How strong am I ? part 1

This blog post features incidences of domestic violence. If you or someone you know are experiencing domestic violence, confidential help is available:

When Georgia Smiled – founded by Robin McGraw


The National Domestic Violence Hotline


National Coalition Against Domestic Violence


There are so many cliché sayings out there that we say to people to encourage them when times are tough, like “Everything happens for a reason,” or, “Remember Job!” I’m not a fan of either of those. For the purpose of this little blog, I want to focus on two specific sayings. One being, “You never know how strong you are until you need to be,” and the other, “It is never wrong to do the right thing.” These two don’t necessarily go together during a trial, but tonight while I was thinking (I have LOTS of time to think), they both popped into my head.


Let’s start with “You never know how strong you are until you need to be.” I had been told every, single day in some way or another that there was no way I could survive without him. That I wouldn’t be able to support myself, make any decisions, stand on my own. He would often tell me that he was the reason I had managed all these years. One of his favorite things to tell me when our sons were young was that if I left him there was no way a Judge would allow me to have custody of our sons, simply because I didn’t have a “real” job, was unstable, and too financially dependent on him. I’ll address these comments another time. I spent many years believing these lies. His lies kept me in bondage, fearful and full of anxiety.



March, 2009 he literally picked me up and threw me 6 feet across our bedroom. The back of my head hit the nightstand. I stood up, gathered my composure, and just stared at him. As he looked at me with a smirk on his face, he said, “everything in this house belongs to me.” “You have contributed nothing to this marriage! “I want you out before I get home in the morning.” So, with that, as if someone flipped the light switch, I was done. He left for work and I sat. I sat on the sofa and thought to myself, it is now or never. The boys are grown, they are living their lives. Get out now, Karen, while you can. Do not spend another day doing the same thing.This is not living.


I packed a suitcase and put it in the trunk of my car. The morning came and I went to work. It was my 45th birthday, and I never went back.


I remember trying to get through my day as if it were another day. It was on this day I realized that I had no idea just how strong I was. Don’t get me wrong, some days are not easy. However, I wake up each day and realize I survived another one. In the years following my divorce, I have survived things I never thought I could.


I spent 2 weeks in a motel room that the domestic violence agency put me up in while I waited for an apartment. Car repairs that cost more than I had. A son who attempted suicide. I watched my other son walk through some trials in his own marriage that tested our relationship and separated us for a time. A few health scares from surgery that had me off of work for 6 weeks without pay. A biopsy that led to a cancer scare. And most recently, believing I was having a heart attack, which thankfully turned out to be stress and anxiety.


Now, looking back on these and many other situations over the last 6 years, I remember feeling as though I wasn’t going to survive. Especially during the time living in the motel. I would lay my head down at night and think, if I just fell asleep and never woke up, that would be OK with me. I remember getting so angry because I didn’t have the “luxury” of being depressed and not moving forward. Today I look back on those days and I am thankful. It is those situations that left me with no choice but to push through. Because I didn’t have any other option, I am stronger. I still have trials and situations that are not pleasant, but my attitude toward those situations is a bit different.


Sometimes as they come, I find myself accepting the challenge, almost laughing at it and saying, “go ahead and count me out, I dare you!” There are still those times where it isn’t until after it is over that I realize I’ve not died yet. So, I have definitely lived out the saying, “You never know how strong you are until you need to be.”


I want to encourage you; do not count yourself out. There will still be days ahead where it will seem unbearable and you will wonder if it is ever going to get better.  It does. Little by little, day by day, and sometimes ever so subtle. You will look back at where you started from and will be astonished at how far you have come. Greater days are ahead of you.



Find a support system. I purposely sought out friends who would speak the truth to me. It wasn’t always easy to hear what they had to say, but I needed to hear it. I was fortunate to reunite with Donna after many years. She and I have known each other since Jr. High.  We were both going through our divorce at the same time, and had similar experiences. There were many FB chats and text messages where we both would cry, scream, rant. (You know how that goes in text form). There were many times where I told her my heart literally hurt. I could physically feel it and just didn’t know how or if I would ever recover. We would allow each other to attend the “pity party” only long enough to say what needed to be said. Being sympathetic to each other’s emotions, but knowing that each other’s emotional well-being was what needed to be healed. I know for me, I can look back over those conversations and smile, thankful that Donna never let me stay in that place of despair. Find that friend, that support system. It is the first step in learning how to trust again.