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I've been folding towels one particular way for nearly 20 years. Not today. Today I folded them "wrong." It may seem ridiculous or arbitrary something as insignificant as the "right" way to fold a towel but for me, the method of towel folding was something that kept me safe.
When I was 17 I was living in my first apartment with my now ex-husband. I was in the bathroom folding the towels to put them away. Apparently, I was not doing this correctly and my ex backhanded me across my face so hard I fell backward hitting my head on the faucet to the bathtub. I got my first concussion that day. It was the first time he'd hit me, sadly it would not be the last.
I spent another 10 years with that man and another 7 terrified of him. To be honest part of me is still scared of him. After that day I never folded towels another way. Until now. It's a tiny step to many but to me and those who have been where I've been, it's huge. For 10 years he made every decision even the few I thought were mine I later saw how he influenced my choices.
Abuse is subtle in so many ways. It isn't always what media shows it isn't the horror that is publicized. Those events are awful and do happen every single day but it was those events that made me believe for years that I wasn't abused. I wasn't shot, had a loaded gun to my head many times but he never pulled the trigger. I wasn't stabbed, I've had a knife to my throat but never cut. He didn't break my bones instead he broke my mind and my spirit. So I told myself it wasn't that bad and I stayed.
It took years for me to understand that I was abused. I am a survivor and sadly only the most tragic abuse is shown. His abuse was like many; it was about power and control and while my consequences weren't the worst for some they were horrid. I spent a lot of my life trying to appease him anything to keep him happy. I failed, often leaving me with broken teeth, black eyes, busted lips, dislocated shoulders, and once he knocked my jaw out of the socket. Still, I am one of the lucky ones. I got out. I'm still here and I'm still breathing. I have the opportunity to live and love.
My heart aches for the women, men, and children trapped in the cycle of domestic violence. Recovery is hard and scarey but it is possible. I am living breathing proof that there is a life after domestic violence. My abuser will never admit the things he did to me or the things he did to the children we had together but I know.
Today was a step, albeit a small step, on my road to becoming whole again. One day I won't think about the towels, one day I won't flinch anymore, one day I will stop having nightmares. That will all happen because today I folded the towels wrong.