[trigger warning: discussion of abusers, abusive relationships, mentions of self harm and violence]
If there”s one thing I’ve learned in the past year, it’s that survival is much more complicated than simply being alive. And being alive is more complicated than just existing.
But this isn’t true of survival alone; abuse is also more complicated than just being. It’s more than just the physical act(s) perpetrated onto someone. There are many kinds of emotional and mental abuse, and they can stretch beyond the physical.
I finally got together enough courage to tell my mom that yes, she was an abuser and I still see her as one. I did this because she kept calling me when I told her not to; although we tend think of violence in terms of weapons and physical bodies, there’s a kind of violence in constantly being made aware of your abuser’s presence, of feeling like you can never escape them, or that they control every aspect of your life. There’s a kind of violence in being unable to control your personal space.
An outsider might not understand why, every time I hang up the phone after talking to my mother, I have to fight the desire to harm myself, to die or give up. An outsider might think that my sudden outbursts at her are unreasonable or unfair, but that’s because their experience of violence is different than mine. When my abusers speak to me, when my abusers make their presence known without my consent, that is a serious, violent act. It is an intrusion into the fragile space I’ve built around myself.
My abusers don’t need to punch me to hurt me. They don’t need to break my bones to render me immobile; they hurt me by existing. I love them and I care for them because they are my family, but they are still violent just by being there. Their physical actions ended years ago, but there’s no neat line where it cuts off and I can suddenly forget that, or forget those feelings.
Throughout history, in every major act of destruction against masses of people, the monsters in charge have always succeeded by delegating powers onto subordinates; a person with malicious ideas can’t take over a country on their own, so they get five people to do the job for them, and those five people each find five other people to help them out, and so on. This is what child sexual abuse and other types of abuse do; they colonize vulnerable people, instilling self-destructive, self-hating ideas so that they can do the abuser’s work themselves.
This is the kind of struggle I am in. This is what I am trying to get out of— an externally, but with time, internally imposed system.
I need space away from my abusers. I can’t think when they are so close.
I can’t think when you are this close, so go away.