Sure, you gave me stories to tell. Ways to relate to other victims. First-hand understanding of what it means to be in an "abusive relationship"- a term I would never have used while we were together and one that others who loved and cared for me called it long before we ended. But there was value in that: lessons learned and hard-earned battle scars. A right of passage, maybe.
The actual story, I later learned, was nothing special. The tools you employed to keep me in place were part of the rule book everyone seemed to know about. The experiences I had with you, the intensity of the emotion, that time I later realized (with great horror) actually did fit the definition of rape- all of these were common tales told by others like me. Nothing unique, nothing new. But the time lost with friends and at my beloved learning place paled in comparison to the changes within myself.
That's the soul-wound. That's the cut that didn't heal. Long after you were permanently out of my life that wound continued to sting and those thoughts continued to control me.
Brain-washing seemed like too strong of a term. But how else to describe such a thing? Being trained to doubt my own thoughts, my own judgement. Being told I was 'psycho-analyzing' anytime I tried to speak my mind. Being laughed at for showing the parts of myself that weren't approved of, that didn't fit the role I learned to squeeze myself into. Being shut down with the ever-dismissive "I don't need this."
It's training. It's deep, intensive study in how to stifle yourself, how to diminish your own soul. And it lasted years beyond the landscape of our time together.
Of course it made the road rough for future relationships- the trust issues and difficulty opening up and terrible communication patterns. Being afraid to say anything when I was unhappy, being petrified of how my new lover would respond if I was honest. Shutting down and sealing up rather than letting him know. Shocking that the relationship would implode when I operated that way, and damned lucky I found a partner willing to be patient as I learned healthier ways of interacting.
But that wasn't the relationship that suffered most, that was just a casualty in the overall war. The war was with me. The relationship that suffered was with myself.
It's not that your voice was the one in my head keeping myself down- that voice had always been there. But you taught me to listen to that voice. You gave credit to those criticisms, agreed with those thoughts, validated that self-hatred. You helped the annihilator grow.
And that is what I need to forgive. Not the actions, not the events- but the voice that was so nourished, so supported by you. And everything it prevented me from doing, everything it delayed me from becoming.
The things I would have been daring enough to try if I hadn't shut myself down before even starting. The feelings of love I would have had for myself if I didn't keep myself silent and scared. The others I would never have allowed to treat me as they did if not for the belief that they had the right, because I believed I wasn't worth more. The person I would have become if that voice didn't keep me trapped in a small box I never fit in.
But I'm not in that box anymore. I am becoming everything I was always meant to be. I am living without fear, without criticism, without judgement of my own worth or doubt about my own soul. I am the living, breathing, brilliant version of myself I was always meant to be. And I got myself here because I finally stopped listening to that voice.
And it is because of that that I can finally forgive you. Because of who I am that I can forgive who I was, who you trained me to be. Because of my fearlessness that I'm finally ready to give up the story of the victim. Because I have healed myself, that wound is now just a scar of wisdom.
So I will give you up. Not just who I was because of you, but all the fear I've held onto all these years. Not just the nightmares and dreams of you coming back and ruining what I have created. And not just the random fantasies that would sneak into my head about how I would react, what I would say if I saw you again; how violently I would reject you if you dared to enter my life now. But the story of you, the story of me as victim. It no longer serves me.
So tomorrow as I engage in yet another self-healing ritual, yet another dialogue with my own heart; I will evict you from it. You, and the years of anger at myself for allowing myself to become what I was. The years of self hatred I experienced for not getting myself out of it sooner, or not saying no from the very start. The years of me as the victim of you, and as perpetrator of my own continued abuse. I will let go of all it so I can make room for everything I have yet to become but now fully realize I am capable of.
So really, in the end, it's not about forgiving you. It's about forgiving myself. And I do.