Things seem to be really picking up both for myself personally and for the industry, and that makes me very happy. More on career developments to come in another post.
The following started out as a note on my Facebook but I wanted to share it here too, because it is something VERY important to me…
Since being in an amazing, loving, nurturing relationship where I am positively supported and cherished… well, it’s hard to look back on where I was a year ago. It frightens me that I – a smart, strong woman – would allow myself and others to gaslight and downplay the abusive relationship I was in such that I stayed in it for a more than a year after the first signs of domestic violence.
It frightens me that after having grown up with an abusive step-parent, that I could rationalize AT ALL someone physically choking me as being “all right”, that “he didn’t really mean it.” That for too many months again, I stayed silent and made excuses about the choking and about a later incident that resulted in 15 stitches in my arm. I didn’t want to cause drama, I didn’t want people to take sides – I just wanted space to start healing when I finally woke up to the hell I was in. It’s hard to make any sort of rational decision or movement when you’re in the middle of an emotional Holocaust.
So, I bent over backwards to accommodate people who claimed to be friends, who claimed to be “acting in my best interests” and who “wanted the best for me.” I was made to retract and apologize for coming forward about the abuse, for bringing it up. I was given so many strings of bad advice: that I should try to work it out with him, that I was over-reacting to the whole situation, that it was “my fault” somehow… essentially, that I was the bad guy, the one to blame.
Oh, the blame. It came from my abusive ex, and it came from his friends… you know, the ones claiming to be “mutual friends.” In this sort of situation, there cannot be mutual friends. By choosing not to choose, you’ve ultimately made your choice. The real problem is that it was so easy to buy into the “my fault” theory for so long, that I was somehow not good enough and that I’d intrinsically failed somehow; had I been “better” none of this would’ve happened.
Women, men, everyone – that is BULLSHIT. Abuse in any form is never the fault of the person being abused. I don’t like the word “victim”. Victim implies helplessness, and while there may be a learned helplessness akin to a frog in boiling water… you need to realize that you CAN get out. That it is NOT your fault. It is NEVER alright for a person to emotionally or physically bully and abuse another person, and it is most certainly not due to any lack on the part of the person being abused.
Being in an abusive relationship seriously erodes your sense of self, and of self-worth. In some cases, no physical harm is ever done, but it does not mean that the relationship is not abusive, or that there are no lasting implications. If you don’t nip abuse in the bud, it’s a slippery slope downhill. The first time has to be the last time, period. No justifications, no letting off the hook. If you have the capacity to forgive then do so, but don’t ever forget. And write it down somewhere. Report it. Don’t sweep it under the rug.
It’s so easy to convince yourself that the abuser is “not that bad”, that “s/he didn’t mean to hurt me”, that “it was a one-time thing.” These are all things I’ve said to myself… as someone who logically, rationally knows the signs of abuse, it took a serious injury to jar the irrational side of my brain that pled “but he loves you” into realizing that nobody who truly, legitimately loves you would intentionally cause you harm and then have the gall to blame you for their own choices and actions.
I lived in profound unhappiness for months. I had a justification for almost everything he did that hurt me. And there were plenty of times where my abusive ex was nice, even seemingly caring and sweet. He paid for the occasional dinner or share of groceries. He put on a great face of “I’m the fun, carefree guy” in public – it’s a surprisingly common trait for abusers to be able to do so, to convince the outside world that they’re not the one to blame in the relationship. Not that healthy relationships need someone to blame or be a victim. (It’s hard to remember that when you’re in the middle of something irrational and harmful.)
Ultimately, all of those “nice” times did not excuse or make up for the way he treated me as an inferior, for the way he refused to meet needs I presented to him. For the way he went extra steps to mock me or make me unhappy when he knew things bothered me. For the way he continually dismissed my feelings or got angry any time I had an opinion that differed from his own. For the times he abandoned or hurt me in his fits of temper.
My abusive ex would always get the most angry at me when I stood up for myself. When I voiced my wants, my needs, when I dared to express and press forward with an interest, opinion, or course of action that he disagreed with or that inconvenienced him somehow. As I’m discovering, rational, mature couples can talk about their differences of opinion without it being a screaming match and without one party storming out.
I even see it now in photos, the blatant disregard he has for anything but himself and his wants. There was never any love in his eyes when he looked at me, just a disdain and an unhappiness. Unfortunately, some people are like that – and more unfortunate are the ones who will harm others to make themselves feel better or to get what they want from them. I’ve learned to feel pity for them – but it DOES NOT excuse their behaviour.
The growth that I’ve experienced in the last year is like the change from a caterpillar to a moth; a metamorphosis still in progress. For the most part, I am ecstatically happy again. I find joy in the smallest every day things, I feel loved and cherished by friends and family and my partner. I’ve accomplished a lot, personally and professionally.
Conversely, I still doubt myself from time to time – why I’m here on this planet at all, if what I’m doing is good enough, if I’m liked and respected for what I do. What, if any, value should I place on my time and my work. If I’m pretty or thin or charming enough, or why not. I hate to be so callous, but at the end of the day others’ opinions shouldn’t mean a damned thing – especially if they’re bringing you down instead of uplifting you.
Why am I thinking about all this now? Because, unfortunately, there is still unresolved bullshit that needs to be dealt with from this abusive relationship, and I am in the middle of some of it. So all of this is front and centre in my mind. I don’t generally like to get this personal or this detailed about my own life – but I want others to hear my voice.
Ultimately, I want others to know this: that you are not alone. That you are never so far in that you can’t get out. That anyone who doesn’t have YOUR happiness, safety and comfort first and foremost as a priority is not someone you should be associating with. Life does go on after leaving an abusive relationship, and it gets so much better. You deserve better.
I want to say this in closing: re-learn to recognize if you are in an unsafe situation. If you’re in a relationship with an abuser, GET OUT. Don’t wait. Report everything to the authorities and keep reporting until someone listens to you. You won’t regret having everything clearly documented, trust me.
My biggest problem is that I downplayed and I waited. I put someone else’s reputation and happiness above my own needs and mental state. Because I loved my ex, because I didn’t want to see him go to jail I didn’t immediately call the police when he physically attacked me. I intensely regret this choice now because it has caused me so much more heartache, stress, and time in court (to say the least.)
Feel free to pass this note around. I hope my experiences and heartfelt words are enough to save someone else in a similar situation.
For more information on domestic violence, visit: http://helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_types_signs_causes_effects.htm