Surviving abuse feels like a miracle. Over all, surviving my abusive marriage has been a wonderful, empowering experience. However, my recovery from domestic abuse hasn’t gone exactly as I thought it would. Some things have been downright crappy. This year, the happiness of surviving abuse is diminishing. The crappy is beginning to outweigh the happy. Surviving abuse is a beautiful accomplishment. Surviving recovery . . . well that’s what this story is about.
For the purposes of this blog post, the italicized him is that loathsome entity who wished to erase my soul. You know, the Abuse Demon, the presence that kills independent thinking and your soul. Okay, let’s not be overly dramatic. He, him, and all other italicized words refer to my ex abuser.
Surviving Abuse: #1 Crappy Experience
To Forget Or Not To Forget, and Do I Even Have a Choice
First on my list of crappy experiences after surviving abuse is the always present memory of him and how we acted together. (After Leaving Abuse: Memories of The Fantasy Relationship) I remember letting him lead me down The La-La Trail into his imaginary world where he was the omnipotent being.
I remember thinking he was everywhere (or, at least his friends who were tasked with keeping an eye on me were).
I remember his scoffing behind me as I wrote.
I remember the tremor of fear that went through me when his boots hit the floor, signalling that he was in for the night (believe it or not, I could tell what kind of night it would be by the sound his boots made as they fell).
I remember paying so much attention to him that I failed to pay attention to myself, and to an extent, failed to pay attention to my children.
Both of my boys have told me that their childhoods were “lonely”. My heart broke to hear that. I was a stay at home mom . . . I was right there . . . but they were lonely. My fear of what he would do next occupied so much of my brainpower that I couldn’t comprehend the relationship needs of my babies. If I have any life regrets, that is it.
I remember skipping down The La-La Trail not only because it was traumatic and my brain replays those movies at will, but because I am afraid to forget it. If I forget it, I might repeat it. Those memories are in the past, but omnipresent. He and our dysfunctional life together, are in the past. But the memories are also very much in my present. I wish they would just go away.
I want new memories, but making good ones seems to carry a 50-50 chance of being compared to the memories I made with him. I eagerly await the day when there’s enough time between me and him that memories of him don’t intrude on my present.
Surviving Abuse: #2 Crappy Experience
Paranoia And Driving Away Good Men
Second on my list of crappy things that happened after abuse involves my paranoia combined with the fact I know I’m paranoid.
Once upon a time before him, I had a wonderful boyfriend to whom I compared all others. I could hold up a new boyfriend to the old one and give a thumbs up or down pretty easily. But my ex passed that test with flying colors (at first); later on I was too invested to dig my way out.
And the really sorry thing is that I had a chance to reunite with the model boyfriend, but turned it down because I was already afraid of what he might do to me. Existing in abuse with him robbed me of that high standard and replaced it with a paranoid comparison between men and him.
Today, instead of focusing on a man’s positive qualities, I listen intently for his mistakes. (Was that verbal abuse? Did he just dis me on purpose? Is he emotionally abusing me? his kids? his dog? Does killing a fly mean he abuses animals? Is there evidence that he’ll turn on me later?) It’s enough to make me crazy, and probably doesn’t do too much good for someone who might like me.
And, to top it off, I can’t keep my mouth shut about abuse. I talk about it all the time. Not my abuse, but domestic violence in general. I’m an encyclopedia of domestic abuse, every word I’ve read burned passionately on my insides. I feel like The Abuse Monitor, jotting down names and keeping track of demerits that could get you kicked off the bus.
But, on the other hand, I’ve learned to ask more questions like, “Do you mean that you think I’m stupid because …?” Directly confronting my paranoia (a.k.a. possible abuse) helps. A lot. Abusers aren’t used to being called on their crap and typically answer sarcastically, and non-abusers look befuddled before saying anything.
Surviving Abuse: # 3 Crappy Experience
Avoiding Relationship Abuse Doesn’t Mean I Can Avoid Substance Abusers
Number three on my list of crappy things is learning that avoiding abuse did not help me avoid substance abusers. Substance abusers, if you haven’t noticed, are emotional roller coasters that will not stop to let you off no matter how much you beg. (Effects of Substance Abuse on Family Members) You simply have to jump off and hope you land on your feet. Which, this year, I did not. I landed on my heart and there’s a huge goose egg on it.
The friend who broke my heart into little bitty pieces didn’t do it because he wanted to control me. He did it because he relapsed into his addiction. And really, I broke my heart more than he did because I’m the one who chose to walk away. The emotional roller coaster looping around substance abuse is different from the one encircling domestic violence. The only thing they have in common is the possibility of losing myself either on The La-La Trail of relationship abuse or in the pit of substance codependency.
But at the end of the crap, I must remember that surviving abuse is my super power. I left my abuser and found a healthier life; I’ll never ever regret leaving. Although surviving abuse and then leaving it carries its own type of trouble, I’d rather live the life I’m creating for me than the life he wanted to create for me.
*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.