Abuse is a bitch.
My abusive relationship was simultaneously the most horrific, and also, strangely, the most uplifting thing I have ever been through. There have been deep and dark moments where I cried silently to myself for hours wondering why I had to go through what I did. There have also been moments where I thought to myself, “I’m so damn strong for surviving that and not turning out super shitty and bitter.”
That might sound really self-centered, but I think I’ve earned the right to pat myself on the back for coming out the other side of a crappy situation so much stronger than I went in. Refusing to let someone who treated my like I was worthless win is probably one of my most profound achievements.
Anyone who has been through abuse, no matter what form it takes, knows that it’s incomprehensibly traumatizing. I thought that all I had to do was leave, that if I could just find my way out of the abuse-maze I was lost in, it would be over. I could breathe again. I could be happy again.
But once I finally found the courage to leave my ex, once I picked myself up and finally said “fuck you”, I experienced something that I wasn’t really sure how to deal with.
I realized that often times the healing is more painful than the wound. The road to recovery isn’t a straight, well-paved highway where you can hit the gas pedal and do 90mph. Quite the opposite; it’s a winding, rocky, bumpy path that’s irritatingly easy to get lost on.
Once I was out, I kept downplaying what I had been through. I knew logically that I had lived nearly three years of my life undergoing almost daily psychological and physical abuse. My knowledge about psychology is prevalent, my brain understood what I had gone through on paper, but it was like I wasn’t letting myself believe it was really that bad.
While I was in it, all I wanted was to leave. But psychological abusers have this nasty way of making you think you can’t get out because no one else is ever going to love you. They trap you inside this logic-defying abyss where you’ll tell yourself whatever you need to justify staying, but you also desperately and bone-crushingly want to get out and never see them again.
The havoc that it wreaks on your mental state is inexorable.
When I was finally free of my situation, I read articles and blogs and books on other people’s experiences with abuse. I was hard on myself because I have a degree in psychology, so it was a jarring predicament for me to be in. I (stupidly) thought I was too smart to be a victim. I was struggling to both understand what I had been going through whilst also downplaying it so severely.
I still sometimes tell myself that the things I endured weren’t really that bad…
But the truth is, they were pretty horrendous. They were the very definition of what love should never be. And looking back now, I’m utterly embarrassed that I let myself stay for as long as I did. That I blinded myself to what was going on. That I couldn’t muster up the strength to leave when I should have run as faraway from that crazy asshole as I possibly could have.
While I was trying to heal and move on with my life, and while I was so proud of myself for being brave enough to leave, I was also grappling with a past version of myself. A version of myself who I hated. The person who had ignored all the red flags, all the warning signs; who told herself it was within her wheelhouse to fix a broken man who never wanted to be fixed in the first place.
The person who had stayed…
I oscillate now between embarrassment — because how could I not have known better? — And moments of immense love for myself for getting the fuck out at all.
I oscillate between “was it really that bad? I mean, he never gave me a black eye…” and “I was cheated on over thirty times and then blamed for it, and the fact I’m still here and still loving is a miracle.”
Damn, it’s hard.
I thought once I was out that was going to be the end. Goodbye darkness, hello dawn. But really, abuse never leaves you. It’s a process that you deal with for years after it’s over. It replays in your mind; there’s so much back and forth between hurt and healing.
Don’t get me wrong, you should not let fear of healing and the unknown convince you to stay. Don’t let your mind play tricks on you or tell you that you can’t get out… because you absolutely can, and you absolutely should.
Your life will be thousands of degrees better when you free yourself of your abuser. But that doesn’t mean that the journey is over, and that can be a nasty little pill to swallow.
You see, people who have been victims of abuse often just want to forget what happened to them. It seems so much easier to pretend it never happened than to face the demons and the confusion. But you have to face it head on. You have to be a warrior. Look your situation dead in the eye and tell it you are going to beat it.
It doesn’t matter what it takes; you’re going to survive.