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The Most Amazing Gift I’ve Ever Given Myself

Photograph by Getty Images

This holiday season is special for me. It’s not because I’m getting married or I’ve met my goals or even that I am finally where I want to be in life. This holiday season is special to me because for the first time, I am not angry about my past and I do not feel like a victim.

During the two years that I have written for mom.me I have shared my personal journey, all the highs and lows and my controversial opinions about current events. Even though I wasn’t proud to do so, I also shared the stories of how I felt like I was being abused and victimized by my children’s father. During those very real and very hurtful moments I felt helpless and stupid for not being able to change the way things were.

It turns out I didn’t have to cry and petition for change; things changed on their own.

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About three months ago I created a blog called Abuse Is Not A Secret, designed to allow people to share their stories of abuse so they could finally feel like they can be heard without judgment. I also interviewed abusers, mental health workers and authors hoping to offer the insight people need to stop the cycle of abuse. What I wasn’t ready for was the impact this project would have on me, literally changing my life forever.

Sitting at my laptop, immersing myself in the traumatic stories of others taught me a very valuable lesson, one that I believe was the key to helping me heal. I realized that I am not the only person going through rough relationships.

I used to believe I was the chosen one, specifically targeted to be hurt when really I was hurting myself. After interacting in online forums and groups of abuse survivors, reading their stories, watching their progress, sharing my own stories and asking questions I realized one powerful truth: Women stay in abusive situations when they care more about the other person than they do about themselves.

I feel a sense of peace in my heart right now, knowing that I wasn’t born to be bruised. I wasn’t chosen to be battered.

Why would I care more about anyone than I care about myself? Maybe I believe I am supposed to be a martyr. Maybe I was taught that self-sacrifice was honorable. Maybe I felt that I was supposed to prove my love by going through rough times. What I found was a deep-seeded need to affirm my idea that I was unloveable. Because I believed I was unloveable, I would cling to every word that anyone uttered that could confirm this belief. It gave me a sense of satisfaction to recognize a harsh tone directed my way or a less than loving glance in my direction. I wanted to feel unloved so I clung to every sign that I was correct. Unfortunately, once people learn that you like being hurt, they offer you more of what you like.

So I’m done with it now and that’s not just a resolution. I really don’t feel burdened by the need to be hurt anymore. I continue to watch those women in online forums express their frustration and pain and trauma over their abuse, and I want to shake them and make them realize that they are choosing pain. I don’t want to be one of them anymore, complaining and whining and pointing a finger at someone who hurt me. I don’t want to be a victim anymore and I don’t have to be. There is a way out of an abusive situation and the only way out is to be willing to lose everything.

You have to be willing to lose everything you had, including the warped idea of love, if you ever want to move forward. I am willing to be alone forever rather than give the power to someone else and allow them to hurt me anytime they want to. I don’t want anyone to have a remote control for my feelings. No one is that awesome to have that kind of pull. No one’s words or actions can define me. I can be every horrible description you can call a woman and I will still be OK. I don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations, not even my own.

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I still can’t shake this pessimistic attitude and I still believe this world is a horrible place to be, but through all the ugliness in the world I feel a sense of peace in my heart right now, knowing that I wasn’t born to be bruised. I wasn’t chosen to be battered.

Those days of placing the emotional needs of others above my own are over. Just because I am a woman and a mom doesn’t mean that I have to sacrifice my happiness for everyone else; I matter too. Critics can say what they have to say and I’ll let the chips fall where they may. I’m not a victim anymore because your words and actions don’t hurt me. I’m doing well.

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