Much like my experience throughout my life has taught me, vulnerability is a bittersweet but entirely necessary facet of being human. Without it, life can be empty and lonely. You may not get hurt thanks to that callous encasing your figurative heart, but you miss out on so many experiences and emotions that make life rewarding. Joyous. Fulfilling. I am speaking about honest friendships that run so deep, you can bear your soul to a companion and not worry about how they are going to respond to anything your throw at them. About knowing someone so well that you can explain the most complicated emotion to them without speaking, and they understand it all. About the joy of giving a partner your whole heart, trusting them with every part of your being, and having such unquestioned faith and confidence in them and their love for you that you know they will not abuse, harm, or damage you. And the solace of knowing they feel the very same for you. To this end, I am speaking of love.
This boundless ability to trust another imperfect being with the vulnerability we hold inside comes easier for some than it does others. But this girl here… I am not generally what I would refer to as comfortable when it comes to relinquishing control and offering it up to another person. I am not free in handing out trust to whomever comes along. Truly, I am not one who would ever openly reveal her entire self to just anyone. The thought of being rejected or criticized for who I am can, in fact, be so powerfully overwhelming at times that I selfishly hoard things and keep them inside, away from prying eyes and unbridled tongues. Being scrutinized, picked apart, and analyzed when it comes to my most private thoughts and emotions is far too intimidating for me to even ponder, much less allow to happen unabated. And this modus operandi was already well in place before Kevin ever came along.
Why is this thing called vulnerability so hard for me? Why do I go to such lengths to hide it away from so many people? I am after all, very human, and therefore emotional at the very least. There are certain emotions with a select few that I am unafraid to express, but as a whole, I try to avoid this with most people at almost any cost. Since this is something I already struggled with before becoming entangled with Kevin, having it verbally and physically pounded into my head is catastrophic. I was trained to be emotionally unresponsive to his assaults, yet on the other hand, this, too, would infuriate him and add more fuel. He would study my reactions during what he referred to as “fights.”
It created a permanent state of discomfort and feeling ill-at-ease. I was constantly watched, my rights to privacy were ripped away, and I always felt as though he was constantly scrutinizing, examining, and deconstructing me with as much concentration as a biology dissection project. Even when he just glanced at me. I felt violated on the deepest levels, as though I was being catalogued against my will for handling at a later date.
So I flipped the switch and drifted for four years on auto-pilot. Everything I did was solely out of necessity. Everything I said was rehearsed and unemotional. I had become mechanized on the deepest levels, because I mistakenly believed if I was somehow able to accomplish this, if I could just get everything hidden away in the darkness, I could not be hurt. If I could not hurt, there were no feelings, and if there were no feelings, I would not have to cry anymore. The worst Kevin did would not bother me any longer, and I could just exist and think like a programmed robot. There but not really. Walking that thin line and cutting off that emotion within myself became a necessity for me to survive my life from one day to the next. I did it to avoid additional punishment. I did it to keep my sanity. And when something becomes an issue of survival, even once you are out, it’s hard to escape.
I never was able to completely fulfill my attempt at becoming devoid of my humanity. Throughout my life, despite my best efforts, I was on my best days driven by my emotions while my logic struggled to keep me under control. For even if I did not reveal myself with wanton abandon to everyone I came across, I did to the few I felt could handle it, and to many around me I even seemed more outgoing and open than I truly was. I put thought and consideration into how much vulnerability I allowed myself to display. Each time someone hurt me, I opened up less and less until there were just slight flashes of brilliance escaping through deliberately placed openings in the veil.
What kept me from being able to ever bring this full circle was my relationship with Jehovah. As my appreciation grew, so incited was the emotion of love, for one cannot exist without the other. While I still struggled to remain cold and aloof, I eventually came to appreciate the vulnerability that Jehovah allowed to remain open. It made me want the abuse, lying, pain, suffering, struggling, fighting, and futility to end. It drove me to want better for myself, and it enabled me to reach the end of my tolerance for the chaos unfolding around me. That is precisely the point I left.
I feel there are few things in this world that can compare with the amount of vulnerability you are forced to display when fleeing an abusive relationship. At this point you will be in the most danger and in need of the most help you will ever ask for. You will have to bring yourself to accept relying upon and trusting in other imperfect beings to aid in finding safety. This vulnerability stabs you in the heart as you are forced to regurgitate the days, months, years of silence and pain and reveal in violating detail the assaults you endured – verbal, physical, and sexual – to strangers. You will have to lay bare your vulnerability and allow your physical space to be violated for medical examinations. You will have to endure the shame and embarrassment of allowing strangers to take photos of things only an intimate partner should be able to see. If that’s not overwhelming enough for someone like me, your vulnerability will take over your life during the first few months in the form of fearing for your safety, developing neurotic habits, being moody, hiding inside, trusting no one.
In the initial stages, I felt defeated, emptied of all solace, because not only had I been deeply hurt at what I had gone through, I saw my vulnerability, shredded and tattered, laid bare to everyone around me. How was I supposed to move on from this? After being witness to watching what trust and faith in others I did have be decimated, it was unfathomable to me that I would ever be able to pick up the pieces and glue them back together. Finding someone to talk to about the things I went through felt overwhelming, and I tried to avoid it as long as I could. I was suspicious about everyone and everything around me. And to some degree, I still am.
Now that I have gotten further away from the rockiest part of my healing process, I am fortunate that I have been allowed back into Kerwyn’s life, after yet again turning it upside down. However, I have to admit that I fear the “crazy” I have crushed in the back of the closet. I really have yet to successfully find a way to adjust my thinking and steer it away from reacting to things simply because they remind me of something Kevin did once to a mindset of acceptance of the fact that I cannot change what has happened to me in the past, only what occurs in the present. This, for me, is the hard part of not only accepting but coming to terms with the fact that I am now more vulnerable than before. For Kerwyn, this dear, patient, loving man has been left with the aftermath, and when I cannot control the neurosis, he undeservedly has his hands full! And I find it absolutely detestable.