Recovering from Abuse
Since I first learned to write, I have been a writer. It has always been an incredibly cathartic and therapeutic passion of mine. Writing became a part of my job when I had to learn to write search engine optimized web copy more than 15 years ago. And about 10 years ago, I started writing how-to articles to help fledgling developers who were trying to teach themselves the ins and outs of web design and development, like I had done. (I swear this is leading someplace. Hang in there.) Then, just six months ago, I began branching out into other areas.
Now I’m ready to try my hand at the most terrifying (for me) form of writing there is… Autobiographical. I’m going to share my story with you. All of it. (Some of it as it happens.) Not all at once, of course, but buckle up because this ride will get twisty, turn-y, and mad wild at times. Promise. I’ve had the kinds of experiences you usually only see in bad Lifetime movies…you know, if that’s what you’re into.
I suppose I’m embarking on this endeavor, at this particular time, for many reasons. There is a surplus of pain in my personal life right now. Writing helps me make sense of it all and put it in perspective. In the interest of raw honesty, I’m very recently (we’re talking a week ago today) separated from my husband of 21 years (22 together in all), I’m trying to help our three children deal with their feelings while attempting to sort out my own, and my nephew is battling terminal cancer. (Due to these circumstances, I’m not about handling it well when other things go wrong at the moment.)
The other main reason I’m sharing this out loud, so to speak, is the same reason I started writing web related articles: to help others. That has always been the prevailing theme in my life. I just want to help others avoid some of the pain I’ve had to endure (in every aspect). But to do that this time, I finally have to stop protecting my abusers. All of them. Not only did they not protect me, but they inflicted actual harm upon me — on purpose. Why would I continue to keep their terrible secrets when I’m the one left to recover from the damage? I’m done being silenced by bullies who can’t handle the reality of their actions. It’s time I legitimately stood up for myself, so I can finally help others. You are witnessing my ascent from fearful survivor to fearless advocate. I’m ready.
If you are the survivor of any kind of abuse or in an abusive situation right now, I’m here to tell you it was/is not your fault. Please believe me. I spent my whole life thinking I was to blame. I tried to modify my behavior to change other people’s actions. It doesn’t work that way. It left me believing I couldn’t do anything right, regardless of what I did, because abusive people are always going to abuse others, no matter what. Nevertheless, it made me think I must be a worthless, burdensome pain in the ass. (Truth be told, I am still combating this feeling and probably will be for a long time.)
I was never the problem, though. They were. The truth is, it never mattered what I did. Sometimes I got accused of things I wouldn’t ever think of doing, so I really was damned if I didn’t. From the day I was born, I was brainwashed to believe I was essentially the opposite of everything I really was and am. I was scapegoated as the constant problem, even though I was probably the best behaved child you would ever want to meet out of sheer self preservation. I was told who I was on a constant basis, and it was forever in direct conflict with whom I knew I really was deep down. I now know they were projecting personality traits and behavior patterns onto me that were not mine, most likely because they are incapable of seeing other people as dynamic and multidimensional, since they are barely two dimensional themselves. (If you can’t even fathom something, how are you going to recognize it when you see it?)
I’ve been fighting through the cognitive dissonance this insidious brand of abuse (more on that in a later post) creates in its victims for a few years now. I literally have to change the way my brain was wired to work from day one, as well as how I relate to myself and the world around me. It has been a profoundly lonely, exhausting, and often excruciating journey, but the most rewarding growth I’ve experienced so far. And I’m nowhere near done. (I never will be, as long as I’m alive.)
I recently fully accepted that my husband is also suffering, but in a different way, and he has no control over it whatsoever. He was raised in the same type of toxic household, but he went the other way with it. As I mentioned above, I internalized the abuse because I really thought I deserved it, and I tried to change my behavior to make it stop as a result. He externalized it, identified with his abusers, and learned to use the same tactics as a weapon against anyone who hurts him, no matter their true intentions.
I had to stop denying that he is also emotionally and psychologically abusive. Not only that, but he has been actively trying to hold me back, because he’s threatened by me, and jealous of some of the hard-fought successes that I’ve had to build my self-esteem and confidence up from ground zero to achieve in the first place. (He actually copped to that the other day.) I’ve been telling him I’d have to leave if he didn’t change the way he treated me for years, and I finally had to follow through, as much as I didn’t want to. He was the last lie that I had to let go of, because I can’t heal from the abuse when it is still happening at the hands of yet another person who is supposed to love me. I literally have a lifetime (so far) of abuse to recover from, and I won’t put it off any longer. I can’t.
He is also aware that he is abusive…I think. He has admitted it on numerous occasions, but when “the bastard” comes out and takes over, he’s “only defending himself” against my vicious truths. He can’t stop doing it on his own. He says he wants to change, and I want so badly to believe him, but I know he needs help. I love him with all my heart, and I want to help him, but I’m not qualified. I have to love my kids and myself more right now. I have a responsibility to teach them how to treat others, how to expect to be treated by others, how to set healthy boundaries, and how to stand up for themselves when someone crosses their boundaries or mistreats them. (I have a lot of lost time to make up for in this regard.) I have an obligation to set and keep those boundaries in place for my own health and well-being. I can’t save him, so I have to save myself.
Much more to come…