“Your body remembers significant mile markers along your life journey, even when your mind doesn’t. Today marks six years from the last fight we ever had. My body has been sluggish all week, feeling the magnetic pull to my bed. I only just realized why. I feel it in my spine and tightening muscles around my hips and shoulders—what this weekend symbolizes in my soul. Freedom. Isn’t that strange? My body constricts at the memory of how I reclaimed my freedom. The body and soul are intimately interwoven, and mine are remembering the process it took to get me here—safe, stable, whole again.
Exiting a toxic relationship is never easy, let alone one tangled with gaslighting, bipolar, depression, alcoholism, drugs, and codependency. It was like pulling my head out of a shark’s mouth—painful, bloody, no clean lines. So, that’s what my visceral memory is recounting. It took me four years to finally be able to truthfully declare: I am emotionally stable. And another two years after to actually feel…I am going to be okay in life.
Domestic violence is a funny thing, the way it sneaks up on you and eats away at your confidence, personality, and neural pathways…in silence. We assume we are safe inside our own minds, but victims of abuse have learned the hard way, this is not true. Once this is understood, it makes sense that it can easily take years to untangle the complex webs of toxic beliefs sown into our psyches.
I mostly have amazing days, full of laughter, joy, and love. But a few days a year, my body remembers what I came from. I honor this pull. It’s sacred to me—remembering. I never want to forget the horrific lows of what it felt like to be treated less than human by the one who swore to love me for the rest of my life. I want to be able to tap back into those days of hollowing emptiness inside my chest. Why? Because it’s where empathy lives now. It is no longer re-traumatizing for me to think about my days as a victim (after substantial PTSD therapy), so I treasure those memories and emotions. They are what help me spread and teach hope and power to those who are wading through the dark hollows still.
‘Healing’ isn’t linear, with clear directions and graduation points. Reconciling one’s past is excruciating at times, and I wasn’t ever actually interested in facing that kind of pain. But I chose to turn into the abyss of lost dreams and try to recover pieces of myself in hopes I could somehow be able to give my kids something better than what I had. I started out doing it for them, but somewhere along the way, I ended up doing it for me.
As I collected the lost pieces of my soul, I learned the most valuable lessons of my life: I am worthy. I am enough. I belong. I am okay. It was in this learning I began to accept my story—the abuse, the decisions I regretted, the divorce, the loss of myself. Acceptance didn’t mean it was acceptable to be treated poorly, but it meant it was okay to honor my past for bringing me here today. What follows this brave embracing of one’s self is perhaps one of human’s most precious capabilities: compassion.
When I learn how to extend compassion to myself (for all the things I wish I had done differently), I become capable of showing compassion to others. The same goes for caring for oneself, loving oneself, forgiving oneself, respecting oneself, embracing oneself. If we can get clear about practicing these patterns with ourselves, we will naturally create space and capacity in our lives to do these things for others. It’s magic.
So, yes. I am allowing myself to soberly sit in the memories of what this weekend represents for me: the beginning of my exodus to freedom. It isn’t painful to remember, it’s humbling. And at the same time, I feel immense pride for the six-year younger version of me who was brave enough to say, ‘No more.’ She’s f*cking radiant and I am honored to hold her in the deepest parts of my soul today. She has taught me so much, led me home, and reminded me of my humanity. I love her. I love me.
To all the souls who are still wandering for your scattered pieces: Carry on. You can do hard things. You are worth the often silent, lonely journey back to yourself. And I see you.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by MaryBeth Koenes of Fort Worth, Texas. Follow her journey on Instagram here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more from MaryBeth here:
‘I promised I’d never divorce him. I was an Evangelical Christian woman. I wasn’t about to give that up because my disturbed husband couldn’t stop screaming at me.’: Woman leaves her abusive pastor husband after 10 years, ‘I never looked back’
‘Christmas came just 3 months after my ex’s death. That’s when they showed up. My in-laws. They rallied together to help our broken family make new, magical memories.’: In-laws rally to provide kids a Christmas after woman’s ex-husband’s suicide
‘When my boyfriend broke up with me, I had the strangest reaction. I was relieved. I literally thanked him.’: Woman ‘gave up’ on distracting herself with relationships, ‘I am living whole and free for the first time’
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