The Woman in the Mirror

It sounds foreign. Like it’s coming from a place within myself that I don’t recognize.  And maybe it’s not that I don’t recognize it as much as I can’t.  The words “I was abused” crawl off my tongue heavy, and dripping with shame.  Tears immediately spring to my eyes. The word “abuse” carries so much weight to it.  I struggle to even write it! So much so that I wrestle to understand that buried place within myself that allowed someone to violate my body in such a way that my neck is curving the opposite way as it should. Having to explain this to my massage therapist who has noticed after our first session that something is up with the vertebrae in my neck.

It reminds me of the time 6 months ago when I finally went to a chiropractor. He was the first medical care professional I told about the physical abuse I had endured. When you say it out loud to a stranger for the first time, it sounds so sterile. Like a cold, hard fact. Something that just is. Not wrapped in warm, loving feelings of friendship around a cup of tea and a warm hug; but bare-bones reality.

Both times the words stuck in my throat like a rock had lodged itself back behind my tongue and I had to force the air up out of my lungs to produce the sound.  And both times my eyes welled up with tears.  The emotions are still there. After 12 months of healing, the emotions are still there, riding just under the surface.  They lay dormant under the emotional salves and spiritual poultices I’ve been putting on my wounds.  Though the wounds can no longer be seen, the scars remain.

In this case though, the evidence is still there in the x-rays. You can’t deny the truth when it stares you directly in the face, when you are forced to confront the gravity of what has taken place. It’s like the first time I went to get my hair cut after my return home.  A simple, innocent question about new hair growth and, “had I noticed any hair loss recently?” turns into a blunt answer of, “maybe it’s from being ripped out of my head”, accompanied by a dark laugh that comes from a place within me I don’t recognize.  And the stinging tears come again. The words, like a dagger, piercing straight and true.

Truth is like that.  When it’s naked and said without pretense, it can take your breath away. Especially when it’s your own self saying it back to you.

I don’t know or understand this woman inside of me that keeps striking me with the truth.  It’s like she’s locked away inside my psyche and it’s not that I don’t want to meet her or face her, it’s that it’s easier to ignore her.

It’s easier to fill my mind with all the logical ways of healing.

It’s easier to read about “Why he Does What He Does” and learn about strategies to overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than to really dig into the side of myself that allowed such outrageous abuse to happen to herself.

Maybe I can’t face her because I think she is weak. Only weak women are abused….right? How could she let herself be lulled into the perpetual cycle of pain/hope that things will get better/honeymoon phase/pain strikes again?  Who in their right mind would be so foolish?

I watched a Ted Talk video about why women stay in abusive relationships.  I have attached the link for anyone interested in knowing more about this.

I meet all of the requirements for why women stay.

  1. I was young when I met my husband
  2. I thought I was “helping” him
  3. I didn’t recognize his behavior as abuse.

No one comes up to you and points out to you that what he is doing is abuse. And honestly, who would know what he was doing because I was lying to cover up his behavior all the time. It wasn’t until I was seated on an airplane on my way home that I FINALLY saw the light. I was finally able to admit that what was being done to me had a name.  It could be compartmentalized and explained. And once I could call it what it was, I could start the healing journey of recovery.  I really wasn’t losing my mind. I was coming to my senses!  Thank God for that still-small-voice to whisper healing into my tortured mind and spirit.

So who is this woman in the mirror staring back at me? My counselor tells me that she is the younger, childish version of myself. The vulnerable, sensitive, hopeful girl I have long forsaken.  My counselor also suggests that I need to start addressing the woman in the mirror when I look at her. To tell her and reassure her that everything is okay.  To thank her for being strong and helping me through my pain.

I have a very difficult time with this. If I speak to her, I have to admit she exists. And if she exists, then why didn’t she stop all of this from getting so out of control?

Maybe she is a part of my development that I missed as I skipped straight from adolescence to motherhood.  My girlish side, the vulnerable side of myself that I haven’t faced because I’ve been too busy surviving for the past 12 years. Been too busy trying to cover up someone else’s lies.  Been too busy finishing university and working to pay bills, and parenting the majority of the time on my own.

Most days I look in the mirror and recognize the woman staring back at me. But days like today, I don’t know this woman. I recognize the face and the features.  The blue eyes, the long face and nose; but I don’t truly recognize her.  I don’t KNOW her.

This is the story of my reformation.

This is the story of my journey to find out who this woman in the mirror truly is.



2 thoughts on “The Woman in the Mirror

  1. Gosh , Kathleen , so moved by your writings. I didn’t respond the 1st time, no words. Tears flow as I read this, I had no idea how severe this was. Your strength & bravery shine through you, God is indeed re-shaping you. Broken pottery allows light to shine through in ways a perfect piece never would.
    I pray that these thoughts you share will help some to understand what you shared about the characteristics of women who stay in these types of relationships & the broken men behind them. Praying for your continued strength & healing. May God be your portion daily Love. Barb


  2. I am so sorry to read about your struggle Kathleen. I am glad that you are with your family and you are getting the support you need.


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