Unlearning; Undeserving Love

This post comes with a trigger warning ⚠️ it‘s about domestic abuse, and harmful societal messaging. Please only read it if you feel you are in the right mental framing to do so, and that it won’t detrimentally affect you.

It’s not that I didn’t love myself enough to walk away when his hands were on my neck, it’s that I believed that this was what love was. It just clicked for me this morning, when I was lying in my bed doing a breathing exercise.

Everytime I’ve done this Win Hoff breathing exercise, I’ve only been able to hold my breath for a short while, as soon as i feel the sensation of discomfort in my body, my mind shies away from it, and inevitably I find myslef gasping for oxygen, even though I don’t actually require it in the moment.

Today I decided to pay attention to the quality of the discomfort, where it was, how it felt, did it move. I just got really curious about it. And when I did all this, I felt a wave of emotion, and memories that sprang up on the feeling. I also felt the fear that sometimes crops up when I feel strong emotions.

One such memory was the time during an argument with my, then significant other, put his hands around my neck and slowly tightened his grip. I remembered how vulnerable I felt afterwards. How aware I was of how exposed necks in general actually are. I guess I disconnected from the physical pain, it was the emotional pain that really stayed with me. That and feeling like I really wasn’t safe in my home anymore, that maybe if the next argument went too far, this could happen again.

I heard the advice I’d been given as a younger version of myself again. If a man ever puts his hands on you, leave, don’t give him the chance to do it again. Leave. If you stay it will happen again, and next time it could be worse.

But it didn’t move me to action. No kind of self preservation kicked in.

I stayed.

I was mad, when it happened, frustrated, but I didn’t take any action to change things. Not in a way that prioritised my physicsl and emotional safety at least.

Growing up, I’d learned through experience that sometimes I might not feel safe in my own body. So what difference did it make now as an adult to feel unsafe in my home.

So eventually the feeling faded, into the background.

That’s what I want to explore. It’s the familiarity of it, that kept me in that place for a lot longer than I should have allowed myself to be. The way that version of myself stayed despite logically knowing better.

The fact that til this day I have some family members trying to initiate talks with me on what I can do to return to that relationship, without them knowing the ins and outs of what exactly I endured within it. (God forbid!) As the saying goes “nobody on the outside knows exactly what goes on inside other people’s relationships”.

The thing is though, if I’m trying to dig for the roots of this, I think it started with my childhood conditioning, what my parents did and didn’t tell me, what my teachers told me, what I saw and heard growing up, what I consumed on television, what I read in books. I learnt so much about how important it was to respect others… and not so much an emphasis was placed on how to respect myself. How to decide what I would and would not allow for myself. Was it a sign of the times? I just feel like a lot of that was absent.

When I gasped for air this morning at first the judgement I came to was that I didn’t love myself to walk away- it didn’t sit completely right though. It’s more true to say, that along the way, I’d come to believe that this was what love looked like, or what love people like me deserved. That somehow back then, I believed that this was the love I deserved. That wasn’t love though , it was control.

There is a lot that I’m learning about boundaries, and there’s still a lot more that I have to learn… I think it’s just about time that I started being a bit more honest with myself.

I get why people stay/ have stayed, I also thank God ceaselessly for the clarity He sent me to see my situation for what it was and to leave. To make a decision to leave and to decide to want and choose better for myself.

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