The ghost of emotional abuse caught up with me, again.
It continues to happen. In the strangest places. At work. At home. When I’m out with my partner. Somebody will say something to me, or look at me, or maybe I’ll smell something. Occasionally it will happen randomly. It’s like that feeling when you’re a child and you’ve been caught lying or doing something you shouldn’t, and your stomach sinks down below your feet. The feeling that you’ve done something wrong and you know you’re going to be punished. It is almost the same feeling, but it’s different.
It’s different because I didn’t do anything wrong that I should be punished for, but somehow it still feels like I did. It’s different because the pain is stabbing, but I don’t have any scars. It’s different because I left that part of my life behind.
It’s caused by the emotional abuse I endured for over a decade. From the times I was shamed for simply speaking. From the times I was told I’m fat. From the times I was called stuck-up. From the times I was accused of cheating. It was caused by the times intimate details were shared with strangers. It was caused by being held responsible for things completely out of my control. It was caused by being called a terrorist in my own home. It was caused in the countless threats of suicide, and murder-suicide. It was caused by years of not feeling safe in my own home, or even in my own head.
If you’re reading this, I hope you can’t relate. I hope you’ve never been in a situation where the relationship you’re in has broken down one your most basic needs of safety. I hope as you read this that when I describe the torture of being a victim of emotional abuse, it doesn’t resonate in your bones, or bring you to tears. I hope you have never wept at night worried that you and your children will never make it out alive. And mostly I hope that you never have to worry what will happen to your children if that person follows through with their threats, even after you’ve left.
Being a survivor of emotional abuse has continued to impact me, even 2.5 years after escaping it. While it is no longer part of my daily life, I still experience moments that remind me of a point in my life where I can vividly recall details of an argument. One was about marshmallow fluff. Another about 9/11. So many were about my success in school. Most recently, today, I was reminded of the moment when going to a family house-warming when I was told that everyone thinks I act like I am better than everyone. And I remember thinking to myself when it happened, even if I do act like I am better than everyone, the person who is supposed to love me should stick up for me and never say something that would crush my spirit like that. Then, I remember sitting alone crying during most of the party, except for a couple other kind souls, willing to help lift my spirit.
I’m not entirely sure why it came up today. Perhaps it was because he recently called me a bully. Perhaps it is because he continues to minimize me. Perhaps it is because I feel unsafe in my own home when I receive an auto-reply that he is driving after we argued over text messages. Perhaps it is because I know this will continue to happen because he will always be the other parent of my children. Or maybe, it’s because tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and despite how wonderful my partner is at showing me love, the holiday will always be haunted by a particularly bad argument that has rooted itself in my soul.
It took me a couple hours to recognize it for what it was. The pit in my stomach. The feeling that was grabbing onto my soul and crushing me. The sense that things weren’t going to be OK. When I was able to recognize the wave of emotions trying to drown me, I was able to find the surface. I could breathe again. I was able to identify the moment when I felt like that before and remind myself I wasn’t still living in that moment. I am now writing about it, as I release it.
I will always be a survivor. I know life gets better. I love my life. Even in the moments where the haunting from the emotional abuse kicks in, I know I am loved and I am valued. I know that I matter. And I know it will keep getting better.