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Why I Denied My Toxic Marriage and Self-Harm, and How I Stopped

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm, experience suicidal thoughts or have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

After two years of a constant battle with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD) and anxiety, I have had some realizations. I decided to compartmentalize my thoughts and my emotions, analyze each on its own and try to identify their effects on my behavior. I felt like if I identified my patterns, it would help me manage my illness better.

Denial was a complicated emotion I had to deal with simply because if the problem is denied, there will never be space for any kind of solution or peace of mind. Whether you willingly choose to deny the problem or you just cannot see it, the result is the same.

Denial is as sneaky as it is lethal. You start to consciously deny emotions and shut out your inner voice until it becomes the default. I have lived a good few years with a pattern to deny certain emotions and intuitions I had — things my gut was trying to tell me. I was lying to myself the whole time and at some point along the way, I stopped being aware that I was. When you shut your emotions far too long, they start emerging in physical forms and it becomes impossible to ignore them any longer.

I stayed in a marriage for two and a half years, knowing deep down it did not feel right. I always had a feeling deep down that it was not working out. Yet, I kept disregarding the way I felt. I was giving him excuses all the time, apologizing when I wasn’t even wrong, and getting defensive when my friends pointed out my doubts about this marriage. I never explicitly told them the way I feel, but I guess they saw right through me. It was obvious to them, but not for me because by then I had become a denial expert. It came to the point where I was being emotionally abused, constantly disrespected, belittled and blamed for my mental illness. I stayed. I justified. I gave myself a thousand other excuses, yet things always escalated. It got worse. I started self-harming in the last year of this marriage. I would get very angry, feel this mounting energy inside me, wanting to burst out. It was overwhelming and unbearable so I went for self-harm.

My emotions were in a spiral, and I was contemplating suicide; it was the “lesser evil.” It was an outlet. It was a coping mechanism; not a healthy one, but it helped.

I remember thinking “I am harming myself so I don’t do something worse.” While that may be valid, I failed to see an important pattern. In retrospect, I realize now that I was self-harming every time I was put in a situation where I was being abused but completely unable to stand up for myself. I judged myself all the time. I remember thinking, “I am weak because I am not leaving.” So, I took it out on myself. I was angry for not defending myself the way I thought I should. Two scars on my arms. Six. Eleven. I still stayed. I still lied to myself about being miserable.

My body, however, couldn’t keep up with the lies anymore. I reached a point where my anxiety was through the roof; even sedatives didn’t help me sleep. I had heart palpitations 24/7. I barely ate. I lost a lot of weight, and I basically looked like a zombie. I had become completely dysfunctional. My body just shut down. My anger reached an unprecedented level. I broke things. I harmed myself more. The scars became deeper. I do not even have a proper timeline for that period in my mind. There were days when I got really angry and I have no recollection whatsoever of what happened afterward — just fragmented, fuzzy images. I started to dissociate more frequently than I used to. Sometime,s when I’d have a flashback, I wouldn’t be able to tell what was real and what was not.

When you become this dysfunctional, denial is both physically and mentally impossible. In hindsight, I am aware now that part of the reason why I refused to admit I was in an abusive marriage is that I did not want to admit my own failure. I had a history in picking abusive partners and it hurt to admit I chose wrong once again. I should have been able to point out the abuse and have enough strength to walk away.

Denial was never the solution. It only made me more miserable. It took two years of my life that I will never get back and it brought me more pain that I still need to deal with to this very day. Had I stopped at any of those moments when I knew this was not working for me, perhaps I wouldn’t have been exposed to such a toxic environment for too long. Perhaps I wouldn’t be collecting my broken pieces right now.

It was the moment that I decided to talk out loud about everything I was trying to suppress that I felt liberated the most. I admitted I was miserable in my marriage. I faced the fact I was going through an identity crisis because I was basically trying to be what everybody else wanted me to be. I was conforming. I was denying myself the very basic right to just be myself. I talked with my closest friends and my parents about the emotional abuse I was exposed to by my ex-husband. I knew the minute I said it out loud to myself and to others, there would be no coming back from that. Leaving this marriage is perhaps the best decision I have ever taken. My life feels more mine than it ever did before.

Half the time you say you do not know what is wrong with you, you actually do. You are just refusing to listen; to face what you are so scared of. My advice is to not acquiesce to the fear; do not deny those deep thoughts you are trying to bury. It will only rip your life apart.

Photo by Jonatán Becerra on Unsplash

Originally published: January 28, 2019
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