As I write this, the wind is blowing and howling outside of my window, it's a lonely sound. I remember sitting and looking out my window in the Fall of 2010, the wind was howling then too and the window I was sitting at was at Inasmuch House in Hamilton, a shelter for women. I was alone and the wind echoed my pain. Thank God for Inasmuch House for although I felt alone in what I was going through, I had never been more surrounded by support.
Having supportive people around you makes all the difference. Before being in an abusive relationship I thought that people could always depend on good friends and family but this is definitely not always the case. In fact by the time I sought help for myself and my children my family had been held at a distance for so long that even though they would have helped if they could the gap was just too wide. My friends? My closest friend lived 6 hours away and had to listen helplessly as I alternatively wept and panicked through multiple phone calls, she couldn't do anything and the others?....I cut myself off from most of them due to shame and isolation. I didn't want to let anyone know what I was going through. I was embarrassed and frankly didn't have any more energy to deal with other people's emotions about what was going on. I was tapped. I did however talk to two people who both decided to support my husband. They felt that I should really get help for my "mental illness" and was making a terrible mistake for going into a shelter...
" What are you doing?"
"Think about your kids, what this is doing to them"
" You need to talk to him [my husband], you need to try again"
"Think about what you are walking away from"
" We don't understand what has happened to you. You have a great life"
" Come over and let's talk this out, just please leave that place. You shouldn't have your children there. You aren't thinking clearly. You have had a lot of stress lately...."
That hurt. It hurt a lot. In fact it hurt so much that I didn't know if I was ever going to get over it. Sometimes I thought it hurt more than what happened in my marriage. I truly had never felt so alone in my life, and this was when I was safe in a building with others all around me. But day by day, and it took a while, I began to feel better. I began to let other people in, I began to talk about what I was feeling and I began to listen to what others were saying. I began to feel less alone.
Leaving and entering a shelter is not the answer for everyone. Sometimes women leave relationships and then go back. Did you know that the average time a woman leaves and goes back is supposed to be something like 11? Don't be ashamed. You're not weak. You have to do what you have to do and you can trust yourself. Getting some kind of support though is essential.
I chose to go to Inasmuch but there are other places that can help as well. Please, if like I did, you think that you should probably talk to someone about what is going on in your life, check out the Red Book Resource tab on this website. I started by calling the Inasmuch crisis line and the lady I spoke with was awesome. She didn't push me, she listened and never judged. I felt supported and for the first time in a long time I felt the burden of having to deal with my shame and fear get lighter. I know that you can also call any of the crisis lines if you have a loved one that you are worried about and need advice. I can highly recommend Women's Weekly every Wednesday night (see the calendar for details)..a drop in group for women: great topics, child care, safe and a great place to get out of the cold, leave the wind at the window and feel the warmth of support. Whatever you choose to do, please know that it does eventually get better. I wish you all the best and want you to know that those of us who work here at 1infour really do understand..and you are not alone 🙂