There are moments that take over my emotions so completely that I’m left astounded and wondering how I, the girl who never cried, end up bursting into tears. The PTSD is like a little monster buried in my belly. I do my best to keep it tucked away but it rears its head when it’s good and ready even when positive things occur.

Today, my partner and I were having a very content and peaceful afternoon when I saw a FaceBook post from my sister-in-law. She and my brother are participating in the annual Walk for Domestic Violence on Sunday to support the women’s crisis center that gave me so much support and guidance, literally helping to keep me alive when I had hit rock bottom. The significance of this unselfish act is immense because they’re the only members of my large family who stood by me after my ex-husband burned down my home.

The questions from the rest of my family began immediately after my ex woke up in the hospital and started manipulating them. You changed your story three times, what did you do to drive him to it? It takes two for a marriage to break down, when are you going to admit your part in this?

I have been asking for three years what my part is. I have a pretty good idea which events got me condemned because my partner and I have been painstakingly piecing together emails, texts and my muddled and often empty memories. It’s clear to us that my family chose to throw me under the fire truck rather than face the ugly truth of what it means to be battered. Sadly, they are incapable of introspect and when life throws them drama that’s not in the playbook they will turn on you to save face. Superficial relationships are all they are capable of as a family unit.

Validation from family is extremely important to domestic violence survivors. And today, for the first time, it slapped me across the face. I am so grateful that my brother and his wife have supported me as best they could since the fire. It hasn’t always been perfect, but it was consistently there. And I know my brother took a lot of crap from the rest of my family, but he has never backed down. His unwavering concern, support, and love have been crucial to my recovery.

So to my brother and his family, thank you for the validation—I love you.

Lily Bell

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