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You know how when you are on a road trip you pass signs saying what city is ahead? And in your mind you go, “Oh, I’m nearing Detroit or I’m in the Dallas area.” So somehow at some level you *know* where you are, but let’s face it, all freeways look pretty much the same. So you don’t really know what being in Detroit or Dallas or where ever means.

But if you need to stop – take a break from driving, fill up your tank – or the car’s – you pull off on an exit and you start to get a feel for where you really are. Maybe it’s the sports teams logos, or the architecture, or the people. But there’s something, and you suddenly get a flash of what it means to be in that city. Maybe you don’t fully internalize it, but there is a moment of insight, an “aha” of … “I’m really here now.”

So what does any of this have to do with abuse? Let me set some context.

I am white, male, well-educated, good job. Reasonable health, tall and relatively strong. People who know me might find me serious, but generally positive and up-beat. I have good friends and wonderful kids. From the outside, everything looks pretty good. But it’s what’s inside that matters.

I realized in the last year or so that I was being abused. Not physically, but emotionally. I knew it logically. I could finally see the road signs. And I acted. Maybe not fast enough, but I finally separated from my abuser about six months ago.

Since then, I’ve been adapting to a new life style. I’ve being taking control of my life and even gotten a promotion (of sorts) at work. Really thrown myself into the journey. The knowledge of what I had been through was still there, but it was just a fact.

Lately, however, my gas tank has been getting low. So I pulled off the road. I took Friday off work and ended up sleeping much of the day. Then I heard from my abuser again. And the pain came flooding back.

I was embarrassed. I should be stronger than that. Why was I letting her continue to hurt me? I vented to a trusted friend.

They made a very simple statement that shook me to my core: “You are an abuse victim.”

There it was. I am a victim of abuse. It’s going to take a long time to “get better”. And even when I’m passed the worst of it, I’m not going to be the same person I was before. 

Those simple words brought me to tears. Tears of relief. It was okay that it still hurt. It was okay that I needed a break. I need to heal and maybe, just a little, in that moment, I was able to heal some more.