Writing about abuse, thinking about abuse

[TW for abuse, especially gaslighting]

There is this very weird thing that happens to me when I start trying to talk about or write about the abuse I have experienced. Everything starts coming out in short sentences, short paragraphs. I cannot express big complicated thoughts.

Which, if you read anything else I write, you will know that is right out of character for me. I am a wordy mother fucker. I love giant, complex sentence structures, and nuance, and disclaimers, and clarification. But I can’t talk about my experience of psychological abuse that way.

When I try to bring nuance or deep analysis to my memories, I get confused. I become uncertain. I don’t know what’s true. I am only certain of particular details, and it is hard to even hold more than a couple of those up the light at a time, to see how they relate, and interact.

This is part of why it is so hard to name abuse. I can barely even clearly *remember* what happened.

And it’s hard, because that’s now even strictly true. I remember a lot. A remember a lot very clearly. But somehow the way it’s stored in my memory makes it hard to turn over, to really examine. I don’t know if this is something that can be explained to someone who hasn’t experienced it. I can’t make the things add up to anything. The pieces refuse to fit together. No matter how many times I write them down in an order that makes an apparently coherent narrative, I still can’t quite hold the whole thing in my head. Not for long, anyway.

I have the details. I have so many details. Details that haunt me. Shit he said that even at the time I knew to be bullshit, but that I didn’t bother calling him on, because it wasn’t worth the effort. The ways my words always got twisted back onto me.

Some time after we broke up, I (sort of) confronted him on his bullying of me, the way he steamrolled me any time we had a disagreement; just refused to listen and kept hammering away until it didn’t seem worth it to continue to disagree, until even the fact that I knew I was right seemed less important than making it stop.

I told him that I often hadn’t meant it when I gave in.

He accused me of being dishonest. He said that because he loved me so much and believed me to be a such a strong person, he never would have thought I would do such a thing. He couldn’t believe that I wouldn’t keep fighting until I convinced him.

He said that by giving in, I had selfishly denied him the chance to grow as a person.

He implied that my giving in was evidence that I never loved him as much as he loved me.

And I can write that, and I can see that that is fucked up. But it’s just one piece of a much larger picture, one that I will probably never really be able to see.

But I want to write it down anyway, because maybe someone else will see it, and maybe it will help them, even just for one moment, understand their own histories, or their own present, for what it is.

6 comments

  1. I agree t is the nature of trauma. My personal healing required addressing it from body memory not the mind. So when you think of the trauma, the story, breathe deep into your body and let your awareness follow – start writing about what you find there and you may unlock the rest. A very simplified version of a complex process. For me when I could feel the tension in my body around a memory, or breathed into the fuzziness of my mind when something got too close, and got curious about whats underneath held in the body – I found a pathway thru to both clarity and release/resolution. Keep writing as you do indeed offer many people a lot thru yur writings!

  2. Thank you for sharing this. Maybe some stuff lingers for a long time, maybe forever, but I guess it’s important to have contextual perspective, as in, what is in the foreground of your experience? What is in the background. Answers are hard but not always necessary, and affirmations are not never helpful, so just keep being awesome :)

  3. This. So much this. ALL of the this you are talking about.

    I have found, in trying to write about traumatic experiences, that I need to invent new ways of conveying thoughts — pieces and fragments stitched together into a mosaic pattern. Putting these resulting quilt-bits out on my blog also helps me with the process of memory. Because now it’s a THING, out in the world and not just in my head. Rereading these pieces enables me to see the memory with more solidity and consistency, and take the next step in reconstructing my own version of reality (and not just flailing about in his).

    Anyway. That’s my experience. I so appreciate your sharing your own! (Also: thanks for finding my blog! Am looking forward to following your writing as well.)

    best, alice

    1. Wow, yeah, I very much relate to what you’re saying here. It’s like these things can’t hold they’re shape while they’re still just in my head, so they have to be written down to stabilize them.

      And welcome! I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff as well :)

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