I wake with the grip of his hand on my arm. I feel blood vessels bursting, purple bruises spreading. I struggle to suck in a breath, but don't dare pull away.
“I have to get up.” My words are unconvincing. “I have things to do.”
He laughs in my face. “It’s 11:00 AM and you’re still in bed. You’re worthless.” He strides out, but leaves behind the pain.
It’s too much work to even think of swinging my legs over the side of the bed. Energy drains from me, ebbing from my darkened arm.
It is just a ploy for him to control me. I sit up. I can conquer this today. I will get up.
I stumble to the kitchen to start the coffee. The pile of dishes mocks me, growing taller even as I watch. I have the dishwasher only half unloaded when he appears again.
“You’re going too slow.” His fingers pinch, twisting against my spine.
“I’m almost done.” My words come out garbled. Somehow I finish the task.
His gaze moves pointedly to the floor. A crumb gleams white, mocking me like a flag of surrender.
But I don’t surrender. I take one more step. Fatigue licks at my legs like flames, spreading slowly toward my knees. I stumble but make it to the closet to tug out the vacuum. It’s heavy. The flames spread higher; my arms tremble.
Finally the vacuum pulls free and I shove it forward, but suddenly he’s there.
We collide. His mouth moves in a snarl and his hand flashes.
I yelp and pull away but it’s too late.
His fist finds my head.
I fall, floating on fire. I land on the side table. The sharp corner feels like a knife.
Somehow I clamber up. It’s not that bad. Probably barely left a mark. I flee, spending the rest of the day flat on my back in bed. Eventually the pain ebbs into a throbbing pulse.
I have no options. The doctors smile and talk in gentle tones. “It’s normal to get upset sometimes, or to lose your balance once in a while and fall. You look fine. Don’t blow things out of proportion.”
In other words, I’m faking it all.
All that day I simply lie flat and stare at the ceiling. It’s the only surface that doesn’t hurt me.
The next day he’s apologetic. Somehow he talks me into going out to a friend’s house.
Out. How long has it been since I’ve been out? A tingle of excitement spreads through me. I dress carefully. Long sleeves will cover all of me.
My friend envelopes me with a hug. I bite down the wince and hug back, because I cherish the gentle touch.
“How are you?”
“Great.” It’s not a lie. Today is a good day, because for just a few moments I can almost forget about him. I can be just me, enjoying life.
“You look really good.”
“Thanks.” My response is automatic but inside I wonder if maybe last time she saw me I looked horrible. Or maybe she’s heard my complaints of a hard life and is assuring me I’m perfectly fine.
I stop myself. Maybe she’s just happy to finally see me.
I stay longer than I should have. His smile stays firmly in place, but I feel him getting restless. He watches my every move, noting anything that can be punished later.
We finally say goodbye and my friend sets up another time to meet.
We’re barely in the car before he lashes out. “Going out again? That’s all you do—spend time away!”
The time of penitence is over. When we reach home his beating is severe. I will not be able to go out again soon even if he were to allow it.
The weariness almost overwhelms the pain. I sink into bed. Even laying still is too much work. My throbbing limbs feel weighted with a million pounds.
Yet there is no escape. I could go to a shelter or flee to another state. But he will be there, ever clinging to my side with his sharp fingers, sucking every ounce of energy from each pore.
I can see the mirror and a bit of my face. There are no bruises. My eyes flit over the rest of the room. He is nowhere to be seen, as invisible as the torture he inflicts. Because he is not a human tormentor. “He” is my disease.
He is fibromyalgia.
This allegory is not meant to belittle or discredit the very real and very horrible situation of those living with domestic violence. My goal in writing it is to attempt to give a small glimpse into the life of those of us with chronic, invisible disabilities in a way others may be able to understand. We who have lupus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, heart conditions, chronic Lyme or many other things try so very hard to live normal lives without focusing on the negatives of our diseases. And yet we’re stuck because if we don’t focus on ways to minimize his reign, if we don’t learn to bow to his demands and lessen the impact, then he will rip us to shreds, Every. Single. Day. It’s a balancing act to learn how to live fully and joyfully, yet ever aware of the consequences if we overstep the boundaries of the monster that lives within us.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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