Move LifeStyle

Move LifeStyle

The Silver Sound of Hope: A Domestic Abuse Survivor’s Story

I own a set of five hand-hammered silver bangles. From each one hangs a silver tag on which a different word is etched. I have worn them on my left wrist, my heart hand, since I bought them six years ago when I was 28 years old. They cost more than my first car, (mind, it was a 1970 VW), and are one of my most treasured talismans. They remind me that bravery is as powerful as fear.

Towards the end of 2008 life as I had known it ended overnight. Up until that point I had been living and working in a world-class national park in the red centre of Australia, building a career I cared passionately about. However, between the lines of this white-girl-in-the-Australian-Outback postcard was the overwhelming reality of what I had hidden: a mentally, emotionally, and physically violent relationship.

Though I flourished from the challenges and rewards of my work and relished exploring my vibrant desert surroundings, my personal life during that year was an exhausting facade. Most of my energy was being spent concealing the abuse of the man I loved, and
feared, until I finally acknowledged I was in danger, emotionally and geographically isolated with this volatile secret.

Walter Bradford Cannon coined the term ‘fight-or-flight response’ to describe an animal’s physiological reaction to perceived harm or attack. When our mind perceives threat, our bodies prime us to fight or flee danger. But how do we know which response to choose?

It was recognizing the threat of losing myself completely under the abusive control of another person that was my tipping point. When faced with choice, I chose flight. I chose myself.

After it had become clear that my personal safety was at risk, I fled the desert with the help of a few colleagues. By choosing to leave the man I loved, I had chosen to leave a life I had treasured – my career, friends, home, and love of the desert

Between the lines was the overwhelming reality of what I kept well-hidden: a mentally, emotionally, and physically violent relationship.

landscape were all severed. I wasn’t prepared for the aftermath. Overnight I was back by the sea in my childhood bedroom. It was a vacuous, shrunken time. I could not look back, I could not see forward. I was trapped in the middle, in a forgotten present. I couldn’t bear remembering but I couldn’t escape my memories.

This didn’t change until I rediscovered creative writing, with the help of a talented psychologist. I had not written in a long time despite it being my raison d’être. There was a brief period in the desert when I had tried, but it caused too much conflict in my relationship;

When faced with choice, I chose flight. I chose myself.

what in my writing came from fact, and what was purely fiction? Held liable for the wandering depth and breadth of my imagination, I had hidden it away.

Once I reconnected with my wild mind, I was able to conjure harmful emotions and express them into stories, made tangible onto a physical page. Through writing fiction, I found fortitude, hope, and a will to thrive. I dared to imagine how the light might get in.

I bought the silver bangles six months after I had left the desert. On a lunch break escape from my day job I spotted them in a bespoke jeweller’s window. I had whipped my credit card out and was wearing them on my wrist before I fully understood what I’d done.

The madness of buying the bangles without mentally torturing myself over doing so broke a strange cycle of deprivation I didn’t know I was caught in. Wearing them, something within me changed. They were a token: everything was possible because I’d given myself permission to believe so.

I remember getting home after work that day, marveling at the new, cool silver weight on my wrist. I sat in front of my laptop staring at a webpage I’d been secretly coveting. The bracelets tinkled as I fidgeted with my hands. Another choice presented itself, one I’d been wistfully squashing for months.

This time I chose to fight… Afterwards I felt like Rocky reaching the top of the Philadelphia steps.

This time I chose to fight. For my best life, for my dreams, and for an opportunity to begin again. In a caffeine-induced frenzy I sent a flurry of online applications and enquiries off to overseas creative writing programs. Afterwards I felt like Rocky reaching the top of the Philadelphia steps.

That night I was as acutely aware of those bangles on my wrist as I am right now. Their gentle, soft sound as they chime against each other every time I move has been an anchor when I’ve felt adrift. All five of their songs have not failed me:

Patience.
Simplicity.
Wisdom.
Joy.
Serenity.

They are a reminder that making the hardest choice is not always one to be feared.

If you or someone you know may be suffering from domestic abuse, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline immediately. They offer 24/7 confidential phone support. No names, no judgment. Just help.

Author Description

Holly Ringland

Holly Ringland is an Australian writer who divides her life between Australia and the UK. In February 2015 Holly's personal essay, Might be rainbows, was published in Griffith REVIEW 47: Looking West. A sample of the novel she is currently writing has just won a 2015 Griffith REVIEW Contributor Circle Award, which includes a weeklong fellowship at the iconic Varuna House, Australia's national writers' residency. Holly has short fiction forthcoming for publication in PRESS: 100 Love Letters, a lush and beautiful anthology edited by Francesca Rendle-Short and Laurel Fantauzzo, due out August 2015 for distribution at the Melbourne Writers Festival. Find her online and on Twitter.


Move LifeStyle is an e-zine for the modern working woman created by Autumn Reeser, Jenn Wong and Ashley Fauset.

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