I attempted to breathe in the hot air from the cotton fibers against my smushed face. Trying to move or free myself was out of the question. He had carried me kicking, screaming, and grabbing everything I could to free myself into our room and put me face down on the bed under the quilt then climbed on top of me. His hand pressed on the back of my skull. I waited. If I moved, screamed, begged, or even asked for him to let me up more pressure would be placed on the back of my head. It was past the point of reason and I knew there was so much anger that he may accidentally smother me.
All I could think was, “Oh god. I can’t breathe. This is where I’m going to die. And no one is going to know what happened to me.” The only thing I could do at that moment was sit perfectly still and wait to be released.
I had wanted to talk to him about our latest “issue,” another woman. He wanted me to “shut up.” It had gotten heated fast and, as I tried to defend whatever feelings or thoughts I had about this, I became more hysterical, knowing no one was there to hear me. That was when I would beg, scream, cry or even physically hurt myself (something so foreign to me now). I lay there listening for any change in his tone or pattern of breath. I promised him that I would “shut up” and stop trying to talk about it. When he let me up, he threatened to do it again if I did not stop crying.
Some time ago, this was my life. The dysfunction lasted for years, and I was unable to tear myself away from it even though I found myself dragged by my hair, choked, slapped in the face, kicked in the chest, held down, spit on, and called every name one could imagine. I was “pathetic, needy, untalented, fat, inconvenient and not good enough.” But something in me (an old wound) was tied to this man and even in those moments I could not explain it. I knew how embarassingly cliché it was as I lived the cycle over and over. We would have days or even weeks of bliss before we were on the down cycle again. I was exhausted and the only thing I could think of was trying to stop it by proving to him I was good enough. I hung on every positive word he had for me trying to keep him from changing his mind about it. Every ounce of my energy poured into that. When we separated at times, I felt completely drained, empty and alone, convinced that no one truly loved me. This always led me back to the familiar.
I had moved to Los Angeles to continue acting but found myself forgetting about that and instead allowing him to chisel away at my creativity and confidence one grain of sand at a time. All the things I had believed were my talents looked like lies my family and friends told me all my life. Whatever “light” of personality I had within me was very dim. His voice became a part of me. Anything I attempted to create was rarely good enough but he sprinkled in just enough words of love and praise to keep me working hard to prove my worthiness.
Part of me wanted out, but at the same time I couldn’t let go. I was afraid. I didn’t know how. I loved him. When I started working on the script for my web series “Stalking LeVar”, it was the first time I was thinking about something that had nothing to do with him. Something changed inside me. My sense of self was still in there and she was fighting to survive. When criticism came from his direction, I increasingly found the strength to walk away without the anxiety of what may happen later.
I wish I could tell you there was an exact moment I stepped away with confidence to be creative. But, it was not some epiphany. It was more like climbing out of a cavern. Gradually, I began to spend more time on myself by producing. Of course, I could go through the shoulda woulda coulda’s about how I should have cut it off sooner, but I was building the strength for that. I had depleted it. “Stalking LeVar” literally and figuratively saved my life. It brought supportive, wonderful people into my sphere and gave me the strength to walk away from physical danger as well as the danger of losing myself in the void. I don’t know if I ever knew who I was before. It’s so easy to measure your self-worth based on how others perceive you or what they expect of you. The greatest thing about most of our lives is that we have the luxury of expressing ourselves through some form of art if we choose to. It’s terrifying to really put yourself out there. But being vulnerably strong is what can truly save us in our lowest and most helpless moments when we want to die. When we feel dead.
One of the last things he told me was to give up on the show because “nobody cared about it.” Even if that were true, I care and that’s what matters the most. Don’t let anyone take away who you are inside. Do not allow your creativity be destroyed. If you feel no one is there to help you, you are wrong. You are already valuable and have something unique to offer. So offer it!
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can call this hotline (1-800-799-7233) and someone will answer.
You are not alone.
1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. Men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults in the USA.