New Year’s Day is traditionally a time for a fresh start. There are the usual resolutions and goals that everyone seems optimistic about—the eagerness to leave behind the old and to embrace the new and improved.
Until the recent few years, imagining or planning what I wanted to accomplish for the coming year seemed impossible. When I tried to envision a future for myself, it was dark and hidden. It felt presumptuous to say I could or would work toward a particular outcome.
The control I had over my life was limited to how I would adapt to the disaster I knew was coming. I’d be ready when the rug was pulled out from under me. I became an expert at “making the best of a bad situation” and “going with the flow.”
By the time I married Don almost ten years ago, I’d started to end some of my abusive relationships but I was still feeling and deciding and acting out of the beliefs that I had as an abuse victim. In the first few months of our marriage, we had a horrible fight that ended with me slamming the bedroom door and shouting, “I WON’T LET YOU BULLY ME!”
The conflict started when I asked Don to tell me what I should do and he refused. He insisted that I make my own decisions. His flat refusal to participate in controlling me triggered some very strong fears. I believed that he was leaving me to guess how to please him and when I failed, he’d punish me. When I told him that I wouldn’t be bullied, I wasn’t looking at how he was trying to empower me; I only saw the inevitable outcome of ridicule and abandonment.
My life in abuse was determined and defined by others—first by my parents and then by my ex-husband and other abusers. I was their property to be used for their benefit and enjoyment. I learned that if I knew what was good for me, I’d better comply. In fact, I continued to submit out of a belief that it was the best thing for me. They knew better. I actually believed that their control was love.
They were gods. I owed them my servitude and obedience and I couldn’t escape their wrath if I failed to please them. Their pleasure or displeasure determined if I was successful or not. They set the standard and judged whether or not I met it. As part of my abusers’ need for control, they always found fault in what I did. That gave them an excuse to bring on more abuse. I was a perpetual failure.
As long as I kept my life in someone else’s hands, my success didn’t have anything to do with how smart, determined, hardworking, or talented I was. It wasn’t my inability that kept me from success—it was that I put my standards for success in someone else’s hands.
It was a lie that anyone else has a right to my life. My future is mine to determine; my goals are mine to set. My path is mine to walk. My life is mine to live.
I can see a future for me now. Two nights ago, I shared with my husband the goals that I set for myself this year. Then we made some financial and relationship goals to work on together. I’m thrilled about the plans I have and that I can see what lies ahead for me.
Taking back my life has been a long process and I’ve had many lies to confront along the way. Now I know what it means to “be my own person” and my future is in my hands.
My fresh start didn’t come by a change in the calendar; it came as I dealt with the beliefs that held me in the past. My life wasn’t truly mine until I knew that it was mine. I don’t feel imposed upon by other’s decisions; I adapt to circumstances when necessary, but I’m not driven by them anymore. I’m working out my own path, and defining my own purpose. My life actually feels like my life now.
This is your life. What are you going to do with it? What are you going to do with your life this year? I’d love to hear how you’re taking back your life after abuse if you’d like to share in the comments below. Remember to subscribe to the comments so you can participate in the discussion. You don’t have to use your real name and emails are never made public.
I’m Christina Enevoldsen and I’m the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. I’m a Strategic Interventionist and Certified Professional Life Coach with a specialty Life Story Certification. As a survivor of incest, sex trafficking and a 21-year long abusive marriage (now remarried to an emotionally healthy, loving and supportive man), I bring personal experience, empathy, and insight as well as professional training to help childhood sexual abuse survivors thrive.