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You Can't Change the Wallpaper and Not Change You Too

Full disclosure: this is a very personal post. It may trigger some readers. While I am sensitive to that possibility, I feel that what I write here is too important not to share.

Last week, I finally redecorated the last room we shared in my home. It had been over two years since I asked him to leave after a relentless day of abuse. Somehow, I could change every room in the house except that one. I could not make that space my own. As the months went on, I started to ask myself, "What was I holding on to?" It certainly wasn't desire for his return. That desire was long gone. I felt stuck for so long, wondering how to move forward in the most intimate of spaces--my bedroom.

As a survivor of domestic abuse, I am not much different from many other women who struggle through the debilitating emotions felt in the personal healing process. For me, separation was a long-last solution after 31 years of living with my abuser. The separation was not the issue. I felt secure with him gone. The divorce was final a year ago, and in the previous six years, we shared space for less than 25 months in our home. I had not considered how hard healing would be in a safe space after the relationship ended.

My room was once our room. I want to say that this room was sweet and full of love. But the room was a battleground space. It was dominated by possessive occupancy. In moments of rage, it was the stage where many abuses were displayed. In moments of manipulation, sweet but never-fulfilled promises were made. In moments of control, I was subjected to horrible emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. The relationship was about power. Who would control me each day? Would it be him? Or, would it be me?

A few weeks ago, I was awakened in the night by a terrible, crushing feeling. Memories that I had suppressed so deeply about horrific abuses and coercive control in our early relationship came bursting through to the surface of my conscious mind. Even though I had journaled extensively about the harm I suffered from early in our relationship, there were some atrocities that I never did put pen to paper and process. This awakening...rocked me for a few weeks. I found myself feeling sick. Fixating on the memories of the night and attempting to chronicle them one by one. I had decades of journal evidence confirming coercive control, manipulation, domestic violence, and abuse of all natures toward me. I had suppressed those that were most sinister and worked with my naivety and vulnerability to become his target for abuse.

I had avoided dealing with the abuse of the most intimate parts of my personhood. This was the bedroom stuff. This was the attack on who God made me to be and the beauty of myself as a strong, capable, independent woman. The person he said he was attracted to--was the person he was relentless to destroy. He could not take me down financially; I had legal recourse. He could not take me down intellectually, though he tried and tried and tried. He could not take me down physically; he knew I would make a report, restraining order, or leave. He could threaten me, he could frighten me, he could attempt to distort the Bible to exert undue power over me. But worst of all, he exploited my body and the very intimate nature of our marriage bed.

I needed that dream, those memories, and to bring to light what I had pushed down so deeply that I could not accomplish this one last task. I am sad about the memories. But in the same way, I am relieved I don't feel stuck anymore. I surrendered the pain to God. I waited for clarity, and clarity came in the form of some new decor. My space, my safe space, was now wholly mine. No tainted love from horrifying memories of harm. My beautiful space with my newly healed beautiful heart. Had I changed the furniture before I changed me, I would not have felt so good doing it. I am free.

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