Content note: this post discusses abusive relationships and mental health problems
Recently, I have come to understand that I am an easy target for abusers; that there are some thinks about me that make me ripe for victimisation at the hands of some shitty people. Really, it boils down to two things which are kind of about me.
Firstly, I’m an easy person to not believe. I don’t follow the generally-accepted survivor script. I just don’t fit the bill. I’m aware I’m not exactly likeable–obnoxious, rude, loud, petty, spiteful, downright fucking appalling company at my worst–but that’s the tip of the iceberg. I react to trauma in a way which isn’t exactly obvious to a lot of people. I lost the ability to find words. I minimise what happened. I act like I’m fine. It’s how I cope. I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to make it a think, I’d rather pretend it was nothing at all. I’m the first to defend my own abusers, because I want to act like it’s no biggie. And also, because of my other issue.
The other thing is, I have a tendency to think the worst of myself. I am riddled with self-doubt and self-hatred pretty much constantly. This makes me very vulnerable to gaslighting. I have found myself thinking I am a perpetrator in some situations, where in fact I have later processed to understand I was the victim. Basically, I think I’m a monster, so it takes very little work to convince me of that. I kind of believe the phrase “psycho bitch” was invented entirely for me. Therefore, anything that happens to me, I think I probably deserved it, or I instigated it somehow and I’m just getting what’s coming. Also, I scare myself. For a very long time, I was scared to even instigate sex, because I thought I would probably be being coercive if I articulated what I wanted. I still sometimes find it difficult to play an active role in sex because a part of me is convinced that what I want is something nobody else would want to share with me.
On an intellectual level I know that none of this is true, that these feelings are all symptomatic of the fact I am a depressive who has been through some shit. I know I’m better than I think I am, and I know I didn’t deserve any of it, and I know it’s just the mental talking. But nonetheless, even with this knowledge, I feel it. And on top of that, I feel guilt that I’m an easy target, that I somehow let this happen to myself, over and over and over again. I think I’m fundamentally broken, that what is “me” is tarnished, and I’ll never do human correctly again. Despite all the evidence, I feel this and it won’t go away. I look at my current relationships–functional, long-term, and happy–and even then I wonder when it will all go wrong.
Last night, I tweeted about all this. Something surprised me: that other people felt this way. I’d never even imagined that, thinking myself singularly fucked-up. So I suppose this post is for all the other easy targets out there, because I can dispense advice far easier than I can take it.
It’s not your fault, it’s theirs.
You’re not the one who’s in the wrong, they are. Your self-critical nature helps you be a better person, but it’s easy to play on.
That’s not your fault, it’s theirs.
You don’t have to speak out, seek accountability, out yourself as a survivor. We lack the nuance to check in, to find out what’s going on with you, to give you the opportunity to speak out.
That’s not you fault, it’s theirs.
You feel guilty, crazy, terrible, unarticulable badfeels.
That’s not your fault, it’s theirs.
Perhaps if we tell ourselves this often enough, it’ll sink in.
10 thoughts on “Easy targets.”
You are one of the most lovely people I’ve ever met and you’re right: it not your fault, it’s theirs. I hope you’re doing okay and that people suck less soon – you’re excellent.
thanks so much i feel the same alot… u have helped me so much with this post. i am thanking you with all of My heart..
As someone who is currently still trying to figure out a.) head stuff and b.) probably-maybe-abusive ex stuff, this is making me feel so many feelings. Thank you.
“I feel guilt that I’m an easy target, that I somehow let this happen to myself, over and over and over again.” I resonate with this sentiment completely. I came across data recently detailing a strong correlation between past victimization and being at risk for future targeting, as if the very process of enduring and surviving having once been prey marks us indelibly.
Thank you so much for sharing your own “badfeels” on this topic. It is useful to remember, as survivors, we are not nearly as alone as the predators would have us believe. Their voices tend to be very loud, especially when they try to be the only thing in our heads. It helps to have our own chorus repeating words in our defense, until the old bad echoes are finally drowned out.
I’m adding your words here to the chorus currently singing in my head…
Thank you!!! What a great person you are, sharing this. I feel “seen” and appreciate that very much.
Thank you for sharing this. While I don’t want to go into details about my own issues, I have always tried to tell myself those exact words but there is always that “maybe it was me” in the back of my mind. And the fact that so many people are coming forward(which is awesome) is so scary to me, because it seems so common and yet it’s sometihng that should not be.
Reading this made me face up to parts of myself I didn’t think I was ready to acknowledge. After experiencing what many women do – I have reacted and coped in similar ways to you. Thank you for writing this. I don’t feel so invisible any more. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I can relate. It’s not our fault that abusers manipulate people like us–who think the worst of ourselves–into behaving just like them sometimes. It blurs the lines just enough that we doubt whose fault it is and, at the very least, feel complicit. Lately it’s been easier to believe that none of it was my fault, but I still struggle with the parts of me that make me an easy target. So my newest mantra is, “Try being angry at someone or something other than yourself for once.”
Thank you for writing this, as someone who is struggling to come to terms with (let alone properly vocalise) their experiences this makes me feel so much better. I also know it’s their fault, not mine but even if I know it on one level, it doesn’t mean I really can totally feel it is the truth (yet!). I know I’ve been subjected to some very effective emotional manipulation over the years from someone I once loved, and reading through this helps me to recognise it for what it really is.
Thank you for the work you do. It is immensely valuable.