She had a pretty idyllic start to life.
She lived in a nice house, with two parents, an older sister, and a dog. She had a swing set, a sandbox, and a pool. Her mom was on the school council and her dad was always the most popular during Parent’s Week.
When it fell apart, it fell apart magnificently. Her dad moved hours away and had very little time to visit. Her mom moved in with a man who completely consumed her identity until the person posing as her mother had no resemblance to the one she knew.
She looked for escape wherever she could find it. She would join clubs at school that held no interest for her, just so that she could delay going home. She would choose to walk the forty minutes home instead of taking the bus. She would go for walks, exploring every street in her neighbourhood, looking into the windows of happier homes.
When she was old enough, she found escape in boys. She would spend most of her time at her boyfriend’s house, with his family. She would eat there, she would do her homework there, and she would celebrate birthdays and holidays there. She went home to sleep, but then would wake and do it all over again.
Once that boyfriend went to university, she was left alone again. They made plans for her to follow him to school the next year and move in together. Most weekends would involve her visiting him, or him visiting her. The fantasy of the escape kept her going for a bit.
But then the day to day dragged her down. There was nowhere to escape during the week. Her boyfriend wanted to know her every move, so she would come straight home from school and hide in her room until she could leave the next morning. She felt she had no safe space, and her escape just seemed so far away.
So, she found another boy who was willing to fuel her fantasy. She would spend time with his family, eating with them, doing her homework with them, and celebrating birthdays and holidays with them. Even when she went away for university the next year, she would come “home” to his house on every school break. It felt welcoming and it felt safe.
She left university after one year. She ran out of money, true, but worse was that she had run out of fantasy. She returned home, moved in with her boyfriend, and settled for a college program in which she had little interest. Her desire for safety, for security, and for the ultimate escape was greater than anything else. And so she was engaged at 19 and married at 21.
She waited for her happily ever after, but it never came. She had spent so many years of her life in a toxic home and this had tainted her view on what was normal. She thought love meant being controlled. She thought that love meant losing yourself to someone else. She felt her identity vanish as she was known as his girlfriend, then his wife, then the mother of his children. But who was she?
Later, she would wonder…had the capability for abuse always been within him? Or had she planted it there? Was it her fault that he had grown into a hateful, bitter, and cruel man? Or had that man always been there, buried beneath false promises?
One day, she woke up. She realized that she did not need to escape from her life – she needed to live it. She was not just somebody’s wife or somebody’s mother. But who was she?
And thus began a journey of self discovery. A journey in which she ventured out onto her own for the first time in her life. For the first time, she was dependent on no one. She built her new life brick by brick, every day realizing the strength she had inside her all along.
She stumbled, of course. She took some wrong turns and she ended up in some dark places. But she realized that these mistakes did not define her; rather, they cultivated her. She realized that it was okay to ask for help and to accept it. She realized that there were genuinely kind people out there, and she had many of them in her life. She realized that she was stronger than she had ever known.
She fought her way through the darkness. She had witnessed abuse, and she had endured abuse, but she was not defined by abuse. She did not need a white knight to ride in and save her. She didn’t need the fantasy of escape. She had the power within her, and it had always been there. She was the hero of her own story.