I wear a lot of hats, as most women do. Most of my life has been spent being too busy to deal with a lot of the things that now lie naked on the examination table. But right now, I am being intentional about making the time to look at the true impact of abuse in my life.
I’ve spent most of my time pretending, either to myself or to others, that I’m OK. To not feel OK seemed, I don’t know, out of control. It’s much easier to go through life thinking I was over it or that the past didn’t have much effect on me. Except, of course, that that kind of thinking wound me up into a hypervigilant, performance-driven, insecure, always-looking-over-my-shoulder, mass of nerves.
So now I am giving myself permission to not be OK. For me, that means I am going to allow myself to cry if I feel like crying and let out my rage when I am pissed off. For others, it means they get to see a side of me that is more vulnerable. I am going share my feelings more. I am going to apologize for them less.
It’s harder to not be OK than one might think. When you’ve been doing something so ingrained, such as taking on the emotional responsibility of abuser, or pretending like everything is hunky dory, it becomes a difficult pattern to break. Sometimes I feel selfish to acknowledge I have basic needs, or to ask more of the people around me. I am comfortable “bearing the burdens of others.” I am not comfortable calling people out on all their bullshit.
I found it’s important for my mental health to stop absorbing the bad behavior of others in order to be “nice.” For me, it’s easier to say, “That’s OK…” instead of “That’s not OK.” Abusers should not be let off the hook for their behavior. Ever. They are the kind of people who prey on those who will gladly accept or forgive them because those people mistakenly feel it is the charitable thing to do. Normal people feel sorry for their behavior and don’t intentionally do things to hurt people. Even so, it’s OK to tell people when they’ve hurt you. It’s OK to give normal people some grace when they mess up. Abusers are different, and to excuse their behavior or cover for them only increases the damage done.
One thing I’ve noticed is that in order to live with the effects of abuse out in the open where they belong, I have to acknowledge the things that, because of the long term effects of abuse, stress me out. I am able to connect the dots more quickly when I feel overwhelmed and need to take a break. I can better identify my triggers and needs. I need more quiet space. I need calm sounds. When I feel disproportionately upset or sensitive about something, I am able to remind myself that my overstimulated PTSD brain needs a rest. Don’t have to be the strong one. I can admit this because it’s OK to not be OK.