Place your hand on your heart and breathe. You feel that? You’re alive, babe.
I have wrestled with sharing this piece for a while now. Never one to shy away from revealing intimate sides of myself, this particular subject felt intensely personal and each time I sat down to write it, I was consumed by varying thoughts. What if I’m judged? Or I make someone uncomfortable? And if I open up about this, will people look at me differently? Hello, self-doubt. And then after a recent experience with a holistic practitioner, who literally opened up my “blocked” throat chakra (stay with me, y’all), I felt this insatiable need to tell my truth. So here it goes.
When I was 15 years old, I had a crush on an older boy who physically assaulted me at a party. Drinking was involved, which doesn’t excuse the behavior by any means. It’s just important for context. In the midst of partying, he got angry and threw me across the concrete ground, ripping my back open and causing permanent scars, both physical and emotional.
When I was 16 years old, my first boyfriend was jealous and possessive; and when he felt angry, he would get aggressive with me. I was tiny, maybe 90 lbs. and he didn’t know his own weight. One time I took a blow to the head so hard, I was left with a concussion.
Then when I was in my late 20’s, I was involved in a relationship with a man who verbally and emotionally abused me almost daily for two years. For reasons I may never know, but trust is rooted in his own deep trauma, he tore me down every chance he got. Calling me horrific names, threatening me, intimidating me, putting me down and so much more. As a result, I retreated, closing myself off from the people around me. I often thought, why am I here and then found myself walking on egg shells, desperate not to do or say anything that would set him off. I lived in an emotional prison, one that shredded every last ounce of my self-worth.
It’s hard to admit to yourself that you’re being mistreated. These types of relationships don’t happen overnight, although in retrospect, the signs were there from day one. When I first met this individual, he was charming and sweet. He seemed to adore me and talked about a future together - the hook. In time, his own insecurities and past hurt was just too much to bear and I was the unfortunate one chosen to be the brunt of his pain.
The further involved we became, the deeper I fell into depression and truth be told, I struggled to see a life outside of this cycle of abuse. I couldn’t bear my circumstances and as hard as it is to admit, didn’t trust myself to walk away. Part of me feels embarrassment and shame for not leaving sooner. However, that’s the difficult reality of these experiences. Your insight is limited by a distorted lens. I understand some of you may be thinking, “Are you insane? Why didn’t you just leave?” Believe me, I’ve shared that same sentiment when hearing others' stories. In these cases, judgement seems like the obvious response, masking all our personal fears and projections. What appears to be a clear choice to the outside world, is much more complicated when you’re in an abusive relationship. It’s an intricate web of control and dominance and one that doesn’t necessarily change through awareness alone.
And so, I stayed. The more I was told I didn’t matter, the deeper I unraveled; stripped so violently of my self-esteem. Eventually I believed that I wasn’t good enough because here was a person getting in my head and stating that claim. I lost my voice, my purpose, my sense of self. My soul breaking into a million little pieces.
One day I remember asking for help; truly knowing I was done. At this point, I was a shell of myself and desperate to emerge from the darkness that was now my life. I wanted to rediscover that happy, outgoing passionate woman who once had purpose outside this relationship. The person who knew she didn’t deserve to be hurt any longer. In time, I was able to leave that relationship and sought therapy. There was a good amount of trauma that needed to be worked through and I am grateful for the ones who held me during that time. Loving me through the healing process.
As I moved forward, I felt raw and scared for many years. Each time I would venture into a new relationship, it was with paralyzing fear. What if I allowed this to happen again? That was not the right thought. What I eventually came to learn and accept is that I was not responsible for what happened to me. In these instances, none of us are. We have no part here. However, what I did have control over was changing the impact of these experiences and not letting them define me. Fighting to become the woman who trusted her instincts and allowed space for healthy people to treat her well. And that came in time.
Since then, I have done a tremendous amount of work and have let people into my life, and into my heart, who show me what a heathy relationship feels like. The ones who teach me that love has nothing to do with causing emotional or physical pain. My soulmates
I end with this. I am not defined by my past or these relationships. They are pieces of me meant to be shared. For anyone hurting, past or present, I see you. And you are not alone in your experiences. I hope by hearing my story, you can begin to heal and learn to love yourself through anything.