This article may be controversial for some to read. You may not like what I have to say, and that’s ok. Please know I am going to be as DIPLOMATIC and OBJECTIVE as possible. Today, I am going to talk about forgiveness; truly, how I forgave my abuser. BEFORE YOU CLICK OFF, understand that I am by no means sitting here to tell you that forgiveness is vital to your healing, I’m not going to list reasons why you should forgive, and I’m definitely not going to tell you to forgive. I am simply writing about my forgiveness journey and what it means to me. And I write this with the full disclosure that I’m not sure if I’ve fully ‘forgiven’ my abuser yet. But it’s something that has been weighing heavily on my mind. So…here we go.
First…What does Forgiveness mean to me? Simply, it means taking my power back. Whether I’ll ever actually say to my abuser, ‘I forgive you,’ is almost irrelevant.
1: I NEVER plan on seeing him again.
2: I don’t even know if he’s remorseful or wants forgiveness.
3: The healing and forgiveness I experience is wholly internal…its just for me. (Trigger Warning-As a spiritual person, I do believe that anything I hold against someone here on earth will effect their entrance into Heaven…so I believe that forgiveness is also for the sake of the other person in that way, but also for my own soul).
But besides that, forgiveness is not just about the definition, being able to say, ‘I forgive you.’ It’s about completing your whole self once again. I believe that in order to complete MY whole self, I need to take my power back. Now, wait..what does that mean? Before I tell you that, I need to explain the powers I believe were taken from in the moments of my abuse.
1: the power over my body. I no longer felt that it was under my protection…I was vulnerable. Anybody could USE my body.
2: the power over my emotions. I no longer knew what I was feeling. I no longer knew how to neutralize myself if my emotions were negative. My feelings went haywire.
3: the power over my mind. My thoughts were just as jumbled as my emotions. They’re closely connected, and either effects the other. But my mind loved to play tricks…I never knew if what I was thinking was my own thought, or a thought I was told to have.
4: the power over my personality. I could no longer be my happy, diva self. Because I would get judged. Or I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t worthy enough. No one would ever love me, so why should I show people who I am?
Losing these powers greatly affected me as a child. I was incredibly sensitive, emotional, and completely unable to express anything efficiently. At some point, I learned how to gain confidence…which, looking back, basically meant not caring what other people said. Whether that was actually because of self-confidence, or because I learned to tune everything out…I suppose I’ll never know. I lie, I know…it was the latter. Yup, I learned to tune everything out, to not allow the words of others to affect me, and to fake it until I made it. As an adult, I feel as if those powers have affected me differently, but also more greatly. All of the ‘symptoms’ resulting from the loss of these powers have been exponentially heightened as an adult.
This is evident through my weight. I’ve grown up saying that I love my curves, that I love being plus size, and that I love who I am. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being plus size. I am a huge fan of the plus size movement, and of so many of the plus size models. It’s just that for me personally, my weight has become my mask. Subconsciously, I didn’t want people to look at me as a child, and even more so when I got older. If I were heavy, I wouldn’t need to worry about negative male attention. Men wouldn’t look at me in a sexual manner because I wasn’t the typical ‘pretty’ or ‘sexy.’
*Please note that I am well aware that size does not matter, everyone is beautiful no matter what they look like, and that weight should not be a deterrent for men. I know this, I believe this, but as a child, it felt like the only possible mask.
As an adult, my weight started to effect my health, my energy, my abilities. I took a risk, and had Gastric Bypass done. I did really well, I lost about 80 pounds, but have come to a slow stop because I made it back to my ‘comfortable weight,’ meaning I’m still heavy enough to ‘not be noticed,’ but healthy enough to work and live. I’ve never been under the weight I’m currently at in my whole adult life. This particular loss of power is also evident through my physical relationship with my boyfriend. There are times that I flinch without thinking when he touches me. There are spots on my body that put my nerves on edge. Sometimes, even a simple hug and kiss make me feel vulnerable.
*Check out more of my fitness journey here.
I’m lucky to have the boyfriend that I do. He’s incredibly understanding and compassionate, and does his best to be aware if a touch triggers me. But I hate that. He’s my boyfriend. I’m his girlfriend. Being touched by him should not put me into panic mode. But it does. And it’s not him. Of course it’s not him. It’s the memory of my past. It’s the man who took my power away from me.
And to be frank, it pisses me off. Not only has that SOB taken something from me, he’s taken something from my boyfriend. *I know there are those who believe that we are not obligated to be intimate with our significant others, and I know that there are those of us who don’t want to. I understand that, I respect that. But for me, I want that intimacy. I want that connection. And I’m still trying to figure out how to allow physical elements of our relationship to also be intimate and vice versa.*
In my opinion, they should be intertwined, closely connected to the other. But I can’t help but shake the fear that if my boyfriend wants me physically, he doesn’t want me for anything else. I know, in my head, for a fact that this just isn’t true. But the fear is there. Of course it is, after being told at a young age that I would never be good enough for anything else. This is something I am still working hard to cope with and get through.
I’ve been effected as an adult because I still can’t control them. In fact, I feel as if I have even less control than I did as a child. I’ve always been very self aware, but my favorite phrase these days seems to be, ‘I don’t know.’ And I hate that. I hate not understanding what I’m feeling. And I hate being unable to define an emotion. I absolutely loathe not being able to help myself in combatting an emotion. Before, I would always have something to say, a thought to grasp onto, a realization that pushes me forward. But for the past year, my ability to recognize my inner thoughts has diminished greatly. SO ANGRY. My constant whirl of emotions effects so much: my communication skills, my energy, my daily laughter (which has also lessened), and even my ability to get out of bed.
There are days in which I just can’t. I’m not saying these are awful feelings and we should feel like useless human beings because of these emotions. All these feelings are valid, they’re real, they’re understandable. But for me…I get so mad at myself. Why can’t I just control my emotions? Or why can’t I change my mood at the drop of a pin? And why can’t I hear and understand things that are being said, rather than hearing random twists and turns? Just…why?
This brings me to the power over my mind, something closely connected to my emotions. If a negative emotion is triggered, my mind is irrational. Always, without fail. This is true for almost everyone. So in that state of being, we have no power over our thoughts. They whirl around, moving in different directions, never slowing down, turning into this huge tornado we feel we have to just ride out. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, except we don’t fall into a magical and colorful land afterwards. Everything is either as it was before, or worse.
Very often, my boyfriend will tell me something that he feels. And instead of listening objectively, it turns into him having said something bad about me or how I treat him, making me an awful girlfriend, forcing me into the idea of breaking up with him because he deserves better, then bringing about negative harmful thoughts. Why? Why must it go SO FAR? Maybe I’ll never know. I can’t control it, and my boyfriend will have to use every tactic in the book to bring me back to reality. Don’t get me wrong, there are days in which I can stop myself and say, ‘shutup, Brianne. Relax, that’s not what he’s saying.’ I can usually only do that on a very, very good day. Obviously, I wish with all my heart that I could stop myself EVERY TIME, maybe one day.
Lastly, how have I lost power over my personality as adult? In short, I question everything. When I make a decision, when I say something, when I do something, when I describe myself, I always have to ask myself the most annoying question: is this me, or is this the me I was told to be? Very often, I fall back on my usual answer: the positive is me, the negative is not. If I was sad, confused, lost, I would say that it was because of my PTSD. It would just hit me a little harder on those days. If I were in a good mood, dancing around, laughing loudly and singing badly to all my favorite songs, THAT WAS ME. It was Bubbly Brianne.
Now that we know what powers were taken from me, what do I mean when I say I need to take them back? I mean just that. My body, my emotions, my thoughts, my personality…they all belong to me. And I am DONE allowing my abuser keep them. There are not two of me. I am unique. No, I am NOT MY PTSD, but my PTSD is a part of me. I am already whole; I am already complete. And I say this completely aware that THIS IS NOT A FIX…It’s a new mindset. I know I will have bad days. I know I will have moments in which I need to fight a little harder, even days in which I don’t want to fight at all. This will be a lifelong battle…but I believe that I am much more prepared for it now. My Forgiveness=Taking My Power Back.
“Yay, good job, Brianne…you figured it out. How are you going to do that?” I don’t know, I have some ideas. But the important thing is I won’t stop trying. I’ll write notes to myself, make posters, just talk to my reflection in the mirror. I’ll do anything I need to remind myself daily that I am who I am. I am worthy as I am, I am loved, I am loveable. And I have a purpose. I am me. No matter what. Yes, I have scars, yes, I have been beaten down and hurt, and no, I’m not perfect. But I am imperfectly perfect. My complexities, my mood swings, my weird brain, my uncontrollable emotion, my loud laugh and need for love…it’s all me.
Take your power back with me. Do you have any ideas on how we can remind ourselves daily? Let me know!
Woman of Steel