Heartbroken for a Monster

I’ve been sitting with a lot of feelings lately and one of the feelings is one that we have all felt at one point that, from the moment I realized I was in a relationship with an abuser, I never thought I’d feel…

Heartbreak.

Legitimate, sad, missing the times when, wishing things had been different, wishing he’d been who I thought he was, who he said he was, who I wanted him to be, and reminiscing-what-once-was heartbreak.

Yeah. I miss something I had once.

I’m heartbroken right now and if you know my story, knowing what I went through to seek justice and that I didn’t get it, it may seem strange. Wrong even. And I don’t disagree that it SEEMS wrong, but what if, now hear me out, this is exactly what I’m supposed to feel right now?

Someone’s mad about that statement:

“You should never feel heartbroken over someone who abused you!”

Look. I hear you. I used to think the same thing. I really did. Until something happened… But let me rewind just a little first.

When you are in an abusive relationship, it isn’t always easy to see the abuse. You love a person and make the excuses you need to make in order to explain their behavior, to take blame for making them behave some way, and you deny the evidence of everything right in front of you. If it were your best friend, you’d see the abuser for who they are, but it’s you, so you perform world class mental gymnastics to deny the obvious:

The way they address you is verbal and psychological abuse…

The way they belittle your spiritual beliefs, OR demand you believe exactly as they do, OR use their or your own beliefs to abuse you and keep you controlled are all forms of spiritual abuse…

The way they sabotage work, make you late, interrupt interviews, etc OR control your finances are types of financial abuse…

The way they keep you from regular medical well checks, keep you from seeing a counselor when your struggling, and keep you from seeking emergent medical care when you need it are medical abuse…

The way they deny you intimacy except on their terms, disregard your pleasure, or force intimacy you don’t want, the way they take pictures, or the way they show you off or force you to hide are all sexual abuse…

There isn’t a reason that is acceptable for them to hit you, there isn’t a thing as “just playing but hurting someone” as a game especially when it is a pattern of deliberately crossing a physical boundary to do something you’ve said in the past hurts, and no reason to push, choke, pinch, kick, bite, slap, or pull hair except in self defense…

There’s no excuse to slam doors, throw things, slam cupboards, or break things, because those are physical abuse and intimidation and psychological abuse at best and can be physical abuse when things hit you or were intended to…

And using children or pets to keep you and to force you to bend to their will or else they will hurt them or take them from you is also child abuse and psychological abuse by coercion.

You deny it for days, or weeks, or months, or even years until their behavior progresses to a place where it’s no longer undeniable, where you’re in too much danger, or where the love in you and hope for them has died. And then the emotions that set in are equal to the sins that person has committed against you. Rage, hate, fury, anguish, fear, anxiety, panic, shock, confusion, numbness, detachment, denial, guilt, and depression, to start. Then they get more difficult to define and more horrible to feel. And that isn’t beginning to go into the physiological symptoms that manifest as well. No where in there is the heartbreak, though.

Yes, you feel heartbroken, because no one gets into a relationship banking on being abused, and there’s the heartbreak of broken promises as well as the heartbreak of realizing you’ve been abused all this time and they probably never loved you, but you don’t feel the heartbreak of being broken-hearted the way you do when a relationship is ended by the other person in a healthy way or when you lose a person you love deeply, it’s a different kind. It’s the “I wish I never met you” flavors of heartbreak you feel first.

I remember the day those words finally escaped my lips. It was the last time I spoke to him. And since then I’ve wished that he’d died that day 10 years ago instead of living, because if he had died then, I reasoned, at least I never would have known the monster and he could have died a hero and I could have grieved just the loss of the person I loved instead of experiencing everything that came next.

When you feel all that horrendous anguish, you’re broken and wishing you’d never met them, and understandably so, so the idea that it’s a good and healthy and positive thing to feel heartbroken and experience the pangs of missing such a terrible excuse for a human seems completely wrong.

Now, someone might say that it is common for abuse victims to miss their abuser and go back, and it is something that people outside of abuse always throw back at victims when they do go back.

How could they go back to him?

Clearly it wasn’t that bad.

They must have wanted it.

They deserve everything they get if they keep going back.

Why would they want to go back to them?

There must be something seriously wrong with them.

The thing is, there is something seriously wrong with the victim but not in the sense that that last judgment means it. The missing of and going back to an abuser is actually the result of trauma bonding, which you might be familiar with if I call it by a much more familiar name: Stockholm syndrome. What is wrong is that the victim is being victimized because Stockholm syndrome is a symptom and side effect of abuse and trauma. It’s a part of an unconscious attempt at survival married with the brainwashing effect of being told that this abuse is love — “if they abuse me a lot, they must love me a lot because after all…”

Love is pain.

This hurts me far more than it hurts you.

You’re crazy so it’s a good thing I want you because no one else would.

It’s a good thing you’re pretty.

I wouldn’t be so mad if I didn’t love you so much.

I wouldn’t (do this terrible thing I did) if I wasn’t afraid of (losing you, looking weak in your eyes, yadda yadda yadda).

When you’re in that fight-flight-freeze-fawn place in Stockholm, that heartbreak you feel isn’t about letting go of a love lost, it’s about surviving what someone tells you is love and being unconsciously drawn to that abuse, which is why victims go back and average of 6 times before they stay gone and why they continue to forgive and try to forget for so long before they get there. It’s not that kind of heartbreak that I feel.

But I’m not talking about the heartbreak of a brakeup where someone says, “we need to talk,” either, because that breakup is all about two people parting ways and having to learn to live without and unlove one another without the impetus of recovering from abuse.

I’m talking about the kind of heartbreak that happens when you lose a loved one because they die. That’s the heartbreak I feel.

Somewhere along the way in the healing journey, you realize that the person you fell in love with never existed. They were a carefully painted mask, sometimes with lots of little mirrors to mirror your best qualities back at you, made up like a mosaic of little pieces of personality and interest they’ve picked up from other sources and fit together to make your dream person and that is who you saw when they were hitting you, when they were screaming at you and slamming doors and cabinets, when they made the babies cry, when they threw the phone, when they left the dog cowering in a puddle of piss because they’re afraid – until the day their mask slipped enough and you finally saw the monster underneath the mask and could deny it no longer.

The thing is, though, that while the truth of that person never existed in real life, that person DID exist because they existed to you. There’s ample research evidenced with functional MRIs that proves that the imagination of an experience and actually experiencing a thing are indistinguishable to the mind regardless of the logic you also recognize in knowing the difference because the exact same region of the brain will light up in the MRI if you squeeze a ball in your hand and if you imagine squeezing a ball in your hand. Your brain experiences both equally. Therefore, because that person existed to you, it doesn’t matter that they never really existed in the flesh, in reality. They existed. And when the mask slips and you see the truth, it isn’t just realizing you were with a monster, it isn’t just realizing you need to get out and get help, it is that the image, the person, the amazing human you fell in love with, dies.

And that death deserves to be acknowledged.

That heartbreak needs to be felt.

Healing isn’t in any way, shape, or form a linear event. It is twisting and winding through the dark and sad and traumatizing memories over and over and over again. I go through phases where the dark and twisty feelings ebb and flow like a high and low tide. It’s shallow and almost completely gone with little pools and puddles here and there drying in the sun… And then it’s deep and swirling again with rip currents and moving so quickly it feels like there’s no way to escape it… Until it flows out again. Some things will be revisited a thousand different times in a thousand different ways and somehow I’ll find a way to visit it again one more time. But one thing that I didn’t expect was to feel this sadness for the man I lost the day that mask slipped, because I loved the man that the mask represented.

He was something. And now he’s dead.

2 thoughts on “Heartbroken for a Monster

Add yours

  1. Your description of grief beats anything else I’ve read in the last 3 1/2 years. Thank you for that synopsis.
    I’m sure no matter who the loved one was underneath, you were in love with what he allowed you to see. Love is love to the heart and brain.
    No it wasn’t really a wrong road, maybe you had to go down a bumpy road for a reason. Maybe to strengthen you to come out of all your hospitalizations alive and still spunky. It now time to try another road. If it isn’t too your liking turn to the left or right. We don’t know where we are headed, but it’s only one step at a time. As your parents and my generation would say, keep on trucking.
    All my love and hugs. Grief will never be easy, but you have to go through it for your heart. ❤️🌹🌹

    Liked by 1 person

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