Abuse is real. It’s a web of deception; hopes that will always be unfulfilled; mind games that strip folks of reason; emotional connections held together by deep voids; manipulation based on half truths; isolation disguised as exclusivity; pain and confusion described as ‘the hard times’.
I was once a victim. Now, I speak out.
You can find abusive relationships among the rich and the poor. The highly educated and the uneducated. The famous and the unknown. The church’d and unchurch’d. The pulpit and the pew. Abuse is within families and it crosses generations.
The good news?! Your life can change. It won’t be easy but the reward is indescribable! Being abused was hard. Believing that I wasn’t good enough was hard. Being afraid was hard. Always trying to be better and do better so my abuser wouldn’t be angry was hard. Taking the opportunity to change my life was hard and lonely and confusing but worth it! I don’t regret the moments I took to build up my courage to want and demand more. After almost three years of abuse and chaos, I walked away.
I almost went back to my abuser. He was my fiancé and I loved him. I didn’t know it but I was trapped in a dynamic of toxic dependency. I needed the good parts of our relationship (so I thought). I didn’t know who I was without him. I had lost myself and I didn’t know how to find me. I didn’t recognize me. The truth is I hadn’t been connected with myself far before my abuser came into my life. Initially, he offered me what I needed — a sense of security and safety. I wanted an escape. Later on, he exploited my need and took advantage of the voids in my life.
Abuse crept up on me. It took me by surprise and pushed me to the edge. I was spinning with no direction. My mind was at the brink of breaking. I knew that I wasn’t happy but I couldn’t figure out why. I didn’t realize how controlled and manipulated I had been. I didn’t realize, initially, that I’d been abused. We had so many good times. They just happened to always be followed by extremely bad times. Living in emotional and mental distress became my norm. I also lived with hope that we would get better. I used the moments of calm within my storm as “proof” that things could change.
Things never changed. Things got worse and I became more confused. It took an intervention from those who knew and loved me. There was also a ticking bomb I could here in my head and heart. I was getting ready to explode. Something in me was crying out for help. I could feel life closing in around me and I was desperate for change. I was desperate for an answer. I didn’t want to be miserable. I was tired of crying myself to sleep. I was tired of not enjoying the time that I spent with my fiancé. I was tired of being accused and accosted. I wanted off the emotional roller coaster. I didn’t want to need his approval in order for all to be well with us. I didn’t want to keep secrets about my life from my friends and family. I wanted to be good enough. I wanted to know who I was without him telling me. I wanted to get unstuck. I wanted to be happy again. I wanted my freedom back.
Thank God that after all the hell I went through, I made it out! When my eyes came open and I was out from under his influence, I was so outdone. I couldn’t believe the mess I had put up with all that time. I was angry with myself. I felt stupid. My emotions were raging. Time and healing helped me to understand that I wasn’t stupid. I was naive and I was stuck. I learned to forgive myself and I forgave and released my abuser.
Abuse changed me and I still have its scars. However, most of the change has been for good and the scars are a reminder of how far I’ve come. I’m a better version of me. I know what it’s like to be lost and then found. I know what it’s like to discover personal worth. I understand mental health in a brand new way. I understand how abuse works and I’m more capable of recognizing it from afar. I’m able to support my fellow survivors as well as those who are currently being abused. I appreciate and respect my journey of hope and healing. I have surprised myself over and over. I never knew how strong I was. I never knew how resilient I could be. I didn’t know who God had created me to be until I had to find her in order to survive.
There are many signs of abuse and the severity of it varies. Some signs are small and others are big. Identifying abuse can seem tricky. What helps me most are three important questions:
(1) How does the behavior or relationship make me feel?
(2) What is the effect that the behavior or relationship is having on me?
(3) Is this behavior frequent or part of a pattern?
These questions are just a starting point but they are a good way to start figuring out if a person or their behavior is unacceptable. At any point you can decide what does or does not work for you. The bottom line is that abuse is about control. The abuser wants control and will do whatever it takes to gain it. We all, at some point, want to control circumstances and situations. We all, at some point, really hope that people choose to do things we want them to do. Abuse goes further than that. Abuse says, “you have no right to choose I do the choosing”. Abuse takes away, limits, or has a negative reponse to others’ ability to make their own decisions. Unlike love, which is liberating, abuse confines. Abuse binds and manipulates. Abuse is selfish and uncaring.
I’m rooting for you. You are capable of analyzing your relationships and the realities that come with them. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for help with your process.
May you have a hope-filled and fruitful New Year.
Moments with Missy™ offers specialized individual and group services. Feel free to reach out to Missy if you have questions or would like guidance. Missy is available for FREE 15-minute conversations. Email her to schedule a chat. Visit her website for more information.