Throughout the experience of my abuse I have had so many confused thoughts and feelings. During the relationship with Malvolio, my head was at war with my heart. I believed that my head was sending me cold, logical warning signs about the villain but that my heart, in its infinite generosity, was silencing it. The prevailing romantic sentiment of the Western world suggests that you can’t go wrong if you follow your heart, right? So that’s what I thought I was doing. I thought I was being strong for the person I loved.
I still believe that we must follow our hearts. The error I made was in attributing the logical arguments to my head and the need for love to my heart. I have since reframed this way of thinking. My heart was the one screaming at me to GET OUT while my head was being slowly poisoned. This shift in thinking is the most liberating thing I have accomplished in my recovery. But I’m not out of the woods yet.
The dynamic of control in the relationship with Malvolio made it almost impossible for me to be assertive. I was never really able to speak up about things that were upsetting or seriously hurting me. But what do you do with pain and anger when it’s being ignored, dismissed or ridiculed by the one causing it? I turned mine inwards. It became Shame. Shame is her name. Shame is her own entity. I no longer wish to identify with Shame so I am separating myself from her. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still in here. She’s along for the ride, but I’m never going to give her the wheel again. She can sit in the back and keep quiet unless she has something to say worth my attention.
Funny thing about Shame, she was great mates with Malvolio. He seemed to really like her, and I really liked him, so I became like her. But that can’t work, can it? I’m so much more than Shame. I am thankful that Beatrice was in here the whole time, fighting to be heard. Although I couldn’t feel my strength, it was there, and it helped me claw my way out, put Shame back in her place, and end the nightmare.
I’ve decided to write this blog for a couple of reasons. First of all, I’ve been feeling like my experience needs to be offloaded. The memories are heavy and painful as I carry them around in my mind, so my hope is that this process will relieve me of some of that burden. I tried putting pen to paper but, oddly, it just felt too personal. I’ve had an easier time (though certainly not ‘easy’ by any definition of the word) sharing my experiences with friends. It has somehow enabled me to gain some distance from what I went through and tell it like a story, as though it could have happened to someone else. But also, a problem shared is a problem halved, right? Although it has been hard to discuss, it has been crucial to my receiving help and recovering. The people who love us (and professionals) want to listen. They want to know what’s happened. They want to help. We have to let them. We have to take that giant step of opening up and letting it all out, even if the memory of the experience is muddled and confused, and even if it doesn’t all make sense right away, this is the beginning of organising our minds so that we can move on with our wonderful lives that have been there all along, waiting to be lived.
The inspiration for this blog came from Malvolio himself, believe it or not. I’ve recently been alerted to a blog that he has started in which he talks about himself and his warped beliefs, casts poorly disguised aspersions at me and the people in my life, and outwardly names names and shares photographs and what have you. As I write this, my son, Macduff, is just shy of sixteen months of age. If you were to Google his name (his actual name – I’m not so cruel as to call him Macduff for real) the first three or four hits would be links to this blog. As a mother, I’m furious. As a sensible person, I’m concerned. As someone who knows Malvolio personally, I’m not all that surprised. For now I am going to leave him be with his blog because I think that so long as he is channeling his madness into it then he will be distracted from doing anything worse. When Macduff is older, if it still exists, I’ll try to have it removed. Thankfully, so far, it’s mostly just the barely-comprehensible ramblings of a troubled individual.
Perhaps some might consider it harsh that I deem my abuser the villain of the piece, but I will make no apology for this. In the story of my life, he is the villain, the monster. He might be something different to the rest of the world, but not to me. I am no longer the victim (gosh I hate that word); I am now the wizened survivor who has learnt from harsh but invaluable lessons about how we relate to one another and how we treat ourselves.
I hope that my blog finds its way to those who will read it and benefit from my story. Our stories may all be different, but let there be no more question in the world about what constitutes abuse. The law is on our side. The sensible people of the world are on our side. We are in this together.