by Aimee Milne
After I left, it was the anger that got me through. Pulsing, hot anger. I channelled it into running. I ran obsessively. It was the only way to use up the anger, mantra on repeat.
I'll show them. I'll show them. I'll show them what I’m made of.
I had finally left my abuser. I thought about killing myself all the time. In the first weeks I was medicated and referred for counselling. I lay in the bath a lot, struggling to reconcile who I was now with who I was before. Now, I was a shell. An empty shell in a tepid bath.
I tried to tell people about what he'd done. People minimised it because it made them uncomfortable. They blamed me. They said I was crazy, or jealous that he'd moved on in such a short time.
I guess I was crazy. I'd suffered through years of emotional and sometimes physical abuse. 'If it was that bad why didn't you leave?' they asked.
I couldn't explain it back then. My first counselling sessions were spent blaming myself, my counsellor convincing me that I'd been abused. ‘It was my fault’, I argued. ‘I stayed. It was my fault, I drank too much. I'm too opinionated, I'm hard to love.’
'He's a good guy, don't muddy his name,' they said. ‘Keep it to yourself, it only makes you look crazy.’
I did, on the whole, keep it to myself. I told people I trusted about the time I had taken a sleeping pill to cope. I woke up, undressed, with him lying next to me. He said, 'I hope you don't mind, but I helped myself'.
One friend said, 'He's a man, that's probably normal, don't make a big deal about it'.
How could something normal make me feel so sick? So worthless.
Through counselling, reading and a drastic change of 'friends', I slowly unravelled the years of gas lighting and manipulation. It was like coming out of a toxic fog.
Then the anger kicked in. Clear and sharp. Unrelenting focus.
I'll show them. I'll show them. Keeping my mantra alive.
I grew strong, physically and mentally. I took on a three year degree. I ran marathons. I climbed mountains.
It was him, not me.
I used the zero contact rule. I blocked him on all social media. If I knew he would be somewhere, I would avoid that place. I missed out on music gigs and dancing, some of my favourite things. Small towns aren't easy when you're trying to avoid someone. I began to like myself. I was happy, successful and enjoying life. Years went by. I met my fiancé, who is a kind and loyal man.
I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later. I went out for a dance. I hadn’t danced in so long! I didn't see my abuser until it was too late. In an awkward moment someone tried to introduce me to him. The anger... it swelled. It filled me up and came out of my mouth. 'You assaulted me' I said in front of everyone. 'You assaulted me, you fucking prick'. He stared at me with black eyes, no hint of remorse.
People ushered me away. I’d made them uncomfortable. PTSD triggered, in a weak moment (or maybe it was strong), I made a post on social media naming my abuser and his abuse. I deleted it not long after. I know where society's complicit heart lies. It's not with me.
'Keep it to yourself. Don't muddy his name. He's a good guy.'