First things first; a little disclaimer: We don’t normally do this, but today we’re posting something that’s already been posted elsewhere. You can see the original piece here.
When Anna sent this in, she told us straight away that it had already been posted elsewhere, but after reading it, we knew we wanted to post it. It deserves posting, and the subject deserves awareness.
This is such a strong, powerful piece. When you read it, be prepared to feel anger, sadness, and then awe. Anger and sadness at what people can do to each other, and awe at the way people can survive and deal with these things that others do to them. Anna, you make us proud.
I am running the BUPA 10k this year at 10 o’clock on the 27th May. It is the first professional race I have participated in and has come to represent a terribly important milestone in my life.
I am going to be raising money for Refuge, a charity that exists to help women and children who are suffering, or have suffered from domestic abuse. Please visit my page at www.JustGiving.com/Anna-Teresa to sponsor me, and help Refuge perform their vital work in the network of safe-houses they provide, as well as invaluable practical and emotional support for victims of abuse.
I have chosen this cause because I know first-hand what it is to live with domestic abuse. I know what it is to grow up with it. The damage it causes is irreparable. The scars are permanent. I used not to be able to look in the mirror without seeing someone disfigured with loneliness, guilt, and shame.
But I have discovered that some healing is possible and this realisation is one I feel I need to share urgently. I have begun to be able to look at my reflection and see myself appear out from underneath the shadow of my past, despite the fact that the spectre of my abuse, my abuser, can be discerned in the very shape of my face.
I put my progress down to the fact that I have started talking about it.
I believe that the ignorance there is around the matter of domestic abuse – what actually constitutes abuse, how common it is, the devastating and irreparable damage it leaves in its wake, how to recognise the signs, how to help – is due to the misapprehension that it should be kept as a private matter, behind closed doors. This attitude is dangerous and seriously compounds the damage. It means that people are not sufficiently equipped to either recognise or deal with it.
This is what happened to my family. We did not get help, we didn’t even think to ask. As a direct result of the secrecy and shame around our abusive home environment, it quietly and devastatingly became a normalised part of our lives. Not only that but something we felt we deserved, we had brought on ourselves, and needed to keep hidden away as a terrible guilty secret, hidden from even those closest to us. This is why I feel it is so desperately important that I speak out, so others might learn from our experiences, our mistakes, and happily, our progress!
At first I wanted to use my participation in this run as a means of starting to be open about a subject which has, until recently, been a debilitating personal secret. Now, I hope to achieve much more than that. My openness has already effected a dramatic positive change in my life. Through talking about it, I realise now that it was not my fault, that I did nothing wrong, that I should not feel ashamed. This was such a impossibly difficult realisation! Since beginning this process I have received constant validation that I do not/should not have to feel this way. More than that, this deep visceral shame which played havoc with my rational mind, is a reaction I share in common with many abuse victims, and so I need to feel less bad about that too! It is such a relief to discover that all the vices, negative thought patterns, destructive behaviours that one can fall foul of in situations such as this are not unique to oneself. They do not indicate a personal weakness or evil – quite the contrary – they in fact make you a rather text book case! They are, in fact, nothing but symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), caused by external events and thus eminently more excusable and forgivable than the dark and blackened soul I always believed I had been cursed with at birth and that lurked, brooding dark things, somewhere deep within my chest cavity.