|Photo by Cyberuly|
One of the things about being in an abusive relationship is that the longer you’re in it, the harder it is to trust yourself.
When everything you say, think, or believe is discounted, you begin to doubt yourself and rely on other’s opinions to find out what's real.
Several years ago, when one of my children was having multiple life-or-death surgeries, a doctor prescribed Prozac to “help get me through the stress.” This was before those warning labels about how anti-depressants can make some people worse instead of better. (It is probably in part because of me that those warnings are now there.) I went from stressed to depressed in just a few weeks, and when I said, "I think it's the Prozac causing the depression," my doctor assured me that wasn’t possible and increased the dose.
I got worse. So he added another medication. And I got worse. This was more than a nightmare, because I couldn’t wake up. When I tried stopping the meds, I was put in the hospital and forced to take them. It's hard-- when people can tell you're not thinking straight, to get anyone to believe you.
Eventually I found a way to flush the meds down the toilet (bad idea, I know- but under the circumstances it was the best I could do) while pretending to still take them. After a few weeks my doctors rejoiced. “We’ve finally found a medication combination that works!” they exclaimed.
I explained that I had not taken any meds for 6 weeks, and that they should have listened to me earlier. Then I walked out and never went back.
The point of this story is that during this time, and any time thereafter, when my husband wanted me to drop a subject, he would hint, or state outright, that I was mentally unstable, needed to be back on medications, and needed him to to tell me what was real. If I said his behavior was making me uncomfortable, that I was worried because things just didn't feel right, or that I was seeing things that hinted at sexual abuse, he said I was having hallucinations.
This scared me in ways it's impossible for me to describe. Any threat of being back on those medications was enough to shut me up. And he knew it.
I also knew that if he convinced someone to medicate me, he would have the children alone.
This is an extreme example, but I think variations on this theme are played out over and over in abusive relationships everywhere. The abuser holds onto power by putting the abused down. Physically, emotionally, verbally, whatever works. Sometimes it’s so subtle it’s hard for the abused to put their finger on what’s wrong. And even harder to explain it to someone else. Sometimes it’s overt, leaving bruises and scars. But however it’s carried out, the abused feels less and less powerful, lass and less capable of speaking up, and less and less sure of who they really are and what they can do.
Which brings me to Being Brave! So many things about getting out of abusive relationships take bravery.
- Speaking up to report the abuse! This is the single hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And I’ve done some hard things.
- Staying away when the abuser tries to schmooze their way back into your life. (Mine tried threats and a trip to Hawaii so we could “fix our marriage.”.)
- Finding a way to build a new life without abuse.
- Working on trusting other people.
And most of all-
Learning to trust yourself.
|Photo by Modomatic|
My daughter was incredibly brave through all of this. The day she agreed to testify in court, she asked if she could wear her Hogwarts School uniform on the witness stand. After about 2 seconds of consideration, I agreed. She said, “This will be kind of like the sorting hat. I’ll be so brave I'll prove I’m in Gryfindor!” There is no doubt. She’s in Gryfindor. =)
Some people have a gift for helping others be brave. They lift others along their way, instill confidence and express trust in other's abilities. And so many of them do it without having any idea what a blessing they are to everyone around them.
Thank you, brave people.