There are people in your life who love you. But there are some who will never be able to show it. You can call it culture, religion, tradition or even protection. But at the end of the day it’s torture. It could even be emotional abuse.
You suffer through their tantrums, tears, cold silences and wonder what to do to make it better.
It’s a game. A game you never wanted to play but you weren’t given a choice.
They manipulate everything to their benefit. When you try to leave the house, they begin to sulk. As you get closer to the door the guilt trip starts.
“You’re just going to leave me here all by myself?”
Just like that, the prospect of the outing you had just been so excited for, isn’t so fun. You look between them and the door and tell yourself you’re not mean enough to go out and leave them home all alone. Minutes later you’re back on the sofa next to them.
You miss that outing, the next, and the one after that. And soon, friends stop calling.
They get tired of you cancelling at the last minute. It’s always at the last minute. Your abuser lets you believe it’s okay for you to go out and have fun. They let you get excited and they let you get dressed up – but then the emotional blackmail begin.
Suddenly, there are no outings to weigh up against them, because suddenly they are all you have left. But it doesn’t stop there.
Whenever you do leave the house, they make sure you’re not comfortable.
God, why does your hair look like that?
You try and shake it off but for the rest of the day you catch yourself in the mirror wondering why your hair does look like that. Whatever “that” is.
Don’t bother telling them not to comment. That will turn right back around and make you the bad guy.
“I was just trying to help. If I don’t tell you who will? I can’t do anything right for you anymore.”
Now you feel horrible.
You completely forget how insecure they make you. You apologize. And you say you never meant to hurt them. All the while you’re still trying to make your hair look better.
Overtime it starts to break you. You double, triple check your hair, but soon it’s more than that. Your clothes fit wrong, maybe you should lose some weight. Did you ever realize your nose is a bit big for your face? Maybe you should get it done.
One day you look in the mirror and see nothing that you like anymore no matter how many different angles you try or what lighting you use.
You feel lucky, blessed even, that they’re still giving you the time of day.
You’ve always had dreams that make you feel alive and you want to pursue them. You’ve got it all figured out. And you’re ready to make it happen. You’ve worked hard to get where you are and it’s all right there for the taking.
It would just really make me happy to see you doing something that suits you.
Suddenly you question if the dream is the right one. How many people follow their childhood dreams? What a silly thought, a childish fantasy. They’re right. You weren’t thinking straight. You should do exactly what they said. Plus, it will make them so happy. You’ve never wanted to make them unhappy.
You throw away all the plans and start again. Get a job, a house, a car, that was never what you wanted. Every morning you ignore the gnawing feeling that it’s not quite right.
Emotional abusers will steal your life right out from under you.
I know this because I lived with one for years before I realized I couldn’t find myself anymore. There was no separation between their life and mine. I had long since given up on all the things that made me happy for fear of rocking the boat.
Even still, I often faced threats of them leaving, or forcing me to leave. I was given the cold shoulder for forgetting something off of a supermarket shopping list. I received emotionally manipulative texts and emails constantly throughout each day.
Anytime I left the house I was being “selfish”. No matter how long I was gone for, it was too long. I dressed how they liked me to dress. I did my hair how they liked my hair. My make up was done just as they liked and not a layer more. I gave them money whenever they asked for it.
I had to find a way to protect myself, so I ate.
I ate until I could eat no more and felt numb to everything. Food made me feel safe.
Eventually, they pointed out my growing weight, coupled with a look of sheer disgust. I panicked, and began restricting calories. I thought it would make me lovable. But I needed the food to feel loved in the meantime.
The only happy medium seemed to be to binge and purge. I could have it both ways. Yet, no matter how much I purged, no matter how much I cried, they still weren’t happy. I still couldn’t do anything right.
I tortured myself for 10 years and at no point in that time did the pain stop.
To free myself from my eating disorder I had to face up to the situation I was living in. I had to tell myself that it was okay for me to look after myself no matter how it felt to anyone else. I had to tell myself I mattered.
Putting myself first is not a crime, it does not make me a horrible person, and it does not make me selfish. In fact, it’s an act of love. I had not known many of those.
In the last few months, I have learned a few things.
The first being that some people do not see you as anything more than a means to their own happiness.
Secondly, when in these situations, you have to fight back. You have to say:
“I am me. I am here. You will not erase me.”
The alternative is a partner/job/house/city/car/pet/loan/clothes/hairstyle/entire lifestyle that you never ever wanted and had no real say in.
For a very long time I had absolutely no idea who I was. I lost my self-worth, my self-love, my sense of self entirely.
Until I fought back. And I will never regret it.