Today, I have won these battle scars.

Yesterday, I spent a whole day doing something I’d talked about doing with him, my abuser. I took some beloved people on a three hour ride north to one of the very few places I call home, a geographic location where I can stand and say, “Right here, this is where I became me.” Among the trees and the beach, this beautiful blue water runs through my veins, and these winds tousles my hair. I see this sky when I close my eyes. This place is so much of who I am, and I am so happy to get to share that with you.

I’d wanted to share this place with him, when I was still under the impression that we cared for each other in the same type of way. Yet, being there with people who really, truly, and honestly care for me in a way he never did, it felt so good to not have him there. In so many ways, it was powerful. In so many other ways, it did feel strange.

It can be so confusing for our heart, when the same person telling us they love us is the one who also hurts us. It can be hard when love and affection is used as a mask to cover something uglier, instead of what you discover at the center of a person when you finally earn the right to know them.

I suppose, what I aim for in writing this, is to tell a small part of my very long, complicated story. I am a survivor of sexual and emotional abuse from someone I cared very deeply for. I am still digging myself out of that whole he left for me, struggling to accept that none of it was real, because it had felt like everything I’d been looking for. I struggle to understand that that isn’t what real love is. But there is an end to that hole, and I am fucking digging my way out.

Recently, there’s been a change in the tides for him and I. We’ve come to some sort of twisted understanding, where I know what he did to me, and now he knows that I know. I hosted a discussion on sexual assault, and he came, and we stared each other down.

I’ve seen him more in the last two weeks since, than I have in the last four months. He’s seemingly ever present. He lurks around the perimeter of my life as though to say, “I know you know, and I want to make sure you don’t tell anyone.”

So, I suppose that’s why I’m writing this. Because I want to tell anyone and everyone who will listen. Not necessarily his name, not necessarily the specifics of our story. But this: as a writer, I often see the world through metaphor. Here, there are dragons, and unicorns, and ghosts. There are abusers, and best friends, and people who never recover from hurt. But survivors, we are phoenixes. We have been hurt, beaten, betrayed, been afraid to leave the house or fall asleep at night. We’ve been sick with loneliness and fear. We have questioned love, trust, humanity, and yet in spite of all of that, from the ashes of those experiences, we burn brighter. Hotter. More beautifully. The fire he lit is nothing compared to the fire within.

Today, I am alive, despite everything else. That, in itself, makes me a warrior. A victor. I have won these battle scars.

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