With each day, month and year away from abuse and unhealthy toxic relationships I feel myself step away a little from the woman I was. Moulded by him, pliable and malleable. Resistance eroded away by years of abuse and coercive control. With every day away from that environment I’ve taken fairy steps towards the ‘real’ me.
For years and years I had it in my head that to be fully recovered would mean returning back to the person I was before the abuse. That was my goal, that’d be the end point when I knew that I’d come out the other side. I was frustrated with myself because I just couldn’t get back to being the woman I was before him.
It’s taken me a while to realise that this is an unachievable goal. The woman I was before him was a teenager, she wasn’t a mother, she was naive and vulnerable. I could never expect to get back to that. I wouldn’t want to.
The brutal fact is abuse changed me. Recovering from it changed me even more and not necessarily for the worse. Moving away from being the woman he made me into doesn’t mean going backwards but forwards I’ve finally realised. It’s about finding who the real me is and embracing and nurturing her.
For years and years during the abusive relationship and even afterwards I spent so long trying not to draw attention to myself. Making myself as small as I could be, taking up the least space I possibly could, staying silent so as not to say the wrong thing. Repressing all the characteristics that make me who I am so as not to annoy or irritate him. When you are in that kind of relationship you attempt to turn yourself into the person he wants you to be. The person that will keep him calm, that will pacify him, that will not irritate or annoy him. It’ll never work though. The person these men want you to be changes from day to day, hour by hour sometimes. Today being quiet may be what he wants, what will calm him as your stupid nonsense chattering winds him up. Tomorrow though, being quiet will be you being stuck up, thinking you’re better than him leading him to prove to you how worthless you are.
When I was living that life I wasn’t just not myself anymore. I wasn’t anyone. By the end I was numb, I had no opinions to voice, I’d given up on how I looked. I’d finally become and believed I was exactly what he said I was.
It’s taken longer than I ever expected to start to feel more like ‘me’. It’s been harder than I could’ve dreamed to like me. To embrace my quirks and flaws and mistakes and not let them cripple me. I suspect I’ll be discovering myself for a long time, maybe forever.
Right now though, today, I’m content with who I am. Being me makes me happy.
I’m opinionated and messy and clumsy. I spend a lot of my time daydreaming with my head in the clouds. I’m disorganised and absent minded and contradictory and irritating.
I’m me now though, I’m more ‘me’ than I’ve ever been and it’s an empowering, freeing feeling.