“But he didn’t hurt you”

Three years, thirty-six months, one thousand and ninety-five days. That’s how long I spent in an abusive relationship.

I don’t have a tale of how I planned to escape but was kept hostage by a violent or threatening man. On the contrary, I wanted to stay: he cared for me, he bolstered me, he was my best friend. I was blind to the abuse because it never left a mark.

This is not a tale of bruises and broken bones. He never hit me or pushed me down the stairs. His weapon was the tongue, sharp like a razor and cunning like fox. He bore into my being, my psyche, my subconscious planting novel, and culturing existent, seeds of self-doubt.

Yet still, he would build me up, champion my dreams and worship my ‘beauty.’ He stood by my side through the abhorrent ado of anorexia, depression and bereavement. He was a knight in shining armour. I was the perfect damsel in distress.

Little did I know he’d tied weights to my feet and stifled my air supply, before jumping in to save me. A real life Jekyll and Hyde.

“I attract crazy girls” he always said “I can’t help but want to save you and you’re always better in bed.”

I should have seen it was a warning sign, nevertheless it only made him seem softer, kinder and more endearing. He had a gentle heart wounded by loving those unable to receive it. He was damaged and cold like some kind of superhero, afraid to let people in after becoming entrapped by somebody else’s mental distress.

It was the classic story of the ‘crazy ex.’ The sob story, the reservation and the willingness to put himself on the line to help save me from myself.

The truth was that even though my life was on the edge of unravelling I was, and always will be, my own heroine. I saved myself and when it came down to it, it wasn’t myself I needed rescuing from. It was him.

I have not been perfect, as the old expression goes, “there is no smoke without fire.” I’m sure at times I hurt him too. Undoubtedly I bought into his rhetoric, the gaslighting and the abuse. Hell, some days I even liked being saved by my very own chivalrous superhero. But the scars still remain and I still blame myself. I still question that this is the truth. Am I simply making it up to make myself feel better, to have a reason to hate him or because I am crazy? Am I just another crazy ex acting as the self-appointed victim? Or am I a strong independent woman who no longer lays down and plays the door mat?

The problem is that when I speak out people see me as the former: the jealous crazy ex.

“Just get over it. He never actually hurt you. You’re being dramatic. Is it because you still love him?”

It’s impossible to move forward from psychological abuse when society is unwilling to acknowledge that the scars run just as deep as those left by a fist. And of course, the abusers prey on those us who struggle with ourselves as we are easier to discredit, devolving them of guilt or responsibility. Gaslighting is much more effective when victim is ‘insane.’

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words are what really hurt me.

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