Recently, I spoke at MoMondays. For the second time in my life I told a room full of strangers about my experiences of being invisible. Here is my story.
I spent 1 year and 6 days in darkness and trying very hard to be invisible. I was consistently watched. I was told what to say and how to behave every moment of the day. My spending habits were closely monitored. I was not able to cut my hair or buy new clothes. I was not allowed to sleep or see my family or friends without asking permission first.
In short, if I did not say or do the right thing, at the right time in the right way, I was punished. Severely. Over the course of that 1 year and 6 days, I had cracked ribs, a lump on the side of my head and multiple bruises all over my body, but never on my face where they would show. My favourite clothes were ripped off of me. I learned to slip under the radar, to cower and to become invisible.
This is how I spent the one year and six days of my first marriage.
One day, my first husband and I were outside painting our home. We didn't know any of our neighbours. A lovely woman named Julie, walked over, greeted my husband and then came around the side of the house to speak with me. After a few minutes of chatting, Julie kindly told me that if I ever needed anything any time of the day or night, she was just down the street. She emphasized that I could come over any time for any reason over and over. It wasn't long before I realized what she was really saying. Julie could see me. I was not invisible to her. I was a victim of domestic violence and she was giving me a life line.
In a moment of clarity, I knew the shame of having the neighbours know my struggles. I was not invisible. I needed to leave. Fast.
There was just one small catch. He had told me over and over that I would not be alive to leave him. So, I had to get him mad enough to kick me out. No problem, I became visible. I spoke back, I taunted him and with fresh bruises, he kicked me out. I was free!
I left that sunny day in July and never saw him again.
Because he had threatened to kill me, I kept hidden for safety. Even going so far as to pay $5 per month to have an unlisted number in the telephone directory. Yes, even though there are many "S. Smith"s in the Toronto telephone book. I was not thinking clearly.
In some ways the time after I left was more challenging that my first marriage.
Unfortunately, I still had some hurdles to jump. I reached out for help, but was unable to find it. My family was not equipped to help me. The church told me that I could not join the support group for separated and divorced individuals because I was a "DV". When I asked what that meant, they said that I was a "Battered Wife". A label I never wanted to have. The therapist I first went to see told me she could not help me.
I felt like one of those toys that keeps bumping into walls. I came to the only conclusion I could. No one was able to help me.
Being an abused wife or battered woman was not a pleasant topic. No one wanted to know that this had happened. So, I stuffed it down, decided to stay invisible, covered it up, put on a happy face and showed up to work every single day. My career thrived, while I lived my one dimensional life for the next ten years.
One day, I was at the Cheese Boutique, patiently waiting my turn to be served. Now, granted, the cheese is piled high on the counters and I am short, but the staff kept helping other people. I felt invisible. For the first time, I became indignant. I did not deserve to be invisible. I did not deserve to live a one dimensional life.
I had another moment of clarity. I didn't want to be invisible any more. I could no longer avoid getting help, so I reached out once again and finally found people who were able to help me.
I forgave my first husband for all he had done, but the real healing happened when I forgave myself and let go of the shame.
As soon as I let go of the shame and welcomed forgiveness, my life changed. I realized I wanted to empower other women to stop hiding and shine their light. I got my Coaching Certificate and now empower women to connect with their inner light and their true purpose so we all succeed and prosper.
Today I am married to a handsome and loving man who consistently supports me and encourages me to reach higher and live more fully every day.
I no longer live a one dimensional life. I no longer cower in the dark or wait for permission.
Today, almost 20 years later, I'm delighted to tell you. I am Invisible No More!