Abuse Role Reversal

I was in an abusive relationship earlier this year, but unlike any union I would have designated as such in the past, this one held a wild abuse role reversal. Instead of the more familiar role of victim, this time, I was the abuser! 

How fascinating it was to play this opposite role, as the well-intentioned and loving human being that I am. I felt like a really good actress who had accepted a really bad role in an even worse movie. Who casted this thing? Me? A villain? Yep. Turns out we can all be a villain in someone’s story.

When called upon my abuse by my victim – my very own knee – I looked nervously at this new role in the abuse script. I’d never even glanced at my so-called-villain’s lines or read his in-depth character portrayal. I’d only known what my childhood trauma had decided about my co-star, and what the internet and abuse world told me was true about our relationship.

My knee had been trying to let me know it had been perceiving me as abusive for a long time, but I hadn’t been listening. It finally had my attention, but only because it was screaming at me, and I couldn’t escape it. It’s hard to run from one’s knees without them. 

The knee insinuated that along with being physically abusive by rescuing Persival Grant, my traveling palm tree, from a bug attack (as detailed in my last post), I’d also been emotionally abusive!

It was hard to look at this. So, I responded to the accusations like someone with narcissistic personality disorder might have. I didn’t take responsibility. I made excuses. I reverse-blamed and conveyed the message that my knee was too sensitive by minimizing the damage I’d done.  

“I’m not entirely certain taking you for granted constitutes ‘abuse,’ knee. Overall, I practice stellar self-care, don’t you think?” 

My knee threw its brace across the room. Oh crap. This thing is pissed. 

“When massage therapists ask what to focus on, how do you respond?” the knee asked rhetorically.

The question made me cringe. Between you and me, and apparently my knee, I tell them to skip my legs. That’s right, just withhold all love and care for the parts of my body that do the most work and keep me mobile. 

The knee’s more boisterous siblings – my shoulders and back – had commanded all the attention, and I’d let them. But I hadn’t meant to be neglectful!  

I apologized to the knee, thinking it would understand. It perceived my apology as the generic and meaningless type I used to scoff at in my victim days, once I’d finally hit the “fight” phase of my relationship. 

“What are you actually sorry for?” the knee asked, just like I used to; on the rare occasion I’d gotten an apology, it had felt insincere.

“For making it seem like I neglect you when I get massages.”

“It doesn’t seem that way. It is that way.”

Listening To the Body

As I contemplated escape routes that didn’t involve my knee, it began to rattle off its long laundry list of additional issues with me. I did not want to listen, but I had absolutely no choice.

It had been trying to communicate, for months, that I needed to actualize creative projects, like publishing the books I’ve already completed. I also had to get back in the habit of making my choices intuitively, not with my indecisive mind, which had somehow found its way back into the driver’s seat and had been procrastinating a decision.

The common theme between my knee’s complaints was my hesitancy to move forward. Apparently, knees don’t like stagnancy. 

Subtle messages had failed to get my attention, so the knee had to up the ante. 

This was when I’d gotten really abusive, according to my knee. Because when I finally started paying attention to its cries, I’d tried to heal it externally, while still ignoring its emotions and needs.

“I thought you would want to walk again!”

The knee rolled its eyes at yet another excuse. My desire to heal it wasn’t the issue – it was how I’d gone about it. My intentions had been in the right place, but my demonstrations of such were questionable at best. 

I’d misdiagnosed myself online (how shocking!) and since I was in an area where I know a great chiropractor, I went in for his opinion. He told me it was a strained PCL and gave suggestions to facilitate healing, most of which I ignored.

In case that hadn’t been abusive enough in my knee’s eyes, I took my mind’s suggestion to go back for another adjustment, just three days later. The first one had been helpful, so this seemed logical. The knee responded to me listening to my oft-wrong mind instead of my ever-wise body by blowing up. Literally. I had never seen a more swollen knee, but I was about to.

When I called to report the swelling, my chiropractor’s staff told me the knee was “compensating.” I didn’t know what that meant, but I figured they did – so I went back for yet another treatment.

“I told you how much that hurt me,” my knee said. “So you did it again?!

“I was trying to help you!” I defended.

This time, I finally heard myself – and the knee.

Abuser No More

How many times had my ex told me he was trying to help me while saying and doing things that felt abusive? Yet, if he was in front of me all these years later, acting those same ways, I wouldn’t see him as being abusive. I wouldn’t see him as being anything toward me. 

His volatile relationship with himself had nothing to do with me, even when we both believed it did. Forget fight or flight – today, I wouldn’t even blink. All I would say is “Thank you for being one of my greatest teachers.”

Read The Relationship Ride, coming this summer, if you want to know how I arrived at that monumental shift, and if you’re contending with or recovering from abuse or other traumas, create your own quick and permanent healing.

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The Relationship Ride

Before I could make that transformational shift, I had to go through the victim phase, during which I very much believed I was in an abusive relationship. Sometimes, in order to make necessary changes in our relationships with ourselves, we need to project our self-abuse onto someone else. That doesn’t make it feel any real. 

Thanks to recalling how it felt when I did believe I was being cruelly abused, I could understand how my knee felt, make true amends, and ensure it knew how much I loved it. 

I took it to Dr. Sue Morter’s alumni retreat in Nosara, which was like taking a Disney-obsessed child to the Magic Kingdom. I’ll continue sharing that miraculous healing story and more about the retreat and magical Costa Rican adventure in my next post! 

As for those massages I got on the beach in Playas del Coco before the retreat, mentioned in my Costa Rican Redirect post? I don’t need to tell you what areas I asked my massage therapist to focus on, and I didn’t have to tell her, either. My newly empowered knee ascertained its needs and asked for what it wanted, assertively and gracefully, without a trace of codependency.

Rapid Healing

I was on crutches the day I left for Costa Rica. Just over a week later, I carried a marginally heavy baby tree to plant on the beach while volunteering with Costa Verde, an amazing nonprofit committed to reforestation and other environmental efforts.

The full circle tree moment felt like something out of a dream.  

So did surfing and hiking to this magical waterfall and a volcano a few short days later. 

Healing can occur immediately when we understand the real reasons for our injuries and illnesses, implement the messages our bodies are trying to communicate, and release unprocessed emotions that are creating interference with our natural ability to heal.

I’ll detail this in future posts. Contact me for more immediate info:

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