This page is devoted to battered and abused women and children, the survivors of abuse, and all others that are in an environment of domestic violence. This page is about love, hate, anger, fear, illness, frustration, pain, and freedom. I offer my art and my words as support to the battered and abused, and to the abusers as well. It is my hope that my art can touch the hearts of those that are abused, and help them get in touch with their feelings....and also to help the abuser not only get in touch with his or her feelings, but to also see the heart and soul they abuse.
My name is
Kathy. I am the victim and
now the survivor of 21 years of spousal abuse. In dealing with
all that has happened over the years, I finally came to the
conclusion that I had to find a way to deal with our BROKEN
LIVES and what was happening to my children and I
through all those years. And just as importantly, with what is
happening to me now....even though I am free from his clutches
after so many years. Because the depression I suffered was so
severe, I put down my art many years ago. But just last year, the
beginning of 1996, I realized that I must do something or lose my
sanity......so it was that my art was born anew. I found that I
could draw what I could not express verbally. Because I was so
often deprived of adequate diet, clothing and medical and dental
care (my children fared much better in this department thank
goodness,) and subjected to every kind of mistreatment, I was
finally at the end of my rope.
I felt that I had NO VOICE. Many, many years before, I had made the decision to focus on the children and nothing else....and that's what I did. I raised them as best as I could, and resigned myself to the fact that I didn't have any choice........I had to endure the rage, the hate, the lack of respect, the totality of his inhumane treatment. Of course this decision was wrong for several reasons. Firstly, I subjected not only myself to his abuse, but also my children. I made the decision that I had no value, and therefore should accept whatever he dished out. I gave him opportunity after opportunity to vent his RAGE on us. But in my mind, I thought there was no other choice, and that's just not true. If I can ever give any advice to someone who is being abused, one of the first things I would tell them is that it's not their fault! It never is. We have to learn that all human beings must take responsibility for their own actions and own their mistakes. Its important to know that, because it is all to easy to fall into the "I'm to blame" mode. Abusers can so easily make a victim think it's their fault.
Look at the drawing to the left entitled RAGE. This is what I had to deal with for so many years, and I know many of you deal with the same. This is an angry, out-of-control person. There is no reason nor responsibility in this face. There is no compassion, no empathy here. And in the theater of my mind, this face projects the spirit of abuse, no matter what form it takes.
The question is often asked of abused women, "Why don't you just leave?" I would wager that many of you have had the same question asked of you. It's a difficult question to answer, and there are probably a thousand different answers because each situation is different. We all have different concerns in our lives, and those of us who endure such abusive behavior could answer that question differently. Look at RAGE again. Can you see an answer here? This is why I didn't leave for so long. I was afraid! I had NO VOICE! As the years went by, he had so torn at my confidence and self-esteem, that my soul and spirit felt as if they were in SHREDS, and I was literally terrified of being on my own, of being away from the house, of being around people, I was even afraid to be "just me." And who was I anyway? I didn't know.
Perhaps we don't look like SHREDS on the outside, but that's how we feel inside. We are torn apart emotionally, we're confused......"Why is this happening? Why is he doing this? What's wrong with me? What did I do?" We're physically tired, we're terrified, those of us who have children are terrified for them as well.....oh, the list could go on and on. And at the same time, we're losing confidence and self-esteem, we're losing who we really are, and what we're supposed to be doing with our lives. We feel as if we have no value, we feel insignificant, not important, we feel guilty. We're trying to find ways to please our spouse, only to make them angrier. And finally we come to the point of being trapped (or so we often think,) and many times RESIGN ourselves as I did, to a life of physical and emotional torture.
And so it is, that so many of us just give up. It seems to be the only way to survive. I stood by and watched helplessly (or so I thought) as he systematically destroyed my children and I, bit by bit with each passing day. I RESIGNED myself to the false fact that I had no choice, and sadly in doing so, I made the same choice for my children.
Once the children were in their teens, they were gone frequently, and I found myself retreating further and further into the background. I found that little place on the wallpaper that I knew so well, and just faded in. I stayed in my room, sometimes 24 hours a day. I had my computer, my books, my TV and my beloved dogs. I ate what he chose to buy and tried for all my life to avoid him. I was literally terrified of any contact with him whatsoever.....and not just fearful of physical abuse, I think that was the least of my worries.....I was terrified of how he made me feel! That was the part that was so hard for me to handle. Even the slightest off-color remark would send me into an emotional whirlpool of fear, anger and frustration.
The ANGER was agonizing. It took me many years to discover this fact. I was aware of the anger but not aware of what it was doing to me. On the inside I was becoming hostile and hateful, and to make matters worse, I internalized all these feelings. It was a vicious circle......his violence and belligerence just bred more and more animosity in me. The only difference between us was that with the exception of an occasional outburst, I would swallow my feelings, and he wouldn't. The children and I got the brunt of his anger, and yet we had our own to deal with too. An ANGRY HEART is a sick heart, and one that can't sort through daily life without running into obstacle after obstacle. The mind is clouded, memory begins to fail, you lose enthusiasm for those things you once loved, you are short-tempered with your children and others, and depression becomes so marked in your life, that often you wish not to see the sun the next day.
And then there was the fear. Oh, the nights, the days, whenever he would walk in the front door, my mind would cry out "He's Home!" I was gripped by a fear I cannot describe, my heart would feel like it was pounding out of my chest, my breathing became quick and shallow, my stomach hurt, and I would pray that he would stay away. I was usually in my room when he came home, and so I would sometimes pretend to be asleep, anything to avoid any kind of confrontation. As the years went by, I began to lose my hearing, and so in the last years, I wouldn't always hear him, and would be terrified when I would walk into a room and find him there. He started to be very quiet I think, just to scare me when he could. Knowing that I couldn't hear well, was just another way for him to cause me untold agony. It would take me the rest of the evening to get over the scare. And through all these years, I had no idea the toll that it was taking on me.
That is another message that my heart aches to get through to others. We all have stress in our lives in one form or another, but those of us who are living in an abusive circumstance, have no idea for the most part, what the stress is doing to our bodies. And I speak from 21 years of experience. The stress was unbearable, and sometimes my heart would QUAKE until I was breathless. I was lonely, afraid, angry, and frustrated. Now as I look back on those years, I can see what it did to me not only emotionally, but physically too. I suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Severe Headaches, Anxiety, and many other health problems, all disorders that can be brought on my extreme stress. . Does any of this sound familiar? Of course those aren't the only things that can happen to us physically as the stress increases daily. Please my friends, think of yourselves....it's not selfish to do that. You have the right to be treated with love and respect as well as keeping your physical self well.
Most of you have TRIED SO HARD. You've done everything you can think of to please the one who abuses you. You've thought about it day after day, you've worked yourself to a frazzle, looking for things to make it better. You've tried to change, be someone you're not, you've put on a mask and denied yourself in order to please the abuser. I know, I've been there. Please understand, no matter what you do, things won't change. The abuser is the one who must open his/her eyes, and see what they're doing to you. They must come face to face with themselves in order to even begin a change in their lives. No one can do that for them, they must do it themselves. And unfortunately, not many are willing to do that. If they feel you coming close to their vulnerabilities, if you offer your hand in understanding and support, they often reject it, and only become more violent and embittered.
And it seems, the harder you try, the more their DARKSIDE begins to show. I think the abuser often becomes frightened in their own way, that you might discover their weakness, or bare their wounded heart. Oh yes, they hurt too. More than likely, their wounds were brought into the marriage as extra baggage, and baggage that has been carried since childhood. No, that's no excuse for them to treat you harshly, there is never an excuse for abuse. But its important that we, even though wounded terribly by their behavior, understand that they are hurting too. It may not in the long run, make a difference to them, but it will make a difference in your life. You may not recognize that right away, but believe me, there will come a time, when you will be glad that you opened your heart enough to take in their hurt too.
And so it is, that as you try to deal with your pain and frustration, and his/hers as well, you feel as if your life is literally CRUMBLING around you. Sometimes it feels as if your mind is short-circuiting, and your thoughts are jumbled and foggy. Try as you might, nothing seems to make sense. You can't get a handle on your thoughts and feelings, and all the while, your dealing with daily living, children, school, work, housekeeping, what do I fix for dinner tonight, what will he/she be angry about tonight, friends, neighbors, and other family members. You either find it hard to get organized, or you obsess about organization and wear yourself out doing so. Your mind races, a thousand different thoughts at once it seems, you more than likely suffer headaches and stomach upset. To top it all, you put on an act and pretend all is well and normal in your household when others are around. Of course that in itself is denial and only adds more stress to an already stressful situation.
And so time goes by, years pass, physical and emotional abuse take their toll. You are in TORMENT day and night, as are your children. If anything changes, it's that the abuse escalates. And I would make mention here too, for those that have never experienced abuse, that the emotional and verbal abuse we suffer can be just as bad or worse than physical abuse. It may not leave scars on the outside, and most people wouldn't know what you've been through, but it leaves inconceivable scars on the inside. Your inner self, your essence, your vital force, the real you that was once so full of life and energy, slowly, yet methodically fades away. You feel like a mechanical device going through a programmed regime of daily tasks. You stop occasionally, as your heart gives rise to lucid yet painful emotions, but always fall back into the routine of just trying to survive.
One day runs into the next, you feel numb on the inside, things seem vague and obscure, and your long ago dreams and ambitions turn into an ENDLESS and perpetual roller coaster of pain and heartache. You watch as you and your family systematically destroyed piece by piece, bit by bit. Nothing fits together anymore, and your household walks on eggshells day after day, in hopes of not provoking the abuser once again. Those hopes are false hopes, my friend. He or she promises not to erupt again, but they are empty promises......and promises that the abuser cannot keep. Even the abuser is powerless over his or her own resolution not to hurt others again. It is impossible for the abuser to change, until he or she is willing to take a good long look at themselves and their past......make the painful journey into their past.....to find the answers to their rage and anger. Not many ever accomplish this. For them, it is easier to just stay in denial, blame others for their behavior, and run from themselves and the truth.
How long have you stayed? One year, five, ten, twenty? When will you find yourself saying NO MORE! It took me over twenty years. Please, please don't allow yourself to do as I did. Get out...leave, take your children with you. Find shelter with family or with a battered women's shelter. Staying will cause so much more destruction. And remember that abuse can run in families. Your children could grow up to be an abuser....and so it goes, from one generation to the next. Remember that you are a person of value. You have a right to be treated with love and respect. You have a right to your voice, your opinions........you have the right to be a living, breathing, happy human being and to be respected for who you are.
Don't let your abuser's MALEVOLENT spirit drag you down any further. Yes, I know....its hard to leave, its terrifying to think of. And chances are that your abuser will grow worse when he or she knows you've made up your mind to leave. Always remember that abuse is about control. When you leave, your abuser loses the thing that he or she controlled and manipulated. Being cognizant of what they are losing, their abuse can escalate. I experienced this as I was in the process of leaving. Its scary, and it will be one of the most difficult things you ever do. But do it! If you need to, get help from friends, family, neighbors, police or women's groups that deal with domestic violence. Remember too, that your abuser is most probably scared to death on the inside. Don't ever dismiss them as social misfits that have no rights and no feelings. They're human too, and have the same needs for love and respect as you and I. They're not always aware of that, and I think too, that we as their victims forget that too.
In living with an abusive person, we subject ourselves to so much. Our lives are CONSUMED and exhausted just in the task of surviving. Don't give your abuser that power....instead become empowered, take your life back, take the steps that are necessary for you and your children to find a new life away from the pain and degradation of abuse! Start being good to yourself for a change too. Realize who you are, a "very special someone" who has so much to offer others. Make up your mind to the fact that you are "somebody" and take a stand!! Its also important to understand that freedom from abuse doesn't mean that you're free from the emotional pain it has caused you and your children. It is so important for you to know that. I know. It takes time, family, counseling, friends, patience, much thought and energy. This is where I am now, and I can say that I was shocked by how I felt once free. But I'm going to make it, and you can too!
Perhaps you think that you're not strong enough to make the decision and leave. You are strong enough! You have great inner strength that your not aware of. You have a courageous heart beating within your breast! Do it! Take control of your life....go out and find the NEW LIFE that awaits you and your children. It's there, but you must take the first step. The road may be rough for awhile, but can it be any rougher than your life now? Never! Take it one day at a time. Try not to look too far ahead, else you will find yourself feeling overwhelmed. Once you are away from your abuser, give yourself a breather, be good to yourself, do things you enjoy, even if its only watching a TV program or reading a book. Enjoy your children, do little things together that you couldn't do before. Enjoy each other and savor every minute of every day. You will find yourself opening up and finding a new you that you didn't know existed. And in the doing, you will find the rough spots a little easier.
I hope you will all remember something very important. You must live with the consequences of your abuser's behavior, and there are only two ways to do that. Either you do so in anger and bitterness, or you do so in forgiveness. One hard lesson I have learned is that its much easier to do this in forgiveness. Yes, it will take some time, but always remember that forgiveness is just as much for you as it is for your abuser. When you forgive, you can live with peace of mind. Life is too short to do otherwise.
I hope that I have offered words of encouragement, yet I find myself thinking that words are not enough. There just seem to be no words that can adequately express the pain of abuse and domestic violence. So, I hope and pray that my art has touched your heart, made you think, and perhaps opened a little pathway that will lead you to health, happiness and freedom. It is up to you, the victims and the abusers alike.
And, a reminder that you are so very welcome to join our newly created "Unchained Mailing List". The button to subscribe is at the top of the page.
I welcome your thoughts and your comments, and hope you will not leave without sending me a note. May the Lord bless and keep you all.
Please visit this next link. It shows just how valuable Art Therapy is to those of us who have suffered some kind of trauma. You'll be glad you did!
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