To The Abusive Ex Who Caused My PTSD

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sad woman on window sill

"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift." —Mary Oliver

Ten years of marriage to you, and sixteen years of abuse at your hands, is not usually seen as a gift. However, over time, I can see that my strength has shown through because of those difficult years.

I continue to get stronger, and I have found reserves I didn't know I had until I had to heal from the damage you had done. After a few years of distance, I realize the strength I had to move on.

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It started like this...

I spent the night cowering under the covers next to you, after your angry explosion, my hand on my cell phone that I'd hidden under the pillow.

I didn't know if I would have to call the police or a friend to come and help me, and I shook all night, hoping you wouldn't wake up and start in on me again.

You would turn on me in the middle of a conversation, your words cutting me like knives. You'd take my emotions and use them against me.

I was afraid of you. Afraid you would throw me against the wall like I'd seen you do with our dog, afraid you would hit me with that raised palm, though you never actually did.

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Three months later, after you'd moved into our basement after you'd finally revealed what I'd known for weeks — that you were having an affair — you began threatening that you would take the kids away from me.

I was too crazy to be a good parent, you said. I was too unstable to look after our children; the children I'd been staying home with for the past six years. You would take them away and I would never see them again.

But you didn't really want them.

You finally moved out, after we went through mediation and the agreement decreed that you had to leave. And I was alone with the kids. Without your accusations, without you there to cut me down, I had to learn how to build myself back up again.

When the kids were in school, I spent my time working on myself.

I was terrified of men and terrified of life because of what you put me through so I went to therapy and talked about what you had done to me, over and over until it didn't bother me anymore to tell my story.

I became more comfortable talking to new people and going out on dates, and I stopped doubting my own confidence.

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I had nobody to take out the trash and unclog the toilets and mow the lawn but I also had nobody to insult me and tell me I was useless and a waste of space.

I began to work on figuring out who I really was outside of our sixteen-year relationship because when we met I was only seventeen years old, and nobody really knows who they are at seventeen.

I was surprised to find out that the person I really am is spiritual. I love to dance. I love yoga. I relaxed into the more easygoing personality that I had once had as a child, before your type-A plans and need to be constantly going and doing affected me.

And I found out I'm a warrior. Because I have been able to overcome your abuse. I have seen my own strength and felt my own power and there is nothing that feels better.

So despite what you put me through, I am thanking you for that box full of darkness.

Your weakness became my strength. Your harshness became my softness. Your criticism became my willingness to praise generously. Your coldness became my compassion. And it truly was a gift.

For victims and survivors of emotional abuse who need support, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has trained volunteers available to help 24/7/365. Call 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 for TTY, or, if you’re unable to speak safely, log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.

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Alex Alexander is a pseudonym. The author of this article is known to YourTango but chooses to remain anonymous.