A little while ago, I came across a post on Upworthy about a woman who wrote a letter of support to her neighbor experiencing domestic abuse. It made me want to do something similar for people experiencing abuse generally. So if you’re trapped in an unhealthy or dangerous relationship, these words are especially for you.
You’re Not Alone!
Your abuser will want you to think you are, but you’re not. In fact, it’s quite the opposite! The truth is that your abuser needs you to feel alone; to second guess yourself, and believe that you can’t succeed—or live—without them so that you won’t leave. And when I say that you aren’t alone, I mean that the SwanWaters team and Facebook community are made up of people, just like you, who know what you’re going through. From survivors of psychological manipulation and domestic violence in marriage relationships, survivors of emotional abuse from narcissistic parents, to former religious cult-members. We totally get it.
The truth of the matter is that abusers are fueled by the pain of their targets; it’s emotional food to them. They’d have you believe that it’s your responsibility to sustain their emotional well being, but this isn’t the case. And while they may often make you feel like you bring the abuse you experience upon yourself, absolutely no one deserves to be called names, lied to, gaslit, or blackmailed. No one deserves to be hit, controlled financially, forced to engage in sexual activities they don’t want to engage in, or have their soul crushed through religious abuse.
The abuser is responsible for their behavior, and you’re responsible for yours. But because they’ve taught you to take responsibility for their emotional state, it can be hard to separate what’s theirs from what’s yours. I understand that. You may struggle to distance yourself from their influence, but the key is to learn about what’s going on, and putting up some safe guards in your mind. This will help you to start seeing their abuse for the toxic behavior it really is—while also helping you to survive.
I Called You Survivor Because That’s What You Are
You may not feel like one yet—you may still feel like survivor. But trust me on this: you’re a survivor. If you’ve read this far, I already know that you’re willing to start understanding your situation for what it really is. You may feel wobbly, you may feel like you could fall over at any second, but you’re deciding to take stock of things and be real with yourself. And I’m proud of you for that.
You’re not a victim. You’re a survivor!
My fellow survivor, don’t forget that The Ugly Duckling was bullied and broken down by everyone he met—a feeling you might relate to. But he’s also the hero of the story because, when all is said and done, he’s actually a beautiful swan. So just like the precious protagonist in this classic fairy tale, you don’t have to do anything to become heroic. By simply being yourself and growing into your own, you are heroic. Which means that, at the end of the day—despite what your abuser has made you feel—there’s actually nothing wrong with you at all. You’re a ‘swan’—a survivor—even if you don’t necessarily know it just yet.
Make Sure You Get the Support You Need
Do you want to know a secret? Abusers does not like their targets to fight back. So realize that as soon as you start to stand up to them, they’ll double their efforts to break you back down. That’s why believing that you’re worth being treated with respect, and knowing that you can’t possibly get free without help, are so important.
Always remind yourself that you’re valuable, and that you wouldn’t be okay with a friend being treated the way you’re being treated yourself. Reach out to friends, family, local domestic abuse charities, or even law enforcement if you have to. And remember that emotional abuse is extremely harmful and can spill over into physical abuse, too. So be as strategic as possible.
We’re here for you!
While we can’t fight your battles for you, we believe you’re worth fighting for. So join us in the SwanWaters—Life Beyond Toxic Relationships Facebook group to connect with us and other survivors. When you need us, we’ll be there. We’ll pick you up on your dark days, cheer you on, and celebrate your victories with you.
And finally, please, don’t give up. Put one foot in front of the other, and you’ll get through this!