Guest post written by Gedina Bergstrom, singer/songwriter
He would make me feel like I was the most special person on the planet one minute and then turn around and not even acknowledge I existed. He would tear me down into little pieces of nothing and then light those pieces on fire. How can I face another day in this space, in this room, in this bed? I’m so scared right now. What did I do wrong? How many times has he come so close to putting his hands on me? I can’t tell you how many times, but his words might as well have been swords.
I’m not saying I was a piece of cake or easy to understand or support, but I never asked or invited the kind of torment he brought to my life. The highs were out of this world and the lows made me wish I wasn’t alive.
The feelings I expressed above are things I have experienced in past relationships.
When I hit bottom, I tried to find ways to distract myself. One night it was really bad. I could not stop crying and, in order to hide the tears, I went for a swim. And with each stroke I started writing this song, “Underwater.” The inspiration struck when I realized that my tears disappeared when I went under the water and I was still breathing, still surviving. I found my battle cry and repeated it to myself over and over.
The lyrics followed:
You put your hands around my neck, pulling me under
You put your chains on my feet, still you wonder
Well you, can try but you won’t survive
Cuz I can…I can breathe Underwater
I found myself carrying on an internal conversation with the man who hurt me:
In order for you to survive you have to drag me down. In order for you to feel like a man you have to choke and pull and thrash against me. Pulling me under. I’ve been wondering how that feels for you? I’ve been wondering how to care for you and the inner turmoil that you choose to take out on me. But I can’t care about you anymore. Because I have to take care of me now. I’m gonna survive whether or not you do.
After a long swim, I put it to rest. Thankfully, the relationship eventually ended.
Later, NBC’s The Voice entered my life. I found a new license to dream. The elation that came with surviving each step of the audition process and the exercise of humility when I was dismissed from the show was so impactful.
Afterwards, I gave myself full permission to be brutally honest about the relationships that I had endured. Whether I was more secure, safely removed from the relationships of my past, stronger or just willing to take risks, I was finally ready to revisit the song that came to me that moment in the pool.
In the end, the song is not about a single moment, nor a single guy for that matter. It is a culmination of the many abusive relationships. There have been a handful of people that thought it was okay to ruin me, wreck me, and treat me like dirt and this song is my own way to send a loud message:
I survived. I’m better than okay after all you put me through.
When film director Tim Carter discovered the song and approached me with his vision for an “Underwater” music video, I cried. I got chills. Carter’s appreciation for “Underwater” and its message strengthened the fighter in me that was still healing on the inside.
A few days ago, I was talking to my dad about the music video and the idea of working with domestic violence aid organizations. He remarked how fitting it all was for me. I grew up as a water baby, surfed my entire life (water is a key element in the video), and survived the cycle of abuse. I got out. I wrote the song, and now I may just get the chance to impact lives by sharing this undoubtedly beautiful video.
During our talk, I laughed a little and started to cry. My dad was right.
I don’t have all the answers but I can stand tall. I can be an example of resilience, of survival. I can be the one singing that song someone turns on and says, “No more.” I can be that voice for them when they don’t have one.
Support Gedina’s indiegogo campaign to film an “Underwater” music video and help her share her struggle and song so that others can have the strength to do the same.
Cover photo courtesy of Alex Kweskin