Where you're loved

Don't stay where you are needed. Go where you are loved. Lang Lev
Abuse is strange. There's a cycle to the violence: tension builds up (verbally, non-verbally) and then there's an attack, followed by this strange period of apologies and loving gestures and remorse. And during that "after" period, you start to think things like... Maybe I was over reacting, maybe this won't happen again, maybe they were having a bad day and made a mistake and maybe I did something wrong that brought it on so next time -- next time I won't act like that and that could stop it from happening again.

But then it happens again and you try to look for how you were wrong during this one. And you do it over and over and over again, because you want to believe the love the abuser promised you they have.

A lot of people ask survivors of abuse why they stayed. Answers vary, of course, because no two situations are the same. Some people have no option but to stay, no money to leave or no one to go with for help. Some people believe it will get better, eventually. Some people stay because they feel they have to, out of obligation. I relate to all of the above but belong especially to that last one.

In my experience, the tension that built up to the physical abuse made me feel like I couldn't leave because I needed to stay, despite whatever came next. It was sometimes anger and yelling and hatred, but it was also lethargy and sickness and desperation. I witnessed depression and mood swings and complete absence from life and substance abuse. It was me seeing things I couldn't in good conscience turn my back on and walk away from, letting it continue (or get worse).

I was needed: to fix things, to cover up, to make things function like nothing was wrong. Every day, I felt I had no choice but to stay, even when it was at its worst.

The truth is, it never should have mattered if I was needed. I was a child and nothing that happened was my responsibility to fix. It was never mine to carry. Being needed is not the same as being loved. It's not enough, and does not ever excuse such behavior.

On hard days, I still get upset at myself for not finding a way out. Or, on the other hand, I get upset that I didn't do enough to make it better. Some nights I am devastated remembering the abuse I saw, and other nights I am a wreck wondering why my abuser didn't love me. It's possible for me to have both of these feelings, but it is a tumultuous storm to carry inside.

I still have trouble talking openly and honestly with people about everything because I know it upsets some people and makes them uncomfortable. But it's no longer a secret I'm burdened to keep. Opening up makes it all a little lighter for me.

Don't stay where you are needed. Go where you are loved. (And go there, in love, yourself.)


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