Where do you go when there is no one to go to?
What do you say when there is no one to listen?
When can you cry when there is no shoulder to cry on?
Who can lift you up when there is no hand to hold?
How can I be brave,
I feel so scared
How can I be strong,
I feel so weak.
How can I be happy,
I feel so sad.
How can I make it on my own?
If you turn back time
If you can tell me it will be okay,
If you can hold me close and never let me go,
I’ll stay, I’ll stay, I’ll stay.
It’s too hard to say goodbye.
- Hannah Smiley (Siller) Age 17
Behind the Poem
By the time I wrote this poem, I had been living with physical abuse from my mother for 5 years. Over most of this time, the severity had remained relatively consistent. However, as I entered my junior year of high school, a change occurred. The abuse became more frequent and unpredictable, making it harder to avoid. The injuries were also less carefully placed and, therefore, harder to hide. It seemed as if she had completely lost all control or reason. I became suspicious that drug use was a factor, but I didn’t have the prof.
On one particular night, a fight raged unlike any other. I will avoid details as it could be overly triggering and graphic for may to handle. The aftermath left me with cuts over much of my body and a bruise from ribs to hip. The next day, despite the pain I felt with every breath, I went to school to escape whatever hell awaited for me at home. It didn’t take long for my pain to go noticed by a friend. This person had been entirely unaware of what my home life was like and, once discovered, did not hesitate to bring it to the attention of the school.
I had little hope for this since I had frequently reported my abuse in the past with no change other than to make my mom mad. But this time, the prof was painted all over my body. On top of this, my mother had disappeared, fled the county, likely seeking sanctuary with her best friend a few hours away. This was enough, and both my dad and Child Protective Services were notified.
Most would think this is where the happy ending happens. Unfortunately, to say that my stepmother was against me living there full time was an understatement. Mind you, this person had been aware of the abuse my whole life but hated me enough to not only let it happen but even support it. So instead, all this accomplished was moving me from one hell to another.
The day I wrote this poem was the day I packed my suitcase and withdrew from my current school. My injuries still fresh and a future that was arguably just as bad as my past. I am not sure I would say that at this point in my life, I was actually considering suicide. But I was definitely in a place where I didn’t want to live in the life I was living. These are the words of a desperate girl praying for a different life. On the outside, I was saying goodbye to my home, my school, and my friends, but in my heart, I was saying goodbye to the life I wanted and the hope that it would be better then it was.
These are the words of a desperate girl preying for a different life.
In all cases of abuse, the survivor hits a point in their life where they realize what has happened to them and the permanency of that. We are made up of our lived experiences, and these memories are forever with us. We will never be the kid form a happy home because we just aren’t. I know that sounds a bit strange to those who haven’t lived this life, but for those of us who have, we tend to cope with our reality by dreaming of a possibility. That dream can feel so real until one day, we realize this is our life.
This was my snap to reality. I was looking for any change or reset that would bring me to a different conclusion. But there wasn’t one. For 5 years after every fight, I would think, “maybe this will be the last time.” For 5 years, I had hoped that maybe she would stop drinking, maybe my stepmom would stop blaming me for her problems, and maybe my dad would intervene. For 5 years, I held on to this dream of growing up, and somehow my family turning into the loving kind other people had.
At this moment, I realized these dreams were not meant to be and that the fantasy I had was only ever going to be in my head. Accepting that reality is one of the most heartbreaking experiences a person can go through. Hope had kept all the pain away, and just like that, it is gone allowing the full weight of the life I lived to come crashing down. I will admit it almost broke me. It didn’t, but that is a story for a different time.
On the outside I was saying goodbye to my home, my school and my friends but in my heart I was saying goodbye to the life I wanted and the hope that it would be better then it was.
* I have worked hard to heal from my past through professional therapy and personal growth. Over the years I have become comfortable enough to start using this story in public speaking events and as a major part of my writing. Writing about personal trauma can be very triggering and is not recommended for those still working through trauma unless instructed to do so by a mental health professional.
Read more about my story in my Diary of a Trauma Survivor project.