Photo credit: http://www.katewmak.com/
This week marks the 4 year anniversary of the separation from my ex. Four years since the night I told him it was over and I was leaving. Four years since I made the biggest and most difficult decision of my life. 6 weeks later, I moved into my own home and started my new life as a single mother of two.
If I had known back then how difficult leaving would be, I would probably be dead. If I had known 4 years ago that the court process would still be ongoing. If I had known he was going to abuse my children and I would be helpless to prevent it. If I had known that after four years, I would still be caught, living my life trying to prevent him from hurting us.
If I had known these things I would have stayed. If I had known that leaving would become a marathon of epic proportions, with no end in sight, I would have ended my life.
In the past four years I have endured all of my worst fears. I have had to face the fact that my absolute worst fear (my own children experiencing abuse) has not only occurred, but is ongoing and society refuses to step in to stop it. I live with things I thought I could not survive and I live with them daily.
I’ve had to survive things that no person should have to survive and so have my children. Leaving didn’t save me. It didn’t save them. It didn’t cure my PTSD because I’m still being abused by him.
Some days, even recently, I have wanted to give up. When I started to feel as suicidal, as hopeless, as trapped and as depressed as when I was living with him, it felt unbearable. Many days feel unbearable, but each day I survive. I have to survive to create a safe home for my children.
It’s crucial to help people and support them in exiting abusive situations, but we have to stop perpetuating the destructive myth that “just leaving” is the solution. We have to stop perpetuating the myth that “just leaving” will solve all the problems. If your abuser is the parent of your children, you can never “just leave” because you are forced to interact with them on a regular basis until your children are adults and possibly longer.
Of course I had to leave. I wouldn’t have survived there much longer.
Of course it’s better for my children to have a happy, healthy mother 50% of the time rather than a dead mother 100% of the time.
Of course I made the right decision, the only decision.
Of course there are a number of things in my life that have improved since leaving and I’m grateful for them.
But that doesn’t make it any less painful to look back over 4 years of struggling to fully extricate myself from narcissistic abuse. 4 years of betrayals and incompetence by every major social program I’ve interacted with (CAS, legal, court, police, hospital, school).
So let’s support domestic abuse survivors to leave, but let’s also support them for as long as it takes after. Let’s recognize and acknowledge that the abuse does not end the moment she walks out the door. Let’s support survivors who regularly doubt whether or not they should have left, because the legal process is so traumatic and inaccessible. Let’s support survivors who have to co-parent with narcissits.
Create a community of support circling the survivor and keep it in place for as long as she needs it. Because she will need it, especially at the times she feels as bad, or worse than she did in the relationship.
So this week I mark 4 years down, a life time of healing to go!