruises meant the absence of any cruelty. They never saw the inside, however. They never saw the disappearance of hobbies, interests, skills, gifts, talents, or other little joys because they had nothing with which to compare me. To them, the real “me” was the one being created in our home, changing ever so slightly each day until I became the person the abuser wanted me to become.
Because of these facts, the telling was only believed by those who knew the original “me” and could recognize the changes. It was those Precious Others who made it possible for me (both the old and new) to begin telling. Once it started I found it impossible to stop. Of course, I still qualified everything, taking as much blame as possible, downplaying the abuse as if I could somehow redeem it. Thankfully those I was telling could quickly recognize when it was the old me or the new who was speaking. Until I was able to make the decision to flee, they helped to slowly strip away the new me, peeling back the layers of protective deceit and false happiness until they found the person they once knew. The real me.
Once I saw the difference in all of its raw glory, the telling spread from those Precious Others to a pastor and some friends. It was their involvement that began the escalation of the abuse and the eventual necessity of my leaving.
So I didn’t start the fire (of telling), but I didn’t put it out, either. It was that fire that lit the path that led me home.