“Don’t waste your time and energy trying to convince people to value you. If you have to fight for their attention and respect, it’s time to move on.” ~Lori Deschane
“Well, maybe if you didn’t make stupid decisions you wouldn’t have anxiety. Maybe you just need to think a bit more and be smarter. It’s so obvious to everyone that you have no idea what you’re doing. They know that without me you wouldn’t survive.”
These words, along with many others like them, echoed through my head every day.
Back in 2020, when the pandemic loomed over the earth and sent everyone into panic and despair, we were all unsure of what would happen. I, back in Canada, worked my nine-to-five government job and lived with a boyfriend, whom I’d been with for six years at that point.
I wasn’t sure if it was the tension from the pandemic or the fear that everything was coming to an end that sent our relationship straight into the gutter. The pandemic forced me to sit alone with myself (and therapist—but that’s another story for another time) and really see life for what it was.
“Am I happy?”
“Is this where I want to be?”
“Is this who I want to be with for the rest of my life?”
Each day the world got quieter and quieter, but my inner voice and courage got louder and louder.
The darkness that was around me was not from me, but from him. I was merely a scapegoat for his misfortunes. I was blamed, left feeling like the small ounces of love I was begging for were too much; told my fears and hopes and dreams were all too much; that I was too much, yet at the same time, not enough. Not smart enough, not pretty enough, not creative enough. Not. Enough.
Each day my intuition got louder and louder, telling me what I knew I had to do, but somehow couldn’t. You see, that’s the thing with abuse, you can’t see it, and other people can’t see it either. You sit there, daily, wondering if everything you’ve ever felt or done, or not felt or not done, is enough.
The constant fight between you and your lover telling you how remarkable you are, then seconds later saying how you’re nothing, useless, and a waste; the gaslighting, the lies, the pain—it all makes you question yourself and your every move.
I didn’t believe that anyone actually cared about me, and sadly I still feel that way at times. Every space I take up becomes an apology; every feeling fights wars just to leave my mouth. The toll that abuse takes is so deep that it becomes incomprehensible at times and leaves you wondering when it will all end.
As we grew further apart and the blinders came off, I felt like I had lost part of who I was. I lost parts that were enmeshed with the man who I thought was supposed to love me, but instead drained me of every ounce of who I was.
Each day as I thought I was losing myself, I was really finding her; ripping off the rose-colored glasses and chains that were meant to keep me in place, keep me stuck, keep me small. I had spent almost a decade lessening myself so as to not bruise someone else’s fragile ego. It always baffled me how so-called lovers could wish to break down their partner.
It took me almost two years to escape the relationship once I realized what it truly was. At the not-so ripe age of twenty-six, I was starting over with everything. I’d lost it all—my home, my routines, my grocery store, my schedule, my life.
Shortly after I left, I wrote and released music (something he said I could never do), taught music to students (something he said I could never do), saved up more money than I could ever imagine (something he said I could never do), applied and got into school (something he said I could never do), took care of my dog and cat alone (something he said I could never do), quit the job I hated, moved to the USA, and honestly and truly felt happy (something he said I could never do).
Abuse is never easy to discuss; it makes people uncomfortable, and I’m not sure why. It’s very real and very prominent in life. Healing from the abuse is never easy, and can be a lot more difficult than dealing with the abuse itself.
Reclaiming parts of yourself that someone wrongfully stole from you is the most liberating feeling ever. Abuse takes away more from you than you will ever know. You only realize how much you have lost after it’s all done, forced to face life with the wounds you now carry.
The struggle now is between me and the part of me that is trying to protect me, pushing away any good person that tries to love me, because you never know. I fear the good and push it away because my ex always used it as a weapon.
No one tells you that you can get C-PTSD from years of abuse. Years of being told you are f*cked in the head and yelled at for every anxiety attack or difficult moment makes it hard to believe that people actually care. I now meet every nice gesture with questioning and suspicion, waiting for the metaphorical ball to drop.
Now, my days are filled with the constant wondering of when a good thing is going to go bad. The years of therapy gave me a toolbox to help deal with the abuse, but nothing prepared me for this aftermath. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through, but if there’s one thing to know about me it’s that I will not give up.
Abuse has taken away so much of my life and who I was that I cannot let it take away any more. Each day is a challenge to learn to trust people more and restore my faith in humanity, but each day I get stronger, and those places where I was once “broken” fill up with love and trust in myself.