~ By Sneha G.
“I no longer look for the good in people, I search for the real..because while good is often dressed in fake clothing, real is naked and proud no matter the scars.” – Chishala Lishomwa
I’m going to share a story with you, a story about love, sacrifice and hope. No, it’s not some quintessential romantic saga, it’s a story about me. About how I learnt to fall in love again..with myself and the roller coaster journey that lead me to this.
I had always heard from elders that sometimes it’s not the happy moments of our life but the extremely painful experiences in it that make us realize how precious our life is. Never before had I fully grasped the meaning of that, not until I went through an extremely painful experience myself in the form of an abusive relationship. It was only after this experience that I realized that sometimes we suffer the most at the hands of the very people we love the most. I can only compare this experience to a tumultuous ride which keeps you at the edge of your seat. And by the end, I felt as if I was swerved towards the precipice of my sanity and well being. It wasn’t a physically abusive relationship; but the effects of this emotionally abusive relationship were equally catastrophic for me.
What started out as a fairy tale romance with words of endearment and loving promises, soon tuned into a nauseating tornedo of lies and manipulation multiplying out of control. I felt crazy and couldn’t make sense of what was happening to me. I felt as if a freight train has hit me and I was left as a quivering mass. I constantly doubted myself and tried hard to fit the pieces of the puzzle but in vain. My mind was wrought with so many questions..How could someone who once claimed to love me and idolized me, make me feel so rejected and foolish? How could someone who professed to be my soul mate abandon me with such disregard? What was wrong with me that made my loved one devalue me and leave?
It is then that I began to look for answers and tried desperately to cling onto my abuser in my attempt to fix things to regain normalcy. But alas, it was always doomed to fail. And then like a bolt of lightning it struck me, the problem was never with me. It was horrifying to realize that what I thought was a loving relationship gone sour, was infact just a long drawn con on me. I was simply enmeshed with a toxic person, who mirrored an illusion of what I was looking for. There was nothing real in it. Realizing this was my first step towards reclaiming my life and happiness. It convinced me that stepping away from that madness was necessary to salvage whatever was left of me after everything ended. I realized that there was no other way but to walk away from my abuser, no matter how hard and painful it was. It had to be done and from that moment, it was no longer about him. It became my journey of self discovery.
It was essential for me to walk alone for a while, give my soul a chance to heal from what it had endured. In the beginning, I was frightened, lost and demoralized for I had never thought that I would ever face an abusive relationship. I was too naïve to see the red flags early on in the relationship. What I thought were white lies or minor anger management issues soon turned out to be the tip of the iceberg. Back then, I wasn’t able to differentiate a healthy relationship from the abusive one. Unlike healthy relationships, an abusive relationship is not a safe place. It is characterized by insecurity, self centeredness, dominance and manipulation. I remember constantly walking on egg shells and risking my very being by continuing to stay invested in it. Hence, I mustered up my courage to walk away when I saw that all my continued efforts to make peace and create a loving space were constantly denied and debased. I understood that I should never fantasize about bringing a change in my abuser since it’s beyond my control. Instead, I should try to bring about a change in myself by choosing to keep my sanity, self respect and emotional integrity intact and walk away.
It is the hardest thing that I’ve been through so far, the negativity had stripped me to my very core forcing me to look upon my deeply embedded wounds which made me stay in this abusive environment in the first place. I then made a pact with myself to consciously choose self love and self preservation especially since I discovered that I had a codependent streak. Until then, I didn’t know what codependency meant. With help of reading and therapy, I realized that it had developed when I was a child and with the passing years, I had unknowingly driven it deep into me. I couldn’t make sense of it, as professionally I was always a strong, confident and an independent person. But then I discerned that it was in my personal life that I suffered because of the delusions that codependency harbors. I was made aware that it is not selfish to choose ourselves sometimes over the people we love in our lives. It took a while for me to understand that there would never be any reciprocation in terms of empathy, love or care from any kind of abuser. This is because their need for love and attention is abysmal. The more you give, the more they would take, without an iota of reciprocation or even a thought of it, making it a never ending vicious cycle. This is what their life had always been, despite their tall tales and it is bound to consume every single person who steps into it.
I could see only 2 choices ahead of me. Pick myself up and never look back or be stuck as a victim forever, consumed by my tormenting past. So I decided to embrace my pain and the realities of my abuse and embark on my life’s journey as a survivor. When I started, I had to believe that no matter how long the tunnel, there will be light at the end after all. And so far, this belief has only grown stronger. I’m still progressing on my journey to finding this light and happiness. Anyone who has already been through this would also confirm that it’s a turning point in your life, a divine conspiracy in the guise of a bitter pill to prepare you for your future. Hard to believe but it is true. I’m still learning important life changing lessons as I progress each day in my journey and I would like to share some of them :
1. It was never my fault.
I never knew the true nature of my abuser else i would have never fallen prey. I simply fell for the charming facade he had put up all that while. I learnt that it was my innocence and trust which made me gullible to him.
I should not be guilt ridden since I had given more than my best to make things work while my abuser didn’t put any effort from his end nor did he seem to care about it either. All the mistakes and problems were conveniently shoved onto me as he never took any responsibility when things got tough. Hence, the failure of the relationship isn’t my burden to bear. After all, it takes two to tango! Instead, I should be more patient and compassionate towards myself for having survived through hell.
2. It’s ok to let go and walk away.
Sometimes, not all the people we want in our lives, are truly meant to be in it. Sometimes it’s better to let go in order to alleviate the pain and suffering than to tighten our grip which would only lead to further damage. It was probably the hardest thing for me to realize and accept in order to walk away from my abuser since my feelings were real.
3. I am complete in myself and can walk alone.
I realized that I must trust myself, more than anyone. That I am ‘whole’ and I don’t require someone else to make me feel complete. I’ve learnt to trust in my ability to walk alone and be happy and content with it.
4. I can never change my abuser nor should I expect any closure from him.
It is unfortunate that our abusers became the way they are due to their wounds which they endured in their childhood. It is a part of their damaged coping mechanism that they project their flaws onto us to be at peace with themselves. Their way of perception of the world is distorted and there’s nothing that we can ever do about it. They’ve a limited palette of emotions and their love is a handicapped emotion as well.
What I took from this, was that though I might still love him, i can never change him even for his own betterment, for it’s a personal choice. And a part of this is to stop expecting closure from him. It was only by assimilating and accepting this, that I finally got my closure from within me.
5. Seeking professional help & educating myself about the abuse was a healthy choice.
Given the cognitive dissonance about who the abuser truly was, I constantly felt trapped in a helpless situation. So once I let go of the relationship, I decided to seek help from people in order to put the pieces of my shattered emotions and sanity back. Reading about the nature of abusive relationships helped me tremendously to regain my logic and strengthen my gut feelings. There are many blogs and articles that help the victims understand what they have dealt with and how they should proceed towards healing and safeguarding themselves. I strongly believe that seeking therapy isn’t a weak choice. It is perhaps the most self empowering choice that I made since the therapy helped me regain my emotional stability, enabled me to tend to my wounds positively and guided me to channelize my displaced anger after the abuse.
Though my family and friends stood by me in the hour of need, I felt isolated and alone with grief later when I saw that people close to me got frustrated with my sadness and ‘taking too long’ grieving. I was told to ‘get over with it’ as I wasn’t the first person to go through a break-up. And that pushed me further away from recovery. At some level, I did understand their true concern for me behind their reaction but I was too numb with grief to do anything about it. It’s imperative to understand that all the elements of an abusive relationship are twisted beyond our comprehension which is why it’s so difficult for any healthy person, let alone the victim, to fathom.
Reading about abusive relationships and talking to my therapist helped me to realise that it was beyond their ability to help me out of my depression and that only I could rescue myself. Talking to her helped me alleviate my pain further which was very important. It was like a volcano of repressed emotions in me that had waited too long to explode. I had to get it out of my system and the only way was to talk about it and make sense of it. Above all, I realized that I was not alone and that there were people who understood my suffering, which probably brought the biggest sense of relief.
6. Don’t fight the pain, but face it. The harder the lesson learnt, the stronger I become.
This is the most important lesson that I’ve learnt. Only the people who we deeply and truly love are capable of bringing about this scale of change in our lives. This helped me in embracing my past and allowing these lessons to guide me forward with my new found strength. Now, I have learnt to look at my past as a tool for my improvement, understanding where I needed to rework the most. I am still learning to form and enforce my boundaries & become more assertive.
As a survivor, I now have gone though the turmoil of emotions that once seemed to be engulfing and self defeating. However, I feel like I’ve emerged with a spine of steel. I know for sure that love, compassion, forgiveness and empathy are not my weaknesses but the very feelings that set me apart from my abuser. And with the new lessons learnt, I shall never be so naïve to fall for such relationships again. Even if I do, I’ve gained the strength to simply walk away with my emotions intact.
I know that life is much more than the pain that I suffered. I neither regret my past nor do I hate it. I know some days will be hard on me but I also know that there will be days that will lift my spirits up and lead me on. Healing is a slow process and it’s best not to rush it. I’ll have to be patient with myself. As I look back now, I know I have grown stronger and wiser emotionally from where I began and will continue to do so, no matter the baby steps. I feel grateful for everything I’ve in my life. I’ve decided to live my life to the fullest, indulge in my hobbies and learn to walk away from any negativity around. In essence, Carpe Diem is what I am trying to live by.
Above all, I have chosen to love myself and accept it proudly with the scars that I’ve sustained. For a tigress never hides her stripes!