Mental abuse has a way of changing your personality without you even realizing it. It’s subtle. When you get to the stage where you’re brave enough to leave, you realize all the damage that’s been done. When you were in the midst of being abused though, you couldn’t see it—not necessarily because you didn’t want to, but perhaps you simply hoped it would go away.
Now that you’re free, you find yourself still being trapped in it, unable to get out. It’s a daily reminder of what your life was like at one stage, even though you’re living a completely different version of it. In your mind, you’re still the same person. You re-live it every day. Certain things remind you of events that happened. Some days, they’re too much to deal with. Other days, you choose to ignore it.
At some point though, if you haven’t already, you will get tired of living the same life you did when you were mentally abused. The moment that happens, you will be ready to find the version of you that went missing in the process.
A wound that keeps oozing is both frustrating and painful.
It keeps no record of the number of times you’ve attempted to clean it or the amount of effort you’ve put in to get rid of the pus and nurture it so it can heal. An infected wound only knows about the amount of pus that still needs to come out.
To some extent, you blame yourself for putting yourself in the position of getting infected, even though in the back of your mind you know it was an accident. You couldn’t have known you’d get infected, nor could you possibly know the amount of time it takes to heal. All you know is that an infected wound hurts.
It’s an uncomfortably difficult pain to describe when you don’t understand half of it. It’s even more frustrating when you want to. You keep picking at it, trying to get to the root of it. Something keeps telling you that the more you pick at it, the more you’ll understand. The more you pick at it, the more pus will come out.
It’s not a pretty sight. You clean it with one eye closed, scared of what you might see. Your wound eventually forms a scab, but it only covers up what needs to be exposed in order to form a scar.
Scars, you may say, are unwanted entities.
No one wants them. They look unsightly. They remind you of events that were painful. However, a scar means the infection has dried out and the wound has healed. Scars are good. Others may look at you and judge you according to the size of your scars, even though they don’t know what caused them. Only you know the depth of the wound that formed your marks.
Often times, ripping off the scab that forms halfway through the healing process hurts more. You think you’re healing, only to realize you missed a spot when you attempted to clean the wound the first time, which infects it all over again.
They say that time heals all wounds.
That’s not true. If you don’t clean the wound properly, time becomes your enemy. Often, you need help with the cleaning process, but your ability to speak forms part of the wound. Using your voice becomes part of the pus, which makes asking for help near to impossible. You’re used to your voice having absolutely no meaning.
You often hear people say that you were in charge of giving it away, even though it happened without you realizing. It was so subtle. In actual fact, your voice was taken.
You weren’t strong enough to hold onto it. You were robbed of your voice when you were weak and helpless. As time went by, your voice formed part of the pus you’re trying so ever gently to squeeze out. As gently as you try though, the pain remains the same.
Having no voice robbed you of so many things. Your joy, your laughter and, most importantly, your ability to say no when you needed it most. Now, saying no, feels like a scab you’re ripping off each time, ducking and clinching at every possible outcome and being afraid of what no may bring.
Often times, the fear is so great that you’re reluctant to say no. Instead, you cling to what you know, that which feels safe, despite the fact that what feels safe is only infecting you more. You know it’s happening, yet you do it. Fear makes you do strange things. You’re not oblivious to it. You’re very intelligent. You know what’s happening, but you can’t stop it.
As you begin to find the courage to say no, your voice will tremble.
You will whisper it at first, scared to be heard. It will seem foreign to you. You will duck a few times expecting consequences. Consequences may come, but your scab would’ve been ripped off allowing it to dry out. This will give you the time to clean it properly.
You will be left with a scar, without a doubt, but you’ll be able to look back at it, touch it and feel no pain. The skin will be a little uneven, perhaps a little faded. However, the scar tissue will be softer than the surrounding areas. It’s there to remind you that the wound has healed, and to remind you to be more gentle with yourself and others. Be patient.
Scars are beautiful. You have a beautiful story to tell despite the pain you’ve had to endure. It’ll also remind you that we’re all fighting a battle we don’t always know about. Mostly, though, it’s a reminder that it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t know; you couldn’t have. It happened and you can’t change it, but you can learn from it. Perhaps you can even save someone else from forming an unnecessary scar.
At the end of the day, we go through certain things to enhance who we really are. Sometimes we need a little help getting there. It doesn’t make you weak. In fact, asking for help is a sign that you’re stronger than you once were, and once you’re left with a scar, you can either hide it or embrace it. You can be embarrassed by it or turn it into something beautiful. You can make it be heard because, truthfully, all your previous wound really wants is just to have a voice.
Do the things you once enjoyed.
Dancing, singing, writing, working out or traveling—the list goes on and on. Speak up for yourself, even if you’re scared. Discover your voice again. Talk about it. Allow yourself to cry it out. Finding yourself is never about reinventing and making a better, newer version of yourself. What you’ve been through has made you who you are today. It’s your choice, though, to let it control you another second longer. It doesn’t have to.
Chances are, those awful memories are in every file stored in your mind. They all link together. You meet someone new, and he may seem as if he has one or two of the same qualities as the person who abused you. It may be true, but they’re not the same people. They will never be the same. Things will happen, and you will need to make a conscious decision not to let it control your mind. Take it day by day. On the bad days, take it hour by hour.
The truth is, it did happen to you. It can never be undone. You may still be blaming yourself—I’ve been there. You may still be blaming him. At some point, you need to forgive him, but you never have to trust him again. You can bump into him and wish him well, but you don’t have to share a coffee with him ever again. That’s ok.
At the end of the day, your mind is controlled by you and only you. You don’t need to entertain the feelings that come with those memories any longer. You’ll never forget, but you’ll learn that you deserve to be happy. Whether you believe it or not at this moment, you will eventually.
And, when the moment comes where happiness knocks on your door and you’re too scared to open it in case you open the same door twice, remember: there are no guarantees that another version of him is not standing behind that door, but this time around you’ll know exactly how to shut the door in his face with style!