My body broke down under his touch. I hated it when he put his hands on me.
Even the slightest caress or the most loving nature of his gaze sent me spiraling down a hole so deep that only anxiety could find me.
So how can I tell you that the way your abusive relationship has changed you might be okay? Should I even speak on behalf of every woman out there who tried to find her way to the end of a very dark tunnel?
I just know that I have a story to tell and a truth to speak. If you’ll listen, I’d gladly share it with you.
His touch hurt me. Let me start there because that’s how I figured out just how much that entire relationship was breaking me apart.
I would want him to hug me and show me that everything was going to be all right but it couldn’t be when I couldn’t stand to be near him.
My breath would hitch at even a slightly sudden movement from him. I would flinch when he extended his arm to show me kindness in front of others.
Just the thought that he could become aggressive at any moment was what kept me so on edge. He wouldn’t hurt me in front of others but he certainly would if he knew what I was thinking.
He would throw one of his tantrums, tell me that I was worthless, and call me replaceable. However, he never once held true to his words.
He never replaced me, as he knew that no one else would deal with him. I was already stuck, so I wouldn’t run away.
I was in an abusive relationship. It was physically, mentally, and emotionally draining me to a point where I didn’t even know if I would ever see the old me again.
I would look at pictures of myself and wonder where I had gone. The girl in those pictures laughed her heart out and she made the world look like the safest place.
I can guarantee you that you wouldn’t recognize me now if you knew me back then.
You wouldn’t be able to see me due to the dark circles under my eyes and the way I didn’t know how to smile anymore. My mouth didn’t have the strength to pull its corners up and I didn’t even want to try and make it do that.
In the final days of our relationship, I remember trying to make myself even smaller. I did that so that he wouldn’t notice that I was gone once I made the decision to run.
He didn’t give me another choice. I was disappearing right under his eyes and he only cared about making each day worse for me.
When I snapped and walked out on him, it wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment type of decision. I just hadn’t had the strength to do it earlier.
Before that moment, I would remember the times that I thought he was touching me out of love. I would hold on to those few memories as if it was my lifeline.
He never touched me just to be affectionate, so I thought that every time he held my hand or grabbed my waist (however aggressive it might have been) were moments of love.
I was so starved of love that I held on to that. He didn’t care that I had a need for cuddles, affection, and attention, he didn’t care that it hurt me when he drew his hand away from mine even when people were watching.
I always thought that he could see my struggles. I was a girlfriend who didn’t mind giving him the last piece of food, no matter how hungry I was.
On weekends, I would wake up early to prepare his favorite meals. Whenever I knew he would be home, I would blow out my hair and wear the dress he loved most on me.
All of that, after cleaning the house thoroughly. I was a slave but I didn’t see it like that back then.
I didn’t see his controlling demeanor, I just knew that things would get worse if I didn’t obey, so I did everything he asked of me.
At home, I wore make-up, made sure I served everything on dishes that were sparkling clean and I bit my tongue whenever I wanted to voice my opinion.
That’s why it’s so hard for me to get that back right now. It’s hard to feel safe and sound, even with people who actually care about me.
It may sound bizarre but it’s true.
Being scared of him was one thing but being scared of the person you’ve become is a whole other story.
You don’t know her. You don’t know the woman who’s been trying to keep you safe, she’s just a ghost that’s been there.
You’re thankful for the way she coped with everything and for the strength she gathered to leave.
She’s a stranger to you just as much as the woman you were before her.
But maybe, just maybe, that’s okay. It’s okay to have to get to know yourself again, it’s okay to take the time you need to put back all of your pieces again and realize that you’re more powerful than you originally thought.
Now, you and I, we’re getting to know ourselves all over again. We’ve been victims for so long that we don’t see the moment when we became survivors.
We have to put back those broken fragments of our personality so we can create someone completely new.
The old person I was is nothing more than a footprint in the sand. The waves washed her away but that doesn’t mean that I can’t make a completely new mark.
When everything fell apart and I fled, I didn’t see the healing I had to do. I just knew that I was ready for the pain because it was still less hurtful than staying with that man.
For now, I’m lost and I know you’re lost as well. I assume that we will have to build ourselves back up from scratch and remember that we’re more than the pain we’ve been through.
But we’ll be fine. Somehow, deep down, I know that we’ll be fine.
You and I have gone through so much. Look at the women we’re becoming now!
I wish that we didn’t have to go through these experiences to become better and stronger but life doesn’t always work the way we want it to. You shouldn’t blame yourself for that.
He’s to blame. Every man who thinks that this type of behavior is all right is to blame.
You and I are not.
And yes, your abusive relationship has changed you but you’re going to be okay. Or at least, that’s what I try to tell myself.
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