A couple of months ago I had emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder. I’d been feeling discomfort for some time, but put it down to what I was eating, or simply the fact there was a lot of flu going around. And then, one Saturday morning I awoke to excruciating pain in my abdomen. I’d been having little mini-attacks off and on since Christmas, but they had only lasted a few minutes and once gone, could be ignored and even forgotten. But that last attack simply would not stop. My daughter called an ambulance and once in the hospital they told me I needed to have my gallbladder removed immediately.
After the surgery, I still wasn’t feeling up to par. I was constantly nauseous and tired. I told myself, it’s just the after-effect of the surgery. My body is ridding itself of the anesthesia and the gas they used to aid in the surgery. And then, one week after the surgery, I had another attack, this time, without a gallbladder to cause the pain.
Back in hospital, they told me there were still stones in my digestive track. Through another procedure, they divested me of as many stones as possible, and to ensure any remaining stones left my body without getting stuck in a duct, they inserted two stents at the opening to my pancreas.
I thought I’d feel better immediately, but I still felt lousy. Nauseous. Uncomfortable. Tired. After three weeks, they removed the stents and one day after the surgery, I awoke and it was like magic. I felt energized. Like my old self again!
I mention that process because it was so like what happened to me while I was with the sociopath. At first, I didn’t notice the little anxiety attacks that kept undermining my peace of mind. I didn’t notice the ebbing out of my energy, the sucking away of my calm.
As the relationship progressed from its early beginnings of ‘perfect love’ into the terror and horror of that imperfect lie in the name of love, I began to feel continuously out of sorts. Constantly tired, and sore. At one point, every muscle in my body ached, every joint pained me. Getting out of bed in the morning was a process of rolling slowly onto my side, easing my aching body over the edge of the bed and onto the floor so that I could slowly, painfully straighten up and begin a careful walk towards the bathroom. When I walked with my dog, my fists were clenched by my sides and no amount of concentration would keep them unclenched. In my chest, there was a constant, knife-like pain that wouldn’t ebb. Breathing deeply was next to impossible, and breathing freely a distant memory long forgotten.
I told myself, it’s just a flu-bug. It’s part of ageing. It’s stress. It’s anything but a reaction to the excruciating horror of living with his evil machinations undermining my well-being.
To cope, to keep myself sane within the context of that relationship, I began to amputate more and more of my emotional self. No matter what feeling I let go of, however, errant wafts of pain would trouble my mind like phantom limbs reminding an amputee of all he’d lost. As I tumbled further and further into hell, I thought my body was rejecting me, not because of the sociopath, but rather, because I was not ‘doing it right’, not ‘being enough’ for him. If only I could be more perfect. Be more flexible. More loving. More caring. Furiously I attempted to amputate everything about me until I had left to cling to was the lie of the ‘love’ he fed me through every weave and warp of his deceit. Without relief from the constant diet of terror that was my life with him, I began to feel like my entire being was being eaten away, cell by cell, by some mysterious, unknown disease.
I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I didn’t dare go to a doctor. He’d told me any attempt to seek medical help would only make the mess I’d created in his life greater. Hearing only his voice roaring in my head, I lost my ability to discern between what made sense and what was sheer stupidity. I needed help but didn’t dare reach out for it, except through him.
I never once connected my unease to his discord. I never once acknowledged that he was the cancer eating away at my peace of mind. That was a truth that was too terrifying to face and so I turned inward, futilely attempting to cauterize the continuous bleeding away of my life-force by stilling the voice of reason buried deep within my mind.
And then he was removed by the police and I awoke to the devastation of my life.
At first, I didn’t want to look at what had happened to me. I wanted to hide my head in shame and sorrow, to chastise myself for having been so stupid, so blind, so naïve. But heaping self-denigration and blame upon myself would only have continued his abuse. Just as trying to make sense of his nonsense would only have kept his abuse alive in my life, I had to learn to turn up for me in all my wounded parts without judging myself for falling to pieces. I had to begin the process of putting my humpty, dumpty self together again with tender loving care.
I had to face the truth. I had been abused. Duped. Lied to. Deceived. Manipulated. Destroyed by the man who had promised to love me ‘til death do us part, and who had then proceeded to spin the deadly web of his deceit into my demise.
I had to learn to love myself, exactly as I was. Tto ease my pain and sorrow, woundedness and terror, I had to learn to be at peace with where I was, to accept what I had done, and to forgive myself for having gone so far from where I’d meant to be.
In acknowledging that in loving him I had given up on me, I began to heal. Within two days of his arrest, my joints quit hurting. When I walked, my hands hung comfortably by my sides. The pain in my chest evaporated. In facing the horrible truth of what had happened to me, I began to claim the emotions I had so furiously amputated in my desperate desire to pretend that what he was doing was all about love.
What he did had nothing to do with love. And what I was doing while with him had nothing to do with love either. It had everything to do with abuse.
Since being freed from that relationship almost five years ago, I have learned to turn up for me, no matter where I am, or how I’m feeling. I have learned to love myself, warts and all and to embrace the truth of who I am, even when I feel like hiding from myself.
Today I know the truth and celebrate it every moment of every day. I am a woman of worth. A woman worthy of loving herself for all she’s worth, with all she’s got. In loving myself, no matter my condition, I have given myself the gift I’ve always searched for, unconditional love.