Saturday, October 01, 2016 @ 8:06 

Singapore rocks

Keeping quiet is either a skill or a virtue. In some contexts it is neither. In our world of noise, Quiet is an endangered thing and often, exalted. There are particular instances however when quiet simply means an injustice has passed unchecked. As someone who works in awareness-raising and advocacy, I have come to accept that I have always been in the right place to speak up about this issue and not at all because of my profession. It is simply that I don’t want anyone else to feel as I have and that, is a valid enough reason.

I had not written much else about my last relationship partly because I didn’t feel secure enough to do so. If I wasn’t sure about where I stood, why bother sharing my story? Why bother making myself even more vulnerable with many fingers pointing back at me? Who wants more scrutiny? If you asked me to talk about this same issue early last year, I would have stared at you bewildered, shaking my head profusely. What issue? I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about. And if you knew me before this happened that would have been the first sign that something was amiss.


Baby Zen

My life’s mission is to be very self-aware — as a geek and bookworm, self-awareness was one of those things I realised helped you move past your own baggage so you can tune in and connect with other people. My self-awareness could also have been a response to my younger self’s sensitivity to the harsh criticisms of family members: I had become so used to hearing relatives talk about me as if I wasn’t in the room that I learned to listen to what they had to say objectively. I learned to remove myself from the emotional pain their talks could have inflicted. Let’s call this “Baby Zen”.

What is the opposite of narcissism? A dictionary suggests the word I am looking for is ‘self-annihilation’, but the word I am looking for is not a loss of self as much as it is an enjoyment of scrutinising one’s flaws.  It is something more akin to self-deprecation — but with dignity. I even liked reading any criticisms my teachers had to say in my report cards. One that stuck to memory was how a teacher had described me as a ‘domineering child’.

Domineering. This word used to make me giggle. The word I would use to describe myself now is strong, or even self-possessed. For most of my last relationship, both of those words were removed from my vocabulary. I didn’t feel strong and rarely felt self-possessed. I was dispossessed. Who was I? Who was I becoming? A part of me stopped to care. That’s when you know something has to change, when someone who is normally so energised by the magic of life, they are no longer shaken awake by its throes, but is instead removed from any feeling whatsoever, dulled into a state of apathy.

I describe emotional abuse as insidious because there is no other word that accurately describes it. Merriam-Webster’s definition is, “causing harm in a way that is gradual or not easily noticed.” Other definitions include:

a) awaiting a chance to entrap
b) harmful but enticing : seductive
c) having a gradual and cumulative effect : subtle d) of a disease : developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent

All the above is true.

You won’t know the power of a person’s emotions and words over another unless you feel it for yourself: How your chest tightens at the sight or sound of their name. How your stomach knots and sloshes; your mouth almost always feels like a desert. There are parts of you that flinch in situations related to the other person. Often, there is a lump in your throat the size of an island and you feel like you are on the verge of a panic attack. Occasionally, there is fear alongside uncertainty. All of it is gradual. All of it accumulates to a harmful, but enticing state of being. A romantic martyrdom.

I don’t want any praise for speaking up about this. I don’t want revenge either. I don’t want any of my friends to defame or demean my former partner. For those of you who know him: Don’t stop being there for him. He needs you most right now. He probably doesn’t understand why I needed to cut him off. I can imagine that he still doesn’t understand how much he has hurt me in the past, and with his recent messages and actions — how he can continue to do so in a text message the size of a candy wrapper.

You may be of the “Love Language” that believes it is enough to shower a person with all the gifts in the world, but how you treat them, how you respect them, and how you speak to them, these are the less conscious ways of showing how you love or care. Those are also the things that stick; the psychological imprint of these are what you take to your grave.

I hope that others become more aware of how difficult emotionally abusive relationships are. Unlike physical abuse, the damage happens under the skin and straight into the heart of a person. Their spirit and their soul is made vulnerable. I like to call it “heart hacking”, because just like a computer, before any malicious attack, the person was a fully-functioning and beautifully complex system. Then they are changed into a dysfunctional, diminished version of themselves.

I’ll stop the analogy here because one website writes that “once a computer has been compromised, it can never be fully trusted again”. And in spite of being hacked, I believe that human beings are much more resilient than that. I am more resilient than that.

This is what happens when your heart is hacked: A person burrows themselves inside you, so deep into your psyche that you don’t even recognise the malice or harm that they can and will cause. It takes more than self-awareness to undo this heart-hacking. It takes the support of friends, family and people who care about you enough to make you see what you don’t see. Can’t see. Don’t want to see. Refuse to see.

Just some of the beautiful people who brought me back to life

Just some of the beautiful people who brought me back to life

This was meant as a counter-measure for possible heart-hacking in the future. This is data so you can make better decisions next time, or at the very least, help someone else make better decisions.

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  1. mel says:

    omg how good is colleen green!!!!

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