Psychological abuse will suck every sliver of joy out of your bones and obliterate every ounce of self-worth. You see yourself through the lens of that one shard of malice. It doesn’t matter how many people see your value. Only his opinion seems true. If the cognitive dissonance continues long enough, you barely remember who you are anymore. You believe two things at once:
- That he loves you
- That he doesn’t love you
It’s human nature to try to solve that dissonance, regardless of which lie you need to tell yourself to achieve that. The lie I chose was:
“I am unlovable.”
I chose that particular piece of dishonesty because it came with a pre-packaged solution:
“If I become perfect, he will love me.”
And so I set to work trying to become perfect. I went to therapy. I read endless reams about my flaws. I went through everything that triggered an argument to find where I’d gone wrong. I fought tooth and nail to become new. In many ways, I did become new. I evolved.
But it wasn’t enough.
I spent most of our relationship diminishing myself. If I became a blank slate that he could scribble on however he chose, he would see me as irreplaceable… surely? I wanted to efface myself so that I could become someone who didn’t disgust him. I fought so hard to hold onto him that I lost my own autonomy. Trying to earn love begot more trying. Failure begot obsession.
He was like a wisp of cloud; always shifting to suit his motives. There was no way to know at any given time who he’d be. He played with the truth as though it was silly putty. Sometimes lying meant getting me to stay. Sometimes it meant getting me to understand my inferiority. Sometimes it meant making sure I lost trust in my own senses.
It left me feeling like an empty shell.
My body had been evacuated.
My sense of self was gone.
One morning I woke up wondering why he wasn’t in my bed
After that, I had to try to remember who I used to be and how I had once interpreted the world around me, but that person no longer existed. I’d forgotten how to process my reality without using his eyes to look through.
Then something new began to evolve: a woman who had been reminded so often of her value by the friends who supported her through his cruelty that she became stronger than what had gone before. I think if he’d known how powerful they were, he would never have chosen me because he would have known destroying me would be impossible.
Once the anger was gone, I found a new lens to look through. I found my self-worth. I learned how to be me again. He might have hated me, but somewhere out there in the world, there’s a man who is looking for a woman exactly like me: someone who is more resilient than she ever was before he tried to break me.