I live in a prison cell. I’ve lived here for most of my life and, even though I keep searching for an escape, I can’t seem to find one. I don’t really know how to knock down the walls. The fact that I can’t break out is even more surprising when I tell you that I built the prison myself. It wasn’t built with plans or even brick and mortar. Instead, it was built with one protection after another. The saddest part of this story is that I’m not alone. There are millions of other prisons built the same way.
Those who live through abuse find ways to protect themselves as a way of surviving. With these protections, they are able to live their lives without many knowing of the abuse, but they are only keeping up appearances. People can never fully be themselves while abuse is still happening in their lives.
Those who are abused walk through life with great hope that things will get better, but we know it never will. We know that no matter what changes we make to hopefully lessen the chances of the attacks coming, they will not make a difference as long as we are with or around this person. The only way we feel we can protect ourselves is to harden our hearts, be quieter, hide our thoughts and tiptoe around circumstances. We step back in life. More and more we give up parts of ourselves in futile attempts to keep the abuse from happening again. We try to conform to what we think will make the abuser happy, we also get angrier and hold on to the pain. We replay the words and incidents over and over like a broken record to try to make sense of what happened. And while we can control the volume on the player, most of the time, things happen and it turns the sound up to full blast as it plays over and over again.
So, we do whatever we have to do to protect ourselves, knowing that more attacks are sure to come. This way of living becomes our prison cell and we are never free. We give up so much of who we are to the point that we don’t even remember who that person had once been or know who we were meant to be. We stop moving forward and just exist. Nothing makes it better. Both the present and the past abuse eats away at who we are. We go further into ourselves and let go of hopes and dreams. Some try to glean moments of life while others give up and hide away.
But what if we didn’t put up the walls? What if we fought to really live? The great part about life is that this can still happen. Even though we have the walls built, we can still fight to fully live our lives right this moment. We can say no to the abuse and find help and/or a way out and start from here. No matter what has been robbed from us, we can stand up and live. As the Bible says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Our prison is not inescapable, it just needs to be torn down by every step we take to find the life we were meant to have.
~ Joanna Lynn