*Content Warning: This piece contains references to abuse, which may be triggering to some.*
I’ve always just considered myself empathetic. Even to the people who abused me. I thought I was just being empathetic to the hurtful things they were doing. And that’s why I reacted the way I did, why I internalized the pain, why I forgave them and blamed myself instead.
I looked for reasons why they did what they did. They were just sad, sick or tired. So it wasn’t their fault. I couldn’t be mad at them. And when I saw myself deteriorating, I saw bits of each of my abusers living in me; I still blamed myself. Of course I was turning into them! They were the people shaping me. I could never be anything other than them. I was all of their flaws and insecurities wrapped up in the fragile shell of a human.
It damaged me. I was proud that I got out of these abusive situations, but I still felt them every single day. I dreamt of them. I saw them in myself. I never thought I’d outgrow them. I’d introduce myself with my PTSD because I was proud of how far of I’d come. Meanwhile, my mind was still stuck.
The first time I felt free in my life was when I realized I never was an angry person. They were. I never was a selfish person. They were. They each sunk their rotten teeth into me and I felt the pressure to take on those roles, but it was killing me the whole time. My biggest fear of becoming my abusers had become true. I hated so many parts of myself. I cried for entire days. I’d cry so hard my body would go numb. I had become an angry person, and I was so angry with myself because I’d allowed it to happen.
But the truth is I wasn’t an angry person. Not at my core. I reminded myself of times in my life when I chose kindness — when it mattered, when it wasn’t just for myself. I had to focus on these moments in light of the weight on my shoulders. I had swallowed the insecurities of some very weak people. And even when they were out of my life, I carried their burdens while they lived their lives.
I accept my mistakes and I know I have my own flaws, but I have to realize that I didn’t become an angry person because of my abuse. I was carrying the anger for someone else. I don’t have to carry it anymore. I’ll work on myself, I’m indecisive and anxious and I can be lazy. But I’m also strong and have a really kind heart. So I’m letting their weight go.