That’s how it feels. You don’t even know you’re in it until you start sinking and then you don’t dare move for fear of making it worse. You freeze, hoping if you are still enough, you won’t drown in the mess of it all. Mostly you wonder how the hell you ended up sinking in that stinking pool of muck at all — because you never saw it coming.
She felt the first tug of it on her shoes two weeks into things. It was an argument of epic proportions complete with name calling and four letter words. The really bad ones. The ratio of anger and outrage to the actual issue at hand was off the charts. A little voice in her head screamed “Run!” so loud into her brain she got a migraine. The rest of her rationalized it away.
Years later, she still doesn’t quite understand that process, how she couldn’t see what she was doing by allowing that behavior to continue. However the freeze and appease mechanism is as hard wired in some individuals as fight and flight is in others. She takes small comfort that there seems to be some science behind her lack of initial self preservation.
But then one day while standing outside her home starting at the door knob, it all changed— she began wondering. She wondered which personality will be waiting on the other side of that door. She wondered if he was drunk. She wondered if he was angry drunk or happy drunk. She wondered why the hell she didn’t listen to that voice when it first warned her. She wondered how she was going to get out of the muck. She wondered how she ever had thought this was an acceptable way to live. She wondered how much longer before he crossed the line to physical abuse. She wondered why that should make a difference.
She opened the door to an angry, drunken man.
However in her wonderings — she had made a decision. she was done living like this. She was going to climb out of the quicksand or die trying. This was the night — she left the irrational anger ridden drunken man behind her. In the days which follow she does not forgive the unkind things that have hurt her — because you do not have to accept apologies that are given without true remorse. You do not have to go back to the anger. You do not have to be kind when others are hurtful. You do not have to explain a god damn thing to anyone — about anything. “No” is a complete sentence.
She learned about boundaries and build them. Of brick. Of iron. Of steel. Of concrete. Of kevlar. Of any and every strong impenetrable substance her psyche could find. And then laid down force fields over them.
In the end, he finally moved away. She got her life, her things, her peace back.
The lesson learned is this — the men who lay the quicksand ambushes are bullies. They like women scared and afraid to move. They want you to think you are going to be more hurt if you struggle. But they are cowards and liars.
She was a smart, educated woman with a good job. She was the bread winner in the pair. But emotionally — she was a cripple. Shell shocked and easy prey, she had victim written all over her. And he could smell it, literally miles away.
Emotional abuse is real. She was easily lulled into believing someone cared for her and then was too shocked to react when he proved he didn’t. It took years for the realization to percolate this was an unhealthy situation.
There is only one answer to abuse — emotional, physical, or spiritual — and that is to walk away. As fast and as far as you can.
It is perfectly acceptable to save yourself. No one had ever told her that.
It is perfectly accpetable to put your own happiness ahead of someone else’s. No one had ever told her that.
It is perfectly acceptable to listen to the voice in your head when you know you’re being hurt, even if the rest of the world is gas lighting you. No one had ever told her that.
It is perfectly acceptable to take back your life. No one ever had told her that either.