By Courtney Walters
I grew up in a military household where often we walked on eggshells like they were built into the sidewalks. My stepfather was abusive, to not just my mother but all of us.
There was one instance I remember. He and my mother were in a verbal fight, but I witnessed it turn physical. He hit her or threw something at her, I don’t remember the exact thing-- but I remember the fear in my mother’s eyes as she mouthed at me to go next door and call the police. I ran to the door and, as I opened it, quickly had it slammed from behind me. My thumb got slammed in there door. I have the scar still.
I slipped outside and ran next door and through tears, somehow relayed the message that I need the police to be called. I watched the flashing lights approach my house. I watched my parents be escorted away.
I was nine.
I wish I could say things were okay after that. But they got a lot worse before they got better.
We moved a lot. I was constantly the new girl and felt like I didn’t fit in. And maybe I didn’t. I was awkward and never ate enough at lunch time and wore long sleeves in the summer time. I was being force-fed worthlessness at home and loneliness at school.
I got used to feeling scared. I got used to feeling alone. I didn’t confide in my friends, I didn’t want them to look at me differently for this. I didn’t want pity. Plus, weren’t all families this way? I couldn’t be that weird. My family couldn’t be the only one. (This is a lie that often played through my mind growing up, domestic violence is far more common than we would like to believe. That is heart-breaking, but true).
My stepfather started to blow up more. He started to get angrier at things that we did or didn’t do. He lashed out more. He lashed out more and the more that he did-- the more violent he would become.
But I had mastered the makeup to cover bruises. I had mastered lying to everyone about my home life. Until I couldn’t. Until the eggshells broke and the rug was pulled out from under our families’ feet.
I was fifteen when CPS finally investigated our situation.
And they took my mother, my siblings, and I away from our stepfather. And things got better. The sun rose. Each. Morning.
Abuse takes away from how you see yourself, but it also distorts how you think others see you. Acts of service are sometimes how people love you-- it’s not a pity party. There are ways to playfully fight and it’s okay that it takes years to no longer cringe when a hand is raised. Love is not out of anger. It is patient and kind and filled with grace.
Things get better. Morning comes, always. If things are hard now, I promise tomorrow the sun will shine again and things will get better. I don’t always believe in things, but something I hold tightly too is silver linings. If you can’t find a silver lining in whatever situation you are in-- sweetheart you become your own.
I became my own silver lining. I swallow self-worth and forgiveness and grace and patience on a daily basis. Things may be messy and dark now, but my gosh, the sun will rise tomorrow.