Abuse, Guest Posts, healing

Altered States.

November 7, 2014


By Lisa J. Shorts.

Blades of sharp, wet grass nettled between my bare toes as I stood dumbfounded, supporting my right arm at the elbow, trembling with fear on the mottled, unkempt lawn. The tissue-thin, cotton t-shirt I wore did nothing to protect me from the frigid mist saturating the night air. Trembling turned to convulsive shaking as the pain set in and my mind unravelled.

10pm, the first coherent thought I could pluck out of the shrapnel left behind by a shattered peace.

Move, said a tiny, distant voice.
No, answered my limbs.
You have to get out of the cold, said the tiny voice. Can’t move, said my limbs.

Builders no longer routinely installed doors as heavy as the one in front of me. There was no weak crack made by cheaper hollow doors. No, this door had to be sealed tight when closed, and then pressed tight again while locking. But he had done it. He’d closed the door so hard that it made that sick, angry sound, followed by the unmistakeable clicking of an old deadbolt.

My keys, another coherent thought. After a minute, the unravelling slowed. Get your keys. Only five steps to the door. The door was still locked and my keys were inside.

Cold and terror had turned my legs into marbled pillars, mottled red and heavy.

The neighbors, another fragment that made some sense. They won’t call the police. Priorities had realigned as I stood frozen in the front yard. Terror had mushroomed and with every blast of blood through my temples, anger mushroomed with it. I seethed. All of the fragments began to coalesce into a single, purposeful thought.

You will not survive this if you stay.


I had watched an intelligent, educated man decompensate before my eyes. I witnessed the physical manifestation of a complete loss of emotional control usually attributed to children under five. I found myself barreling down the mineshaft, dragged along behind the speeding rail car of his rage and I was entirely powerless to stop it.

All I had said was, “I’d rather not go out tonight, if that’s alright.” A perfectly reasonable thing to say.

Within ten minutes, he’d grown so angry that he’d gripped the back of my neck and thrown me out of the front door of our house. I landed with a sickening thud on the concrete stoop, all my weight falling directly onto my right elbow and wrenching my right shoulder. There was no sound, but something came apart. Many somethings came apart.

Go to the neighbors, adrenaline had started to motivate my muscles and they began to move, slowly. My head began to clear and the plan to leave fell neatly into place.

Time passed, but no amount of time would stop the shaking. That would require distance. I knew I had to go back and keep things quiet until I could leave. Wait until he falls asleep, I thought. And he did.

Find your damn keys! I had enough time. It took only minutes to gather a blanket, my pets and some pants. I got in my car and made my way to an apartment I’d secretly been keeping for months. I didn’t care that I’d be sleeping on the hard wood floor. I only cared that I was safe. The following morning, I would begin the healing process, both physically and emotionally.

Pain has a way of telescoping our emotions. Each and every time I aggravate or re-injure my shoulder, I become someone else until the pain subsides. I become altered. I can feel myself grappling with it. I am transported back to that cold night and as my shoulder heals again, I crawl back from that helpless moment.

Each time, I am reminded that one night, a long time ago in a fit of rage, a man who claimed to love me tried very hard to hurt me. It had happened before but I had decided that it was not going to happen again. Over the years, I mastered compartmentalizing my feelings. My success at surviving an abusive relationship has had everything to do with remembering that I did not create him and it was not my sickness.

There are many reasons why I was able to leave and eventually move forward. Any counselor can tell you what makes it possible to thrive after that kind of experience. But they should also tell you that not all scars are visible, and how you choose to use yours will define your existence for the rest of your life. They will be part of your new normal; they will occasionally force your altered states.

My altered state is short-tempered, impatient and surly. I abhor that state, so I seek immediate and effective remedies for the pain. I cannot help that for a few moments, when the pain is the worst, I remember that young woman again, seething and helpless. But I draw great satisfaction knowing that I’ll never be her again.


Lisa is a photographer and writer living and working in Central Florida, where she owns her own studio. While she has been writing for most of her life, she has only recently decided to publish. Her blog, “She’s Lost in the Subway” is the result of an encouraging conversation she had with a talented friend after actually getting lost in a New York subway on a trip of discovery. While the trip is over, the discovery continues with each new piece she writes.



Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the sunflowers!

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the sunflowers!

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  • Reply Barbarapotter November 7, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Wow thank you for sharing your story. It was brave as you are and I hope helps others.

  • Reply Me November 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Wow. This post is incredibly written, and extremely powerful. Thank you for writing it – I could feel the cold and feel the emotions as I read it.

    Your description of being transported back into that night is incredibly accurate in my experience. I think that is a notion that you kind of have to go through to be able to grasp… but you painted the picture so clearly that even those who don’t have firsthand experience of it would definitely be able to “get it”…

    Thank you, again, for writing this.

  • Reply Tracy November 7, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    I had my husband arrested 3 weeks ago after 11 years of excuses. Tried to choke me. On my third protective order now. I took our 7 year old son to his pediatrician, just to talk. Found out that he had been hurting our son in the rare occasions that I would leave him with him to run to the store. Our son is terrified that he will come back and I try to pretend to be strong. I’ve been a stay at home Mom for 5 years. He drained accounts and cut off all access to any finances. Christmas is coming. I’m 43 years old and I’m terrified of how I’m gonna do this and if I’m strong enough to.

  • Reply Anita Wilson November 9, 2014 at 6:14 am

    You’re not pretending to be strong – you are strong- to move away requires every ounce of strength you can muster. The protection orders alone prove yet again how you pull through. Knowing what you have to go through just to move away, endless appointments with so many people, writing affidavits, collating evidence, meandering through the financial mess they leave you in, dealing with the emotional/mental distress of the children. It was only a couple months after my 3rd DVO that I had time to fall apart that was 15mths after we finally said NO- I was told I was finally grieving for the loss of the life we had always known. Today, i am 44 Tracy & in the midst of it still. Our perpetrator still plays terrible games of emotional & financial abuse. The days where you feel like you are still hyperviligant from the anxiety & stress they impose upon you – you don’t discuss it for the shame, the pain it brings – I hate how those goal posts move all the time – I worry where the continued abuse will leave my state of mind. But you can rise above knowing that each attempt they make actually gives power back to you- for in staying away they have no real control of who you are & what you can do. Get busy with life, that’s what I do, unplug, disengage, educate, volunteer your time – Just Do- whatever it is that works for you. You are right now where I have been – but know that in moving forward today is a good day –
    Find your way to http://www.whiteribbon.org.au or uncoversecrets.com.au – a great organization with Amazing women & men.
    You have taken the hardest leg of the journey, now you just need to place one foot in front of the other, one day at a time
    If you ever need a friend- I am here
    Take good care of you

  • Reply Lost in the Subway November 9, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Thank you all. I can’t even find words strong enough to say thank you. You are all beautiful, strong women. Keep believing it. I love to see us thrive.

    These days, I’m happily married and have a son. I have found my path. I hope with all my heart that you do, too.

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