With the Coronavirus in full swing, I, along with many other people in the world, am wrestling with a lot of fear and anxiety with regards to what is to come of myself, my family, and the world around us. As someone who struggles with Hypochondria, this type of situation is my worst nightmare. The pandemic has led me to confront a lot of internal fears and analyze other areas of my life where anxiety tends to rule as well.
My life has always been surrounded by anxiety and fear. Fear of illness, fear of death, but most of all, fear of abandonment and a love unreturned. This fear is what drove me into my first marriage at the age of 20. After falling in love for the first time, I was so afraid of it ending that I became obsessed with the idea that marriage would prevent this from happening. We had a volatile relationship, in which daily fights and regular break-ups should have sent me running for the hills, but instead, left me pining for security within the dysfunction. Some of my unease ended once we said, “I do”, but it didn’t last long. For the next 5 years I faced annual threats of divorce and the fighting and constant manipulation escalated. Shortly before the 6 year mark, my Ex followed through on his threats and filed for divorce and one of my greatest fears came to fruition.
This single event in my life has shaped the person I am today and the distrust I still fight each day. Don’t misunderstand me, I did move on from that relationship after a couple of years and came to realize how emotionally abusive my Ex was and how unhealthy the relationship had been, but the pure torture I endured for that 8 year relationship may be with me for life. As much as I have tried, it is so difficult to fully heal after leaving an emotionally abusive spouse. When you are told who to be, how to live, what to like, how to feel, and what to look like for years, in addition to being put down for everything you do and made to feel like you are always as fault, it is extremely difficult to know how to function afterwards.
It took me a few years after the divorce finalized to understand the extent of the abuse I endured. Emotional abuse caused my anxiety and fears to consume my life. I had to gradually learn who I was and that not everyone and everything was out to hurt me. I actively sought out how to fall in love with life and love myself, despite my flaws. These lessons were not easily achieved and it took a lot of effort and mistakes along the way. Finding self-love and a romantic partner who shows me respect did not solve all of my issues though. Some wounds may never fully heal.
My biggest struggle in maintaining a healthy relationship is that lingering fear that I’ll never be good enough and that he will leave. I constantly worry that I am more in love with him than he is with me (as I had experienced in my previous marriage) or that my anxiety and depression will push him away or that someone more beautiful or exciting will come along and I will once again be broken-hearted and alone. We can never truly know what is in the mind and heart of another person and when you have undergone a lot of mental abuse in the past, it is extremely difficult to believe that true, mutual love is possible for you. It can feel inevitable that you will continuously be disappointed and hurt by people, so you are forever on guard, waiting for life to come crashing down again.
This is an exhausting way to live and I don’t have all of the answers on how to conquer it, but I will state that there are ways to ease the anxiety. I firmly believe that what we put out into the universe is reflected back to us. When I reach within myself for strength or pray to God to help me with my self-doubt, I do find that I feel my worries begin to fade. Exercise, meditation, counseling, open communication in relationships and positive self-talk have all been useful tools in moments where I am beginning to feel anxious again. I’m not certain that I will ever feel 100% confident in myself or my relationships, because nothing in life is guaranteed, but I do find that talking with others who have been through similar experiences can assist in the healing process. Emotional abuse can have devastating life-long symptoms, but with the help of professionals, the power of self-love, and the healing power of time, we can learn how to live fulfilling lives and engage in healthy relationships.