Breaking free takes time. The decision is made long before the steps are actually taken. It may be on a day when he is particularly vocal and rigid; when he, yet again, forces you to acquiesce to his opinion fully expecting that you will take it on as your own. You may outwardly concede but inside there is a voice. Inside, there is the beginning of a churning.
There is so much fear and uncertainty. In addition to having to walk on eggshells in your life because of his oppression, you have an inner turmoil of your own. You wonder how this happened? How did you let this happen? How will you ever get yourself and your children out of it safe and unscathed?
In my case, there were many days when I just agreed to be agreeable. Arguing was pointless, no matter the issue. There would be a barrage of facts followed by another barrage of subtle insults meant to make you feel as though you really were very useless – predictable that a woman with so little education and such a strange family would be so uninformed (translation: stupid). This was the daily dose. This was what caused the voice to spring from the depths to commence the battle.
I don’t remember the day I became aware of the voice. Initially, it was a feeling, a defense against the untruths. Inside my head, I began to counter the arguments, the insults. Soon I began to covertly disagree, to say ‘yes’ with one voice and ‘no’ with the other: inside my soul where all important dialogues are held and plans are made.
Eventually, I began to disagree with both voices. It was a long and slow process and was met with discord. I had to choose my battles. More times than not, one voice would have to return as a matter of self-preservation. It was a time of re-building of self. It was also the most difficult time of my life to feel so much angst and fear; to feel fear for my children, for their safety and well-being; to have so little control and yet to be re-gaining control at the same time. It was a strange dichotomy.
I do remember the first time I finally spoke with both voices and with true conviction. We were driving home after my first appointment with a family counselor. There had been about two weeks of concerted strife between us – including our one and only violent episode, after which we agreed we needed help with our situation. During my counseling session, the counselor listened to my story and, in essence, told me I was being held captive and while I had an opportunity to escape, I wouldn’t take it because I felt concern for my captor. He said OUT LOUD what I had been saying inside. The voice applauded, the churning did a quick flip and then burst open with a spray of light.
I left that office feeling vindicated but frightened, strong but weak, totally terrified. I got into the car with my husband and children and started the drive home under a barrage of, first, questions then probing demands. “What did the counselor say, what did you say? Did he have some suggestions? Should we see him together? Tell me what he said.” My two voices spoke with much more calm than I was actually feeling inside. Now, 31 years later, I don’t remember what I actually said but it was something along the lines of “he said we should think about separating”. Of course, the typical tirade began but I only heard parts of it because inside I was feeling the first prevailing moments of freedom. Inside, despite his display of anger, irritation, then hurt feelings, then belittling…I felt like I was looking up from the bottom of a lake and the water was so CLEAR. I could see the sun, the blue sky, the flittering shadow of the trees on the surface. I sat up, then squatted, aimed for the surface and pushed with both feet.