It’s hard to imagine that there might be other people who have endured trauma and might be experiencing similar roadblocks as mine. It’s a harsh reality, albeit comforting to know I may not be alone, to think someone else might have to feel these gut-wrenching emotions and battles.
Now over half a decade ago, I was in an emotionally, physically, and psychologically abusive relationship. Through my naivety, I had no idea I was dating a true sociopath for much of my young adult life. I’ve written page after page about these experiences. I have talked hour after hour in therapy about these traumas. I have worked long and hard to heal these scars and rebuild my own identity. I have come to terms with the horrible things that happened to my mind, body, and spirit over those five years. I gained strength, courage, and advocacy for my own self-worth. It took a long time, but I found peace. I found myself again.
I always knew my trauma was an old friend that would sit in the corner, never fully leaving the party. However, I learned how to protect myself from his harsh glares and biting words. I knew I could live with these memories and continue to learn from them. My internal battles were mainly fought and won. But now I’m realizing, all these years later, another war was waiting over the horizon. I had no idea how much more work I had to do until I started to love again.
Granted, my trauma has haunted many relationships since. It finds the smallest cracks to seep into and rips apart any chance at a connection. I have consistently had trust issues. I have sabotaged relationships with good, kind men for no reason other than it didn’t feel right. These were all minor battles, foreshadowing of the war to come. These minor characters in my life were never the ones I loved deep enough for the gates to open. So, they came and went in my life, never causing much of a commotion.
Things started to change when the real, “sometimes you just know” kind of love came to me. The effortless kind that seems to make you levitate. I found someone that reminded me I have a soul to give again; it was so easy to give. My old friend didn’t start to rock the boat until I was fully invested and fully absorbed in this love. And then, after a few months of bliss, he started to show his hand. My anxiety started to rise. Small things were becoming red flags. Trivial issues started to look like foundational problems. My own reality started to warp and I questioned every single one of my instincts. Am I overreacting to this? Am I being gaslit again, or did I cause this? Have I been the problem all along? At the peak of this emotional response, that debilitating feeling of anxiety that seems to consume my whole being, I find myself thinking, I wouldn’t wish this on my greatest enemy.
I drown in these thoughts, these inconsistencies, these anxieties. How do I recognize if I’m being abused again when I can’t trust my own brain? Is he yelling because I yelled first, or is it because he has anger issues? Is his apathy because I cry so much or because he completely lacks empathy? My impulse to protect myself kicks in during an argument and my voice needs to scream louder and firmer to make sure it’s heard. It remembers what it feels like to be small and suppressed. My body needs to be bigger and stronger because it remembers what it feels like to be taken advantage of. My heart fights to be nourished and cared for because it remembers what it feels like to be broken.
Then begins the endless cycle of self-loathing and regret. Those actions and words were not the real me. I worked so hard to rebuild and process this trauma, it is not possible I’m still damaged. All of those walls I have built to keep predators out were knocked down when I started to trust again. Now I second guess everything out of fear. My logic says that everyone is an enemy, but my heart sees the kindness in their souls. Where does the truth lie?
I wish I had a cathartic ending to this war, something to write in the history books. But I am learning. We all are learning. I hold out hope that one day a balance will start to form and I will be able to trust fully while not losing all of my strength. My internal conflict of overthinking will subside and the truth will become clearer. Until then, I will have patience with myself because even making it this far is a cause for joy and waving banners. I will find strength in the idea that maybe, possibly, I am not alone.