I was once in that bleak place. A place where sense of self was gradually whittled away and where self confidence was eroded to a point where simply functioning was a chore. That pit of despair where an existence took the place of a life. Where eggshells were underfoot and fear was a constant companion. I know my fellow survivors understand that feeling and that they know that place too well. They can understand that climbing out of that dark place seemed impossible when the light was constantly blanketed … The flame constantly doused by an abuser. That awful parasitic being who tried to fill their own emptiness by sucking the joy, happiness and life from you – you were their supply. They were a hollow shell masquerading as a human being – the term for their own brand of mess is NPD. No chance of changing. No conscience. No empathy. An actor imitating other people’s emotions. They wreak their own special kind of destruction then move on to their next supply … All the time blaming their last victim for the havoc that they wrought. Telling the world about the injustices they have suffered and conveniently leaving out their abuse. Selling the same lies over and over again. Coming to terms with that can be hard. Not responding. Not acknowledging. No chance of closure. Moving on without it because that is the only way to get healthy again. There is no closure with a narcissist. Responding would only bring on a new round of bullshit. It is not worth it.
Even after you are free, the weight of that abuse can hold you down and be an anchor around your very soul. The numbness and hollow feeling after being drained by that emotional vampire is hard to recover from. The damage may seem permanent – irreparable. I can tell you … It isn’t. Hang in there. It does get better. Please believe me. Do not allow that person who did their best to destroy you succeed. As hard as they tried, you are stronger. You are braver. Their emptiness is not yours. You have what they can never have, what was impossible while living in that hell – A chance at being happy. A life. You can take away their power over you by moving forward and living YOUR life well. One day at a time at first, and on some days, it may seem like one breath at a time … but some time in the future you will again feel what a precious gift life is. That you are free of the shackles and to make the most of the short time we have, as there may be no tomorrow. Anger has a place. Tears have a place. Sorrow has a place. Healing has a place too. I am no longer angry. Why? I decided one day, when that fog had lifted enough for me to see a tomorrow, that if I were to die that day that I did not want anger to be the last thing I feel. I did not want it to be sorrow, resentment, hurt or hate either. I did not want those negative emotions to own me. I felt all of those things. They were necessary. The important thing for me was that I did not want those things to be ALL that I felt. I wanted joy, I wanted hope, I wanted happiness. I wanted to feel happy in my own skin again. To let those wounds heal rather than fester.
My words to my fellow survivors are simple. Let yourself heal. Let yourself grieve. Let yourself really feel again. Not just the awful stuff they left behind, but all of the other wonderful things you are capable of. Those good feelings are there inside you. They may be tamped down and hidden. The fire that once was, may now just be a tiny single ember. You may be scared to give that ember air and fuel – to feel anything – because the pain you have suffered has made you believe that is all there is. It isn’t. Please do not let your abuser have that power over you. Do not let the damage they did own you. Do not let them own you.
– To let you know it is possible I will share my story –
I have come so far in the last five months. In the beginning I felt the hurt, the numbness, the betrayal, the anger, the complete despair, and worse, the loss of identity. I had no desire to do anything, to engage with the world in any way. I felt broken beyond repair. Each day was a blur and I was simply going through the motions. I was co-dependent and my addiction to an unhealthy relationship had nearly killed me. Even after I finally walked away from it the damage seemed like it had destroyed the living me and left behind a walking corpse. I pushed on each day. Barely. My daughter. My family. Good friends. Willpower. Stubbornness. A good therapist … A sliver of hope. Those were the things kept me going. Slowly. Gradually. Things improved. I forced myself to believe that they would keep improving. I marked the days off – days I survived, I focused on doing one good thing for me each day. If I reached 7 days I celebrated. As I did that, each morning it became easier to believe that good things would continue – those daily reminders, that focus on life and the good things broke me out of the emotional prison I had been living in. At 30 days I looked at the list (written in sharpie on my mirror) and realised that now I didn’t have to remind myself – life is good. Not always easy – but good. That horrible less than half life of living with an abuser was not for me and was not going to be my story. I adhered to “No Contact” (which was also written on my mirror) and took back MY life. It felt powerful then … It still does now.
Four months ago I relocated in my job. To make a new start. To move so that I could not run into the abuser. To start on that road to recovery. A good opportunity. A change. It helped. My confidence increased. The fog of day to day “going through the motions” began to lift ever so slowly. I missed my old work mates but loved the new environment and met a whole new group who I enjoyed working with. Enjoying work again was a huge step in my recovery. One small step that felt like a giant leap – not a moon landing, but my own personal significant event. At the same time I also set my sights on getting a new job. I applied for a few roles and went through interviews. That was also a confidence building exercise. To look at what I had achieved, adjust my sights on what I could achieve and to aim for a better role. I landed a job I really wanted. That felt pretty good. One with a challenge. One with a future. Before I started in the new job I embarked on something else – I travelled with my sisters.
My family have suffered losses in the last five years – death has robbed us in a cruel way and left a raw wound for all of us. These days – I hug my daughter tighter. I treasure my remaining siblings more. I am so grateful for my friends. Our differences are not as great as the things we share. A trip to Broome with two of my sisters, and then visiting my other sister in Sydney was just the beginning. In Western Australia my sister Wendy etched these words in the sand: “Ohana is forever” Ohana is Family – The quote is a reference from “Lilo & Stitch”. Forever … Nothing actually is forever, as we have learned, but our bonds and love we share is as close to forever as we get in the finite time we have. More trips, more shared experiences – that is the future.
The present – I started my new job a month ago and I absolutely love it. The challenge, instead of tiring me, has me energised and wanting to learn. Wanting to grow. To have that aspect of my life be as fulfilling as I know it can be. It is right now. The other aspects of my life are recovering too. I am happy with my life. That desire to get out and do things is back and my enthusiasm has returned. I am happy with myself – in my own skin. I don’t need to write on my mirror each day, but I will still take time each morning and each night to be thankful for my life now that I am free. I have plans. I have a bucket list. I have set myself new goals. The dead eyed look of a year ago is gone. My smile is real – from my soul – it shows in the eyes. Not the sad eyes and half smile that was hiding the pain and misery of what my life behind closed doors was. I have four days off coming up and my daughter and I are going away together. A mini break. I have the freedom to do that now and I will. We will. At Easter I have Bluesfest. Some time at the end of next year it will be a trip on The Ghan. Another Sister trip. A full family trip is on the horizon too. Then the little getaways in between. New job. New freedom. It feels like a new life. It is. I now understand the powerful symbolism of the Phoenix. Reborn from the ashes of destruction. Not just a survivor – a powerful and beautiful new beginning. I am sure I will stumble and fall on occasion. I am sure I will have bad days. I have had plenty of those. We all have. I am also sure there are those better days. Ones that would not have been possible whilst being a human emotion donor to an empty pit. It is never too late to close one chapter or one whole book and start writing your own story over again. My fellow survivors. I made a promise to me and I promise you … It does get better