October is Domestic Violence Month. Our "Voices of Domestic Violence" series will include essays published weekly throughout the month from the perspectives of a variety of survivors--men, children, women, LGBTQ and advocates. Some content in this series will contain disturbing scenarios and descriptions of abusive behavior.
It’s safe to assume anytime someone well-meaning says “the hardest part is over,” they probably haven’t a clue.
But we all know the saying is to comfort us and them and everyone else. It isn’t about being truthful, but conciliatory, and we’ve all done it: to a child after a booster shot, or to a teenager after competitive try-outs. And, yes, even as we get older, the phrase still sticks, taking on new meaning as we face even bigger challenges
Job interview complete?
Raising a toddler?
We’re always promised things get easier once we make it through what seems the hardest part.
But it’s often untrue, remnants of the past blocking our pathways to the future. We get stuck. That’s when the anger and depression and loneliness set in. That’s when we realize we need help getting past the debris that’s blocking us.
Those are the moments when my writing is the most raw.
It’s been five years since I left the house on Sunset, but it seems like it happened last week. Time escaping me like morning dew as the sun rises. I still remember that hot July morning, limping out of a sociopath’s playground toward freedom. The week before he held a gun to my head. The morning I left, he threw me down a flight of stairs.
Leaving meant I would live, but life didn’t begin again once I escaped. Instead, I suffered the aftermath of my abuser.
“He’s gone. You should be happy,” friends and family said. “The hardest part is over.”
I sat voiceless, confused and misunderstood, twiddling my thumbs between their tremors. If the year and a half I spent with him was all that was taken, why was he still haunting me?
In secret, I started a blog. I couldn’t share how I felt with anyone: it was too much, too painful and too honest. I didn’t think they’d understand.
And that’s when people who did understand started to find my writing.
It’s been four years since I started blogging my journey to recovery. In that time I’ve spoken to survivors of all kinds. Even secondary survivors, people who aren’t acknowledged for witnessing abuse. They carry it with them, too.
When one man read my blog, he reached out to me, telling me about non-profits and counseling services for survivors. Had he not, I probably wouldn’t be sharing this right now. Because I suffered PTSD and Body Dysmorphic Disorder, I honestly had no clue who I was anymore, and I didn’t know how to fix myself, especially since “the hardest part was over.”
But then I finally got admitted into a therapy program. And we non-violently tackled the aftermath of my abuse. We talked about the physical, the mental and emotional and sexual. The financial. And how each left me in ruins.
My therapist encouraged me to continue writing, as an extra way to process what was happening inside my head.
So I did. And I reached more people. And then they talked to me about how I was helping, how I gave them a voice by using my own.
That’s when I decided to write it into a book.
That’s when I knew this was bigger than me.
When you’re ready to tell someone that the hardest parts are over, consider that maybe they’re not. That conciliation isn’t as important as support. And give someone the chance to feel what they’re going through.
Otherwise, we can’t fix what’s broken inside of us.
We can’t move on without expunging the toxins.
And we can’t get to a place of understanding.
That’s why I wrote The House on Sunset. To show the tragedy for what it is: lasting long after the abuse stops. It’s my explanation of why I stayed and why it took three full years of therapy to recover from it.
Because I want people to understand that just because the hardest part isn’t over, doesn’t mean they can’t stand beside the tragedy and hold up the hurting. In fact, it’s probably when they need someone the most.
Sarafina Bianco is the author of The House on Sunset, a memoir released on Amazon. She is a domestic violence survivor, blogger and columnist. She is starting the Twitter campaign #domesticviolencechat, set to begin on October 1st: the first day of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Read more on her blog, or follower her on Twitter and Facebook.
Sarafina lives with her husband and three dogs in St. Louis, Missouri.