I was my worst abuser. I’m not the only one. We all are our own worst enemy.
Blaming the victim? Oh, don’t talk to me about ‘blaming the victim.’ Been there, done that, got the toxic private journals to prove it. No one has ever been more vicious to me than myself, including Dan, my worst bully in high school.
After my longtime partner dumped me out of the blue and I found myself low-valued in the singles market (over 30, quel dommage), I turned on myself.
We women like to think it’s our unique female cross to bear, that we’re ‘socialized’ to blame ourselves, but I argue it’s human, and if you want to blame socialization, let’s point the finger at American culture, presided over, if you can call it that, by America’s most swaggering self-hater.
I know plenty of self-hating men, including one I suspect is as vicious to himself as I have been to myself in the past.
On the other hand we do love to blame others, who can and will commit cruel, heartless, or just plain thoughtless crimes and misdemeanors against us. Yet we soon turn on ourselves. Women tie their identity and value to their personal relationships; men to their jobs. When women lose a friend or a partner they think, What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I a good enough friend/partner? And when a man loses a job he thinks, Wasn’t I good enough? Why wasn’t I worthy of retention?
When life goes tits-up, as the British like to say, a ‘post-mortem’ on what happened and what went awry is a terrific healing practice, but it can create new trauma.
Every examination into what we might have done otherwise turns into a toxic dance of woulda-shoulda-coulda.
Especially “WHY THE HELL DID YOU HAVE TO WAIT SO LONG TO DO/STOP/START/UNDERSTAND THIS?”
I’ve compared the descent into an abusive relationship as a spiral staircase where one makes decisions, conscious or unconscious, informed or uninformed, giving away a little of one’s power each time until one reaches the bottom where there’s none left.
Within a few years of the partner split, I thought of it as a hole. There were key differences between myself and the woman at the top of the abuse staircase: I was the abuser, not some man. Every goddamn foot deeper I dug, I knew, consciously, I was hurting myself. I was making things worse. I was going through a bad time and saying the most vicious things to myself I’d never tolerate another human being saying to another within earshot. It sounded shamefully brutal when I thought of saying it to any other human being, including my ex, the person I hated most.
I even wondered why I gave myself permission to be so vicious to myself.
“Nicole, you worthless piece of shit, what makes you think a guy like him could ever be into you?”
“This is your fault, you big fat lump of protoplasm! Who can ever love a fat piece of shit like you? You stuff your damn face and then wonder why no one wants to go out with you!” (I was overweight, but no Jabba the Hutt.)
“You are so stupid. You put up with all of Jerry’s alcoholic bullshit and you were dumb enough to take him back! Now you’re over the hill and no one wants you and it’s all your damn fault! Why did you have to pick the Loser of the Pack? What does that say about YOU?”
“Don’t even bother getting out of bed this morning, you stupid bitch. It’s Saturday. What do you have to look forward to except another day of nothing to do and all day to do it? Why can’t you just die? You’re fucking useless. You’re a fucking loser.”
“I hate you. You’re ugly. You’re fat. You’re unlovable. Guys ignore you because they can get better-looking, younger women, you old fat slob. Judging a woman for growing older, for something we all have to do, is men’s fault, but you CAN do something about the rest of you, and you won’t, because you’re lazy and stupid and there’s no point because no man will ever love you again no matter what you do.”
“You worthless piece of shit.”
“You worthless piece of shit.”
“You worthless piece of shit.”
My favorite slam.
I still made plenty of time for man-blaming and man-hating. When I criticize victim feminism (not representative of all feminists) for its misandry, I know whereof I speak. Been that, done that, made all the castration jokes. Just like there’s nothing worse than a reformed alcoholic or smoker, there’s nothing worse than a reformed misandrist.
The difference was, my problems with men weren’t political or feminist, they were personal, served with a heaping side dish of romantic entitlement. But misandry comes from the same toxic spiritual waste pool; the belief others are more responsible for our lives than we are. As we’re fond of saying, the personal is the political. And, vice versa.
I always returned to my favorite scapegoat, the worthless sack of shit calling herself Me. I dug deep down, then dug some more. Sometimes I reminded myself, “Nicole, you’re digging this hole and no one else will pull you out of here. The deeper you dig, the harder and longer it’s going to be to climb out.”
The post-Jerry nadir of my world-class victim-blaming Olympic-level self-abuse marathon is what I think of as the Angry Drunken Bitch Years.
The self-loathing in my old journals appalls me. Now, instead of wanting to beat up on that poor critically wounded woman, alone and rejected, I want to beat the snot out of the vicious bitch who tortured her at every opportunity. Who, when the hurt woman was feeling most down, laced up the spike-toed red-hot steel boots and kicked her some more, just to remind her what a worthless piece of shit she was.
Victim-blaming? No one else has ever blamed me as much as I’ve blamed myself. I’m not alone.
What we shoulda done, or not tolerated in times past, is a new way to torture ourselves once we move into healthier ways of managing our lives and anxieties.
Our own personal Terminator doesn’t like it when we start to heal. It regards personal insight as a direct threat to its existence. In a sick sense, our worst abuser is a trying to protect us against further pain.
I began digging out of the Angry Drunken Bitch hole four years ago, when I embraced Buddhist teachings and listened more to podcasts and YouTube talks than to my Terminator.
Now I think about that poor hurt girl and want to embrace her and tell her it’s okay, rather than kick her with the spiky-toed boots.
The other bitch still exists, but she’s weaker. Still, she likes to get her licks in every now and then. Last year, when I was unemployed and crying, curled up on the couch, getting treated by hiring managers the way I once got treated by single men (and for the same reason — age), the bitch said, “Nicole, you have no marketable skills!”