To the man I almost married...
Building a relationship is like building a house. When we date, it is a lot like scanning through Zillow for our dream place.
When I met you, I was 19 and a single mom. I thought I had loved once before but it was nothing like the first night we hung out.
I had been left as a single mom at 17, after my high school boyfriend opted out of a contract to my heart and our child. Apparently, it was only written in crayon.
When I first met you, it was while hanging out with friends and setting 2 of them up to date. A college guy friend of mine confided in me that he had a crush on my other friend, so I took the obligation of organizing a get together, while also taking on my Aunts' offer to babysit my little toddler.
That evening, I anticipated pushing two people together through mutual jokes and bad movie premises.
Instead, you laughed at all my jokes and we ricocheted like magnets throughout the house and down to the playground on that street. I abandoned my mission, instead playing cat and mouse with a boy who was 2 years younger and a freshman at my school.
In community college, age and grade no longer mattered. None of the boys ever really noticed me anyways, because I was the girl with the baby. And all the young guys were terrified at the idea of a girl being pregnant or a mother.
Though I wore my teen mom badge with pride and I was one heck of a youth leader, I was not willing to risk my heart on another fuckboy who would abuse or abandon me like my ex did.
So I got your number but we texted as friends and we talked for weeks, meeting up on campus for lunch and walks. It felt nice having a companion, and even nicer being looked at in the eyes.
You would carry my books or walk me to class. You sat with me at lunch and met some of my friends. And you never crossed any lines. When we both felt ready, a few months into meeting, we kissed because we wanted to. And our relationship began.
In our first year you were a virgin, while my evidence of sex was 3 years old.
What once was a secret for only you to tell is now just a notch in a belt. It is important that these details get noted. Because each stone casted into the bucket of us grew heavier and heavier with time.
We had some differences but we were young and growing. From hobbies to preferences, place of worship and school majors. But those differences were little and not much to break us.
What did us in were the big differences. You were a natural introvert and I an extrovert, I was apparently a college do-gooder and you were building up to be a low-level drop out.
I spent over 4 years building a relationship, brick by brick. In a way, I feel I saw a fixer upper. A boy who was wholesome and safe, kind and quiet.
I could build a home with you, if i could find the right flooring and decor. I could make a roof DIY and we could be happy there, if only for a while.
I worked my butt off in college while raising my child. And I outgrew my fish tank, wanting to expand. I moved into a new campus and school.
You chose to visit once a week or once every other. And that was just fine.
They say all couples should be on their own for a while before moving in together.
I had priorities, goals, and a daughter. So I sheltered her and I made my own place in the world while you were a spectator.
But every time I laid 3 bricks, you took 2 away. You said they were not laid right.
Then one day you decided it was not enough to do drive bys. You wanted to build something with us. You declared it. And I obliged.
But something odd happened after that.
Every time I wanted to choose the layout, you said you did not know which was best. Or worse, you just shrugged.
I thought at one point we were going to make it. You had changed around your perspective after leaving school and work. You had taken the Gandhi time to figure out life. And suddenly stood taller.
You made promises to me. For us. And I believed them.
But again, a switch came soon after. Ghosted messages, days of not calling. Numbers with no names reaching out to you. And then your phone was always dead in your car.
You started to see my work and my dreams as a pointless, dead-end. You said I was going to spend money and time on things that will not matter.
You said my beliefs were based on no foundation and you mocked them. You mocked me.
Then I found you using social media as a front for racism and sexism, principals I was actively combating in an internship and double major in my final years at University.
All of a sudden you did not look like you anymore.
The boy I once knew, the magnet that pulled us close.. it all crumbled.
The house I picked was a shack. And I its' keeper. But you were no where to be found.
In fact, you were out living in your car. Both metaphorically and almost literally. You suddenly had a new idea.
You did not want a house at all.
You wanted to go cross country. In your truck. And it only fit one.
I'd like to say I am kidding. But I am not.
I realized I had been laying bricks for years, for a man who was stashing up side money [while I paid for all our dates] to buy a truck and drive the fuck out of my life.
The worst part was, you had cushioned up the truck and filled the passenger seat with another girl.
I will never forget the way you left me stranded. With no calls. No words. No thoughts for over two weeks.
You kept me busy telling me to pick out decorations while you packed up and left forever.
To the man I almost married, I want you to know this.
It is never the other girls' fault.
And there is never just one girl.
When you watch a woman fill a barren house and you smile as you walk away, you are fulfilling the image of you I always knew was true. I just had to be alone to finally see straight.
Please kiss me in the places I hate most.
I need that.
It is true my body is a transformer.
But my sexiness and my giggle are an endangered species.
I am supposed to love myself, adore my body, and be in charge of my own sexy.
But truth be told, you helped pave the way for my raw, erotic tigress. You unlocked her cage. And when you were not looking, I slipped the key in your pocket.
Maybe you know it or maybe you have yet to learn.
I feel most loved when you wrap your arms around me.
I feel most seen when we bare it all, just to roam around our room and do mindless chores.
Your heart is my home. And my body is mine, but it is also for you.
It is our garden to water and gaze at together.
I have blossomed up babies for our family. We grow our love, so far in 3. My babies are our babies, because my body grew all 3. And it does not matter what seeds were planted. In a blended family, all who blossom are loved.
My body is the place where I dwell.
Sometimes in sunshine and sometimes in clouds.
Each year, the crops might be different. I might change my curves or my expression. Some weeks on end you see vibrant hues of locks, and deep harvested eyes. It is wild here.
I chose you to tend to me. To caress me. To gaze. To visit now and again.
I chose you to remind me in the harsh winters that flowers always bloom again.
My body, it grows tired and restless sometimes. I might even tell you I wish my garden looked like those other ones.
The fresher ones.
The brighter ones.
But we all know the grass just "seems greener".
I am working on the way I feel about me. I adapt to my changes, but not at the speed I would like. It should be instantaneous, I think to myself.
I want to teach our kids to love their own bodies, while they are still young and believe us. Believe in magic and love. Before the world tells them we have to spray paint our garden in order to attract the bees.
I want to teach you to love yourself the way I see you. You are a Greek God in my eyes. Even while spilling salsa on your chest, in a midnight taco craving.
So, please. Kiss me here where my hips burst out of the leggings I had to beg and plead with to fit up over my cushioned belly.
Touch my stomach even though I squirm.
To show me you appreciate me and that I should too.
I love that you love me, that you share those tacos. That though we want to be fit and we hear the world selling us beautiful, our favorite place to sit is in the garden of our love.
The phrase "boys will be boys" perpetuated the sexual, physical, and emotional abuse I endured as a girl since I was just 6 years old.
That was the first time I heard those words after a boy pushed me down in the school yard, my face smashing into a metal picnic table and blackening my eye only two days before my first school play.
I heard it again in second grade, when a boy who claimed he had a crush on me pinned me down to the grown and bragged to his friends.
And again in 5th grade, when believe it or not, my first heartbreak happened after a boy told me he liked me too and then kissed my friend in the cafeteria.
In middle school, I crushed for many months on a friend in our "inner circle" who also had eyes for a friend of mine. He asked me advice and confided in me daily, knowing what I felt.
He led me one day to his basement and let me be more than friends, then asked our friend to be his girlfriend the next day. He strung me along for weeks, saying she did not feel the same. That is until he went too far at the park with me and then invited her to come join.
They announced their relationship [yes even at that age] and I pulled away. Until I was called on once again and he used the story to his advantage, to cut me off from that circle and rumor how easy I was.
For a long time after, I wanted nothing to do with my own body, nor did I want to date. Until a boy from a far town connected with me in a different way, emotionally and in friendship. We were together for months, just through phone calls and IM's. Until the day I got a phone call with his voice plus one, moaning and laughing to let me know we were done.
I was told I was just easy. I was not pretty enough. I was too needy or not needy enough. I was too far or too close. I answered the phone not enough or way too often. I was too thin or not thin enough. Too popular or a loser.
It was always me.
On my 14th birthday I was already burnt out from "love". As an only child, with abusive parents and being constantly neglected, I was very mature but emotionally deprived. I knew how to travel alone, pay bills, cook. I knew how to care for my body, read books constantly and even went to planned parenthood alone. I was not "dumb", but I was naive.
On my 14th birthday I was already burnt out from "love". As an only child, with abusive parents and being constantly neglected, I was very mature but emotionally deprived. I knew how to travel alone, pay bills, cook. I knew how to care for my body, read books constantly and even went to planned parenthood alone. I was not "dumb", but I was naive.
Shortly after, I met a man. An actual man. Who treated me like a princess. And was my worst nightmare. He treated me so badly I cannot even offer crumbs here in detail. But I endured it. "Boys will be boys".
And then I shriveled away. Until my best guy friend got tired of hearing me suffer and told me his feelings.
He wanted to be my knight. He wanted to write a story, no a series. And we did. Literally. We spent all our time together, bonding as only children with parents who have problems. And we wrote out stories, poems and creative fiction. Fiction.
Our story cut short when the main character became pregnant. And I became typecasted.
As it turns out, his family all backed him up.
"Boys will be boys". And I was told I made a choice no one else was willing to back up.
I learned for many years after that I was prey to this concept.
From cheating, to lying, to being manipulated.
Watching and hearing friends brag about their partners while on social media, but crying in bathrooms and leaving classroom chairs empty while they skip school to attend the clinic, too late after betrayal.
I kept seeking out better quality when I shopped, deciding I must have just settled before with what found me. Then I gave up, after the deepest connection I'd ever had led me to think he was the one, while he prepped my replacement for six months.
"Boys will be boys" said their mothers, their friends, their bosses, their professors, their ex's even. That is right. A few exs had exs who reached out to warn me, then like an addict whispered "he is still mine". Because they perpetuated abuse and missed getting their fix.
When I was told in the sonogram scan I was having a boy, all the blood rushed out of my face for a moment.
While my sweet husband cheered with a tear in his eye, I was mortified.
Speaking for myself, having a daughter as a single teen mom was a blessing. Being a girl and enduring so much made me feel ready and eager to be the mother of a female.
But I had to break down my traumas, do a lot of reflection, take credit for HARD mistakes, and validate the things that were just PLAIN FUCKED UP.
Boys. Men. Male species. You are all not broken, abusive and aggressive by nature. You are not monsters by DNA.
Whether it was perpetuated, generational abuse OR lack of being taught and shown what is moral. Whether you learned it from TV or were high-fived every time you reported back someone's breast size. Whether there was no rhyme or reason, or you were bred to be a manipulator.
"Boys will be boys" is no excuse for toxic, narcissistic behavior. Ever.
To all the women who said this statement with absolute lack of regret, you have yet to learn a truth that will literally save lives.
Toxic is toxic. It is not to be applauded. It is not on the victim. It is not a gene. It is not a personality type. No zodiac sign has this feature, no human map has the coordinates for asshole.
Boys and men.....are humans capable of love, compassion, loyalty, respect, honor, dignity, and patience. And those who do not have those skills, are just bad.
Boy moms, me alike, who care about morals and love will raise all kids to be good people.
Good, sweet, caring people.
And speaking for myself, I will teach my kids about trauma and abuse. I will teach them what consequences occur. I will explain different types of damage and pain that can be inflicted.
My lessons will be beautiful AND ugly.
And I will never ever turn a cheek and mutter "boys will be boys" to anyone.
This PSA is for the people in the back. The ones who did not get the memo that trauma-shaming is real and it needs to stop.
We have all been through different degrees of trauma.
Yep. From first heartbreaks, to a passing relative, to an embarrassing class note read out loud or a crush not reciprocated.
Trauma in our lives causes anxiety, depression, health complications, mental health issues, behavioral problems, addictions, phobias, dissociation, and other issues that affect our overall quality of life.
I am here to let you know that no trauma story, big or small, is exempt from mattering.
And no story shared will be absent of empowerment, inspiration, or validation from someone else desperate to hear the words.
So when you tell yourself that you cannot share or you do not deserve to share, because your "trauma" story is not significant enough, dramatic enough, recent enough, you are incorrect.
All stories matter.
I want to tell you about the time I built up the courage to tell my story for the first time to a licensed social worker.
At the time, I was in seventh grade (11) and I thought my life was abnormal but I did not think anyone would care or find it a big deal.
I was convinced most days that I was just a brat, who answered back and made their mother angry a lot. I was doing mediocre in school and did not have tons of friends, but I thought I was pretty average.
I was not a popular kid. And my parents were divorced but my mom remarried to a guy who was not poor but "upper middle class". So she bought my clothes, they bought a house which sheltered me, and I had food in my fridge. So, the picture was pretty enough.
I went into school as usual, but requested to see the social worker during second period. I was a big shook up after an incident with my mother being drunk at home that had scared me. And I had heard during health class that any student could go to the social workers office if they ever felt the need to share something private.
I took 2 friends I trusted and we marched, arms linked, to the main office. I was then disarmed of my protection and power circle, being told I had to go in alone to meet with the s.w. in her office. Right away, I felt like my bravery dropped from an 8 to a 2.
I sat with the counselor and started to ramble, to which she requested I slow down and talk sentence by sentence so she could engage with me to rationalize my feelings.
She understood that I was saying my mom drank. But she wanted to point out that it was not illegal for an adult to do so, especially in the private of their home.
She then said my mom worked and provided a home, clothes, food for me- as a responsible mother should.
She asked me why I think my mother drank often, to which I replied "stress" from my young, nervously cracking voice.
Her next reply was a sentence I will never forget. "And do you think you cause your mother stress?".
"Yes" I replied, with a gut wrenching feeling that I was just rationalized out of being a victim and flopped right into the guilty chair.
The rest of the appointment is now a blur, some 16 years later. But the message she had sent me was loud and clear, affecting me for many years after.
It must all be my fault. It must not be that bad.
My problem was "tiny" and not significant.
I did not seek help from my school for 2 more years, when I was 13 in my freshman year of high school.
It was midterms week, in late January 2003. And I had barely slept the night before, but I walked feverishly fast to school that morning.
I decided to skip homeroom and go directly to my favorite teacher to request a pass to the social workers office. That office and counselor were new for me, as I had not dared to go in until that day.
This time, I was shaking and an absolute wreck. I sat down and as she shut the door to her tiny office, i broke down crying. I had slept with the dresser in my bedroom pushed against my door. I had feared for my life in that bedroom, on the second floor straight up and to the left of the staircase. That staircase I hated so much. I had been taunted and chased with a knife by a woman who was blacked out with cognac and rage.
My story was not so tiny that day.
In fact, CPS was notified and my birth father (who had visitation with me legally) was called. I was placed that day into his care and would remain with him for the next 5, or so, months.
Though every day my mother drank, and my first recollection was in first grade when I slept crying in her bed because she did not come home after going out with strange men while my stepfather scowled in the living room of our first apartment, all the episodes she had were minor until this one.
Even when cops came, fights broke out, objects were thrown, nothing compared to the night she attacked me.
So much, that I was in shock for weeks and sick to my stomach after. I did not know until I was in my early 20s that I had suffered a breakdown after that attack and was treated by a doctor. I thought i just had a stomach virus, but I was actually in a blur and not keeping food down because of trauma.
My tiny stories strung up like a pearl necklace after that. One I wore around my neck like I was classy and passing to the public, but trapped and suffocating on the inside.
I have learned first hand that any ounce of unhealthy or toxic is just as significant as the huge and dangerous kind.
Any type of trauma is trauma.
And no, the way you feel about it does not dictate its' significance.
For almost a decade, I thought my reaction to that attack was just reporting it. And I thought I had a stomach virus shortly after, completely unrelated. I thought my dad was the best person to stay with, and that everything was fine.
Those events were completely unhealthy and the abuses I endured were not measurable by how many tears or how many years I cried.
For those of you out there who think your stories do not matter, are too small or too far away from the present to share ---> YOU are wrong.
When I read books by Maya Angelou about her childhood, the abusive people in her life, her teen pregnancy, and the toxic events that she survived, I realized that I had gone through the same.
A light bulb.
And I realized that it was not enough to have talked to a social worker or a teacher or an officer.
I needed to be an advocate. And tell the people who really need to hear it.
All of you.
If I could turn back time, I would March into the auditorium and tell all my peers. I would announce that I had divorced, mentally ill, unstable, abusive parents. And an enabling, narcissistic stepfather. I would push aside my shame, pride, worries, insecurities and desire to be hidden from the world. I would share my truths.
Adult me now knows that sharing means validating, empowering, and saving lives.
Sharing my stories could mean many people will take their trauma and abuse to authorities, to protectors, or just to the surface for themselves.
No experience is too small to make a difference. That is rational. That is truth.
No matter how much time passes, I know what I have been through and what I have to say will still be relevant because so many people are suffering.
The people around you may be suffering. And the difference in their life is the breaking of your silence.
Is it possible to LOVE your abuser?
Of course it is.
When someone hurts you, it is them who is toxic and unhealthy. And you are the victim of circumstance.
So when you realize you are enduring abuse, it is really hard to tell someone to stop, or even leave the situation.
You love them. Genuinely. And unconditionally.
We are taught that and we preach that.
Unconditional means in spite of everything.
But where do we draw the line?
A line in the sand gets washed away every few hours by the shore.
A boundary not set in stone will wither or wear down over time, but neither define nor erase the bond.
When you allow abuse to continue, once you have realized your relationship or situation is unhealthy, you allow your trauma to remain.
This creates guilt, depression, anxiety, shame and other negative reactions towards yourself. You feel part to blame for what is happening. And you also do not want to break up a relationship you care about.
You worked hard, you dedicated time and emotions, you invested yourself. Chances are, you did everything right in this relationship.
And now your only fault is staying.
So what do we love about being abused?
When shit hits the fan and the person we love is hurting us, whether it is emotional or physical, I suspect we go through waves of shock.
You say things like "why me?", "why this?", and "who is this person" in your head.
It is a betrayal of the image of them you have portrayed, but you do not want to have to face the broken illusion.
If there are any moments we love, it is those small moments where the person gives a compliment or shows attention to us. They might even praise this bond or having you.
And it may not be a lie. I can honestly tell you I have heard moments of truth from abusers.
They are human, not evil robots. A person who behaves in a toxic, abusive way has most likely been through long term trauma themselves.
In fact, according to an article from endviolence.org, "the rate of intergenerational transmission appears to be between 25 and 35 percent. [...] About one-third of the parents who have histories of abuse will subject their children to abuse. [...] That figure is about six times higher than the base rate for abuse in the general population."
We know this to be true though by more simply examining the history of the person putting us through abuse. What was their childhood like? What kind of trauma or abuses have they been through before you?
While none of this excuses the behavior of the person hurting you, it does give you some puzzle pieces to fit together. These details allow you to better comprehend abuse and how it is passed down from one to another.
At this point, you can understand that you also have a choice. You can love someone who is abusive. And you can at the same time not want to continue on being a victim of their unhealthy behavior or carry the torch for them to pass it on to you and other people you love.
If the person in your life who is abusive is your significant other or the father/mother of your child(ren), then it is vital for you to sever the relationship with them while they remain toxic.
You put your kids at risk of carrying that trauma and abuse throughout their life and even down onto their kids.
In this case, I see many women choosing to break away from a partner they love because putting the children they share at risk or in the fire is not worth staying.
And that decision to leave is life changing for you as well as your child.
For them to have seen toxic events or abuse was horrible, but the worse thing would be to show them it is completely acceptable to stay and endure an unhealthy lifestyle.
If you know the pain of leaving an abuser, you also know the freedom and wholeness of being safe and happy.
All of the doubts, worries and negative feelings we carry while still engaging with an abuser do go away with time and separation.
And even if you will love them for the rest of your life, you need to be willing to love yourself most.
What does it do for me when you share my posts, my blog articles, my poetry or my personal stories?
When you share my work, you are giving me validation of the deepest kind.
I only officially started to blog about my life and experience with trauma a month ago, but I have been writing for over a decade.
It is only now that I am finally going public about trauma + the road to recovery.
I am a survivor of child abuse, sexual abuse, physical and emotional abuse from partners, I was a teen mother, a single mother, a minor legally divorced from her parents, and in poverty my whole life.
What I do now is live with my husband, raising our 3 kids from home. They are my priority. My stability.
I work from home in our family run business and I blog create websites / branding for clients.
I also write for www.jadedsavior.com, a mental health blog for trauma survivors and healers.
I chose to start a blog to tie together my past college education and internship experiences.
I was a college graduate from Stony Brook with a BA in Women's Studies and English. There I was in 2 different organizations, for social justice and anti discrimination. I also wrote for the college newspaper in my community college as well as got featured in the SBU paper about my life experiences.
In 2015 I received an acceptance letter to the MSW social work program. I turned that MA program down and decided instead to move with my partner to start a family, now 4 years ago.
Currently, I am immersing myself into an education once again but from my home office. I study trauma and mental health. I read, write, and research topics like anxiety, abuse, depression, PTSD and other disorders.
I do this so I can start to understand and dismantle my own mental problems.
I do this to heal.
When I share my work on social media, I do it for all of you, and for me.
I want to put myself out there. Finally.
I want to empower others with my work.
When you share my words, you give me purpose.
I have always had big dreams, since I was a little girl alone in my room writing in a notebook. Since I was hiding away from my abusive parents and wishing up plans for college. I always dreamed of becoming an author and artist as a career, to change lives doing what made my own soul happiest.
This year I decided the only thing keeping me from that dream is my trauma.
The anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress that had crippled me for many years, has whispered lies in my head.
I have always thought that I should silently get passed my trauma so I can finally heal.
I want to become successful once I have crossed over to the "other side of trauma."
But in 28 years, I have never felt cured. I feel broken.
I realize now if I want success, the priority needs to be inner growth and then prosperity will follow.
Every day, day by day, I write and I learn. I grow and I stand taller.
I also tell myself not to activate my anxiety. That I have the power to control it.
I do not count the "likes", "shares", or "followers" on my pages like tallies on my self esteem board. It is not about attention. It is about impact. And it is obtained only through healthy minded action.
I want to inspire and empower people, no matter what the quantity is.
There is no sales funnel for this. No get rich quick scheme. No business model.
What I am doing is organically sharing myself, trying to be seen so I can view myself from a new perspective.
As someone who is taking the healthy steps towards building a life I love.
So thank you to all the people who see ME.
Who show up for me and cheer me on because they want to hear what I have to say.
Who message me that my work resonates with them.
Who share with me their own intimate details, their trauma and the rawest parts of their souls.
Those of you who do that, and even those of you who feel it but hesitate, are making my work matter.
This is no popularity contest. My lot in life is to inspire and empower people. To encourage personal development and self education.
To show you that all you need in order to "be successful" has been hiding within you all along.
When I have to look at myself in the mirror, like before stepping into a shower after a long day of kids and work, I do not want to see myself.
I do not like the body I am in. The weight, the scars, the uneven tones and shapes. I do not like the pores, the dimples, the wrinkles.
As I step into the shower and the warm water runs down my back, I want to exhale a thousand pounds of weight off my shoulders.
"I am human. It is ok." That is what my inner voice says.
What garbage. I am ok? I am human?
That is not a positive mantra. It is not self love.
It is just the less negative bullshit I feed myself.
Growing up, when I got bullied for my skin or my looks I was hurt by it (as most would be).
My mother always thought everything was my fault or doing. And the advice strangers gave was "do not listen to them" or "just ignore it".
Do you know what that taught me?
It taught me to say things to my adult self like "you are human" and "it is just a number on a scale".
While I am not trying to knock anyone else's attempt to beat negative self image or body issues, I have to speak for myself as a woman with PTSD and anxiety.
It is not just a number when I realize I am overweight. It is self defeat. It is one more notch on the depression belt.
Ignoring my own excuses or soft blows to my emotions won't help anything.
Ignoring my inner voice or not listening to my own insults is near impossible, because my mind just comes up with more passive aggressive bullshit with each hour that passes.
Who am I to have bad self esteem?
I always painted a picture that I was brave. That I loved myself. That I embraced who I was, all details included.
But what I did was accept the idea that I could love me broken.
Now I think to myself, why do I even have to consider myself broken?
Why do scars and hair loss, stretch marks and large pores have to equal broken?
I am not on America's Next Top Model (which now tries to be more inclusive anyways).
But I am human. And I am pretty sure every girl on my news feed has pores, uneven boobs, and extra meat or lack of meat in places they hate.
Why do we even rate ourselves?
Why do I have to step into different areas of my life saying bullshit like "some day".
Why can't I just like me now?
In a world where we have been conditioned to compete, measure, compensate, and convert ----> I just want to not spend another day bathing in self loathing.
Trauma is an onion.
It is the most complex, layered, tough human experience we have.
It is so potent, trauma leaves a toxic footprint throughout history and time.
Our ancestors' experience of trauma is embedded into our characteristics and hand gestures, facial features and patterns of behaviors.
Yes. An onion.
Yet we are resilient creatures.
We fight back.
We recall memories, sometimes not from our own life.
We call on powers and strength from the past to reclaim ourselves every time we answer that silent whisper coming from deep within our soul.
I used to hide my complications. The many buried layers of who I was, hidden beneath the shiny, thin layer of skin warding everyone to look away.
The trauma survivors' mantra, "I am fine" never really soothed me in my thoughts, where I circulated all the worries and memories that were begging to break free.
I got tired of being me after a while. I cannot pinpoint the date, the time, or the specific mood that shifted me into thinking, "I hate myself".
I hated work. I hated my home. I hated my responsibilities. I hated my hobbies. I hated the people around me.
I hated the eyes that knew the truth. The ones I saw in the mirror, that I avoided most days.
No one wants to bite into a raw onion.
And yet the only thing that set me free, was taking that first tough and crunchy bite into layers and layers of truth.
Once I swallowed the first mouth full, I could not stop until I was satiated.
I am still biting my way to healthy.
I chew, and I peel, and I uncover.
Rather than keep the amazing benefits of this hunger, I share it with others.
I tell people that my layers are amazing.
My layers are inspiring.
I also encourage everyone to take a moment to dive into their own reflection. Their own layers.
I invite people to commit to pulling back ALL the layers, some of their own and some of deeper creation.
There is no way to "sell" a raw onion to someone who does not know what to do with it.
So I tell them the recipe for healing and I show them the way I took the first bite.
There is an undeniable uncomfortableness beneath my skin.
An unsettling, unnerving, trembling mass of fear.
I think I pass as fine as I walk around daily, fulfilling my roles as mother, wife and boss.
I think I pass when I look in the mirror as I apply my foundation and dust a layer of protection across my face.
I prepare myself to be shielded from everything, to behave like I am untouched by the burdens of the broken shards within me.
Since the truths have come out, it has been hard to keep track of my thoughts in order. Memories flood in and out, like spirits soaring through the warped holes of old, decaying walls.
I have a hard time being mindful or aware of the time, experience days of extreme fatigue and short term memory troubles.
Heavy emotions being felt around me and light conflicts send me into deep sadness or overwhelm.
Panic attacks are swallowed and contained beneath my ribs, as to not release signs of anguish or disappointments.
And I realize that my eyes blink in a way that hints there is a glitch in the program.
But I remind myself it is all ok. And all these feelings, they are just
My own reflection in the mirror looks like me staring back into the corneas of my hazel eyes, but there is a flicker in her lash that makes me question if we are identical
or if this is all an altered timeline, just passing as
I find myself sometimes reflecting negatively on the times I desperately tried to prepare an exit speech in a relationship with someone abusive. It has taken me years to unpack my trauma and to identify one of my many symptoms of PTSD: trauma bonding. What this means to an abuse victim is the explanation for loving, supporting, consorting with, and having trouble leaving an abuser.
Similarly to romantic relationships, it can be really hard to detach from a friendship or blood relative even though the relationship is clearly toxic. When you are a victim of a toxic relationship, you often start to mimic or adopt certain unhealthy behaviors like outbursts of anger, disassociation from toxic events, and cyclical manic/depressive mood swings.
According to an article on Business Insider .com, "An abusive relationship with a narcissist or psychopath tends to follow the same pattern: idealization, devaluation, and discarding. At some point, the victim will be so broken, the abuser will no longer get any benefit from using them. They may have totally bankrupted them, or destroyed their confidence, or worse, and they move on to their next target."
So how does the mindset of a victim become so distorted that they find it hard to break off the relationship or go in circles mentally trying find ways to cushion the blow?
Why would it seem rational to prepare an exit speech for an abusive lover, friend or loved one?
The answer is simple.
A rational mind decides it is the right thing to do to explain to someone why something must come to an end. "We want to have closure when we end something with someone we have invested ourselves in", says Jean Soto, "and an exit speech is a form of validation in which a victim finally gets the floor to expose and validate a dysfunctional situation."
A healthy minded person wants a valid explanation, and an apologetic one at that, which then makes the victim almost feel like they finally lifted the veil.
But it never comes...
"When you make the decision to cut off a toxic person, just do it and move swiftly with no exit speech in your pocket." - J.S. , Jaded Savior
It is really important for abuse victims to grasp the understanding that the abuser in their life is not capable of taking real responsibility of their bad actions or words. There are no apologies in the world that can make up for an abuser hurting his victim. And no explanation can be a valid excuse for what they have done.
When you make the decision to cut off a toxic person, just do it and move swiftly with no exit speech in your pocket. You have to prioritize yourself and your safety, without the preparation or delivery of a last words speech. Someone who has abused you will only retaliate to your heartfelt words with the same painful approaches they had all along.
It is common for a narcissist for instance to use manipulation and gas lighting on their victim, then flip their mood and offer small morsels of emotion when their partner seems conflicted or ready to flee. A narcissistic person will not have a real apology or explanation ready, as they are naturally sociopaths and void of the ability to sympathize.
This is so dangerous for victims, especially those who are highly emotional or susceptible to the emotional abuse of the narcissist.
So say nothing. Ask nothing. Just leave.
An abusive family member might also make you feel the need to prepare an exit speech because of the lengthy role they have played in your existence (possibly your whole life). If it's a close relative, like a parent or grandparent, you may have the urge to give them a piece of your mind.
However, this is a toxic game to play and will only result in more difficulties for you to break ties and avoid them in the future.
Hard lessons learned.
So what happens when you do finally leave?
It takes time and a lot of inner work, but once you leave a toxic relationship you finally are free from the abuse and the constant roller coaster of emotions. If you had been around this person for long enough, you may have gotten used to that roller coaster ride and even started to be dependent on it.
That is because you were emotionally starved and insecure in the relationship from the abuse, which made you continually accept any kind of affection or slight kindness from your abuser. This roller coaster of good and bad times is unacceptable and you know this, but you did not leave it before hand because you knew consistently that the "good" would come back around. And that made it worth it to tolerate the bad.
Just how bad did it get? Once you are away from your abuser and you have time to breathe again on your own, you will find yourself having many moments of clarity.
Once your freedom to go places, your ability to maybe spend money or spend time in your own way is now possible or you just have your voice in your own actions back --- you may not know what to do with it at first.
It takes time to regain self esteem, self worth, self love and acceptance of your entire self post trauma. This is all normal.
You might be breaking your head wondering why you did not give some kind of speech or last words to that person to address what they have done to you and what it made you suffer through. This step in grief and awareness may not even happen for several months after leaving your abuser.
Once you know what they did to you was wrong, no matter what kind of relationship you were involved in, you might experience an urge to reach out to them.
It might start off innocent. A quick "hey" text.
This is quite common in survivors of rape or sexual abuse. Victims may want to reach out to their abuser, if it was a significant other or partner they once shared feelings with or reciprocated love with.
But this love and affection was one sided, because a healthy relationship is completely empty of abuse, narcissism, neglect, ghosting, gas lighting or toxicity. A healthy relationship would not have resulted in them hurting you or abandoning you.
So you spiral after that "hey" and it turns into "why's" or "how could you" arguments that fuel more rounds of harmful manipulation and abusive tendencies from them.
This is all you can ever expect from someone who is mentally unhealthy.
Just to clarify, someone who has been abusive is mentally unhealthy.
I wish I could spare millions of their time and broken hearts, telling them to save all of their energy and words for someone healthy and happy to come into their lives.
The best kind of revenge you can have on an abuser is to live a happy life.
Not for them, but for you.
Jean Soto, mother of 3 and wife, is a writer + artist in the Hudson Valley, NY community.
Content mention of Rape, Abuse, Neglect, Addictions, Mental Illness, Kidnap, Molestation, Child abuse, Teen Pregnancy, Abortion, birth, body image, gender/identity dysphoria, sexuality, personal trauma, domestic violence and other extremely personal stories. Please practice caution. I am not a licensed physician or mental health professional. No medical prescribing is provided on this site, Only personal insights, experience stories, and advice; All stories published have had prior authorization. Questions? Contact Jean at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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