To be completely transparent this is not the easiest subject for me to write about. I am pushing beyond my edge of comfort, as I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not alone; that what I am about to share about my story, will resonate with other Rockstars who have survived a myriad the struggle of relationship abuse and pain.
Perhaps I am wrong, maybe it is just me.
I have always struggled with the gnawing suspicion that there is something wrong with me anyway.
This feeling was amplified during what felt like a very long emotionally, verbally, and sexually abusive relationship in my early 20s.
At the time I truly believed that I deserved the abuse, this punishment; that I was bad, defective in some way.
A song, “I’m so bad” would go around in my head taunting me until I wanted to knock myself out just to make it stop.
Every single time my boyfriend would abuse me I would note in my mind why I deserved it.
When he screamed at me for not bringing home enough money in my dead-end waitressing job, I deserved it.
When he berated me after finding out I bought something for myself with my limited funds. I deserved it.
When I stopped being allowed to see my friends. Well, I didn’t deserve friends anyway.
When he dropped me off in the desert in the middle of the night and I was barefoot and afraid, I deserved it. I had pissed him off and was insensitive to his feelings. I am not entirely sure what I did, the memory has faded into a fuzzy blur, but I was sure it was something really bad to earn such a severe punishment.
When he woke me up screaming at me for not doing the laundry correctly, I deserved it, I was so stupid- I should know how to do laundry correctly.
I thought I deserved it all because I couldn’t save him.
Turns out, it was never my job to save him.
I kept a journal and I actually made a list of why I deserve to be treated so badly and “Things I need to work on.” I have never shared this with anyone. I opened that journal today after a decade of being shut tight. Here’s what I found written across the pages…
Things I need to work on:
- Oversensitivity to criticism
- Always looking at things negatively even though there’s positive things also said
- Turn off inner voice
- Be more accepting of other’s views/opinions even when they’re not my own/disagree with mine
- Don’t interrupt
- React less immaturely when things don’t go my way
- Mumble less
- I’m always negative
- Negative assumptions
- Stop blaming myself
- Constant Babbling
When I look back on these words it breaks my heart for that girl I see somberly etching these words in her journal, the journal with sparkles and roses lining the cover. The younger, 22 year old me.
I see the tears in her eyes after being screamed at, yet again, for “messing up,” and turning inward to find solace.
I see her feeling utterly hopeless and helpless, already on some level knowing that she cannot change the man in front of her, instead trying to change herself to please him. Instead of blaming the world around her, she blames herself.
I blamed myself for a very long time.
Rockstar, I don’t know why you stayed in your relationship, but I do know why I did. I thought I deserved it.
I once read that a woman only takes as much abuse from another as she would give herself. While that is so shaming and so wrong on so many levels, he did in many ways, reflect my own inner voice.
Want to know what the turning point in that abusive relationship was? He started to flirt the line beyond the emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse.
Here is what happened, he had randomly adopted an untrained puppy, which was way too much for us to handle. And I knew nothing of training puppies. One night he lost his temper after the puppy accidentally peed on the floor and he beat the dog in front of me. I was terrified, I had honestly never seen anyone hit an animal before. The he looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “if this happens again, you’re next.”
I have never been so terrified in my life and I secretly started packing the next day.
Apparently I had reached my limit.
I secretly called a therapist I had been seeing on and off for a number of years. I broke down crying in her office, finally admitting to someone that I was scared, and didn’t know what to do. I felt powerless and afraid.
Thankfully, she encouraged me to tell my parents.
Walking out of that appointment I glanced down at my phone just in time to receive a very angry voicemail. Apparently he had been checking my web browsing history and that afternoon had discovered that I had browsed ticket costs and a tourism site in Central America. He was pissed.
Thankfully it was the final push I needed, I was too terrified to go home to him and I called my parents. Sobbing, I told them everything and asked for help.
My mother went with me that night to help me gather the rest of my things.
Aside from one single icy glare, when we arrived he acted like I was a stranger, like he didn’t care one bit that I was leaving. Our parting words were “don’t take any of my climbing stuff.”
Then he walked out the front door and let me pack in peace.
I couldn’t stop shaking.
We filled the car with my random assortment of things, toiletries and clothing, yarn and shoes, whatever we could fit in the back of my SUV. When it was filled to the brim, that was it.
I never went back or spoke to him again.
I had nightmares for a long time, terrified he was standing outside my bedroom window door stalking me, waiting to hurt me.
That was a long time ago, almost a decade. Long gone are the nightmares. What remains is a more subtle form of trauma, the thoughts that still creep up on me, the fear that there’s something wrong with me, that I am innately unworthy and unloveable.
In the whispers of the wake of trauma, sometimes we find a gentle hum of inner beliefs, the heartbreaking ways we rationalized the pain we experienced.
Somedays those inner whispers catch us off guard. Suddenly finding ourselves in a downpour of ‘not good enoughs,’ ‘unloveables,’ ‘unworthy’ and ‘there’s something wrong with me’s.’
In these moments of pain, I wish I could wrap myself up in a blanket and say to myself “darling I know it’s hard, but you’re going to get through this. I love you and I am here for you, I always have been. We will get through this together.”
Lindy Ariff, LCSW is the founder of I AM A ROCKSTAR. She is a Rockstar, a clinically trained social worker, certified hypnotherapist, and healing professional. She has nurtured and guided hundreds of clients in aligning mind, body, and soul. You can connect with her on the Contact page on I AM A ROCKSTAR. Visit her blog and connect with her at HealwithLindy.com.