Remember when we used to write thank you letters to those who gave us gifts at birthday parties? A few days later, your mom would make you map out who gave what and you’d send a personalized letter to each and every attendee.
This is a little like that.
Except I’m not thanking the person who gifted me a couple of years of emotional and mental abuse, I’m simply expressing my gratitude for the opportunities his abuse eventually gave me to grow.
I did deteriorate at first. After all, he destroyed all goodness for me.
But I’ll be damned if “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” isn’t the truest thing I’ve heard.
Let’s be clear on one thing though. He gave me nothing but torment and showed me so much hatred. However, if I had not been exposed to this kind of person, who I never even knew could exist, I might have never realized the following things. This is how I find my gratitude. It took me over a year to finally write about this publicly, but the more time that goes on, the more I feel like there are people out there that should hear this. Here are ten reasons why I am grateful to my abuser.
1. I’ve become more empathetic.
Sympathy is one thing, but when you can actually understand and see where someone is coming from, that is totally different. I always wondered how women could stay with someone who is abusing them. And now I get it. The mind is a powerful place, and I am more fully able to recognize others’ pain. I can look outside of myself and walk in other people’s shoes.
2. It has given me a story to tell.
While it’s not a pleasant one, it has given me the chance to reach out to women who otherwise would feel alone in their suffering. I can openly communicate with young women in similar situations while giving them peace of mind: you are not alone.
3. I know when I’m in the midst of a sociopath
I’m familiar with the signs, making it easier to recognize when I am getting to know someone. I am more quickly able to see if a possible future partner shows signs of being abusive and this gift has already saved me from a couple of bad eggs.
4. I’ve become more wary.
I’m still an enormously trusting person, surprisingly, but being mistreated has shown me that I can’t trust everyone. Not everyone has my best interest at heart. This was really hard to grasp, at first. “You mean there are people out there who want to hurt me?” However, in this, I have been spared of some very dangerous situations because I’ve learned to be guarded.
5. I know what I want.
Well, I know I don’t want to be dating a sociopath, but my standards have actually skyrocketed past that since that relationship. I’ve become much pickier and decided never to compromise my morals for a guy. If I’m going to be with someone forever, which is the goal, why not make sure they’re on the same page as you in the aspects of life? Don’t just settle for “Well he’s nicer than the last guy.”
6. It will make me a better wife.
I believe you can only love deeply once you learn to love yourself, and after being broken down, I’ve regained self-worth unimaginable. I know how to play fair and what words can truly hurt a person. I want to be so loving with my future husband that they will never feel even a fraction of what I once felt. Not only do I know how I want to be treated now, but I believe this experience will make me a much more understanding partner.
7. I know how to fight for myself.
I’m fully aware of my worth now, but once upon a time, I hated myself. Honestly, I’m not even sure I can say that, because that would mean I’d at least have something tangible to know what was “wrong” with me, but I didn’t even know who I was. I was so lost in the lies he convinced me of, that I lost sight of myself. That will never happen again. I’ve built myself up so much stronger than I ever was.
8. I started traveling and learning.
Through this, I realized that life is short, and we don’t have enough time to waste it on monotonous tasks that we hate or on people who don’t love us as much as we love them. I found the motivation to prove to myself I’m not those things he called me. I am “braver than I believe, stronger than I seem, and smarter than I thought.” (A.A Milne)
9. It brought me closer to my family.
I already had a rocky relationship with my family from my own poor decisions, so it wasn’t hard for him to alienate me even further from the people who cared about me the most. Even through it all, even as I pushed them away, they silently reached out their hands for me to grab, just in case. And when I hit rock bottom, it wasn’t the boy who helped me up, it was my family, never once saying “told you so,” as they so easily could have. There was nothing but kind words to heal my broken spirit. Family is one of the only relationships that lasts a lifetime, and I’ve learned to treat it that way.
10. It brought me closer to God.
This relationship will last even longer than a lifetime, imagine, an eternity. And if somehow, at the end of the day, I have no one, I have God. I used to be so mad at Him for just watching me get into such a tragic situation, and not doing anything to stop me. But thank God for free will. Never once was it what He wanted for me, and I can only imagine how He hurt for me. Nevertheless, He turned something tragic into a miracle and made it into something teachable, that I may have learned all these things, and that I may use my story to be a light for other women who deserve so much more love than they are being shown.
If you or someone you know is being held hostage in an abusive situation, please remember that you are so precious and loved. You should never have to feel alone, and if the thought of leaving scares you, as it did me, please call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), a safe, anonymous, free hotline with trained professionals. Your life is so important, and you have so much to offer the world.
“…Bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…”