I stood in the kitchen glancing at the tiny 4x6. The Ex and his girlfriend. I expected to feel a knot in my stomach, and I did, but not for the reason the world would expect. As I glanced at her body, much larger than my own, I found myself struggling to fight the noise inside my head. His words. Years of them that berated me when I struggled with my weight. Moments later we stood out in the cold and the words fell from my mouth, “You know I find it funny 15 years of insults and you...” but I couldn’t finish what I needed to say. He glanced at me and made an excuse, “I only said those things because of the stuff you did”. All I could do was shake my head and tell him there’s no excuse to treat someone that way as I walked away.
What do 15 years of emotional and verbal abuse do to someone?
How do 15 years of comments about what’s on your plate, how long it’s taking you to “bounce back” from another full-term pregnancy, how your clothes fit, how your breast hang, and how your ass isn’t quite bootylicious impact a person? One, it makes writing this hard as hell because you have to stop every few minutes to cry, hyperventilate, and fight the urge to vomit. And two, it creates a voice in your head. The voice questions everything you do. It pushes you to do that extra 20 minutes of cardio after an evening run. It chastises you when you consume Halloween candy and encourages you to skip every meal but dinner to make up for it. And don’t you dare eat more than a half cup size portion and salad when you do get that one meal. It screams at you when you look in the mirror. Every lump, every squishy bit is a reminder of how you’re still not good enough no matter how much you tell yourself otherwise.
I can’t count the meals I’ve missed in 15 years. The number of times I’ve pushed my body to be smaller and tighter. And the number of times I've crumbled into myself are a fog. Years of lying curled up in the fetal position crying myself to sleep because the man next to me was disgusted with my body all come flooding to the top. One picture and I’m reminded of how broken I am.
Last year, I tattooed the words “Love Yourself” into my flesh. I’ve spent the last year and a half since then doing the best I could to stitch up the wounds the relationship with The Ex created. I figured I could live with the scars as long as I could close the wounds. I would be OK as long as they closed is what I kept telling myself. Then I could rejoice because I got through it. In reality, while the tattoo healed, some wounds can never be closed. Some cut so deep into the fabric of who we are that they stay there, open and oozing into every aspect of our lives. They make us question the intentions of everyone we meet and even ourselves. The open wounds keep us from being OK. Loving The Ex broke me, like the bookcase he smashed, I’m in pieces on the figurative floor. I’m doing the best I can to pick them up, to love each one and hoping that self-love is the glue needed to create a whole person that is willing and able to let others in.
Some days I feel like I’m almost there. Some days I believe all the shit I say about loving myself unconditionally lumps, bumps, fuck ups, and all. Some days there is a light at the end of the tunnel of self-hate and loneliness. And then the wounds ooze and I know I’ll spend the rest of my life fighting to fit the pieces of myself into a person that is brave enough to love and live every day without the voice beating her down. The Ex and I exchanged text messages an hour later, he was in search of forgiveness that I couldn't give.
Maybe one day, when I’ve figured out how to quiet the voice and put all my broken pieces together, forgiveness will come. For now, all I can do is dry my eyes, stare at the words etched in my flesh, and hope the wounds he left don’t burn as long this time.
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