Hey, y’all, this post is entirely about emotional abuse. If that’s too much for you I totally get it, please take care of yourself, I’ll see you in the next one.
I’m not really sure how to ease gently into my point for this post, so I’m gonna go back to Journalism 101 and put the bottom line up front:
No matter what we think or feel, we are so much more than the consequences of our worst days.
This sentiment has become really, really important to me this afternoon as I’ve come very quickly to the realization that I need to get back to therapy. I went for a while in 2019 but I now realize I wasn’t ready then. After today I’m ready.
See, earlier today I had an idea for a blog post which I quickly turned into a tweet thread because I was afraid to write about it in this longer format. Well, I posted the thread, but I quickly deleted it because I was embarrassed and felt a weird shame about sharing it. I’m writing this now because there should be no shame in my experience. I did nothing wrong. So I’m putting the experience out there for real this time.
Here’s the gist of the tweet thread from today:
When I was 20-years-old I was trapped in a situation of extreme emotional abuse for just under six months. I was with the abuser 24/7 during that time and only escaped when I was transferred to work with someone else. In those months I was controlled, physically threatened, and made to truly believe, with no uncertainty whatsoever, that I was absolutely, totally, worthless. Those months stripped me of my identity and left me a shell of who I was before. It was the closest I have ever come to hell.
For some reason even writing those words feels dirty, like somehow like I’m attention seeking, or whining, or making a big deal out of nothing. But that’s not true. It’s almost 10 years later and those wounds are still fresh. I deal with the effects of those months in every moment of every day. So I’m writing this post.
Let’s pick back up from when I deleted the tweet thread this afternoon.
After I posted (and deleted) the thread, I felt terrible. My anxiety spiked through the roof, my depression threatened to drown me, and I was headed down a very dark road very quickly. But, then, sitting in my car during lunch, I saw this tweet by one of the few people who had had time to interact with my thread. I don’t know if it was directed specifically at me or if they just decided to share at that moment but, man, it was like looking in a mirror. A really scary mirror. Here it is:https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
I’ll admit it, when I first saw that picture I cried a little. Until that moment, when I had described my experience over those months to the two or three people I’ve ever told about it, I described it as “almost like an abusive relationship.” For years I had been either unwilling or unable to acknowledge — to myself, to others, out loud, or in private– just how bad the situation had been. But this picture somehow forced me to realize it hadn’t been “like” an abusive relationship, it was abusive. The relationship wasn’t romantic but it was, in reality, a relationship. And I had been abused. And that made me feel very, very small.
“Mentally Abused.” “Broken.” “Weak.” “Victim.” These words flooded my mind. “Is that really who I am?” “Am I some broken victim?” “Am I really that worthless?” For a few minutes I believed it. Those were a long few minutes.
But then I made myself look at the picture again, and a bright light burst through the gathering dark.
Suddenly, as I sat staring at all of my most hated personality traits collected in one picture, so many things became clear. For some reason, I could now clearly acknowledge the exact day I first experienced depression symptoms. Instantly I had clarity as to why I’m so terrified of conflict and why I always feel the need to apologize for things that aren’t my fault. These are things I have always known on some level, but for some reason I now understand them. I’m not weak, or a victim, or worthless, I was simply put in a terrible situation and now bear the scars of survival. And that understanding feels, well, not good, but better.
But I think the most important thing that has come out of today is that I’m suddenly able to connect again with the kid I was before those months. This realization that the negative effects of that time don’t have to be “just who I am now”, that there’s a reason for them, and that I can work (and I think it’s gonna be a LOT of work) to face and reduce them, gives me hope for the person I really want to get back to being. Because right now I feel like two different people –“before” Ian and “now” Ian– and I don’t like that. I want to just be me.
So, yeah. I don’t know why this all happened today, but I’m glad it did. And I want you to remember that, regardless of whether you’ve been through something similar or not, we are so much more than the consequences of our worst days. With work, patience, and more work, we can turn those terrible things into something that resembles a positive in our lives. Or at least that’s what I’m gonna try to do.
Thanks for reading, you’ve got this,