I have suffered many types of abuse at the hands of many people in my lifetime. I have been raped, beaten, mentally and emotionally battered. I have been lied to, cheated on, had my heart torn in two.
There is no doubt in my mind that the abuse I have endured has a direct correlation to my struggles with mental illness. Over the years, my depression has convinced me that I was worthless and broken, that nobody will ever truly love me, that I will never be good enough. When someone walks through life weighed down by so much negativity, any attention, any affection, feels like a miracle. I found myself settling for less than I deserved just to have someone there.
When I was a child, I suffered through abuse because I was too little, too afraid, felt too weak to do anything or change anything. As an adult, I’ve accepted so much abuse at the hands of people who swore they loved me, minimalizing it with such ridiculous justifications as “it isn’t that bad – it could be worse”, “it’s not like he hit me – I would never put up with that!” or “he didn’t really mean it – he’s just upset or having a bad day”.
The fact is, abuse is abuse. And all abuse is wrong. It doesn’t matter if they have laid their hands on me yet or not. And abuse tends to escalate. It starts out small. The more someone forgives, the more they are condoning. If an abuser believes they can hurt someone without consequence, they will not stop. I can tell you from experience that, over time, it only gets worse.
You said to me “I hate that you make me hurt you”. You pulled me in repeatedly, swearing you loved me and wanted to be with me, only to hurt me, shove me away and discard me again and again. You accused me of pushing you into hurting me by loving you back, by being confused by your actions, by not understanding what was going on whenever you threw me away.
Since you walked out of my life, I’ve seen this one saying appear again and again:
“Normal people don’t go around trying to destroy other people.”
There is so much truth in that statement. Normal people don’t. When someone intentionally tries to hurt someone else for no other reason than that they can, they are being abusive, whether or not they lay their hands on anyone else. Lashing out and trying to destroy a person, whether mentally, emotionally or physically, is abuse.
It is also abusive to blame the victim for the damage you inflict. Nobody asks to be hurt or have their heart broken. Nobody asks to be manipulated or mistreated. When you abuse someone else, you and you alone are to blame for your actions.
I write to the “last” person to abuse me because I have drawn my line in the sand. No more. No more abuse, no more lies, no more pain.
For years, I tolerated abuse because I didn’t believe I deserved any better. I accepted abuse because I thought any love, even a warped and unhealthy love, was better than nothing at all.
Things have changed. I have changed. I know now that my depression has been lying to me all these years. I have always believed that nobody deserves to be abused but somehow never added myself to the collective. I have since learned that I have just as much right to be treated well as everyone else.
I will no longer let anyone talk down to me or demean me. I will never again tolerate someone lying to me or cheating on me. I will no longer let anyone manipulate me with threats to withhold their affection if I do not comply with their demands. Most importantly, I will not take the blame for anyone else’s cruelty nor will I apologize ever again when I have done nothing wrong.
I have finally found someone who treats me well. He doesn’t mistreat or manipulate me. He is considerate with my feelings and gentle with my heart. Now that I have experienced what it is like to be loved and accepted unconditionally, to be treated with kindness and respect, I will never again settle for anything less.
I may struggle with my self-worth from time to time because of my depression. However, I will never again mistake attention for affection or accept abuse in lieu of love.
Republished on The Mighty on 2/28/18.