“I’m fine” Full Instagram. Sounds familiar? It’s a standard response, often coupled with a smile or a wave of the hand. But how are you really? One tactic of an abuser is to deflate your psychological power and well-being, and so having the courage to check in with yourself can be the first step towards regaining control.
Intimidation by a partner instils fear, dependence, compliance, and as a result, silence. It is through this silence that your freedom becomes controlled. Feelings of shame, fear of false accusations and not wanting to be isolated are common reasons that abuse victims choose not to speak out.
Challenge these fears by focussing on your well-being and speaking out to your own emotional self. Physical scars aside, your body will tell you a lot about how you are feeling but only if you stop to notice it. Become mindful of your physical and mental state – areas of tension in your neck and shoulders, discomfort in your stomach, your facial expression and clenched or tightened muscle groups. What’s going on with your pulse? Your breathing? Do you feel grounded or physically disconnected? While you may not be able to control the behaviour of others, you can control how you feel about yourself. Speak out from within and then use this as a stepping stone to start talking to others.
Talk to someone you trust, be that a counsellor, a friend, a sibling or even a zoom colleague (it is 2020!). There is no wrong way to tell someone and no wrong time. You don’t even have to say the words out loud. Writing down your experiences can be just as liberating.
Abuse is life changing but so too is speaking out. Claiming your voice back can be a difficult and scary process but your words have power and so does your story. Speaking out about your fear, your reasons for staying or the intense control of your abuser, assures others in similar situations that they are part of a bigger story. It unites victims and survivors and gives others the power to also speak up, creating a chain reaction that forces society to start listening and, more importantly, to start changing.
Today is your day. Keep your head high, be brave and check in with your well-being. By accepting that you are not “fine” and communicating this, you can greatly enhance your self-confidence, contextualise your experiences and help shape more meaningful relationships.