On Taking Up Space

From mid 2012 to late 2014 I was in an emotionally and mentally abusive relationshit. That’s exactly what it was. Many, not unlike myself, thought that because my ex never hit me it wasn’t abuse. That I was just too sensitive and if I loved him enough he would eventually love me. But it was. The words “I was in an emotionally abusive relationship” left my lips as my voice cracked into the mic set up before a group of my peers.

I began:

My ex ran a three ring circus. The hoops I’d jump through to gain his love were painted bright colors to lessen the humiliation. His whip was his intent and interest: how’d he recoil and release in such a fevered pace that I barely had time to react before he took it back. He hated my mane. He snatched away affection and shot insults at my feet to make me dance. And I danced. I danced until my feet ached and in delusion I’d ask for relief. Please touch me. Ease this pain. And in return I received annoyance and the label of “needy.” He’d ask his audience to show approval. Showcased me as his latest prize. I remember laying next to him and weeping. Too afraid to admit I’m broken and I want out yet too fearful of the moment I’d utter those words he’d come around and realize what he’d done. I feared another failed relationship. So I stuck it out despite my body screaming “leave”.

I’m not sure when my body began to appear heavier. I didn’t immediately notice a difference. Until he decided to point it out. “Are you stressed?”, he said between staring at his phone and peering at me. From the couch I feel the look of disdain bordering on disgust. My stomach was noticeably spilling over the top of my jeans: I’d had fallen into emotional eating some months back; turning to whatever comfort I could reach. “Yes. Yes I am”, through glassed eyes trying to convey needed rescuing. “Yeah, you look it”. I felt his eyes burn through my stomach as he turned away to not see the pain he had inflicted. Out of sight, not my problem. That was him: the type who liked to watch the world burn. The type to hide the matches after he set you ablaze and pretend he’s in need of rescue because you burn too hot. The type to say and do heinous things for reaction and try to explain it away with “I’m human”. The attacks on my body were nearly every day but its attacker was me. And he knew it. He blamed me. I blamed me. Then one day when I moved back home and brought peace back into my heart, I didn’t blame me.

I said: fuck it. After months of pleading for his attention, I stopped. I completely cut myself off from him. And he felt it. Blood in the water. Then things begin to change. I fell for my big, frizzy, beautiful natural hair. I again cherished my eccentricity. I showcased my work with pride. Yet I didn’t immediately embrace my newest shape: heavier in the middle which not only played with my view and emotions but also my health. I was overweight teetering on onsets of various disorders — many that run in my family. But I couldn’t stop eating my feelings: chocolate my main love/foe. Standing in front of the same group of peers, I heard the words that finally snapped me back: “I was abused and it wasn’t my fault. It’s time to heal”. Nearly every ripple on my belly was birthed out of the need to be accepted by this man. The weight from my child still lingering I had come to terms with but this? This was sickness. This was hope deferred. This was time and emotion wasted. And I loathed him for it. I looked down as she asked us to repeat “I am a survivor.” I didn’t feel like one. Other women had endured so much worse than me, some even succumbing. Who am I to cry about this? Then she said abuse comes in many forms. So does mourning. Healing as well. And forgiveness. And she looked at me… and I knew it was time for me to let go. Admit I was bruised and my scars still lay upon me. They stare at me every day. Since then I’ve tried to kill myself healthy — detoxes, crash diets, starving and deprivation. I’d work out until I couldn’t breathe. If I didn’t see results I felt like a failure and, in turn, ate to comfort those feelings. After sitting in a room with individuals who had endured abuse of many kinds: physical, mental, emotional, financial, I’ve decided to love myself healthy. It’s a new idea: something I never thought of before. In order to receive love, you must be it. And I’m relearning how to fall in love with all the space I’m in.

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