I was always taught to seek help when you’re in an abusive relationship. My mom always told me to be strong, to know when you’re too weak to go at it alone. I thought if I ever came to a point in a relationship where I was being hurt, I would lift my favorite finger straight in the air, walk out the door, and never see them again.
But I found out that I’m not that strong. What was the most difficult about my abuse, is no one around me ever noticed. No one saw my bruises, or heard the nasty words thrown at me. No one knew what was going on behind closed doors. I kept this secret locked inside my heart. No matter how many times I wanted to cry for help, I thought there was nothing anyone in this world could do to help me escape.
That’s because my abuser was not a boyfriend with bawled fists or a girlfriend with fire on her tongue; no, I was my own abuser. My fists inflicted the pain; the fire was on my tongue. I would awake in the morning to see my red, blotchy face, and would tell myself how disgusting I looked. After showers, I would look at my chunky, naked body, full of stretch marks down my sides, and pinch the pockets of fat so hard I’d let go to reveal bruises on my sides that wouldn’t go away for days, and then I would cry. Not from the pain, but from how much I hated myself.
I wore the most mundane, shapeless clothing to hide my body, I put on layers of foundation to cover my acne, and I never smiled fully in photos to hide my crooked teeth and braces. All I wanted to do was sink into the background of life. Every day I would throw awful words at myself as reminders of how much of a worthless piece of waste I thought I was. Sometimes I would take a washable marker and draw circles around my fat like I had seen in plastic surgery shows. I was marking what I wish I could just cut off, because in my young mind, that’s clearly how that worked.
My self-hate continued daily until I got my school photos one year. My friend mentioned how I looked like I was trying to hide. Which I was; I had insisted on being in the back, to be least prominent. I pretended like I didn’t noticed, but it was unnoticeable. While everyone else smiled, I stood next to the tallest kids and smirked halfheartedly, hoping no one would see me. I realized then that maybe trying to disappear was actually making me stand out miserably.
That night, something changed. I kept thinking about the picture and how I was hiding myself from the world. I got out of bed and stared at myself in the mirror for what felt like an eternity. I don’t know what came over me, but I told myself I wasn’t going to hurt anymore. I deserved to be happy.
It wasn’t easy getting to where I am now. It took years of reminding myself of my worth. I started by telling my inner circle what I was going through. They were in disbelief because I was the happiest person they knew, how could I be secretly raging an internal war against myself? But they assured me they’d do everything they could to help me.
I hung up reminders telling myself I’m beautiful, smart, and important. For every awful thought that came, I made myself think of three things I liked about myself. Through talking to others I found I wasn’t the only one struggling, and if we open up about these issues, maybe, just maybe we’d be able to heal together.
It’s been years since I was there. Sometimes I still get hateful feelings, but I remind myself I am no longer that girl. Like anyone else who struggles, I’ll always have to fight off urges, but I’m stronger now. What was once a terrible voice shouting at me 24/7 is now an occassional whisper, and is easier to silence.