Learning to Recover from Emotional Abuse: Things My Mother and Boyfriend Taught Me
My mother taught me that my body is not my own and that my consent means nothing to those around me. She taught me this when she forced me to hug my aunt and uncle goodbye even though I didn’t like them. She taught me this when she begged me to hug my grandmother even though touching others made me uncomfortable. She told me that I had to hug my grandma because she wouldn’t be around much longer (she proceeded to live for another 10 years). She taught me that my consent is not my own when she held me in a hug against my will when I was mad enough at her to scream curse words and slam doors. She taught me this when she touched my knee and I moved it away and she proceeded to slap my arm hard enough to leave a bruise because I was “ungrateful”. And because she taught me this, when 14 year old me told a 23 year old no, and he didn’t listen, I knew that it was normal. I knew that my “no” didn’t really mean no because my body was not mine and it was not my decision what happened to me. So even though I screamed no and cried and begged, he continued to rape me and leave me a broken mess. My mother taught me that rape is okay.
My boyfriend taught me that anything can be put back together with enough time love and care. My boyfriend held me close and put my shattered pieces back together, using his love as glue. My boyfriend taught me that it is not my fault that I was raped. My boyfriend was the one to wake me from countless nightmares and hold me close through every panic attack. My boyfriend was the one who I told my secrets and he held them with care and locked them away in his heart. My boyfriend taught me that not everyone believes the things my mother taught me. My boyfriend taught me what consent really means. He taught me this the first time we had sex, when he held me close and asked me if it was okay every step of the way, and when he tucked me into bed afterwards and kissed me goodnight… even though we weren’t even dating then. My boyfriend taught me how to love a broken heart.
My mother taught me that violence is the answer to everything. She taught me this when she slammed her hands on counters to emphasize her yelling. She taught me this when she slammed a door into my face in pursuit of my sister. She taught me this when she slapped my face in the middle of an argument and threw things at me in bouts of rage. She taught me this when she slapped my arm and pinched me and continuously hurt me in small ways for disobeying her. And when I was 15 and hated my life, and couldn’t figure out how to put myself back together, I took a blade to my wrists and legs and bled my way to numbness. The scars still mar my skin, because the only solace I could find from my raging mind was to break my skin and bleed my heart into the drain. And when my mother found out, she was more concerned with my crush on a girl than the wounds on my body. My mother taught me that it’s okay to cut yourself.
My boyfriend taught me that my scars only tell a story of abuse, a war I fought and won. My boyfriend taught me that violence should never be used against those you love, and if you hurt the ones you claim to love then it isn’t real love. He taught me this the first time I flinched away from him when he yelled at me, and instead of getting angrier, he held me close and apologized for scaring me. He taught me this when he kissed my scars and cursed my mother for instilling these beliefs in me. My boyfriend held me close and let me cry even when he was angry at me. He whispered kind words in my ears and we solved our problems peacefully. My boyfriend taught me that peace is better than war.
My mother taught me to hate my body. She taught me this by jumping from one fad diet to another, all while complaining about her how ugly or fat she was. She taught me this by staring at me in shock if I dared to leave the house without makeup. She taught me this when she shook her head when my doctor said I was too skinny and spent the rest of the ride home telling me how anything over 100lbs was fat. She taught me this by applauding my will power when I skipped breakfast or lunch. She taught me this when she congratulated me on my less than 80lb weight. She taught me this when stood in the mirror staring at her belly and squeezing the skin like it was some sort of monster she could kill with a disgusted look. She taught me this by constantly commenting on women around us and how ugly or fat they were. My mother taught me that it’s okay to starve yourself.
My boyfriend taught me to love my body. He taught me this with every compliment and stare down. He taught me this every time he rubbed my belly while telling me how much he loved it. He taught me this when he pounced on me the second I undressed myself and kissed me all over my body. He taught me that skin and fat are two different things and he taught me that the more weight I gain the bigger my boobs get… and who doesn’t love big boobs? My boyfriend taught me to love myself with every kiss and grab and he taught me with every meal prepared for me and every reminder to eat. He taught me this by congratulating me and celebrating with me when I finally hit 100lbs. My boyfriend taught me what healthy looks like.
With every hit, slap, comment, and word, my mother taught me that emotional abuse is just as real as physical abuse and hurts just as much. My mother taught me how to NOT raise a child, and for once… my boyfriend agrees.
Abuse is so much more than broken bones and bruised lips. My abuse ran deep inside my veins and devoured my brain until there was nothing left but its own burning rage. Emotional abuse screws you up to the point of self harm, and starvation. Even now when I have a happy relationship, a great job, and a dog I love beyond measures, my abuse still affects my every waking moment. I'm filled with anxiety and have panic attacks near daily. Some days just getting out of bed is a struggle due to depression and OCD. And I struggle with how I see food, weight, and my body. The idea that people look at emotional abuse and say its not real abuse is one of the most ignorant things I have ever heard.
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