You can call me stupid. Call me wrong. Call me incapable. Call me names I cannot even repeat. You can spread your lies. Convince others. Build a whole army of puppet followers who all agree with you. You can convince a friend of mine. Turn someone I love against me. You can find the evidence that you need. Point out my flaws. Cast a spotlight on each insecurity. You can get inside my head. You can even break me down. Bring me to my knees, alone on a cold, hard floor, and you might think then, that you’ve won…
but tomorrow, I will stand up. I will take another step forward, no matter how small or how shaky. And I will know that you will never get the best of me, because even as I stumble through this fucked up world, it is love I hold inside my heart, and you can never make me hate.
I know it’s hard. I’ve been there. In love with someone who hurt me.
I’ve tried telling myself that everything is fine and it’s all going to work out somehow. Convinced myself that I could make things better. I’ve taken on the mission to bring back the perfect relationship so that I didn’t have to leave. Stayed on my best behavior. I’ve been brave and forgiving and promised that I would always be there.
I’ve tried to rationalize away the feelings. Ripped up pictures. Given myself pep talks about why I deserve more. Reached out to other people for help. Tried drinking until I was numb. Pretended like I didn’t care. I’ve practiced the conversation in my head over and over of exactly how I would say each word “I can’t be with you anymore. You’re not good for me. I’m leaving you.” Only to feel the terror pull back the words before they make it through my lips.
Back and forth I’ve gone. Back and forth. Losing pieces of myself. Slowly. Like grains of sand falling through an hourglass. Counting down until I was completely empty and numb. And then I’ve thought, “Maybe I’m the crazy one. Maybe I’m just lucky that anyone loves me. Maybe this is as good as it gets.”
I know what it’s like to be in a place where the only thing worse than staying is leaving. And the only things worse than leaving is to stay.
I know what it’s like to feel loneliest when you are with laying right next to someone. I know how hard those nights are. The ones spent staring at the numbers on the clock as they change, one by one, second by second through the night. I know the painful mornings. Standing in the shower staring at the water falling down the drain, hardly feeling the drops against my face. I know the coldness of the bathroom tile against my cheek. I’ve laid there, on that floor with you. Praying. Wishing. Silently begging for someone to help me and to tell me what I am supposed to do.
If you are wondering if there’s something better out there…if there’s more in store for you, the answer is yes.
Yes. Yes. Yes. A million, trillion times, YES.
There is so much more in life. More love. More adventures. More heartbreak too, but also more growing and learning. If you are stuck in a relationship with someone who hurts you, you might not be able to see it right now, but don’t let go of the promise of something more. Listen to that nagging voice inside that knows deep down that you deserve better. You are so much stronger than you think. You’re so much smarter than you know. You’re fucking awesome and you only get this one life to be the person you were made to be. Don’t give that life to someone else. Don’t let it go. Don’t feel guilty or selfish about fighting for yourself. You owe it to the universe. To whatever God you believe in. To your children (current or future). You owe it to that person out there that you might not have met yet that wants to love you the right way. But most importantly, you owe it to yourself.
I used to wait for a sign. For some outside source to tell me that I wasn’t going nuts and that I needed to get out. Get away. Start fighting for myself. If you are like me, and are waiting for a sign….this is it. From someone who has been to the deepest depth of the hell of abuse. From someone who believed it was impossibile to break up with my abuser. From someone who could barely make it through the night a few years ago… Trust me. It’s hard. It hurts like hell. But leave. It is the most important thing you will ever do. He’s not going to change. Things aren’t going to get better if you stay. You already know what you should do so trust yourself.
“Future you” says thanks.
The fact that someone abused me was not my fault. This is a reality that even on a good day I have to talk myself into; a reality that has taken me years to begin to accept. Years of fighting with myself and repeating the words over and over and over again. It was not my fault. It was not my fault. Years of listening to a string of therapists remind me again and again. Years of going over each event in my mind, analyzing it from every angle, replaying the hands gripping my wrists and wondering if maybe I could have twisted my body differently, could have screamed louder or tried a different collection of words that might have prevented it all from happening the way that it did.
Why didn’t you fight back harder? Why didn’t you yell? Why did you let him hurt you? Why did you stay? Why did you date someone like that? Why did you get yourself into that situation? Maybe you have a bad judge of character? Maybe you deserved what happened to you. Maybe he wouldn’t have acted like that if you weren’t for the way that you are. Maybe you made him crazy. Maybe you are over exaggerating. Over reacting. Overly picky. Too weak. Too quiet. Too soft. Too hard to please. Maybe it was your fault.
In the circumstance of domestic violence, self-blame is, in many ways, a natural response for a victim—the product of being hurt by someone you trust and love, and then being told that it is your fault again and again. For me personally, taking responsibility for what happened to me was my way of maintaining a sense of control and balance. It was somehow easier to accept that I was abused because I was a bad person, there was something wrong with me and I somehow deserved it, than it was to accept that sometimes terrible things happen in life that we have no control over.
It is shocking to me now, looking back over the years and watching the messages blur all around me, coming not only internally but externally as well. I remember people asking me these same questions. I can still hear my friends call my ex ‘crazy’ over and over as they saw him hiding behind the bleachers at our hockey practice, but then in a closed conversation late at night under the blanket of a sleepover they would get the courage to question whether maybe I encouraged his behavior, and if maybe I felt lucky sometimes to have someone that loved me so much.
And then recently, someone close to me questioned the “type of person I must be to have had a past like I do.”
Am I too trusting? Do I get myself into bad situations? Do I put myself at risk? I head a voice inside me chime in.
“Maybe,” this person said, “maybe you aren’t the best judge of character….Maybe, you are a liability.”
The result is traumatizing. A few years ago, a comment like this would have devastated me for a long time. My answer would have been yes. Yes, I am a bad person and what happened to me is a reflection of that simple fact. Yes, I should never have trusted or loved…I watch as everything falls in line: my abuser told me that it was my fault, I told myself that it was my fault, and my friends and people outside of the situation questioned whether it was my fault. So, yes, it seems like an easy question to answer: it must have been my fault.
Today, I know so much more than I did when I was fifteen. If I could go back, would I do things differently having this knowledge? Absolutely. Would I have been able to prevent it all from happening? Maybe parts of it, yes. But could I have changed his actions? No.
If I had known what my ex was going to be like, I never would have dated him. If I had known I had help available, I would have tried to use it.
But the reality is, I didn’t know what I now know about abusive relationships. I didn’t know the red flags, the warning signs, the definition of stalking or harassment or assault. I didn’t know that a person I knew for a long time could change into a complete stranger.
As I have gone through the recovery process, I have begun to realize and to accept that what happened to me was not my fault. I did not get myself into a bad situation, I got myself out. I didn’t fall in love with someone risky who I knew would hurt me, I fell in love with my best friend- someone I loved and my family loved and I thought that I could trust. I didn’t cause him to go crazy, I found a way to survive when it turned out that he had deep-rooted psychological problems. I wasn’t hurt because I was a bad person and I deserved it, I was hurt because someone else made poor decisions and intentionally tried to hurt me. I made the best decisions I could with the knowledge I had at the time, and unfortunately I was exposed to someone who’s unhealthy decisions led to devastating consequences in my life.
Think About This:
When I was eight years old, my grandmother was attacked while stopped at a red light as she was driving to the store. A man in black clothing forced her door open and dragged her from her car, leaving her on the side of the road as he stole her vehicle. Did people ask her why she didn’t fight harder against the man that attacked her? Did they question what kind of person she was that allowed her to be taken advantage of? Did they ask her if she had a problem of putting herself in bad situations? No. They told her that they were happy that she was alive and that they were sorry for what someone did to her and he deserved to be punished.
So why is it so different for things like domestic violence and sexual assault?
It’s not. And to anyone who has ever been a victim, keep remembering this. It isn’t your fault. It wasn’t your fault. It will never be your fault. I am so sorry for the bad decisions someone else made, and the trauma is has caused you, but the reason for the abuse had nothing to do with you. The reason for the abuse was the abuser.
I just wanted to let you know:
You swore no one would ever love me like you did-
I ‘ll make sure they never do.
You told me I could not survive on my own,
but I thank God I survived my life with you.
You told me I was weak,
but you only made me stronger in the end.
You told me I was stupid,
but I’m smarter than I’ve ever been.
You covered my mouth,
stole away the sound,
but I have found a way back to my voice-
to speak again out loud.
You killed every part of me you could,
left nothing but an empty shell.
But I brought myself back to life again,
I clawed my own way out from the depths of your hell:
I picked myself up off the floor,
I succeeded even with a broken heart,
I lived through the darkest moment of the night
Rebuilt my life each time it fell apart.
I swore I’d never love again,
but thankfully I do:
I love my life, I love myself,
I love someone that loves me too.
So, you might have held me down
but you will never hold me down.
And you might have thought you won,
but you only won that round.