Someone posed the question, “What does it mean to you to be a strong woman?” I could’ve answered her quickly and simply, but instead decided to really sit and think about what it meant to me. This essay is what came out in response:
I am a strong woman.
I survived nearly two decades of living in an abusive marriage. I always thought I was too weak to leave but I now see I was strong to stay. I don’t think anyone living in abuse is weak. Abused women have to be strong to continue living daily with the kind of physical and mental torture that we endure. There is strength in our endurance. There is strength in our willingness to change everything about ourselves to fight for our marriages. There is strength in our willingness to examine our own flaws in order to try to mitigate the abuse. No, we don’t understand the hopelessness of our endeavors but that just shows that we continue to have strength to continue on when our efforts are failing. There is strength in our perseverance.
Strength is finally recognizing the abuse and realizing that we have been abused. Strength is being able to plot, plan, scrimp, save, and make an escape when the time is right. Strength is being able to stand up and say, “No more!” Strength is looking our abusers in the eye and telling them that they no longer hold power over us.
I think the greatest test to our strength is in finding our healing. For me, recognizing the abuse, leaving the abuse, and filing for divorce weren’t nearly as hard as fighting the demons that those twenty years of abuse left in my mind. I’ve found my true strength through my healing. I’ve fought hard to reclaim my reality, my life, my soul. Some days have hurt so much that it became physical pain deep in my gut. At any time I could’ve given up, given in to the pain and just stopped. I could have decided it was too hard, too painful. In fact, there were days that I wanted to do just that – just go back and make it all stop. But I’m finding that I have strength I could never have comprehended before this.
To me, being a strong woman is getting up every day and living my life, taking care of myself and my children, and not letting my abuser win. Being a strong woman is being, not a victim, but a survivor.
I am a strong woman. I am a survivor.