I have alluded many times before to the fact that I was in a very bad, very abusive relationship for a long time when I was a young(er) adult. I have wanted to tackle it through my writing so many times in the past, but it has always been a daunting task. I have journals full of entries during those years of my life and going back to read through them was always painful. It’s something I avoided doing for years, because I did not want to reopen those wounds. I knew I wasn’t ready and I didn’t want to be reminded of the pain, confusion, and anguish I suffered through for so many years, so they sat in a box untouched. A couple of years after the relationship ended, once I had moved on and thought I healed, I gave reading through them another shot. At that time, I was just embarrassed at the things I wrote because I wasn’t finished beating myself up over ending up in that situation. I was disgusted with myself, cringing at all of the lies I told myself to survive, beating myself up over how stupid I was to end up in an abusive relationship. Me? Strong, determined, independent Hannah had let herself be played like that by someone else? I told myself that as much as I’d like to share what I had gone through, I could never expose the inner workings of my brain during such a vulnerable time in my life. So back to the box they went, to quell my anxieties and again sit untouched.
I have recently started to read through them again, knowing that I am at a place in my life where I have learned what led me there, truly healed, and grown from those experiences. Now as I read my old journals, I am seeing them in a new light. I’m not brought back to that place of trauma, I’m not embarrassed about what I went through – I am able to view my past self and experiences from a place of love, compassion, and understanding. Now it hurts to read not because I’m reliving it, but because I can read between the lines of what I was constantly trying to convince myself; that everything was okay. I can understand that no matter how much I tried to convince myself even in my own writing, I knew all along that I was in a horrible situation. I just couldn’t find my way out. I had to write this piece while reading through an entry of mine from January 28, 2015 titled “Is Love Enough?” I stopped in my tracks when I read this excerpt:
“I know love isn’t a feeling. Love is a decision. Love is compromise. But how much compromise? Sure you gain a lot from love, but you’re not supposed to lose more than you gain. But I’m scared that I am. Is that normal? Not that I’ve ever been concerned with normal, but I feel as though if you can’t talk about the future, there is no future. So is love enough? The decision to love, and to stay in love, and to compromise – does all of that mean you are gaining tenfold what you’re losing? If the answer is no, run. Be courageous and run. No matter how bad it hurts. No matter how much you want to turn around. Because loving someone else is NEVER worth losing yourself. I guess the questions I have to ask myself are: is this love a love to make that decision for? Is the decision to love worth what I’ll lose? Is the future truly going to come by loving alone? I’m not sure the answers to these questions yet. All I have to say for now is, I hope so. I’d like to think that love like this is worth fighting and compromising for. I hope that love is enough to make it. I hope all you need is love. But if I decide it’s not, I hope I can be brave. I hope I get ten seconds of insane courage to run the other direction. I hope that if I go down that path there will be no regrets, no what-ifs, no looking back. I hope I can be strong enough to be selfish in that situation. I hope I don’t have animosity, only positive thoughts and feelings. In reality though, I know I can’t go down that path.”
I got chills when I read that entry because it’s so clear to me now that deep down I knew the gravity of my situation back then. I knew that I wasn’t happy, that I wasn’t being provided with the love or respect I deserved, that there might be something better out there for me. I knew that I was doing most, if not all of the compromising. Compromising bits of myself for the relationship, compromising who I was to fit the mold of what he demanded, compromising the respect I knew I deserved. I always knew. But I was trapped. I was stuck because I had been lied to and manipulated and gaslighted again and again and again and my abuser knew he had weaved his way into the way my brain worked. He knew that even in my moments of solitude and clarity that I would talk myself out of leaving. Just like I did on January 28, 2015, and so many times before and after that. The grip he had on me was clear – then and now – but only now can I appreciate the beauty of what exists on the other side of that ten seconds of insane courage. It would be another year or so until I worked up that courage; another year of entries that get darker and darker with each turned page. Instead of being scared of those entries I am going to embrace them, because they are quite literally my story. Without those stories I wouldn’t be who or where I am today. By sharing those stories I am hopeful that I can convey how covert yet devastating abuse can be, continue to forgive myself, and connect with anyone who has survived the same. In closing, here are some beautiful words of wisdom that motivated me through the healing process: “You survived the abuse. You are going to survive the recovery.”