“I felt relief. Relief. Relief that as I sat there, crying, make-up streaming down my flushed face, eyes swollen and red, snot running from my nose, I was me for the first time in a long time. Don’t get me wrong – I was a hot mess, but I was me.”
I think one of the most important things I have learned to do throughout this process is to give myself permission to feel whatever I am feeling. I am notorious for being flooded with emotions from my trauma and then feeling shameful for feeling those emotions in the first place. I am not sure when in society the expression or experience of emotions was shunned, but I know I am not the only person who does this.
Is it because we feel emotions are a sign of weakness and we have convinced ourselves that we must always be strong? Is it because we hold ourselves to standards we would never hold our family or friends to? Whatever the reason, it is counterproductive in so many ways. For starters, adding shame to our already potent feelings of anxiety, fear, sadness, grief, etc. only pushes us further into the throes of darkness. It does nothing to lift us up or pull us out.
Second, it is as if we are taking on the role of our abusive partner in their absence. I don’t know about you, but when I was with him, I could never feel anything “correctly.” I was too emotional or too sensitive or overreacting. Whatever the situation was, my emotions were never valid. I became unable to trust myself and my interpretation of experiences because they were always wrong, even if deep down, I knew they weren’t. It literally got to the point that whenever anything happened, I went to him to tell me how to feel.
Shortly after I left him and moved into my own apartment, I broke down. I began to ugly cry sob. I picked up the phone to text him, but then stopped myself. My therapist and I had an agreement that I would not have any contact with him. I honestly sat there for a few moments wondering what it was I was supposed to feel. Once I put the phone down it was as if the universe just said, “Feel whatever it is that you are feeling.”
I curled up on my couch and just let the emotions flood over me. The good, the bad and the ugly. I felt grief over the loss of what could have been. I felt anger at him for putting me through hell without remorse. Then, I felt relief. Relief. Relief that as I sat there, crying, make-up streaming down my flushed face, eyes swollen and red, snot running from my nose, I was me for the first time in a long time. Don’t get me wrong – I was a hot mess, but I was me. I was feeling MY emotions. MY body was reacting to MY experiences. And there was no one there to shame me.
Instead, I became my own friend. I told myself that we would be okay. I told myself that we were going to get through this. I told myself that anyone in this situation would be feeling the same things. As soon as I let go of the shame and fully experienced my emotions, I was healing. I realized I wasn’t with an abusive partner anymore. I was with someone I could trust and feel safe with – someone who validated my feelings. I was with me.
It is an ongoing lesson and sometimes I fail absolutely miserably. There are times when I assume his role again and feel weak and like I shouldn’t be struggling as much as I am. Then there are times I feel strong and tell myself that there will be good days and bad days and that’s okay. I acknowledge the anxiety, the fears and the pain and take special care of myself during that time. I take a bubble bath. I snuggle with my dog. I take a nap. The quiet acceptance I give myself allows for more healing and means less time spent in darkness.
I am not sure I will ever fully recover from the things that happened – and that’s okay because I managed to recover the most important thing of all after that relationship: myself.
Photo: Flickr – katmary