It is really difficult to undo years of emotional abuse. Physical abuse is easier to deal with; at least it was for me. As a kid I learned to provoke my father to the point that he would stop talking and just hit me. The antagonistic trait was something that I would carry with me through most of my life. I could deal with being hit. I couldn’t deal with the words. I spent the bulk of youth preventing people from telling me who I was.
I graduated from high school with a fractured cheek bone and black eye. I have no pictures from my high school graduation because my face was a mess. Not much of that really mattered to me. The words… that was a different story. Those words still haunt me. Every time I stumble my father’s voice speaks up as clearly as if he were standing next to me. I have learned not to acknowledge his words.
My father taught me how to hate myself. He taught me how to feel about who I was. Emotional abuse isn’t about someone hating you. It is about them projecting their own self-loathing. It is perpetuating a cycle of self-hate. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that my father hadn’t really caused me pain by what he said. He taught me how to hurt myself. That is what emotional abuse really does. It imbeds itself in your mind. It is a means of altering how you feel about and see yourself.
I didn’t love me because I was told from a young age that no one could love me. As an adult I began to talk more about my childhood. I realized that I could change how I perceived myself. I worked on my physical and emotional well-being. I gave myself what I had been lacking for nearly three decades. I did for myself what I had done for others. I learned to love and take care of me.
Most of what I was told as child, the things that were beaten into me will always be there. Sometimes I still hear the echoes of self-doubt but they are fleeting. I know now that those words have no weight unless I allow it. I don’t regret my past. What happened to me as a child taught me how to treat people and myself. Everything that happened shaped who I am and I am proud of that. I learned to be strong. I learned how to give and accept love. I learned that sometimes the bravest thing you can do is just let go.
My father died in 2007 and I held his hand as he took his last breaths. I forgave him although he never apologized to me. He was my father and I was grateful to him. Regardless of why he did what he did, I wouldn’t be the person I was if it weren’t for him. I am proud of that person. He helped shape me. He had something to teach me. In his attempts to break me down he really only showed me how strong I was. Like everything else, it is only more painful if you can’t let go. I learned to let go.