If I Could Turn Back Time, Here’s What I Would Tell 18 Year Old Me

My lovely friend Jamie over at chosen chaos is hosting a link-up (see the cute button?) similar to the series that she hosted on her blog called the 18 series. I was lucky enough to write a guest post letter to my 18 year old self at her place back in September…you can read all about what I would say to myself if I could turn back time.

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But there’s more to that letter to myself…more to explain. I shared a guest post over at the Blogger Body Calendar blog back in April 2011, I think. I wanted to post it here because I think it’s important to share our experiences with each other, what we’ve learned from the past. Let me preface this post by saying I don’t regret anything that’s happened in my life, but I do know that there are certain things that I will never let happen again.

Here is the post, with a few minor changes.

I never considered myself a victim of abuse; I never even considered myself abused. Back then – when I thought about abuse – I thought about blood, broken bones, scars, and trips to the emergency rooms. None of those things had happened to me.

Sure my ex-husband occasionally said horrible things that I still can’t repeat. Sure he broke me down emotionally, making me actually believe that I could never amount to anything. And sure, okay, sometimes he shoved or pushed me, or grabbed me so hard by the arms that there would be fingerprint bruises left as a reminder of just how bad I had screwed up.

But this happened 20 years ago…long before the internet. I mention this because before the internet, information wasn’t as easy to come by (or to spread for that matter). If you missed Oprah the day that a woman was talking about domestic violence, and you didn’t set your VCR to tape it, you were out of luck. None of my friends or family were in abusive marriages or relationships (that I knew of at the time). These things weren’t spoken about openly. Of course friends knew that my relationship was rocky, that my ex treated me a lot worse than I deserved to be treated, and that he drank too much. But abuse? No, that word was never spoken.

The signs were all there when we started dating: he was controlling, jealous, practiced “do as I say, not as I do” in all areas of our lives, drank too much, and flew into rages. But I was sure that it would all change when we got married, that things would get better. Because love conquers all. My immature emotions and experiences wouldn’t let me see the reality of the situation, and as I said, information to the contrary wasn’t readily available.

And of course I told myself that maybe sometimes I did deserve whatever my ex was saying or doing to me. Here’s a dirty little secret I kept to myself for a very long time (even after our divorce): Sometimes I would taunt him, push him with my words in hopes that he would hit me. Because then at least I would have a reason to leave him. Nobody would expect me to stay in a relationship where I was being abused, would they?

I did end up leaving after 8 years of being together and 3 years of marriage; I had to for my sanity’s sake. I was literally falling apart (panic attacks, insomnia, fear, depression) and I couldn’t live that way any longer.

Now, after all of these years, and after being in a healthy, loving relationship for over 12 years, I can look back and see what a horrible situation I was in. That I was a victim of abuse. That him just pushing me occasionally was physical abuse.  And I am so proud of myself for getting out of that situation. For finding courage and self confidence to pick myself up and move on to find positivity in my life. To find a man who helped re-build my self esteem and self respect.

But you know what? When a friend asked me to write this post, and when she asked about my abuse, if my ex-husband ever physically abused me, my response was: ” I always downplay it. He pushed, shoved, let bruises on my arms, but didn’t really “abuse” me. Ha ha. I know it’s abuse, but I still have a hard time admitting it.”

I openly share my story with anybody that asks or is willing to listen. Why is there a stigma for me still? Why am I still so ashamed to admit that I endured abuse? Because it wasn’t physical so therefore it was less in someway?

I wanted to write this piece to share with other women who are currently in abusive relationships that YOU CAN GET OUT. YOU DO DESERVE BETTER. YOU WILL SURVIVE WITHOUT HIM. It will be the hardest thing you ever do, but it will also be the most fulfilling thing that you ever do. Seek help…through family, friends, your church, a trusted co-worker, wherever, but seek help. Because you really do deserve it.

Comments

  1. How lucky we are that you are willing and able to share this story Natalie. What a gift you have given someone who needs it... thank you! Jamie recently posted..operation DALS (5)My Profile
  2. I am so sorry that you had to live like that. But I'm proud of you and other women who had the courage to get out and move on to have happy, healthy, and loving relationships! Jackie recently posted..Moody Sisters ReviewMy Profile
  3. What a brave and moving post! Thank you! PragmaticMom recently posted..Club Invention: Getting Kids Interested in InventingMy Profile
  4. It makes me sad that you went through this. It makes me proud to know you to see you writing this and helping other women who need to hear these words. angela recently posted..Making Things HappenMy Profile
  5. I am thankful you wrote this post. Just today I was telling my employer about my relationship with my ex, and I actually said, "He only hit me once..." It took a counselor telling me I was being abused for me to even consider it. I had so many warning signs while we were dating that I ignored. I want every teenager (and adult) to know them too, so they never stay in a relationship that isn't healthy. They seem so painfully obvious now, but I was deeply in love, and thought that between my love for him and his love for me, he would want to change. I was wrong. He was never able or willing to admit he had a problem. It was always someone else's fault. (usually he blamed me) If the person you are with hits holes in walls, hits their own self, hits YOU, secludes you from friends and family, controls your behavior with extreme jealousy, guilt trips, or threats of suicide RUN as fast as you can from that relationship.