"Imagine meeting someone who wanted to learn your past not to punish you, but to understand how you needed to be loved." (Unknown)
I was in the room last night while my daughter and her girlfriend were watching This Is Us reruns and my daughter told me which episode they were about to start. I did not put together that she was trying to warn me by telling me it was the one with the cabin where young Kate goes with her abusive boyfriend.
I kept typing away until the scene where young Kate was locked out in the snow and I was immediately transported back to being locked out of my own home. It’s not a memory that I think about often or even always remember that I have. But that scene came on and I was right back in that night of trying to get back in the sliding door and my then-husband glaring at me with a drink in his hand and walking away. I honestly don’t remember what spurred him locking me out, and it really doesn’t matter because that simply isn’t an okay way to treat someone you say you love. I remember the growing panic as I checked windows and doors and then laying down on the trampoline trying to stay warm and praying to fall asleep (cold air under and above me was maybe not my best choice….). I remember the way he looked at me when he went back to the kitchen to refill his drink and opened the door. I remember how he told me he was just “playing around” and I couldn’t take a joke.
Spoiler: if this has happened to you, it is abusive.
I looked over at my daughter and thanked her for trying to warn me. I told her that I was okay and didn’t have quite the same visceral reaction as I did the first time I saw this. Which was true. But I also felt that panic knot in my chest and the tears welling up. And I was grateful to have someone who knew that history and used it to act in love.
That’s the type of love I want to have with a future partner. The type of love that knows my history so that they can love me better, not so they can use it against me.
You see, I’ve had the partner that used my past to justify his own actions. To justify that if I stayed with “that,” then I shouldn’t have anything to complain about with him. To justify that “at least I’m not as bad as….” To tell me that I’m too messed up to love. To tell me that I’m too messed up to mother. To use all of my insecurities against me. To use all of my mistakes to justify their own mean choices. To tell me that I must be so much more damaged than he realized because I was always working on trying to be better and how that made him feel like he didn’t have a good wife and that made him question his own worth. I’ve known what it’s like to have someone want to get to know me in order to exploit my weaknesses or to take advantage of my feelings for them.
Again, spoiler: this is abuse.
I know now that moving to a new home and trying my best to prove that I was worth loving and making myself as needless as possible was not the answer. I know now that, even though I was far from a perfect wife, I did not deserve abuse. I know so many things now that I didn't know then. And I have come a loooooong way in my healing. But the memories still come up sometimes. The hurt still bubbles back through occasionally.
Those old memories still live within us. We continue the work of healing and those old feelings still come up. This is okay. It doesn’t mean we’re not healing. It means we lived through trauma. And some scars never fully disappear. Some scars were life-changing. Some scars serve as reminders of what we never want to repeat. Some scars remind us what we've been through. Some scars are just annoying. And they are all okay. We are beautifully messy humans and our bodies bear the scars of things we’ve physically been through just as our souls bear the scars of the less-than-stellar experiences we have lived. Just like physical scars, sometimes our soul scars itch or otherwise remind us that they are there. And sometimes those old feelings feel as if they are real and happening right now because time is a human thing and our souls don’t always feel the difference.
It’s important to listen to these feelings when they come up. It’s important to ask yourself what you might need to focus on for further healing. It’s important to give your soul the love that it needed at that traumatized time. Give yourself a hug. Hold yourself. Give yourself the care that you wish someone had been able to give you. Tell yourself it’s going to be okay. Allow yourself to feel the feels without judgement. Cry. Yell. Stomp. And then put your hand on your heart and your feet on the ground and breathe. You are okay. You are loved. You are safe. You are worthy of love and safety. You are whole. Breathe. Journal.
And contact me if you’re ready for more powerful tools to help you through.