This is a hard post to write – I’ve started and deleted this many times but I feel like it’s time to out myself. I’m sharing something with you that only a handful of people know. I don’t discuss it often because I’m embarrassed and ashamed of what I let myself experience … all because I didn’t value the wonderful woman I am. But, vulnerability only makes you grow stronger and I know I’m not alone!
For 5 years, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship.
When you tell someone you were in an abusive relationship, they expect to see scars or bruises as evidence of the abuse. My body doesn’t have any physical scars of this relationship but my heart certainly does, and those mental scars never go away. Scars that though I can’t see I can always feel. Scars that I am constantly at war with. There is a battle that rages within my own mind every day to fight against all the negative things that have been said to me to belittle myself. This is a war I fight on a daily basis.
When you try to explain what you experience in an emotionally abusive relationship, you have to provide details on what that means and what was said to you. So much so that you end up feeling embarrassed and ashamed that you stayed with someone who said such things to you. While you’re in the relationship, the emotional turmoil pulls you in all directions and you don’t know which way is up. Someone that professes their love for you has complete control over you just by using their words. Words that are meant to bring you down, words that make you doubt who you are, words that make you feel like you are unworthy of anyone’s love. These words are strong, these words are demeaning, these words are belittling. Unfortunately, you start to believe them, you start to lose yourself in thinking that all of this stuff must be true because it’s being said by someone who says they love you.
We had fights, constant fighting.
He told me that he was the only one who would love me.
He told me that no one would love me with the way I looked.
He told me I was garbage.
He told me that we were meant to be together.
He told me that if I left him, I wouldn’t find anyone else that would love me as much as he did.
He told me I owed him things.
He told me I needed to show him how special he was to me.
He told me he was embarrassed of me.
He told me I was lucky to have him by my side.
He told me I should be embarrassed to talk to other people around him.
He told me that I should just do everything he says without question.
He told me that I would regret leaving and when I came crawling back – because I would – that he wouldn’t take me back.
He told me that if I left him, I’d be alone forever.
He showed loved in a weird way, didn’t he? Imagine these things – and hundreds others that are even worse – being said to you on a daily basis!
I went into debt trying to fund his ventures.
I was told to sit in the car while he went into houses FOR HOURS to chat with his friends, his family, or business associates.
I was not allowed to talk to his family when we ran into them in public.
I was only allowed to come into stores with him when he wanted me to buy him something.
I gave him money every time he asked.
I paid for his gas, car repairs, meals, phone.
It was my duty to take care of whatever he wanted.
And, I hid. I hid from the people in my life, including my family. I’m not sure they knew what was going on – my mother and my best friend likely did – but I kept it a secret from everyone in my life. Somewhere deep down I guess I knew that the relationship wasn’t right and it was never going to be. Hiding from everyone forced me to live in my own shame and never admitting how worthless I felt.
But, I believed him. Why? Why in the world would I believe this man? That’s the control abusers have, I guess. It took a while to figure it out – a lot of self reflection all these years later – but I believed what he was saying because I couldn’t see the value in myself. Someone that professed their love for me had control over me by what they were saying. I felt trapped. I felt like there was nothing out there for me but this man. It took a HUGE step to start to listen to the voices in my head that were screaming at me…..
YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE
YOU ARE AMAZING
YOU HAVE SO MUCH TO GIVE
SHOW YOURSELF COMPASSION
YOU CAN DO ANYTHING
NOTHING HOLDS YOU BACK
CONQUER THE WORLD
YOU GOT THIS
What was my breaking point? A cell phone. Something as little as a past due cell phone bill broke me and I ended the relationship with a clean break. But someone who has control over you doesn’t just stop. I stood strong, refused phone calls, fought a battle to quiet his voice and make mine louder!! I wanted to hear myself after all those years!!! My voice was going to be the loudest.
The thing that bothers me the most……….
I let someone else dictate my worth. Someone else had control over how I felt about me!
NO ONE but ME should have control over my worth. NO ONE!!!! I put EVERYTHING into trying to show him that I was worthy of love and affection. I didn’t realize the ability to see my worth was inside me all that time.
Because the bottom line is this ….. I had to value myself before anyone else could value me.
I couldn’t see myself thru the mirror that mattered most —— my own. I was standing in front of another person and expecting to see myself thru their eyes – how much *I thought* they loved me was supposed to show in them. But I can’t see myself thru any eyes but my own. The second you start to expect to see yourself thru someone else you’ve given them power over you. Power no one deserves but you!
Why couldn’t I see this? Why did it take me so long? Why did I feel like I couldn’t get out? Why did I let one person dictate how I felt about myself? WHY? I still don’t have the answer to that but I know now that I would never stand to be treated the way he treated me because I know the person I am, and I am strong in the fact that I’m worthy to be treated like a queen.
And, the kicker — I don’t look back on this experience and regret it. It showed me that I’m worthy of love — from others but more importantly myself. It showed me that if I don’t value myself, I can never expect anyone else to. It showed me that the person looking back at me in the mirror is one fabulous woman! Best of all, it really makes me appreciate the man who has been by my side for the last 7 years — my husband is one of a kind!
It is a daily practice for me to love and appreciate the person I am at this very moment. To focus on what I do for others, how giving I am, how compassionate I am to those around me, how I show empathy to all those in my path, how I make people feel about themselves when they are with me – I want to be someone worth knowing and I want to love who I am.
This is just one of the reasons my job as a boudoir photographer is so important to me. Working with these amazing women is the best thing I could be doing with my life, and all the experiences I’ve had has brought me to this point of breaking through to women. Helping them see that your situation doesn’t define you, that there is so much depth to each woman, so unique, so flawed but so brilliant at the same time. With each boudoir session, I see something change within my clients, as they learn to embrace and love themselves, they see their worthiness. I get to bring something out in my clients, giving them confidence, show them something they forgot was there or didn’t even realize was there, remind them that they are amazing women inside and out, show them that their own self worth is something they can find inside themselves. After all, the opinion you have of yourself is the only thing that should matter when you stand in front of your own mirror.
Above are photos of me at my most recent session – I step in front of the camera every year! It’s important for me to remember the amazing woman that I am, and boudoir shoots help me do that. Even the shoots I have with my clients – I get to see them come alive and it’s a wonderful thing to witness!
Photos taken by Miranda Parker Boudoir.
If you are in an abusive relationship, please contact your local women’s shelter for assistance.
Women’s Center of Beaver County
(877) 629-1841 – http://womenscenterbc.org
Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh
(412) 687-8005 – https://www.wcspittsburgh.org