There’s this feeling I get a lot of the time. The feeling of enlightenment that not everyone’s life is riddled with turmoil. That some people feel safe in their own home, or even with just themselves. That people can trust themselves to keep out of harm’s way, and not throw them into dangerous, reckless, stupid situations because of impulse issues and self-destructive tendencies. And the one that hits me so deeply; that people feel safe with their family. I feel this countless times, especially when I’m at friends houses.
I see the way they sit around their parents, their dad, comfortable, entitled to the seat they lounge in, unafraid. I see the way they talk to their parents, eye contact is something they can bear to hold with each other, and they can speak without screaming or saying nothing at all. To see their mums talking (not slurring), and draws are used for pots and pans, and wardrobes for clothes, instead of wine bottles.
This is the kind of freedom I realise I do not have. To live in a home instead of a house is not something I have had the privilege of doing.
I realise how much of an empty space this has made in me. One that means my friends are more family than my own blood. Feeling no care from my parents sometimes had left wanting more from them, all the way up to my 18th birthday. This wanting ‘more’ has been utilised in soft toys, changing my hair colour, impulsive spending, binge drinking and alcohol abuse myself, dangerous sexual relations, self-harm, and starvation. And a whole lot of thick, grey, emptiness. An emptiness that has almost killed me, many times. People showing me care is like me, a small moth, to a huge chandelier of light. I love you instantly if you show kindness. I can barely hold myself back from hugging you because I’ve never learnt that such kindness should be normal between people.
But it has put me in much more sinister, harmful places. I have been taken advantage of numerous times because of that emptiness it’s brought me. I can become so defensive and aggressive when hurt, trying to protect myself from that familiar pain. I can be out of control with alcohol and in mania, that I drink until I am seriously vulnerable. And a combination of this brought me to the worst night of my life when I was sexually assaulted. Violently, and degradingly. All because I never learnt how to protect myself from the real dangers because of my emotions, and because I did not know how to trust people who showed me some kindness.
Abuse is the toxic film over the eyes. You can’t see or even feel other people properly while it’s there. And like genetics, abuse like mine in childhood moulds you, usually permanently (although you can heal don’t worry), into the adult version of myself. My deep-rooted personality. My person.
The thing is with abuse, it often starts with one toxic person taking things out on you horribly, but the more you endure it, the less you truly feel the reality of abuse. Then them hurting you, can turn into you also hurting you, just to cope. For me, it was as if hurting myself, in whatever form, became soothing. I was used to being hurt, so I made it okay when I was doing it myself. It is sad, but it is also okay. I have never experienced abuse as we show it in the media, the hitting, serious physical neglect of small children, isolation from school due to injuries. No. But I have experienced extreme emotional and psychological abuse, along with a parent with her own demons. Each ‘blow-up’ was a trauma, and this repetitious traumatising grates on the mind and I feel like it just kept breaking me down. As much as I felt myself crumbling, it was hidden. And that’s almost what makes it so bad. It’s invisible.
Emotional abuse is just as serious as the other kinds of abuse. It fucks you up just as much. It catches you off guard. And it feels like being burned alive. (And oh god that horrible feeling of knowing you just can’t escape it, and even if you can physically leave that house, parts of you are always left there). It makes us extremely emotional, but colourful. Deeply loving and loyal. Kind, compassionate and empathetic. A wonderful human. And when the abuse has passed, bury it. But the bits that you are left with, I want us to turn into the most beautiful rainbow in the sky. Run with the parts of yourself that are troubled, build them up into flowers and watch them bloom. Beautiful, and stronger than ever before.
by Emma Catherine