Thursday, January 5, 2017

On Bravery

If you haven't read it yet, at least skim my last post, otherwise a lot of this will make  zero sense to you. 

I want to address something important. While I keep hearing that I'm "brave" and "strong" for leaving my ex, I want to speak as a victim about what all of this bravery is, and where it started.

I started out brave. Like I said last time, I knew abuse at an early age. And I came out on top, stayed a good person, even make efforts every day to be that way. Even when it's hard, I try to do the right thing, do right by others, and help decrease Worldsuck, as some* would say. And despite seeing some of the worst of people, even having that aimed at me directly, I continue, to this day, to usually by default expect and see the best from them. 

So I was brave for trying. I've been hurt every time I attempted at even a chance at love before. When I first met  the person I discussed in my last post, I had no intention of letting him in. I had big, thick walls up, with trebuchets and a moat with a big goddamn dragon. I've talked about this before. Obviously, that post was before I met him.

I took a leap of faith, like what I talked about there, when I let him in. I was scared as Hell, but I did it. Because I was brave enough to try again. And you know what? It felt good, at least for a while. I'm reminded of a line from The Nightmare Before Christmas, "Well what the heck, I went and did my best, and my God I really tasted something swell. And for a moment, why I even touched the sky..." There were moments where I was flying, where I thought I'd die I was filled with such joy. I did feel safe, and loved, and beautiful. And I was happy. With myself for having taken a chance, with my situation, with him. And as I said in that last post, at least I was actually loved- I never doubted he loved me, which just made the bad parts hurt more. But I kept on, and hid it from the world, because of that love.

So I was brave in staying. It isn't just that I kept telling myself it (i.e. the abuse**) would never happen to me. I also cared for him, even in the middle of his worst outbursts. That Joan of Ark aspect of me... I know a part of me  wanted to help and save him. He didn't want to be saved, of course, but that didn't matter to me, not until I found my line again. I kept loving him, even though it was often hard. I hoped and prayed that maybe  my love for him would be enough, that he would see the damage he was doing to himself and us and me, and that he would then turn a new leaf, and we'd be happy more, I wouldn't be walking on eggshells.

But my love wasn't enough. I was a saint, but it wasn't enough. I comforted and forgave, but it wasn't enough. Belle was brave when she tamed the Beast; I was brave in trying, in holding him when he fell, in picking him up when he had finished crashing. I was brave for wiping his tears before my own. 

I was brave to start getting my own help. Therapy and mental health issues (not to mention medications for "head stuff") are so stigmatized, it's easy to feel like you're less of a person for going in and seeing a professional. I had known I needed help for a long time. I kept making excuses, but I eventually ran out of them when I was promoted to full time and thus had corporate benefits (as opposed to state). So I started going. And it was (and still is- my counselor is amazing) hard. It was brave for me to open up in that office. About the things that have been haunting me for years, say nothing of the relationship of focus, here. And as I said before, I was hoping I would eventually feel ready to get back in touch with my dad. I think a part of me also hoped that if my ex saw how much I was improving because I had and maintained a self-care plan that was working, he would want that  for himself, too. Naive, I know. 

And no, I wasn't stupid. I just hoped, because I believed in him. I wanted to, I needed to, otherwise what was the point of letting down those walls in the first place? I didn't want that risk I had taken to be for nothing.

I was brave to be as honest as I was with  the friend I talked about in the last post. I kept as much as I could hidden for a long time, but I know most, if not all, of my friends knew things weren't good with my partner and I. I was afraid to tell my friend what was going on, but I did it, trembling and crying. That's bravery. It's strength.

I was brave in telling the ex not to come home. In all of the time we had been together, during all of his tantrums, I had stood up to him maybe half a dozen times before, most of them being on behalf of my dog (because, as said, he would get unnecessarily and unwarentedly*** mean with her when he was grumpy). But I did it, I found my line, set it, and told him exactly what it was. It wasn't a request, I didn't downplay it (with something like, "I know this is going to be  hard/ I'm sorry but..." etc.). And it was so hard to do. My hands were trembling as I sent the text. And my chosen method being text may seem cowardly, but that I did it at all was huge. IS huge. And I knew that if I heard his voice, I would be weak and give in, lose that line, so I texted him. So sue me. That I told him an any way at all I didn't want to see him again that day was a HUGE act of bravery, yes. That's the main one everyone thinks about. But there's more.

I was brave somewhere in the middle there, when he was at the house the second night to get more stuff. At that point, I was still thinking it would be a break. And I was brave in two big ways then. First, when he was saying goodbye to my dog. It was like my heart was breaking again, as if it was possible, watching him kneel there as she gingerly licked his chin. She knew something was wrong, and the way his voice cracked... She's my kid, and he was her Daddy. It was as if I was getting a divorce, and my child was saying goodbye. Involuntarily, I jerked a little bit toward them. In a flash, I saw myself throwing my arms around both and having that be the end of the episode. But I didn't. I grabbed the counter, squeezed it so tight that my hands and forearms were sore the next day, and I didn't move. That was brave.

And then, as he hugged me goodbye, he said, "I've fucked up big time," I said, "Yep, you did. Now fix  it." I was brave for saying that. SO fucking brave. The older me would have taken some of the blame off of him, "No, honey, it's my fault, too, it's not just you." But it WAS all just him. And I knew he wanted that, wanted me to absolve him, at least partially, right there, because that's what I always did. But the difference this time was I saw it for what it was: manipulation. And I was brave for standing my ground in the face of it. 
It was hard, it hurt like Hell, but he left. No matter how badly I wanted to say it was okay, I didn't, and that's bravery. 

I was brave in finally saying the word "abuse" out loud. I didn't even mean to say it, it just came out, flowed naturally with where I was going when I was on the phone with him. And it clicked. It made sense. It gave me the momentum to be firmer. I was brave in standing by that, too, because of course, while he didn't say much to it then (it was the first day that happeend), he had all sorts of nasty comebacks  later about how I was overdramatizing it, how that wasn't what he was doing, he says  and does those things in anger, that's not abuse. But it is, it was, so I didn't back down, and that was brave. He was yelling at me while I was on the phone with him in my counselor's office (I really wouldn't have survived this without her, too), and I was brave for not letting him gaslight me, change the topic, change the goal posts during that conversation shouting match. 

And I've been brave for not asking his mom (whom I've needed to have some contact with for logistical reasons) or brother (still good friends with him and his girlfriend) where he is, if he's okay. Do I worry for and about him still? Absolutely. But I can't let myself go down that path. And the braver, stronger part of me is protecting the other side of me while she heals. 

But I want to clarify something, too.

I didn't stay out of weakness. I don't think anyone has even remotely implied that, except possibly me, maybe, here and in person. Because while in the middle of being emotionally and psychologically beaten down by my significant other, I became a better version of myself. I improved, against those odds. I do owe a lot of that to getting professional help, but as she told me, she's only helping me tap the resources I already have within me. So little did he know, even as he was wearing me down, I was building up. If that isn't strength, I don't know what is.

Also, it wasn't weakness, the falling for him, falling into his net. Like I said, it was brave to try. L
etting someone in, even if that person does end up hurting you (like all the rest, in my case) is brave.

Bravery can mean trying to save something because you thought it was worth it. And yes, it's admitting that thing isn't worth it anymore, giving it its proper name, and letting it go.

Love always comes with a risk. I took it. It got me down, but...

I'm getting better each day, like I said, but I'm not  brave enough to try again yet. I will, sooner or later. I still want a family of my own. I mean, my dog is great and all, but I want a husband and kids and the whole nine yards. Call me a traditionalist, but, well, there it is. 

And it's already brave for me to think about that future. I know I'm not ready to try for it again, no, but even being able to consider it again, in the face of what just happened to me, is brave. And someday, I still want to believe, that bravery will pay off, and I'll get what I want. I know I'm worth it, I know I deserve it, and for fuck's sake, I HAVE EARNED THE SHIT OUT OF A GOOD LIFE. Amirite?

You, right now.

So it'll happen. I'm still swimming through all of the emotions. But I'll take that brave step and open those gates again. 

*Nerdfighters, aw yeah!

**And again, let me say, I was never deliberately physically harmed. Sometimes intimidated, but he never hit me, pulled my hair, nothing like that.

***Totally just made that word up, yo.

1 comment:

  1. I love your optimistic nature. Even while on fire, it's absolutely much better to burn - while flying.
    Don't give in and above all, don't give up.