Love yourself enough

2014-08-07 00:00

I LOOKED closely into my pocket mirror and realised my lip was cut open and my one eye was slightly swollen. I closed the mirror and pulled the duvet over my head. I just wanted the day to end and the swelling to go away.

Many women in KZN react the same way after being beaten and attacked by the very person they love. As we mark Women’s Month, I would like to share my story with you in the hope that it may provide courage and inspiration to others who are in a similar situation.

It must have been in 2006, when I met a man I didn’t really like. He had a strange temper and an unusually huge ego. So much about him put me off. But despite all of this, I made the grave mistake of giving him a chance.

For the first few weeks of our relationship, he spoilt me rotten. But soon thereafter, he began to show his true colours. He would no longer enjoy seeing me smile and laugh out loud. Instead, there was a sick, gratifying look in his eyes every time he saw me cry

It seemed that with every tear I shed, his smile would widen. I spent the majority of that eight-month relationship with swollen, tear-laden eyes and with heavy shoulders that I worked so hard to hide from the rest of the world. I was sinking.

I was the first to physically strike — after several occasions of him taunting me, cheating on me and belittling me. It was almost as if he wanted me to “lose it” so it would give him a reason to “return the favour”. One night after getting into a heated argument with him while his friend was around, I slapped him. I slapped him so hard it shook me. I couldn’t believe that was me. He stood there and looked at me as if to say “there is my ticket to do what I want”. Within minutes I grabbed all that was mine and drove home, terrified for my life. This feeling kept coming over me, a feeling of regret as I felt my actions had given him permission to “discipline me” in the future.

We didn’t speak for days. Eventually, I apologised and we were back together. Shortly afterwards, we got into another argument. This time, he put his hands around my neck and choked me. Guess what? I stayed.

There was another argument and this time he called me names. Guess what? I stayed again. The next argument was elevated, so elevated I believed that if I did not get away from this man, I was going to die in his bedroom. He slapped me, he punched me, he pushed me and he yelled at me. He was a monster. In the midst of all of that he stormed off to the kitchen and I could swear he was after a knife. I locked myself in the room and was rescued by his friends hours later, during which time I howled in pain and tears. I was surprised that not one neighbour bothered to ask what was going on.

Believe it or not, after all of that, we tried to rekindle the love again. The abuse continued and it was only when he tried to tell me what to do with my career, that I had had enough and called the relationship off for good.

I regret the fact that I never went to the police about this incident. I regret not getting angry and alerting the world of the monster who did this to me. I regret that my silence may have given him the power possibly to continue to do this to another woman.

So many women don’t get a chance to walk away; I did. I share this story because as part of Women’s Month, I know there must be a woman reading this who is in a similar position, not knowing what to do. Believe me, only you can gather the strength to leave. This might be the most terrifying decision you make. You can either stay — knowing the end result will be death. (If it is not physical death, it could be a brutal murder of your self-esteem.) Or you can save yourself and cherish every waking moment of your life.

Do not allow someone else to determine your worth and to take away your unique, God-given beauty. Love yourselves ladies. And stand up for the beauty that is within you.

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