*Trigger warning: This story contains information about domestic violence that may be triggering to some survivors.
Who I Am
I am 49 years old and I have been married to my wonderful husband for 21 years. We have two amazing children.
But for more than 20 years, I called myself “the girl in between”.
This is why.
A Journey with Domestic Violence
In college, I met someone who I dated for approximately six months. I didn’t realize that when we first started dating he was still “seeing” his ex-girlfriend. We overlapped for about a month.
When I finished school, I moved back home, which was 30 minutes away from where he lived. He didn’t have a vehicle and I did, so I often drove to see him. After the move home, our relationship started to slow down. We went from boyfriend and girlfriend to “seeing each other”. While in this stage of the relationship, he opened up to me about something.
He told me he had kidnapped his ex-girlfriend for a weekend.
He assured me that he wouldn’t do that to me. He said he felt so bad and awful about it that he had asked her to take him to the police station. She drove him there, he was charged and he had to appear in court.
After he told me this, I knew I couldn’t panic. I knew that moving quickly with this information could have some scary consequences, as I had left a violent relationship the year before. So we finished our date and I drove him home.
Our relationship ended about a month later. I didn’t know it at the time, but I later found out that he had another girlfriend while we were together, who was living in the same city as him.
Eight months later, he murdered her.
She had decided to go to school in another city and ended the relationship.
He had never been violent to me. I was the “girl in between” the violence.
I remember the morning I received the phone call. I thought he had died in an accident.
I remember feeling disbelief that he could actually take someone’s life.
I will be forever grateful that someone I knew reached out to me. It was very early in the morning when I found out and I was thankful to know before I heard it on the news.
My friend’s aunt worked at the college where I had recently graduated. I remember she suggested that I take advantage of the counselling services being offered at the college, which I could access for free because I was an alumni. I declined because I felt that I wasn’t physically or emotionally traumatized like the women before and after me. I was the “girl in between”. I felt I had to be strong and brave. I could not show any weakness.
But two years later, I found myself struggling. I couldn’t be in crowds by myself or drive on the highway. The cars on the highway were too close to me, just like the people in the crowds. If I did either of those things, I would have a full blown panic attack. I could not go grocery shopping by myself. I could only do things with my “safe person”. If I needed to pick up items for dinner, I gave myself 10 minutes. I had to strategically plan my route around the store – any longer and panic and terror would set in. I was scared of everyone and everything.
Then I was subpoenaed to court.
I knew I had to get help or I would fall apart on the witness stand. I knew then I had to take my life back. And so I found the courage to ask for help.
Moving Beyond Violence
I received the counselling that I should have went for right from the beginning. But as the “girl in between”, I never felt that I should ask for help. I saw myself as the lucky one. However, in my counselling sessions, I learned that I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Survivor’s Guilt. Recognizing this helped me begin to move forward.
After being subpoenaed to court, I thought to myself, if I could get through court I could get through anything. It was one of the worst hours of my life. Even years later, when life gets tough, I reflect on where I was then and how far I have come. I got through that hour and I can make it through another.
It took me a long time to trust myself and my judgement. I started to listen to my gut and intuition and slowly built trust back in myself. I had to trust me before I could trust others. The night I met him, my gut said run. I thought I was being dramatic but now I know better.
Fortunately, at the time I was called to court, I was dating my now husband. His love, compassion, understanding, empathy and support helped me move beyond my pain and find love and laughter in my life.
My father is my rock. I was living with him when this all happened. He supported me through the whole process and still does to this day. He has given me great advice when anything comes up in the legal process. My family’s love and support helped me find the strength and courage to ask for help and move past the PTSD.
My Life As A Survivor
I am not afraid to live my life anymore. I laugh more and find joy in the little things. I live in the moment and appreciate special times with family and friends.
I am the best mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend and co-worker that I can be. I live with love in my heart and refuse to live in fear. I am not the “girl in between” anymore. I am the woman who listened to her gut and saved herself. I am the woman who found the courage to ask for help and the strength to receive it.
I live my life to the fullest in honour of the one who didn’t have that opportunity.
I Am Your Neighbour
Even in your darkest hour, the sun will shine again. You can move past darkness to find love and laughter. Being diagnosed with PTSD is not a life sentence, you can move past it. Some days will be more of a struggle than others, but that is okay.
I refused to let him win. Instead, I became the best version of me.
During the time when my PTSD was really bad, I had so many “friends” tell me to get over it and move on. Please listen and be compassionate to those who are struggling with PTSD, anxiety or any disorder due to violence. It doesn’t turn off because they are no longer in that situation and they are now safe. Respect the person and allow them to share if they want to or just hold them when they cry. Be patient and kind. Ask them if there is anything you can do for them. Don’t assume that you know.
Acknowledge how brave they are when they reach out for the help they need. It takes strength and courage to ask and receive help.