Why I'm Talking About Surviving Domestic Abuse as Someone With a Chronic Illness
If you’ve experienced domestic violence, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.
I want to tell people about how my chronic illness made me stay with someone who chose to harm me.
I want to tell people about how chronic illness made me feel so unworthy and unlovable.
I want to tell people about how I believed nobody could ever love the “sick girl” so I stayed with someone who did not respect me.
Being newly diagnosed at the time of the start of my relationship, I was in constant pain and so overwhelmed with my illness. I had no idea how to navigate the next chapter of my life with a chronic illness on top of my already draining anxiety disorders. I was so fragile and vulnerable, I did not have the ability to know I deserved love, kindness and respect.
I felt like my diagnosis of endometriosis and severe anxiety made me hard to love. I thought I was too much to handle because of it. I saw myself as a burden to other people’s lives and people had to just put up with me. I thought this relationship was the best I was going to get. I thought there was no possibility I could find another person to love me with a laundry list of issues and conditions.
I did not open up about my experience to anyone until almost two years later. I still felt guilty about telling people, scared that they would believe I was overreacting or deserved it. The first person I chose to tell looked at me and said “It never starts out with someone just trying to kill their significant other. It starts out small and gets bigger until you can’t get out.”
It took weeks of building up the courage to tell my therapist of five years. I had pushed it down so much that I did not feel worthy of the support my friends were giving me. I kept telling my friends “I know other people have it worse so this probably isn’t that big of a deal.” I was always met with the most amazing love and support.
Since parting ways with this person, I have clung to a sense of heavy guilt that this harm will never be disclosed to their future partners. I have somehow spun myself a web of lies that makes me believe the future harm this person could inflict is my fault. Sometimes I think back to the girl crying on the bathroom floor over a person who chooses to physically and mentally hurt the person they claimed to love. I want to scoop her up and hold her close. I want to tell her that everything is going to be OK. I don’t deserve to be hurt like this; I will be more than OK in time.
When I start to blame myself or feel guilt wash over me, I remind myself that my future self is holding me. I remind myself that I no longer have to protect the reputation of the person who chose to harm me. I remind myself that what they chose to do or not do is not caused by my actions, every person is responsible for their own choices and how they treat others.
I now have a much stronger sense of self and self-worth. I have grown and changed in the years since this happened. I am no longer seeking validation and comfort in other people, I have it in myself. Despite only coming to terms and coming out about my experience recently, I understand the strength and vulnerability it took for me to tell the first person in my life. I know now that I am not a burden in people’s lives because of my experiences or diagnosis. I am a blessing in people’s lives because I have experiences that allow me to have great empathy and patience. People do not invite me in my life in spite of my “baggage,” they invite me in because I am a person who is worthy of their time and love — whether or not I have an illness. We all come with “baggage” or painful past experiences. Nobody gets to go through life without it.
There tends to be this idea that people should be grateful for the pain and painful experiences they were forced to go through. I don’t subscribe to that belief. I am grateful for my growth and how much I have changed in the years since this occurred. But being grateful for the pain that caused me to grow feels like I am grateful or grew for the person who chose to harm me. None of that is true. I grew for myself. I grew by myself. My growth is completely separate from the person who chose to do harm to my body and mind.
To myself, thank you for having courage when it felt like this was your fault. Thank you for having the strength and vulnerability to share your story in the hope to support and honor those who have similar experiences. Thank you for loving yourself back together.
To those who held up my head when I felt ashamed by another person’s actions towards me, thank you and I am always grateful for you. Your love means the world to me and continues to push me when things feel hard. You are my people and my loves.
To the one who shows me what good love is, you inspire and lift me up when my heart feels too heavy. I adore you always.
To those who are crying on the bathroom floor now, I am holding space for you in my heart. I feel for you and please know you are strong enough to continue. Life will be better and you will hold love in your heart that does not hurt, I promise.
Getty image by Lisa Vlasenko.