Hint: It isn’t pretty.
I was in an emotionally abusive relationship for just over 10 of the 43 years of my life.
Actually, scratch that. I’m still in that relationship. Because no matter what anyone else ever tells you, the relationship never ends if there are kids involved.
So for somewhere around 14 years now, I’ve been taking a bat to the skull several times a day, most days of the year.
Forget all that crap about no one being allowed to drive you crazy unless you hand them the keys. That is a complete denial theory.
It denies the tremendous strength the fear of an abuser holds over their victim, no matter how long they’ve been out of the picture.
It denies the power of an abuser to brainwash their victim — slowly, carefully, intentionally, and powerfully.
It denies the chemical reactions that take place in the biochemistry of a victim over time.
And so much more.
I fully understand why we want so badly to believe abusers don’t have that much strength. That much power. That the PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) they leave you reeling with is all in your head, and not clinically.
It’s a scary thought, right, to imagine that no matter how smart you are, or how secure and healthy your childhood, or how solid and clear a thinker you are, someone could actually sneak up on your good-natured, well-meaning spirit and sink their claws in so deep they tear through your muscle and burn through your neurochemistry before you even see it coming.
It’s a nightmare. I get it. Because I live it. Every god damn day.
The most brutal part of surviving this particular nightmare is that even when you wake up, you’re still in it.
Now you see clearly again, and you see yourself drowning, and you see how you got there, and you start to pull yourself out to rest on dry land — but you only ever get so far.
Because all of the swimming in muddy, filthy waters leaves you so, so tired. A tired you didn’t know existed.
So you close your eyes, just to rest them a bit. But when you sleep, you have nightmares about the nightmare, so you thank the universe and kiss the ground when you wake up.
Shouldn’t fall asleep again — too scary. Shouldn’t stay awake. Too tired.
You settle into a Theta state, somewhere in between the land of sleep and wake. Maybe the fog will serve as a refreshingly cool pillow.
But Theta sleep is weird, man.
You hear voices, but not like in a hallucination. You hear the voices of people you know, love and respect. They’re talking to you — for real. It’s totally real. But why are they being so mean? What exactly are they saying, and why?
You want to understand, and you want to stay prepared as you’re figuring it out, because what if they really are angry — or sarcastic, or rude, or passive-aggressive, or something?
What are they really like again?
In the middle of the confusion, the abuser pops in every now and then, just to remind you how worthless you are, and how you’ve totally destroyed your own life, and theirs.
You kick it away, because you know they’re a projecting, frothing personality disorder on steroids — but wait, what does that make you?
Wait. They shouldn’t make you anything. That’s what everyone says. But you spent so … freaking … long hearing them say it to you every single day.
You are nothing unless they make you something. Unless they allow you to be.
Nope. Totally not true. You know it. I know it. Your friends and family and kids and lovers and co-workers and all of the best people you’ve ever met know it.
Wake the f*ck up!
You do come awake. And you do come alive. And sometimes you swim the most beautiful breaststroke anyone ever did see.
You are glorious.
And you are tired.
And you are so sorry for not understanding your friends and your family and your kids and your lovers and co-workers and all of the best people you’ve ever met. And you tell them so. And you tell them you love them.
Another day passes. And it all starts again.
One day you’ll wake up for real. You’re sure of it.