Be Love

“What chord did I hit? I can see that I’ve said something that’s affected you heavily, Jess.”

I looked out the window to see that the wind was pushing a pile of snow up against an old fence that was starting to bend under the dense weight. I wondered how long it would be before it would collapse.

Slowly, I turned my head towards her and unclenched my jaw, bracing myself for the tears that were threatening to make an appearance. I wasn’t used to crying in front of strangers, but she was used to strangers crying in front of her.

“I guess- I don’t know- I think- I mean..”

Shit. I had yet to utter a single sentence and my chin was already wobbling like LC’s when she and Jason split on The Hills. This was going to be rough.

“It’s just that this whole time, everyone in my life has been telling me that this was the right choice, but there has always been some doubt in the back of my mind. I have never been able to know for sure if it was because the doubt had some validity to it or if it was just another manipulation created for me to second guess myself. Hearing I did the right thing from an unbiased stranger just made me realize how little I trust myself.”

One year ago today, I left an abusive addict. It’s only now, a full year later, that I’m able to accept and admit that that’s the situation I was in and am still dealing with.

The rational side of my brain says “This isn’t him. This is the illness.” and I understand it. But the other part of my brain – the part that feels so deeply all of the fear, confusion, rage, and sorrow that he’s brought into my life – has a difficult time accepting it. Not just accepting that he has done all of it, but accepting that I allowed it. Is this weak person actually who I am? I honestly don’t know some days.

In a far less eloquent way, and with far more snot involved, I explained these feelings to my new therapist.

“Jess, this might sound harsh, but I think the emotional abuse you’ve gone through has actually brainwashed you a bit.”

Abuse was a hard word for me to come to terms with, but brainwashed? That’s a little dramatic. I think the look of confusion on my face made her laugh.

“You wear all of your feelings on your face. Has anyone ever told you that? Those are probably hard things to hear, but just let it sink in a bit. He can justify his actions because he doesn’t hit you, call you names, and put you down constantly, but that doesn’t mean it’s not abuse. Stealing from you, lying to you, manipulating and emotionally blackmailing you – those are all abuse. When someone takes advantage of another person’s love, loyalty, and trust, it’s abuse. And doing that to someone over time is brainwashing. You probably believe a lot of lies about yourself that just simply aren’t true.”

She looked at the clock. 1:53. The session was almost over. She picked up a large deck of cards, held them out, and told me to pick one.

“It’s funny actually, it seems so random, but it’s always like the card picks you.”

I pulled one out from the middle, flipped it over, and read it.

“Be Love. Carve away everything that is not you and become truly who you are and love that person.”

I chuckled softly and held it up for her to read.

“See? That card definitely picked you. So this is where we start - When you think of yourself in a way that doesn’t sit right in your gut, trust that intuition and shut those thoughts down. That’s not you, it’s a lie that’s been tailored by someone who is sick and wants to stay in control.”

My mind immediately went to a screenshot of a text I had saved in my phone that I would frequently pull up whenever things were getting overwhelming:

“I see a person that doesn’t want to do something hard and is taking the easy way out.”

Wait. That’s not true at all. I’ve been fighting my way through this year every single day since I left. Yes, often I’ve had to ask for help. Often I’ve had to stop for a Netflix break just for a brief distraction. Often I’ve fallen asleep on a tear-soaked pillow feeling completely hopeless and defeated. But every morning I’ve climbed out of bed and I’ve fought. He’s wrong.

Shut it down.

I am none of the things you said I am.

My mind went to another text - one that was customized to cut deep.

“You are mentally unstable and the kids aren’t safe with you.”

I am none of the things you said I am.

“You will forever treat yourself as a victim and never know how to take responsibility for anything.”

I am none of the things you said I am.

“I have never met anyone as miserable as you.”

“You’re such an angry person.”

“You’re a bully.”

“You are so selfish.”

“You are scared.”

“You truly have the blackest heart of any person I know.”


I am none of the things you said I am.


The process of learning to know, trust, and love myself is a slow one, but it’s steady. The times of recognition that used to feel like fleeting moments that I could barely hold on to are becoming more discernable and palpable. Times where parts of me that were pushed down and forgotten about momentarily drive themselves back up, and rather than being afraid of letting them out there’s a peace that settles down into my stomach and reassures me that it’s real and pure. Those are the moments I remember myself.

When I throw my head back and laugh loudly at a stupid joke, unconcerned about how outrageous my cackle is, that feels like me. Joyful.

When I cry with a friend who is in pain and want nothing more than to carry the weight of her sorrow just to give heart her a break, that feels like me. Compassionate.

When I step between a terrified woman and a drunk, enraged man standing nearly a full foot taller than me and at least a hundred pounds heavier, look him dead in the eye, and tell him to walk away, that feels like me. Brave.

I am none of the things you said I am.

I am so much more.

After the session, as I was walking to my car, I noticed the wind had died down. I looked over and was surprised to see that the old fence was still upright. It felt like me.