I have been in an abusive relationship for at least 20 years. It started slowly so I can’t quite pinpoint a date. It was emotional abuse. My abuser at times used cold, calculated words, and at other times erupted in a hateful anger. Always critical and picking at everything I did, every mistake I made.
The worst thing about my abuser was that I couldn’t escape. There was no possible way to run away because I was stuck in this relationship for life. My abuser wasn’t just in my head, my abuser was my head. My abuser was me.
“A house divided cannot stand.” I was a house divided because I hated my words, thoughts, and actions and at the same time wanted to protect and love myself. I thought I was giving myself tough love to make me smarter, stronger, and a better person. And of course, whatever you put in you comes out. So I was doing the same thing to the people around me…pressuring them with my “tough love”. This would inevitably make me feel bad for hurting someone who I cared about, and then the cycle of abuse against myself would begin again.
I can’t remember when it finally clicked for me that I was abusing myself. I think it was when I learned as a schoolteacher about bullying, resilience, and the signs of those who have had trauma. I realized that I exhibited both signs of being a bully and of being a victim of trauma. Yet I had no major traumas that I could name. And I had grown up attempting to protect others from bullying.
I had an ideal childhood…happy home, loving parents, all my needs were cared for. I do not come from poverty or prejudice. I have never been oppressed or shunned for anything from my background. So when did it happen? How did it happen? When did I start feeling the need to be perfect and beating myself up for it when I failed? I wasn’t even a perfect student or athlete. I was average in everything. It wasn’t like I had some status that I had to live up to. My parents always just said to do the best I could and that is enough. I wasn’t taught about an angry or judgmental God, just a loving, accepting one. You are probably wondering: what is your point? Only that it could happen to anyone.
Now my question is: Are you in an abusive relationship with yourself? If so, know that you are not alone and that awareness is the first step. Truly I am still catching myself thinking hurtful things because it has been habituated for so many years, but believe me, it is much better! A friend told me to speak to myself the way a loving a mother would. Imagining myself talking to my sweet little niece (since I have no kids of my own to imagine), has been so helpful. I think of the things I say to her when she makes a mistake or gets angry and is hurting. The gentleness that I now show myself has lifted a weight from my shoulders that I didn’t realize I had been carrying.
What are the words that you need to hear right now?
It’s going to be okay.
You are more than enough.
You are completely loved in this very moment.