The Painful Acceptance of Being An Abuse Victim

I watched a TED talk on why domestic violence victims don’t leave this morning. It was heart breaking, even though the talk was done in a neutral manner, with very little display of emotion.

My ex did not physically abuse me, but he threatened it and physically intimidated me at times. The way the verbal and emotional abuse was escalating before I left also had me worrying often about my safety in the house. I could not say for sure that he would not take the next step.

You may thus be wondering how a story of physical abuse affected me, when that is not my story. All the other elements that Leslie spoke about – isolation, gaslighting, love-bombing, idealization, devaluation, manipulation, soulmates and more – those were all present in my relationship.

One of my struggles has been accepting that I was subjected to abuse at all. There are days that I can see it and there are days that I just think that my ex is a prick with low to zero EQ and then there are the days where I hear someone make the comment that it takes two to tango and I think that I should have done more and tried more and loved more and, and, and. I blame myself for all of it.

The truth is that it does take two to tango. When you don’t set boundaries, when you don’t love yourself, when you don’t respect yourself, then you don’t walk away from this behaviour. However, people who have not experienced abuse personally, particularly from your beloved narcissist, will struggle to understand why you don’t leave and why you accept the abuse. You are even more conditioned to be in such a relationship if you have a parent who behaved in the same manner, as did I.

It only dawned on me last year that my mother is a narcissist and how she had, through her actions, perfectly groomed me for my relationship with my ex. Perfectly. I found a document I had written about her when I was in my twenties and before I met my ex. When I read that last year, my breath was taken away with the similarities in their patterns. And I see the same patterns in my elder sibling, even though the tendency in that case is for more passive-aggressive behaviour and it is diluted in comparison to our mother. But it is there.

It also struck me today how my body viscerally reacts to things. I watched the video and I was weeping in my room – as I could not deny this morning that it was an abusive relationship that I had been in – and the entire right side of my body started to tense up. My back had a faint ache and my hip too. I went to yoga and most of the postures that involved the right side being strong were difficult for me today. I initially thought that it was because I had not had sufficient sleep, but realised in fact that as I am right handed, my right side is stronger in many aspects. It takes the burden whether it is physical or emotional. The minute that I acknowledged that, my right side started to ease, the muscles stopped tensing and I started crying. Thank goodness it is a heated studio and therefore everyone is dripping with sweat, so it was not apparent that I was having an emotional moment.

It has been a long day. I have felt incredibly sad. I have desperately missed some of the important people in my life, wishing they were her to give me a hug and just sit with me. Conversation is not always necessary for comfort I have found. I have holed up and left my phone off the whole day. I have not faced people nor life. I have lain on the floor and the couch; I have stared at the ceiling; I have listened to cello music and clarinet music. I have drifted in and out of consciousness. And throughout, I have had to consider whether accepting that I was abused means that I was weak or inferior or stupid or lacking insight or a victim. And what does it mean to be a victim. In my head it is that I was weak. And weakness is unacceptable in me and in some degree, to me.

I don’t know the answer. I just know that I feel unbelievably sad and dysfunctional. Cue the Jameson’s.

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