Wow…I haven’t written on here in quite a long time. I always mean to. I always have ideas, but as a full time mom with a full time job, by the time I sit down at night all I want to do is watch Netflix and not deal with anyone or anything.
A friend texted me today about something he read on my blog two years ago. The wonderful world of Facebook and Timehop reminded him that two years ago, I posted about the abusive relationship that I was in for about four years. A lot has happened since I put that out in the open.
The reason that I wrote those three posts was because I believed that if I just got it out and just finally said it that all of the hurt and all of the anxiety would magically go away. I thought that if I ripped off the bandaid that the weight would be lifted from my shoulders and I could move on with my life. What I soon realized, within minutes actually of clicking “publish” on my third and final post, was that it was only the first step to healing.
I wrote an article for school a year prior about children who are sexually abused by teachers and how teachers get away with it for so long. I spoke with many local experts in medical, social, and psychiatric fields. I reached out to one of the therapists that I had interviewed for my article, as she specialized in working with victims of sexual abuse and rape. That first appointment turned into 19 months of therapy sessions to help me understand what happened, why it happened, and what I have to do to move on.
I want to begin to share that personal journey with the hope that someone out there who has experienced what I have will seek help and start their own road to recovery.
The number one thing that I had to learn to do was to forgive myself. I know. That sounds odd, right? I had to forgive and be compassionate to the person I used to be so that I can become the person I want to be. Rather than carrying guilt and blaming myself and being angry at myself and how naive and afraid I was, I had to show 19 year old me compassion. I had to accept the fact that what happened was not my fault and that the important thing is that I survived and I found the strength to leave and try to make my life better.
Forgiving myself was the most difficult part of my journey. No one wants to be a victim and when you are one for so long, even though you know it’s not your fault, you still blame yourself. You still believe that you knew better and you knew how wrong it was and yet you let it go on and made excuses.
The majority of my time in therapy though wasn’t spent facing my past, but facing the present so that I could have a better future. I’ve been in a relationship for almost two years, and the first year was the most difficult. Do you know why? It was because I couldn’t handle being treated how I DESERVE to be treated. My boyfriend gave me anxiety because he was nice to me and did normal loving things. What a world this is…having a panic attack because someone treats you well.
When you’re treated like nothing for so many years, you believe that you’re nothing. Every day I was waiting for him to decide he was bored of me or to break up with me for some lame reason. I was never waiting for him to be abusive. I know him better than I know anyone. He was my friend before we dated and he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He’s the most caring and compassionate person, but that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t be capable of suddenly realizing that I had nothing to offer.
I was always afraid to fight or disagree with him. I mean, disagreeing had serious consequences in the past. What if he started to hate me because of it?
It all sounds absurd. And it is to a point. But that’s how I was trained to think. I was uncomfortable being treated like a human, with respect and honesty and love. It made me anxious to receive gifts and compliments because I felt like I did nothing to deserve them and that I had to earn those things. Why would you buy me something? Why would you pay for dinner? I felt like if I wasn’t keeping things even or giving more that I wasn’t contributing and wasn’t worthy.
Until him, I’d never, not once, received a gift from a boyfriend “just because.” He got me the most beautiful necklace for my birthday this year and I cried. I’d never received jewelry before from anyone, even at 32 years old. He was floored. It wasn’t just that he got me a necklace, it was that he put so much thought into it. It was a very specific type that I had mentioned I was going to buy myself to match a bracelet I have. It meant the world to me.
Another issue I had was discomfort with being trusted. When he offered to give me a key to his house, I pretty much had a nervous breakdown. I’d never been trusted before. It got really bad. I was anxious all of the time. I couldn’t function. He came to therapy with me to figure out what he could do to help me when I’d have these breakdowns. My therapist discussed with him specific things that trigger me to panic, some of which may never fully go away. But he brought up that he noticed the flip in my demeanor the day he wanted to give me a key to his house. He was right.
Something so small and so normal for two people in an adult relationship was unbelievably difficult for me to accept. We settled at me asking for it when I was ready and the offer would be outstanding. It took me 3 months to feel comfortable with the idea and an additional two to work up the courage to ask for it.
Eventually, therapy sessions became less frequent. Some were still very emotional, while others were wonderful as I just gave an update on my life and talked about anything going on and how I felt about it, whether I felt just a little nervous or completely happy. I began to accept that I am worth loving and that it is okay for me to open my mouth when something is bothering me because there should be no consequences other than coming to a resolution.
I haven’t been to therapy since the spring. I’m sure I’ll go again eventually to check in or if I’m just having a rough day to collect my thoughts and just have that added support of someone who can help cut through the surface.
I cannot say enough about how fortunate I feel for my boyfriend and how incredible he has been in not just sticking by me and being supportive, but really helping to open my eyes to how happy I can and deserve to be if I allow myself. The same goes to my friends who, like one in particular today, check in with me to see how I am doing and to remind me that I’m not alone and that they are there when I need them.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be 100% better, and that’s okay. I don’t have to be. It’s normal not to be. I still get bothered at times about what happened. Something will remind me of him or I’ll get awful deja vu from something he did. But at this point, I am strong enough to push through it and remember that it’s over and it’ll never happen to me again because I am worth more than how he treated me.