I thought about using this post to continue the story I’ve been sharing over the past couple of weeks. I wanted to show how I finally found my way out. How I finally gathered the strength and courage to leave my abusive marriage. How I rebuilt my life, and rose from the remains of my battered-self becoming a mighty warrior-woman. But then I’d be lying about the aftermath of abuse.
My first marriage was from 1995 to 1998. It’s been over 22 years since I got away from my first abuser. My second marriage was from 2008 to 2011. It’ll be 10 years in January since I left that abusive relationship. And here we are, heading towards 2021, and I’m still dealing with my past.
In 2017, I married a kind, loving, and compassionate man who would NEVER raise a hand to me or tear me down even jokingly. My husband treats me with respect 100% of the time, and is my best friend. He and my son love each other, and my husband is helping raise him as if he were his own. Our home is my happy place.
Even though I am safe and loved and respected, I still struggle with self-esteem issues. I still critique myself harshly. I still panic when I feel like I’m not meeting the standards I think people expect of me. I consistently wait for the other shoe to drop, for the sky to fall, or the earth to open up and swallow me whole. I live in constant fear of worst case scenarios. I can be my own worst enemy, and I have still been unable to forgive myself for some of the mistakes I’ve made.
Here’s the kicker: I didn’t even realize all this about myself until just a few weeks ago.
I thought since I’d forgiven my abusers, I had moved on. I figured it was settled, over, and done. I mean, my life has moved forward, I’m happy, and I rarely think about those times, so I’m good!
But when I start to scratch beneath the surface, I can see the storm still raging within me. All the issues I’ve had over the years, (my inability to sleep at night, a constant sense of fear, crumbling in stressful situations, depression, anxiety, anger, and many other problems) stem from the aftermath of abuse.
The effects of abuse don’t just stop when a victim gets away from the abuser. It remains ingrained in you. It becomes a part of you. It’s there under the surface, trickling in through cracks, threatening to rush in and drown you without a warning. Even if buried, it won’t be ignored.
Some real life examples: Being calm one minute, beating a laptop with your fist the next, because it won’t work faster, and you’re on a deadline.
Throwing clothes around the room, because you “have nothing to wear,” and with every outfit you put on, you can hear your coworkers talking to each other about the way you’re dressed today.
Being around people that you love, but then all of a sudden every noise is like a gun going off, your nerves are fried and if you don’t leave right then, you’re going to scream at your family/friends for absolutely no reason at all.
Slamming doors, because every room is a mess, and you need organization to function, but you’re a big part of why it’s messy in the first place, because you’re stretched too thin due to taking on too much, because you don’t want to let anyone down or make them mad at you, and you just want to be left alone and can’t breathe, and now you’re about to break!! Ahhhhhhh!!!!!
This is the reality for this survivor. ( I have to just pause here, and say how very grateful I am for the loving support of the family members who have seen me at my absolute worst, and loved me anyway.)
The aftermath of abuse manifests in so many other ways, too. Just to name a few: Drug &/or alcohol use. Promiscuity. Self mutilation. Dieting. Violence. Being a workaholic. Pushing others away when they get too close. It’s ugly and painful. It’s heartbreaking and infuriating. It’s not going away without being worked on and walked out by the one who experienced it.
Verbal abuse started for me in my teens, which is when I started dating my first husband. Since then, I’ve experienced emotional abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, and sexual abuse. Wow. Seeing it in print like that explains a lot as to the turmoil I’ve been dealing with for 30 damn years.
To say I have a lot of inner work to do would be a understatement. But thankfully, I’m in a safe and healthy home where I know I can do so without judgement or fear. Not every survivor is so lucky.