When we think of what a survivor looks like, we often think about a person with physical scars, evidence that proves they have been through hell and back. However, survival is often skin deep and nearly invincible. I am that survivor. The survivor that displays no physical scars of being through hell and back.
Emotional abuse is something I have lived with for many years. It all started in a relationship with a person whom I ended up bearing a child for. Before we had gotten together, I was the girl who was involved in the extracurricular activities, always socializing, and at the height of a blossoming career. But that would all change before our child turned two years old - I had lost friends, would barely look myself in the mirror, I became less involved in the things I was passionate about. It was evident our relationship took a toll on my self-esteem. During our relationship he felt insecure about my friendships, felt threatened by my accomplishments and would take those accomplishments and ask me things like “did I think I was smarter because I went to university” and told me “If I left him, I would never get anyone to love me because I was a mother and unattractive”. For a long time, I tried to hold on to him and because I didn’t want him to feel like less of a man I had cut relationships, and dimmed my light. However, the relationship was taking a toll on my self-esteem and I realized I was not happy and I was desperate to be happy again. After long consideration, and hours of crying I came to the decision that I needed to let go. I was aware that the decision would break up my family but I felt that I needed to be happy mainly for the sake of my son.
I thought after a while things would get better because people do move on after relationships and life eventually go on. I couldn’t have been more wrong. During the period of 8 years, things had gone from bad to worse - name calling, putting down and demeaning of my character. There were nights I would cry myself to sleep wondering when the verbal abuse would end and when I could regain my peace of mind and live a life without abuse. For 8 years I was constantly told that I was trash, that I was ghetto, that I was money hungry, that I was no use when I was in a relationship with him and so many other hurtful things. My family and close friends would say, “just ignore him” “don’t let it affect you because you know it’s all lies”. I think that’s what hurt the most, they were all lies. It affected my character and what I knew of myself. Somehow, he had gotten deep into my head. There were days I questioned myself and wondered why he was doing these things. There was no way to just shut him off because every time he had the chance to put me down - whether it was in person, on the phone, or in a text message - he was willing to throw in jabs. I mean how could someone who you shared a child with, someone who said they loved you, someone who you broke up with years ago try to be so ugly, and so hurtful towards.
My breaking point was when he decided to take me to court for full custody. I remember reading his affidavit and suddenly feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, stress, and then depression. Everything that could have ripped my character apart and paint me in the ugliest colors was written in his affidavit. I stayed in bed for days, and for a year and a half I cut myself off from nearly everything that was special to me.
After everything had been done with court, I was still willing to be civil and co-parent even while going through the pain of my hidden scars. During the times that we were civil, he had hope that we would get back together, and in those instances, he tried to be nice. But I knew that I would never go back to him because he had his own demons and I was long over him. Although I could forgive, I knew better and there were too many occasions I was victim to his abuse. I noticed that even though we weren’t together, he would call me and question why I wasn’t answering my phone and I remember thinking to myself that this was too much and it was causing me anxiety - we weren’t even in a sexual relationship, much getting back together. There was no reason for me to feel like this.
In early 2016 I decided that I needed to cut him off, even though we had a child together. I would still allow him to have a relationship with his son, but I needed to remove myself from the idea of co-parenting. I couldn’t continue risking my sanity and peace for the sake of co-parenting and I could only hope that one day our child would understand my choice. Things changed, he was only allowed to send me emails - no texts and no phone calls. I know it sounds extreme but those were modes of easy access for him and a way for me to automatically feel the anxiety when his text messages or phone calls came in. I figured emails were a way for him to realize that it was time to keep his conversations only about our child and less about sending abusive words to me. However, I was wrong - it probably had gotten worse when he realized I was trying to take control over how he treated me and how I handled it. But my decision to communicate via email was a good one because it allowed me to log his behaviors in case they were ever needed.
It wasn’t until a year later and very recently I realized that I could not control his behavior because this was who he was. Loads of hurtful words, the lies, the bullying had piled up and it was time that I really did something about it. My sister had always said to me that he tried to get into my head because he knew which buttons to push, and she was right. I had given him the control over my feelings, how I trusted, how I pursued opportunities, how I dated - it was deep. How could I survive years of emotional abuse? Could I just ignore it? Well, not entirely but I would need control how I felt about it and how I reacted to it. I turned to more prayer and mindfulness. I searched myself and realized that only an abuser would try to do the things that were done to me. I wouldn't be his punching bag any longer. It was my time to choose to be happy and choose to reclaim the woman that I am destined to be. People who are suffering through their own pain gain happiness in making others feel pain. However, I had to choose to reclaim me, choose to forgive myself, and realize it not my business how another person deals with their own demons. I don’t want to be a victim of that because I am finally a survivor.
Ontario Native, Keneisha Williams is the Founder of SHESOFAB, Motivational Speaker / Event Planner, Independent USANA Associate, 2013 Miss Black Beauty Contestant, Mother, Self-Love Advocate!
She desires to help others reach their highest potential and find their true value and purpose in life. In 2011 she founded SHESOFAB – a woman’s lifestyle company meant to celebrate and empower women. She has created the, I AM FAB campaign which received over 200 submissions from women across the city sharing their stories about why they are fabulous. Her goal is to continue promoting wellness and opportunities for self-development amongst girls and women.
Facebook Fan page - Kay Will
Twitter - @KayWillLive
Instagram - @fabulously_keneisha