I always found myself walking on eggshells, careful not to upset him. You can never do anything right. You’re pathetic. You made me do this. How many times did I shudder when he lifted his arms above my head? I constantly found myself gasping for breath as I cried helplessly for hours, but how many times did he fall asleep to the sound of me hyperventilating? There were so many nights I found myself talking to myself. “How did I let this happen? How did I ever become one of those women?”
How many panic attacks did I endure after all those regular assaults? How many times did I hear that it was my fault? Every morning I’d get up and look in the mirror and never once recognized myself. I had so much hate for that broken woman staring back at me. How could she let this happen? How many times had she swore she’d tell someone, but believe him when he said he was sorry and that he loved her?
I believed his attacks were out of love. By hurting me, he showed he loved me. Maybe he just cared so deeply that his emotions were out of control and he couldn’t control himself. Then there was the day it went too far. The attacks went from physical, to sexual. I thought my life was over. I knew right from wrong. I knew what I had to do, but I was scared. The minute that happened, I swore I was going to leave. But truth is, I couldn’t.
Months pass by. My family was falling apart, I hated myself more than anything. I relapsed time after time. I considered suicide on a regular basis. I became his loyal servant. Come home – take his boots off. Cook dinner – make his plate. When everyone turned in and turned out the lights, I knew the position I had to take. For months I endured hell, all while putting on a smile and acting like I was perfectly fine.
When it was over, I wasn’t allowed to mourn him. How was I to know that love, hate, comfort and fear could coexist? How could I explain to people that I not only lost my abuser, but my companion? How do you explain it to yourself? How can you possibly miss someone who made your life a living hell for five long months?
There are still times when I remember tender moments and ask myself if it really was all that bad. If I just somehow exaggerated everything and made something out of nothing. I still struggle with understanding how he could love me to tears, but yet hurt me as if I was an enemy. I’m a child again. I’m slowly learning to redefine the borders of normal and toxic behaviors. I constantly have to remind myself that acts of violence can never be acts of love.
I now see my own reflection in other women who have dealt with and beat such darkness. All the women who are so courageous who finally realized that they are not alone and deserve so much more. And in myself, in my story, knowing that others were where I was not long ago makes the shame dissipate. I have learned to accept that both the love and the abuse existed and thus has allowed me to forgive myself. I realized that you are not what happened to you, but rather what you take from it. Bad things happen to good people and we may never know the reason, but just because you feel you deserve it doesn’t mean it is true.