Last week I took a long walk back to my past. On Tuesday morning my mom called me to tell me that the home where my father has been for years contacted telling her my father had a stroke. My heart jumped into my throat and stayed there for the rest of the day. Since my parents are divorced, my sister and I are the first family they have to get to if something happens to him and then, with a lump in my throat, I had to pack up my stuff to go home and go see him.
I took the train back and through the whole journey my life was on repeat in my head. The violence, the fear, the police, the courts, the pain. Everything just crashed back into me. I hadn’t seen him in ten years and the last time I saw him was in that same hospital.
Halfway through the trip I got another call from my mom telling me that they were wrong and that he did not have a stroke but that it was something with his lungs. How they got to such a wrong conclusion is something I will never understand. I found out he was consciouss and then I became my 16-years old self in my 26-years old body. I knew I had to go there and I didn’t know how he might react when he sees me. I was already putting up plans in my head for the ecounter.
“Stay out of his arm reach, don’t come too close to him if he shows signs of getting aggressive, leave immediately if he starts yelling, don’t close the doors so you can escape if he comes at you” were just some of the thoughts running through my head. The same way I had to plan how to move around the house when he was drunk, I now had to define an escape plan if he decides to attack me.
It was such an out-of-body experience. All senses, except for fight-or-flight, were completely numb inside of me. After three years of qutting smoking, it was the first time I bought cigarettes. I don’t remember going to the store, buying them and coming home, but I remember the first drag I took and how it finally relaxed the muscles that have been tied into a knot ever since that phonecall.
I was left shocked with myself. 10 years, therapy, working through it, writing about it – and there I was on the couch as if not a day passed. No longer a domestic abuse survivor, but a domestic abuse victim again. No longer the strong woman that built a life for herself, but a confused teenager trying to navigate the world of violence, alcohol addiction and pain without getting lost in it.
When I got to the hospital, I talked to the doctor and when she was done the words “can I see him” just fell out of my mouth. I was completely on autopilot, just going through the motions. When I entered the room, there he was, attached to a few machines, with masks on his face for oxygen. His life wasn’t in danger and they told me he would recover.
I had a mask on because I was in a hospital and he didn’t recognize me at first. When I pulled the mask down, he did know who I am and the whole encounter went well. I got him some food and water, talked to him for a while, asked the nurses if he will be in a room with a tv until the end of the day because Croatia was playing Argentina in the World Cup and he wanted to see the game.
It was so strange to call him “dad” because it didn’t feel like the truth. The man who took years of my life, turned my childhood into a nightmare had to ask me basic things about me because he didn’t know how old I am, where I live, what I do.
I felt like my mind and my body split in two and I wasn’t able to control either of the halfs. The grownup me who had to go to work, had obligations, a life, a family, a relationship and that child who knew who he was, what he was capable of, how terrifying he is, how he tried to kill me.
I had to split myself in two because for me he didn’t exist in the present. He was a part of the past, a scream for help and the silence of all that was never said at the same time. I didn’t have a way to talk to him or about him, without going back into my past. So I fell back into my coping mechanism of smoking, sleepless nights and numbness in order to get through it. I had to be who I was years ago if I was to survive him again.
A part of me believed I would be able to hate him or even be happy because something happened to him, but the opposite happened. I felt sorry for him. I was scared he would attack me when I came, but then I was sorry to see how weak he looked. I was sorry to see what he had become when I knew who he could’ve been if he just managed to quit drinking and beating his family, beating us. There was no hate, no resentment, just a silent regret and a heaviness on my soul.
And here I am, still existing outside of my body, in two different versions of me, each as broken as the other. I am trying to mend and heal through words and songs and poems, suffocating my body in smoke just to feel a sliver of relaxation or anything else. I take comfort in knowing I will make it through, but how high will the price be this time?
#savingme is the community where abuse victims can publish their experiences just to let go and find comfort and support. Maybe it doesn’t feel like much but just publishing your story for others to read makes you strong. You can send your story about the abuse you went through to firstname.lastname@example.org and you can choose if you want it to be anonymous or not.