For those who don’t know, two years ago I made the soul-wrenchingly liberating decision to say “enough is enough, treat me like a human or this is over” to my abuser, who had been gaslighting, emotionally blackmailing, and belittling me – just to name a few – since childhood. My abuser then proceeded to throw a tantrum and call me a liar, a “nothing-without-him’ and told me that I was going to have a miserable life without his advice. How encouraging.
I was in the final year of my Master’s degree, in the full midst of procrastinating my dissertation, and knew I was losing out on a good chunk of financial support (did I mention financial abuse was involved too?) but I just knew: it was now or never.
The first year was ROUGH: I struggled with anxiety, a full-blown suicidal depression that really had me tethering on the edge, two major heartbreaks that had me questioning whether anyone could ever truly love me, or if my abuser was right about my inherent worthlessness. One person especially, whom I opened to about the darkest corners of my trauma and seemed to understand and cherish me despite it, ended up disappearing when I needed him the most. Losing them shattered me in a way I’d never felt before, and I seriously thought “this is it, I’ll never be able to love again, and I can’t trust anyone”.
BUT I submitted my dissertation and graduated university amongst my friends (still feeling like my heart was in shambles, but oh well), met my current partner, and after months of job-searching, landed work that would give all the Humanities graduates shamers something to chew on.
It’s now been two years. I won’t pretend that everything is sunshine and rainbows, because it isn’t. I don’t know what my path is, I feel stuck, my mind is constantly running wild with questions about my choices, the past, my identity, the future, how to give meaning to my life, and I should probably get myself to therapy. I’m still dealing with some things that happened last year and have only now found the strength to start letting go. But I have found it. I still feel fiery anger at my abuser for all that he did to me, and I feel sorry that he became the person he is, but I’ve also reached the point where I just think “it’s sad, but it is what it is”. And while my trauma still occupies a big part of my identity, I am starting to see it less as a reason to feel shame than as something that happened and is now part of me, but doesn’t influence that many of my decisions anymore.
It took me a while to trust my current partner, and a corner of my heart always has one foot out the door, ready to leave should things get sour. Another still feels permanently broken. But my heart has also had enough strength and love to go on to give a person a chance, even when I felt there was nothing left to give, let alone love. I’m very proud of myself for that. It’s led to the best and healthiest relationship of my entire life, with someone who’s shown commitment to me through thick and thin. For the little girl inside of me who thought she’d have to bend over backwards to even receive crumbs of love (if even), it’s a giant victory.
And after everything, I know that all this growth, and all this love (for others, for life, for myself) wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t taken this enormous leap of faith two years ago.