How My Chronic Illness Made It Difficult to Leave an Abusive Relationship
If you’ve experienced emotional abuse or domestic violence, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741, and you can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.
You never think it will be you.
You say, “I wouldn’t put up with that.”
You say, “I would never stay.”
You say, “I would never survive.”
But you don’t sell the house because the kitchen faucet leaks. You wait. You hope it gets better. You work on it.
Until the next thing you know, you’re flooded. And you are drowning.
Abusive relationships happen every day. In relationships. In marriages. In family. In friendships.
I stayed a long time. I stayed longer than I will ever be proud of.
Living with multiple sclerosis changed me. It changed my very perception of myself, my worth, my sense of self. It shook me to my very core, from the first time it gripped me, and didn’t let go.
With or without MS, the man who vowed to love me in sickness and in health was a controlling man. Of my attention, my time, my body, of our finances, our life. He was controlling of me.
MS compounded my self-esteem and self-worth and therefore his ability to hurt me, however. MS told me I wasn’t worth a whole lot – at least at first. I didn’t think I could make it on my own, living with such an insidious disease. I didn’t think anyone else would love me, neurologically-debilitated as I was with a shaky future.
It became so easy to believe the lies. The abuse. That I needed him. That I could not survive alone. That was I weak. Tired. Sick.
Pretty, sure. Capable, maybe sometimes. But I needed him, he said. I couldn’t be trusted out on my own. I needed to be tracked, maybe I shouldn’t even have my own car. I couldn’t go out with friends, not even for coffee, I could get lost or hurt. I had to tell him where I was at all times, even if I was just at home. I needed him, I needed him every minute of every day. I believed him.
Years of abuse will lead anyone into a dark abyss where one does not see the light of a new life. Of leaving, and surviving.
Life with a chronic and debilitating illness like MS will reinforce that.
If you let it.
For months and years, I stayed. I stayed with the pain and the lies and the hurt and control and manipulation. I told myself he cared. I told myself that was true love. I believed him. I believed me.
Deep inside, in those dark crevasses of where I still lived, however, I knew better. Living that way, day in, day out, under his control, was wreaking havoc with my emotions, my core self and my MS. Staying was not an option. It was not healthy.
I talked to my therapist about what home was really like. I opened up to my parents. To the friends he didn’t let me see much, but who never left me behind. I stopped being alone with the trauma I was enduring.
I broke to the light.
And I left.
I really left. I live alone with MS now. I am my own keeper. And you know what? I am doing what he told me I could never do. I am doing what depression and my MS symptoms lied to me about not achieving.
I am living. I am managing my own life.
I am surviving.
So can you.
I deserve it.
So do you.
Getty Image by MarinkaG