I was reading one of Shannon Colleary’s posts yesterday where she commented that people who’ve been abused either become abusers themselves or enter into abusive relationships where they become victims again.
I agree that both of these things can happen, and do happen.
I have not been the abuser in any relationship, but I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of abuse as an adult because of my childhood.
As a child you get used to the pattern of abuse, which is repeated over time so often that it feels comfortable, in a sick way.
For me it was all about very inconsistent attention. My mother could be loving at certain times and then turn on me quickly and scream and bully me and put me down. Then the cycle would turn to neglect and disdain. She’d treat me as if I were completely inconvenient and I had no right to a personality or opinion of my own. This pattern repeated for several years, and I’ve certainly seen that pattern in my adult relationships.
My two ex-husbands played that scenario out each in their own yucky, cruel and messed up way.
But I haven’t only been in abusive relationships. I have had boyfriends who treated me well too.
And, I think that’s a VERY important point. HUGE in fact!
Just because you’ve been abused as a child that doesn’t mean your only two choices are being an abuser or being abused–thank the Lord above for that!
And I’ve asked myself why I was able to have those healthier relationships when I did.
A VERY BIG part of it was my self-esteem and where I was inside myself. I can’t emphasize this enough. I know it may sound cliche, but it REALLY isn’t at all!
When I was happy with myself and treating myself with respect, I expected to be treated that way by others. So I attracted men who acted out my expectations.
But when I was unhappy, depressed and not respecting myself, I attracted men who treated me the way I was treating myself. And this is really key.
You’ve likely heard “Do to others as you would have them do to you” from Luke 6:31, which basically means you must give out what you want to receive, and it’s so true. And you can’t lie about it because your energy won’t lie.
Even if you pretend to be happy and respect yourself, your energy can’t pretend, it will give off the “She’s faking it folks” vibe, and you’ll meet people who will treat you like the dirt you feel like, unfortunately.
That’s what karma is all about. But at least we do have some control.
As women, we weren’t raised to put ourselves first or look after ourselves well. In a patriarchal society men get the looking after. Damn them!
But, we can look after ourselves, it just takes very conscious effort and a lot of love on our part.
When my relationships have been good, I’ve loved myself before I met the man. When they’ve been bad, I haven’t.
It’s the loving yourself that’s the hard part.
How do you love yourself when you feel completely unlovable?
Well, with a lot of hard work.
It took a breakdown two years ago to help me find that love I had for myself in times past.
I had to look for it, and nurture it and really, truly be honest with myself about who I am.
And I had to lose the abusive second marriage and the job that wasn’t feeding my soul.
I had to really listen to what my heart was telling me because I knew what it felt like to lose my mind, and I was determined not to lose it again!
When I was depressed I felt so disconnected from myself, and everyone else, it was like I had a creeping monster inside of me trying to swallow me up. I remember the sensation of it moving up the back of my neck. It was the most horrifying feeling I’ve ever felt. My brain was totally off kilter. It was spinning at a million miles an hour. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat. I was exhausted from the inside out. I even had reduced oxygen coming into my body. I was really fucked up.
After I started the anti-depressants and started going to see my amazing psychologist my brain and body slowly started coming back together. And I promised myself I would never disrespect myself so much again that I felt like that.
I’m not saying it was all my fault, not at all! But I knew I had some control over my depression, some power over my state of mind.
And I was SO right. I could choose above all else to truly love myself. And I did and I have, and it’s changed EVERYTHING!
And when I feel that love waning or turning to self-loathing even a little bit, I stop. I look around literally and metaphorically and I see, I truly see, what’s causing the old beliefs to creep back into my psyche. And I listen to them and I nurture them and I love them back into the woman I am, and not the vulnerable little girl I was.
It’s a journey, not a destination. And I work at it every day.
And it’s SO worth it!