I’ve spoken on this blog about how I’m really recently feeling that I’m finally close to recovering from the domestic abuse I suffered. It’s taken longer than I expected but I’m here. Out the other side. A little battle scarred certainly but so very close to healed.
I’ve also spoken about how psychological and emotional abuse damaged me way beyond anything physical could. When you’re hit or kicked or bitten it’s a clear act. You are very aware in that moment it is happening to you . Psychological abuse isn’t so clear cut and there lies its strength. I still feel though that I’m recovered from so much of the damage inflicted on me mentally.
I really do.
I feel strong.
He gave his absolute all to stifle and trample and break me. He didn’t succeed.
There’s one area though I’m beginning to realise I might always struggle with. I still now have a desperate need to be believed. I wrote here about that. I want to shake it but I can’t. I crave everyone who has ever doubted me to look at me and say they believe me. I know how ridiculous that is, because who are those people? his friends? his family? him ? This will never happen and I need to bury it.
Still, after all these years, the effects of the gaslighting he did remains the final obstacle in my ability to truly feel healed.
If you’re not familiar with the term gaslighting, it’s the systematic manipulation of a person to the point that they doubt their own memories, their own sanity. The term comes from a play in which a husband employs these tactics on his wife. He creeps up to the attic to tamper with the gaslight causing the lights in the house to dim. When his wife mentions the lights to him he tells her they are exactly the same as always, she must be imagining things. He continues to manipulate her environment, making her believe she is go insane.
It’s a classic abuse tactic of a narcissist and it’s so incredibly effective. Gradually convince a woman she is going insane, causing her to demonstrate symptoms of stress and anxiety that’ll portray a fragile mental health then tell the world she’s crazy. Job. Done.
My abuser used these tactics too. He’d actually ask me where I’d gotten the split lip or bruised face that he had inflicted. I’d be left trying to get him to believe my side of the story. How messed up is that? We were both there he knew exactly what had gone on, yet he questioned my version making me feel like my grip on reality was screwed. He once took off my engagement ring whilst I was sleeping then told me I must have been taking it off to have affairs. I ended up believing I had taken it off at some point and lost it. I believed that to be true. A few months after I left he sent a package of some of the kids things. My ring was in there.
I was a gift to him really. I held all the personality traits that made up the perfect victim of this kind of abuse.
I was a people pleaser – I liked being liked.
I was someone who sought approval. My self confidence wasn’t great I needed outside approval that I was getting things right.
I hated vagueness and uncertainty to the point it triggers my anxiety.
So now years later. Stronger, calmer, unafraid. There is still a tiny bit, the final bit, of the metaphorical scar that he left me with that won’t quite heal. The thing is, those personality traits I had I still possess. I’m still a bloody people pleaser, uncertainty is a massive anxiety trigger.
I worry I’m then still wide open to manipulation. Add to this the fact that being around abusive men has made me doubt my own sense of judgement of character and you can understand my problem.
The positive is at least I’m aware now. I wasn’t before. Also thanks to doing the Freedom Programme I can spot early warning signs of an abusive man.
The doubt lingers though which is a shame, because then when a lovely guy presents himself, when he aces The Boyfriend List, when there isn’t the slightest hint of of a red flag in his behaviour – the absolute opposite in fact I still can’t quite trust my judgement and dive in.
You know what though? I think it’s OK to feel this way. Abuse stays with a person. It makes you a little more wary, a little less willing to dive in. I’ve stuck a toe in the water though and it felt amazing.. so let’s stick to slow tiny babysteps rather than huge leaps.
Besides, didn’t I always say Mr Perfect would have the patience of a Saint? ?