Sometimes the desire to run away can become overwhelming. In my youth running was something I just did. If life got tough I moved on. It isn’t always easy to face down our demons but I have gotten better at it, or so I think. Now when I run it is usually with a camera and only as far as a hiking trail or lake to clear my head and spend time on quiet reflection.
What has changed? I have children and grandchildren here and they are my world. My mother moved away many years ago. She was also a runner and her running took her to Texas, thousands of miles away from her own children and grandchildren. I used to be so angry at her, but over time I have forgiven her. I realize she made her choices and they were hers to make. Even when I was a child my mother was a runner. She packed us up without warning and moved us across state and then just as we were settling in and making a new life she packed us up and moved us again.
The truth is neither of my parents know their grandchildren or children very well. My father ran away too, but not in locale. After my brother committed suicide my father just shut down. He lives in a world where my brother is still alive and his living children are on the out skirts of his life. He will occasionally come out for a while, but it always feels like he is only partly with you. I am not angry anymore. I can’t imagine losing one of my own children in such a tragic way and can only imagine what goes through his head when he thinks about my brother. It is truly heartbreaking.
I think I was slowly heading down the road of both my parents for the longest time. I considered packing it up and heading either down south or back out west many times after my divorce. Just leaving and never looking back the way my mother did. Instead I took a more treacherous route and although I didn’t shut down in the way my father did I ran away into a bar and remained their for the next five years. Essentially leaving my family as if I had moved thousands of miles away.
This isn’t a story about alcohol recovery though. This is a story about rediscovery. The alcohol was just a way to hide away from the things I didn’t want to face. The desire to run away so I didn’t have to deal with being alone and the pain of realizing I didn’t even know who I was anymore. If you have ever been, or know somebody who has been, abused, you will understand. There is a loss of identity that is difficult to explain, but very real.
There was the before me and the after me. The old me was confident, social, artistic, a tad cocky, a risk taker and vocal. The after me was scared, agoraphobic, scarred and unsure about anything. So where does that leave me now? Today I am not really like either of my parents. I stopped running and became repairing the damage I had done. I am not the same cocky, self-assured woman I was prior to 1997, but I am also not the one I was in 2007 either. I am somewhere in-between.
When I feel like running away I grab my camera. I explore the world around me and tell my story with the images that inspire me and make me feel good about where I am in my life. Oftentimes these images reflect where I am in my head. The silent silhouette of a winter tree against a stormy sunset or the beauty of the autumn foliage along a leaf strewn trail.
I have learned to deal with my pain in a more productive way. To drink wine in the tub with a good book. Not the bottle to help me sleep. I am discovery a new creativity that brings me joy. I have learned to stay put and work though life’s tougher moments so that I will be here for my children and my grandchildren when they need me. It hasn’t been an easy journey and the path to self discovery can shine a light onto things we really don’t want to see in ourselves, but it is worth it. I can promise you that.
If you or someone you know is being abused I can’t stress how important it is to reach out. The National Domestic Hotline is available 24/7. It isn’t always easy to help. I was almost completely cut off from my family and friends and had no access to money. My family and friends didn’t understand why I couldn’t hang out with them or why I was always “crazy”. Most abusers are smooth talkers and when we did go to any family event we were the “perfect” family. He would talk to my family about my “depression”, “mood swings”, and how he stuck it out because he loved me so much.
It took a while for me to get over the bitterness towards my family for believing him. How could they not see how drastically I had changed? I used to beg with my eyes for help, but they didn’t see it. I realize now that it was unfair to be so angry. They just saw a loving husband and a man who worked hard to provide a good life for his family. Sadly his wife began to suffer from “severe depression” and couldn’t hold a job.
So if someone in your life has drastically changed after getting into a new relationship and isn’t the same person you have known for years. Maybe look a little closer and keep an eye on things. They might be reaching out and you just don’t know it.
In closing I would just like to give you some things to look for:
- Injuries and Excuses: Suddenly becoming the worlds biggest klutz
- Absences from Work or School: Or quitting jobs for no apparent reason
- Low Self-Esteem: Not making eye contact, deferring conversation to partner
- Personality Changes: Suddenly quiet, overly exuberant,
- Fear of Conflict: Will avoid an argument at all cost
- Passive-Aggressive Behavior: Or attack through indirect means
- Self-Blame: Taking blame for every argument with partner
- Isolation and Control: Not being able to hang out, He is always present
It isn’t always easy to identify because abused women get really awesome at hiding the abuse and lying. Lying becomes second nature. Lie to your family, your friends and the police when they show up.
In closing I no longer want to run as far away as I can which I believe is the most positive step I have made in this long journey of self recovery and learning to be me again 🙂 Even though my abuser bought a house only two miles from me. I am okay with that because he can’t hurt me anymore and I am not going to let him chase me away from a life I am learning to love again.