Friday, July 31, 2015

Of Shelters and Shame

Staying at a woman's shelter is nothing to be ashamed of...so why was I so ashamed?  I was so scared of anyone finding out I was there.  I thought people would think I was weak.  Little did I know then, that it was actually a sign of strength.  I was scared it would get back to my ex's family and they would harass me.  I was petrified I would lose all of our mutual friends if they found out.  I was worried about how it would affect my ex's reputation...

Moving to the Woman's shelter was the best thing I ever did for myself and my kids.  The second night we lay in that room together my daughter spread out on the bed and said "Mommy, I call this place the relaxing place." And so she did for the next two weeks we spent there.  

I had access to 24 hour counselling,  which I used quite often at night after my kids had gone to sleep.  I was listened to, my feelings were validated.  I was not crazy, yes, I belonged there.  After 3 days I noticed a knot in me unravel; it was a knot I didn't even know I had.  Three days had gone by without a single conflict with anyone.  I began to walk with my feet flat on the ground, my shoulders loosened.  I realized that people live like this all the time, I could live like this all the time.  I stopped snapping at my kids, we were able to communicate wonderfully because I was no longer on edge all the time.  We read stories together at night,  we had conversations about their feelings.  They were happier there then at our old home, though, they would miss their friends down the street.  They were fine with never moving back, they eagerly joined in apartment hunting on kijiji.

The shelter really gave me a sense of support and empowerment.  All the resources I needed were at my fingertips.  The groups where we met other women leaving various types of abusive relationships were inspiring. We learned emotional coping techniques that I continue using to this day.

Mostly, though what the shelter did for me was give me a chance to step out of a world that I didn't even realize I felt trapped in and view a huge open horizon.  I could do things; could go back to 
school, start a business.  I could rent rooms across Ontario.  I was an amazing strong woman, we all were.  Not only was I going to be okay.  I was going to thrive, my kids and I were going to heal and start a grand adventure.

I remember a casual comment made by one of the workers as she dumped out a coffee pot of unknown age and said, "Life is too short for bad coffee."
Yes. Yes it is.  It's also too short to stay in any relationship in which you do not feel safe, loved or cherished.