Footsteps to Freedom
“It is fear that reinforces the walls we build, people are afraid to be swayed from their convictions, afraid to question their moral instincts and expose themselves to ideas that may challenge the fabric of their entire existence, but what are we if we are not seeking to better ourselves?”
― Aysha Taryam
During this month of incredibly intense therapy one of the things that I’ve come to realize is how terrified I am of change no matter the reasons. Over the years I have become accustomed to people naming my limitations and just accepting them. Being controlled for so long has created for me a life of imprisonment even though the doors of freedom were opened many years ago.
Eleven years ago I was granted the freedom legally from a very long abusive relationship where everything I did, said and felt were controlled by someone else. The control enforced for so many years was done so covertly that even I was blinded to my own reality. It was always disguised as “I’m just trying to make you a better person.” When in reality he did nothing to help make me a better person. He simply was destroying what was left of a good person. I was slowly mirroring his dysfunctional and abusive self through his personally designed program. I didn’t like this change because it hurt me in every way possible and to not accept it, as difficult as it was, could’ve led to my demise.
I was given gifts and compliments both in front of others and behind closed doors. What was never seen, though, was the high price of his momentary kindness. Anytime I was complimented or given gifts especially at holiday times or after arguments was then completely overshadowed by his abuse sometimes only hours later. What this taught me to do was to be aware when things were too “ok” that something bad would happen or would be taken away. Maybe this was his sick justification for his niceness. He seems like a nice guy to those that know him but behind the steel doors of my personal imprisonment to him on an intimately emotional level was a block of ice of a human being that cares about nothing but his own gratification in whatever way he can achieve it.
Since our divorce I still can’t accept comments, gifts or any kind gesture without thinking, “What do you really want for your kindness because everything comes with a price?” What I have been conditioned to believe is that if things get “too good” or a time without chaos then he would, in turn, take those moments of kindness and hurt me with them. Therefore, I have always felt that if these same nice events happen then I must destroy them because it doesn’t hurt as bad if I’m the one doing the sabotaging. This also affects my relationships with people. I don’t mind having superficial relationships but if I start forming relationships that are deeper then I panic and start pushing the person away until they want to leave. I have become so accustomed to this that I have learned to disconnect emotionally so quickly and easily that most times I can’t even feel the pain of the loss.
The essence of a therapeutic journey is about CHANGE. Maladaptive behaviors are very much a comfort zone and the thought of changing the things that continue to remove happiness and consequently leave me with a life unfulfilled and empty terrifies me. The easy solution to most would be simply stop doing what you’re doing and things with get better. And, truly, I wish it was that easy. I don’t love the behaviors and mental craziness that comes with it all. What I do love is the consistency that lies with what I understand and what seems to make sense even if only I can make sense of it. What would and could the possibilities of my life be if I were not chained to my compulsions, addictions and yes even his control and deadly way of life? The truth is that I don’t know. So instead of reaching out to grab a new way of life, I timidly sit back and watch everything positive and beautiful in my life disappear piece by piece. This is not something I enjoy. This is something that I’ve come to expect because this reality is something that I know.
Expecting good things is something so incredibly foreign to me. The cage door of my cell was opened but because I’ve been so accustomed to power and control that’s the only way I’ve known how to live. Without being told exactly what to do I feel completely out of control and very unsafe. In a way, I still feel like I need the one thing I feared about him…HIS control. Most all other forms of control in regards to authority figures and institutions, as well as, other social situations will most definitely bring out the werewolf in me. I become very aggressive in many instances. Given the opportunity to leave this continued imagined control which still seems to feel like he still presently oversees and I’ll stay put and wait for my next order. This has me very confused and above all frustrated. The dichotomy of these decisions leave me cowering and in tears.
As his child bride with him 19 years my senior, he set out to raise a wife. I tried endlessly to become that which was envisioned which was the picture of perfection. I had no idea, at the time, that I would be constantly chasing and trying to achieve something that never could be achieved. Years later I still find myself chasing this same perfectionistic life and image but now in solitude. I have continued to allow him to be the overseer of my daily activities and thoughts from which I have yet to be able to break free. I am still chained to my “master” in so many ways. And seemingly by choice I continue to let him rob me of a beautiful life with my wife, children, friends and family. The harsh reality of this weighs very heavily on me.
My “inside guys” are seeing and feeling this push for this realization and the action that comes with it. Is there resistance? Ummmm……am I breathing? All they can seem to understand right now is fear and that is always considered unsafe in any situation. Thirty years of teens being able to live life as they dysfunctional please. And 20+ years of adults not having voices and/or choices now being told they can create a life that WE choose not that HE chooses. This is one concept that’s going to take practice even if, for now, it’s just about the radical idea that things can be different.
The need for change is why I moved here. The importance of change is why I stay even though my heart wants me to run back to Mel and our boys. But the fear of change is what torments me worse than the memories and images. Who will I be if I’m not defined by outside influences and behaviors? With my tireless coach’s help and seemingly endless compassion maybe one day I’ll have those answers.
I’m still moving in a forward direction but I’m shaking in my boots. And it seems with every step forward a new tear drops. Painful as this process is it’s still not as painful as the words and actions from the one who caused the tears to begin with. Me and a certain teen see this process as “Footsteps to Freedom.”
“The secret to happiness is freedom… And the secret to freedom is courage.”