The Bible tells us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). In that spirit, we share this lamentation with all of you whose souls have been tattered by abuse.
Oh, My Tattered Soul
The days are dark; the nights even darker.
The things he says, are they true? Oh how I wish I knew!
Nothing I do is right. He controls everything in sight.
Money — It is all his. Groceries — “Why did you buy this?”
Don’t question anything he does. He says I’m unfit to raise my kids.
He says my children’s lives I’ve ruined. Is it true? How could I do that?
Perhaps he’s right. What does he see? Is there really all that bad in me?
He must be right; he knows me best.
What did I do, what did I say? Why does he tear me down this way?
Why don’t I leave? The things he does no one would believe.
My mother’s chair he chopped and burned.
My neighbor’s cat he stalked and killed.
What’s wrong with me? It must be me! To others he’s so great!
He’s kind and giving and makes a clean living. He is generous beyond belief.
His friends all bow at his feet. In front of others he is so kind.
It must be me; I’m out of my mind. It has to be me!
When did it start? I gave him my heart.
Our love seemed so great from the very first date!
But it happened so slowly; he took control of me; Just little things at first.
Step by step until he had complete control of everything that was me!
My heart, my very soul came under his control.
Where do I turn, which way can I go? I hurt so deeply but no one knows.
His words cut deep to my core. Away from him I’d like to soar.
No, I must keep going. Without him I can’t survive. On my own, I’d surely die.
But how can I stay? It gets worse every day!
I have no bruises, anyone can see. Oh how I wish he would slap me.
Then I’d leave, I know I would, but where would I go? I do not know.
Oh, help my tattered soul!
* * *
Thank you to Fred and Bonnie Wilt and the Overcoming Powerlessness team for providing this poem to us and granting permission to post it. Written by an abuse victim, this poem is read every year at the Overcoming Powerlessness luncheon in York, Pennsylvania.
15 thoughts on “Oh, My Tattered Soul”
This poem is surreal; so eloquently displaying “my tattered soul”. Thank you for posting this.
Thank-you for posting this poem. This IS the life of living in the reality of abuse each and every day where the power over structure is so incredibly insidious, the abuser does a masterful job of driving his target / victim out of their minds. Simple tasks that require a clear and concise thought process become major feats to complete because the mind is continually on defense / defeat mode.
The reality of the abuser is far different than the reality experienced by the victim. Two separate worlds exist where the verbal speech patterns are turned around and victim is led to believe either those wounding words were never said, OR, the vicious words said were never meant to hurt but to help, and the angry, bitter, and sarcastic tone used is now changed into a whiny, innocent, pseudo caring tone of voice. So dealing with the abuser is a lose/lose situation and everything is turned around over and over to make the victim feel and believe “guilty as charged” by the abuser as judge and jury. It is crazy-making at its most wicked moment.
The abuser becomes a leech, latching onto to your soul, your life, and your spirituality, slowing sucking and draining that life blood inside of you until you are left dry, without joy, and without any life. Day to day existence is chore and your whole reason for living revolves around making the husband happy, satisfied, sexually fulfilled and most of all, in our home anyways, wealthy. The only “successful” one to the children, and community in general, then becomes the abusive husband, as he is seen as the “bread winner” or sole provider. Never mind all of the blood, sweat and tears the wife has invested into the business, nor the care she has devoted to her family, for that is seen as either secondary or feminist, as labeled by insecure men who choose to be irresponsible, cute, funny, without a care in the world, and completely jealous and envious of any woman who competently excels and succeeds without the aid of her husband.
And yes, jealousy, envy and hatred DO live inside of men (and women as abusers) who in fact label themselves as Christians, born again Christians, and regular church attendees. This behavioral pattern lives quite well under the guise of “the church” and the words “I don’t do anything wrong” are vocalized quite freely in such assemblies. The victims and targets of abuse are thus abused over and over again by the religious, with absolutely no conviction of their sins nor repentance as a result. And people such as myself, have walked away from the organized church system for it is seen as a “center for the abusers to gain strength, ammunition and allies” to use against the victim who has no where to turn and no one to listen to the cries of her heart.
Lord, have mercy upon our souls.
Thank you for this poem and also for your response Karen. Together they could be used to aptly explain the world of abuse that so many of us live in or clawed our way out of. Although all of it is too much to endure in itself, an equally abusive aftershock occurs when many of us seek help from those who profess to love and care for victims of abuse. They deny that all the horror we barely survived happened at all or perhaps we needed to do more. Add all three of these posts together and you have a great and concise way of presenting this before a class on abuse or to the victims of it so they can see that others both know and understand. thank you all for lovingly sharing your hearts and souls In the hope you might reach a broken soul. You have and i’m grateful for you.
My soul is indeed tattered at present.
I feel like a burden has lifted of me after confronting my husband last night and told him exactly where I am at. Looking at options to move out. I dont really want to say to much over public blog as to what he said but he has admitted and apologised to being dark and depraved in the bedroom… I have told him that he has retraumatised me and I dont know that I can actually recover from this…. apology is all very well but….
He is being overly nice, saying he has many regrets. The conversation I had was only last night.
I feel so strange … People in my family that I have told of what I’m going through are saying GET OUT… GET OUT NOW… Today I have been having thoughts of :its not that bad, is it” guess I’m questioning myself. ” He can be so good and so nice” … guess he is just being like this because he is going to lose me or has already. …. I am processing the whole financial pressure I am about to put myself in, I am also processing the whole living on my own thing. I am noticing that I hit milestones. It is the strangest feeling to look at your husband and feel nothing. Having him kiss you and it is repulsive. Looking at him and he is a stranger… or like a friend.. I feel so weird, its hard to explain. He obviously dosent want me to leave. He is not about to tell people of his confession of depravity. He is hoping I will stay in the same room and not make waves …. a part of me likes the idea of a loveless sexless marriage but I dont want to live under his control anymore.
My counsellor said to me on Friday I should move into another bedroom for 6 months and give the marriage a chance to heal. Just be friends and have a friendship and fall in love all over again. I text her the next day and said I cannot do this… I cannot be under the same roof as him but now he has apologised for sexually abusing me this has taken the wind out of my sails… he seems to do this to me. I want to feel so angry with him but I cannot be … I cried a little today but I am not feeling much. Anger would help move me but I’m dead.
So this poem is very appropriate for me at this crisis time where big changes are about to take place.
my heart goes out to you. The counselor’s advice — especially as it was phrased as a ‘should’ — shows me that she does NOT sufficiently understand domestic abuse. To live in another bedroom and ‘give the marriage a chance to heal, just be friends an fall in love all over again’ with the man who has abused you so horrifically, and who is only making a verbal apology for one itty bitty portion of all the abuse he has done to you over the years — utterly foolish advice. She’s living in Pollyanna land, in my opinion. I am glad you are not feeling obliged to follow the counselor’s advice!
She’s construing it as a marriage problem (note she said that what needs a chance to heal is ‘the marriage’). So she is not construing it as abuse, nor seeing that the problem is the abuser’s problem.
Words — your husband’s words of confession and apology — are cheap. An abusive husband typically confesses and apologises when his wife is at the cusp of leaving and has confronted him with some of her grievances. He confesses and apologises under those circumstances because he knows that his wife has educated herself about abuse and is standing up to him and he can’t easily get her to back down by escalating in mean/nasty tactics. He believes that, since now the mean and nasty tactics aren’t going to work, he has to regaining control by being apologetic and nice.
It’s just another part of the cycle. I am hearing that you are kind-of seeing this and are resisting being dragged under by his nice-apology-mode.
Once again, I want to encourage you: you are free to leave whenever and however you choose to do so. You do not have to confront him and present any more of your grievances to him, nor make any other communication to him. As they say in the movies: You have the right to remain silent! 🙂 (Or to speak, as you choose — 🙂 )
I think things are feeling weird because they are starting to come upright for the first time for a VERY long time! I’m referring to the image on the front of my book and how when you turn it 90 degrees it is actually the right way up . . . I think you know what I mean.
A lot has happened in the last few days.
My kids now aware of certain aspects of my husband’s behaviour. He was asked some hard questions by them yesterday.
The latest is one of my older kids wants me assessed by a psychologist and seen by the Mental Health Crisis Team. My husband also said.to me I am not able mentally to look after my kids on my own.
My assessment of myself is that I am so stressed and my PTSD has been triggered. I am not mentally sick…I know this because I have been before. I’m maxed out and tired of being bullied, picked on and abused. If I see this team of medical professionals I’m sure they will say I am traumatized and abused.
I just want to run away just now.
Do YOU want to see that mental health team, Loves6?
It seems to me that you may be feeling browbeaten by that child’s saying you should see medical professionals. I would suggest to you that you don’t have to do it just because your child says you should do it. And as for your husband: he is CERTAINLY saying you need mental health intervention because he hopes that by getting you officially deemed ‘unfit to care for your children’ he will have more power — the power to take the kids, and the power to portray you as crazy to Christians and friends and family who know you. He is also saying that you are unfit to care for the kids because he thinks his accusation will destabilise you even more than you are already. He is undermining you, in other words.
You are not crazy. As you say, you are simply traumatized and abused. And if, in this crisis, you believe you are temporarily needing some help from medical/mental health professionals, that is YOUR call, not your child’s call, and definitely not your abuser’s call! No matter how much he masks his claim in the guise of ‘being concerned for the wellbeing of the children’, the fact is, HE is the one who has traumatized you bring on this crisis.
Any father who truly cared for his kids would not have abused the kids’ mother so that she was stressed to the max and triggered into PTSD.
I am guessing that are the best one to judge — from your past experience and gut feeling — whether or not it might be helpful for you to get some help from mental health or medical professionals at this time.
But whether or not you get such help to assist you through this crisis, I still encourage you to get help from the DV professionals, so you can be supported by them as you make your own choices at your own pace.
One more question to ponder which may help you think this through:
If you DID seek help from mental health professionals and/or doctors, do you think that would assist you to get free of your abuser and start building a life for you and whatever kids you can keep with you, relatively free of the abuse?
Here are three possible answers that I can imagine to that question:
Getting some medical / mental health assistance may help you achieve your longterm goal of getting free of the abuse.
Or it may be neutral in progressing you towards this longterm goal.
Or it may actually hinder or delay or create stumbling blocks for your long term goal of getting free of the abuse.
Any father who truly cared for his kids would not have abused the kids’ mother so that she was stressed to the max and triggered into PTSD. (I so agree with this!!)
As I said in my comment below I spoke the the nurse.
I have been needing some medical input and have been to my Dr since my panic attack a few weeks back. I am going to see a psychologist next week to have my meds assessed and to discuss my disassociation that has been taking place. … well I’ve done this since a child.
I’m OK with it … but I know I am not mentally unstable … maybe PTSD is mental illness but I have been unable to function and I’m definitely not there.
I am seeing a counselor through the abuse organization in a few days.
[Eds: Some details omitted as a precaution for safety for Loves6.]
My heart goes out to you as well. My tattered emotions respond to your pain. I want to help, but can only pray. Keep going, step by step. Don’t get sidetracked. You can do whatever it is you need to do. Barbara’s advice is so helpful. I am out, but barely, and it is day by day, so much to learn, but so worth it.
My heart goes out to you. Taking the first step to remove yourself out of an abusive relationship is very difficult. I was very fortunate to have my Pastor help me find a place to move to, and then many from my church reached out to me in many ways to help me get through this. I pray God will bring the right people to help you when you decide you have had enough.
The advice your counselor gave you, I totally disagree with. I left my situation for 6 weeks before returning and within ONE week (or less) the verbal abuse started. Stbx was literally in my face, but I could not go through this again. He was VERY nice, and he even apologized to me. His words ‘I’m sorry for what you went through” hmm… To me, that was not an apology! He used my weakness (wanting to keep the marriage intact) to gain control of me once again. When I left the second and last time, the stalking began… I guess what I’m trying to say is this, moving into another room is NOT going to change your husband’s behavior. He may be nice for a while, but he will resort back to his old self, and the cycle will start once again.
My divorce will be finalized hopefully soon. I have ups and downs, and I still wonder could I have done something to make our marriage work? I know in my heart unless he has a heart change for the Lord, there is nothing I can do. I don’t remember where I read this comment but someone said something like “my husband loved his sin more than he love God and me”. That is so true! How else can they continue to mistreat the ones they (supposedly) love?
Prayers for you!
You are NOT mentally sick! Your husband is!
I almost checked myself into a clinic because I was so traumatized by stbx’s stalking after trying to reconcile with him. I really believed that I was sick, even though I knew how I got there, I just could not function, I couldn’t focus, lost time from work, I was in tears often, and I was confused! and although stbx filed for divorce (after he manipulated me into dropping everything the first time I filed!) he wanted the court to have me evaluated because I was having a breakdown.
Here is a mistake I made. I mentioned several times I wanted to have myself checked into a clinic because I felt I was having a mental breakdown. Stbx caught on, hence, why he tried to have me evaluated or committed. I hope you won’t make the same mistake I did. Please be aware that your husband will use anything against you!
If you have already been seeing a doctor that should pull some weight? I wish I could help you more in this area, but I can only tell you the mistake I made and hope others will learn from it. Do not mention you feel mentally ill or that you want to have yourself checked in because he will find a way to use it against you.
As for your children, your husband is manipulating them! My stbx manipulated my ex husband into writing a horrible letter about me, of course, it was filled with half truths! rolls eyes I find it VERY sad that a grown man would use his children against their own mother! I’m appalled! My the Lord open your childrens heart and eyes! And see who the REAL sick person in your family is!
Round Two I spoke to the nurse at the Mental Health Crisis place. I was articulate and her and I laughed a few times about things. A mentally sick person isn’t like that from my experience. I told her I am not mentally unwell. I told her my PTSD has been triggered from being in an abusive relationship.
She said she felt I was distressed and highly anxious and diassociating at times. She gave me a 24hr number to phone if I became distressed at any stage. They are phoning my doctor today who is very aware of my situation and she will most definitely but them in the picture.
It is very upsetting to think that I am traumatized because of my husband. I can see how it has come to this…. living constantly in a heightened state has taken its toll. It’s like more puzzle pieces fit every day. Each day I see more and more things and the picture becomes clearer.
I am not having a breakdown. If I wasn’t on meds I would be.
Thanks for your words and I will be very careful what I say … one thing he is using against me (with soft tones in his voice) is that I have said one more attack and I don’t know what I’ll do, maybe do something crazy. Meaning rebellious to lash out at him. …but he takes it has you will do something crazy so you are mentally unstable.
I find it frustrating the victim / survivor is left with the tattered soul to mend, not the abuser(s). I’m not even certain an abuser has a soul left to mend.
There is no universal panacea, no “one size fits all” approach to a sewing project of such complexity. There is no single loom-and-pattern combination to weave it all into a cohesive and whole bolt of fabric.
The bits and pieces, the tatters, the remnants, are painstakingly sewn into the fabric of the soul, stitch by weary stitch. The patches take shape, a pattern emerges.
A soul takes flight…
Adding on to my own comment….
God has done great healing within me, I am gaining colour in my world as I learn to live with my newly-healed emotions. I am feeling the entire length of the spectrum, the ups, the downs, the mid-way point of contentment.
My “dad” stole the colour from my world when I was a tiny infant.
My Papa God gave me new colour, and a pattern is emerging.
My soul is taking flight.
I am so happy for you 🙂 such a change. Truly we have a wonderful God!!