I mentioned in a recent blog (To The Angels On Earth) how I had slight emotional breakdown as I sometimes do, back in August. Well, I have always been a fairly emotionally sensitive person- regarding myself and with others- and when it’s a personal thing, I continue to process until I reach some sort of conclusion. Some would call this introspection. There have been a few layers to my most recent topic of introspection, and after several weeks of keeping this in mind, I think I have discovered the root.
I was in an abusive marriage for ten years while in ministry at two different churches. My husband also battled mental illness on a level I never fully understood until last year when he took his own life. I gave every ounce of emotional energy, love, time, and commitment to my marriage that I could possibly muster- and I nearly lost myself doing so. The level of pain and disappointment I endured in what was supposed to be the closest relationship a person could have left me scattered and lost. Needless to say, I have had some very dark days. And you can bet your boots, I have asked myself all the questions that have crossed your mind too: “Why did I stay so long? Why didn’t I say more, do more, put my foot down and insist on change? Why didn’t I get help? Why didn’t I respect myself enough to demand to be treated well?” The list goes on.
Here’s the thing: When you’re in a dysfunctional, abusive relationship… you don’t know it. You don’t know it, until it’s time for you to walk out of it. You may have an inkling… you may wonder… but you have NO idea how bad it is until you decide to stop the cycle. I tried every single thing I knew to try as a twenty-something year old wife. I was young, naive, and ignorant as to the gravity of the situation (a.k.a. marriage) I was in.
Once I did finally step away from the bond of that relationship (only mentally, at first), the realization of the last ten years of my life finally hit me and I was devastated. I could barely breathe or speak or move for days. It was unbearable to finally understand what I had been living under for so many years. And, that right there is why I have recently realized I have a very difficult time forgiving myself. The root of my latest emotional burden was this:
I just can’t seem to forgive my younger self.
I have wanted to punish her and chastise her and talk about how stupid and foolish she is! Because if I punch her in the face enough, then maybe the new me won’t forget how capable I actually am of being so ignorant and blind. If I constantly snarled and scowled at the younger me, maybe then I wouldn’t repeat all the mistakes I made.
I know it’s awful to read such hateful words, but I bet if we were all honest, I’m not the only one who has been on this train of thought about myself! So, for almost three years, this little philosophy has kept me warm and cozy, all tucked in tightly to my walls and guards and boundaries and “I will never’s”. Yeah, it’s been a real peach living like that (she says, lips dripping with sarcasm).
I have chiseled a very protected… and limited version of life for myself for a while now. Yes, maybe that was fine to get me out of the storm, but the wayward emotions as of late have led me to believe this is not a sustainable way of life for me anymore.
It’s time to change, to heal, to free my younger self.
(This might get weird…) When I see old pictures, when old memories pop up, or I think of myself back then, here is what I will say to that younger version of me from now on:
It’s OK. It’s OK you fought and bloodied yourself in battles you didn’t know were not yours to fight. It’s OK you didn’t have a hand to hold to guide you out of the mess you found yourself in. It’s OK that you didn’t know what resources to tap, numbers to call, actions to take. As you’ve always said, “You cannot rush maturity.” And just the same, you cannot rush experience or knowledge of relationships. These are tools that come with time, failure, and rebuilding. There is a lot of life ahead of you, and absolutely no reason to keep whipping your back for everything you lack. You have been pardoned. You can roam and explore, heal and learn, mend and grow.
You are free.
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