Content Note: Aftermath of abuse, related feels
It’s been a while since I’ve written about my history with intimate partner violence. It was my first post for the blog and came at a very intense time in my life when I was still in the throes of working my way out of that relationship. A lot has happened since then. A lot of struggles, but a lot of good things. So many good things that I wrote a post about how I wanted to stop writing about the bad things. And by and large, that does reflect my focus now — going forward, trying not to look back. Taking each day for what it is.
But a lot of the things that I most appreciate about my life right now are things that I appreciate precisely because of the things I’ve been through — though let’s be clear, that is not to say that I am grateful for those events. If I could arrange to have not gone through those things, I very often think that I would choose to have not experienced them. Still, many of the things I’m currently so grateful for are tiny details whose significance makes no sense without the context of the things that came before them. So for this post, I’d like to share some of those small victories with you, dear disruptors, especially for those of you who are in an abusive relationship or who may have just left one. Or who have left one long ago, but still sometimes get those painful feelings tugging you back in a direction that you’re trying not to go.
The overall message I have is, hang in there. I can’t guarantee that things will get better, but I can say that for me they are, in little bursts and spurts. And I think that means that a better life is possible, even when it feels out of reach. So to focus on that hope, here are some of the small victories and accomplishments I’ve made since I finally asked Ken* to stop contacting me a few years ago.
1. I live independently now. I do not share my living space with anyone other than my beautiful furbabies. Living alone does not make me feel afraid or that I will be swallowed up whole by the empty space around me. Sometimes I feel lonely. When that happens, I call a friend, I hug my dog, and I watch a television show until it goes away. When I feel lonely, I no longer get urges to write Ken and ask him to please take me back. I no longer feel like the world is going to swallow me up when I am by myself. Sometimes I even like my own company.
2. I no longer feel like a screwup. My mental health has improved enough that I am able to hold down a regular job. I like my job, and I am good at it. I know where I want to go with it, and I’ve worked my butt off to get on track to get there.
3. I know now that my life has meaning, regardless of whether I get married or not, have children or not. If I don’t ever get married or have a partner ever again, I’d feel sad about that sometimes, but I would still enjoy life, adopt a kid or two, and probably several more furry creatures to share my home. And I know that I would be happy.
4. I am able to identify warning signs in potential partners on a conscious level. I’m able to acknowledge to myself, that person makes me uncomfortable.
5. I am starting to be able to act on those warning signs. Today, I said no to a man who asked for my phone number after behaving in ways that made me feel afraid. Yes, I tried to give him a soft no several times and failed. Yes, eventually I resorted to “sorry, I have a boyfriend.” But I still managed to say no.
6. I rarely have flashbacks anymore. Sometimes they still happen — but usually they don’t. I still feel sick when I read articles that remind me of what happened. Sometimes I still cry when remembering. I guess that’s part of being human. I’m okay with feeling that way, even though it hurts.
7. I’ve started finding people attractive again. I’ve started being able to imagine myself having a partner who makes me feel happy and loved, and who I enjoy making feel the same way. I love that.
Anyway, there are a lot of hard days. Today was one of them. This whole week was, if I’m being honest. But it’s still better than it ever has been. And I’ll take it.
*Not real name