Pulling myself up, I stared at my eyes in the mirror for the fist time in what felt like years. I felt ashamed. I felt shattered. I looked into eyes I no longer recognised. I peered deeply into them and made a sacred contract to those eyes I no longer knew; I promised that I would never stay in another abusive relationship. That I would never allow myself to be thrown against a wall, pushed to the ground, or used as a sexual object to dominate. I had no choice but to save those eyes looking back at me.
I ran to the other side of the country to have the distance that ending the dance of domestic violence demands. I continued to live by the commitment of never being hurt. This promise kept me physically safe but came with the price tag of being dishonest, disconnected and a serial dater. It came at the cost of emotional starvation.
My hungering heart is what led me to you. It’s what fooled me from seeing that I walking into a feeding frenzy in the vortex of verbal violence. How desperately I wanted to feel fed.
When my stomach churned when you asked if you could kiss me – I should have taken this as a sign. A sign that my body, my body that had previously broken by a man like you, was in danger. But when your lips touched mine, under the glow of that seductive super moon, it didn’t feel like danger it felt so familiar. I felt like I knew you in another lifetime – star-crossed lovers perhaps?
Wrapped with your body around mine after sex, I felt the molecules of sweet sweat soak into my skin and permeate my soul. I was finally full.
I became addicted to getting high off of your attention, your admiration, and your lust. I didn’t notice my life disappear into the distance. I became utterly intoxicated by the romance you served me. I was too drunk on love to be sober for any other part of my life. Everyone who knew me disappeared, I didn’t even notice the departures. I was fed only by you.
I don’t know when your addiction to feeding me love switched to savagely evoking and witnessing my pain.
Was it when I let you see my imperfections?
Was it when I told you that I had no real family and felt at home with yours?
Was it when I laid across from you naked, physically and emotionally, and disclosed my hidden history of abuse? How you looked at me and looked away without saying a word. How the silence at that moment paused my pulse.
When did your hunger change? When did you stop feeling fed by our love and fed by seeing my pain? Maybe you never felt fed by my love; maybe your starved skeleton only sees hearts as meals for your ego. Maybe my starved and hungering heart left me easy prey for you to feast on.
When you looked into my eyes and told me that I had too much baggage, this was the moment I saw into your eyes. How familiar they were to my own. How familiar they were to the eyes I had wanted to save years ago.
Every time I looked into your eyes, I saw the demons that lived inside of your past. I thought that the eyes of your demons were more tormenting than my own. How naive I was to think that your demons eyes and your eyes were any different.
Every time you looked into my eyes and degraded me with words I became more deeply invested in trying to save you. I fell, further and further below the mirror. I was no longer able to see my reflection. My reflection was blurred by all words said during your verbal attacks.
Every time the eyes, I had promised years to never subject to abuse again, looked into yours, I was seeing a different form of abuser. Not one who would hit me or throw me to the floor but one that would intimately destroy other portions of my being.
I did not want to break the promise I made to myself years ago. I stayed despite being fed poisons and pain. I stayed because I didn’t want to admit to myself that I was in another abusive relationship. That I had alienated the promise I made to myself.
I desperately thought that if I could save you from your demons… If I could do this, then I would not have to live with the heartbreak that breaking the most intimate and significant promise of my life would bear.
I didn’t save you. You can’t save an abuser – you can save yourself from abuse.
You don’t save yourself from abuse by proclaiming that you will never be in an abusive relationship again. It’s that type of control oriented thinking that keeps us stuck in abusive relationships. The truth is that we don’t have control over other people or how they will treat us. We cannot control if they choice to feed us love at breakfast and serve us with emotional neglect at dinner. We only have control over how we treat ourselves, love ourselves, and how we feed our own souls.
This is a hard truth to live. It is especially difficult when you have been in any form of abusive relationship because regardless of what you do, the abuser continues to feast. The abuser leaves feeling full because the power they have over you continues even after their physical presence has ceased. The mind tricks, manipulation and intoxication of their sickness is a dark magic that disallows you to see your authentic self in the mirror. You can’t see your unconditional worthiness.
Instead, when you look in the mirror you may see your own eyes, but you also see the eyes of your demons. The demons who were conceived during your history of abuse. In a way, you become your own abuser. The things that they have subjected you to torment your mind. Their presence in your life creates a famine and so often after we leave abusive relationships we stay starving.
We think this starvation is stemming from a genetic disease as it spreads and embeds into all of our being. But it’s not a genetic disease it is a virus given to you by the abuser you once loved.
A virus that causes depression, anxieties, insecurities, destructive behaviours, and replaces self-worth, care, and love with self-hate. A virus of starvation and impaired vision.
The only cure is nourishment in the form of forgiveness.