I was in my mid-30s. Everything was going great. My life was amazingly wonderful. Great marriage, great job, great friends, travelling and enjoying life. Why did this hit me now? What could possibly make me so afraid that I was unable to function?
Things got so bad that I had no choice but to go to a psychologist. I dreaded telling my story. I had pushed it down into my gut for so long. I feared telling someone about it for fear it would consume me.
And it did for a while. I remember getting into my car and playing REM's Everybody Hurts on the way home from the shrink. Sobbing into my steering wheel, barely able to see through the tears as I drove in rush hour traffic. But when I got to the end of the song where Michael Stipe sings, "Everybody hurts sometimes/So, hold on, hold on...", I felt better. I would hold on and get through this.
Verbal and emotional abuse, though it doesn't leave a scar that you can point to as proof of your pain, is no less real or painful. That's the first thing I learned from Peggy, my psychologist who listened to my story and held my pain and fear with me for 50 minutes each week.
I got through this emotionally exhausting three years of my life feeling stronger every day. I was worth more than the words that were spit out at me by the abuser in my life. I deserved to be treated with the respect I earned.
I learned that love doesn't come with a jagged edge if it truly is love.
Every year in the high school youth group I facilitate at my church, I spend a Sunday morning exploring the topic of bullying. It usually centers around school-related bullying but I think this year we'll talk about bullying by people who say they care about you.
It happens in families and with those who call themselves friends. People can tell you they love you while still treating you like you are the reason for their own vile souls.
Abuse is abuse. All it takes to remove its power is for someone to name it.