Last July, I got out of an emotionally and psychologically abusive relationship. I’d been trying to figure out for a while what I wanted to do to honor the one year anniversary - did I want to make a long post on social media to “come out” about my experience and encourage other survivors to do the same? Did I want to just celebrate privately with a few close friends? What felt right? Up until this time, I hadn’t been super public about what happened to me – yes, I had absolutely told my friends, and if anyone asked me if I was still with my ex I firmly said NO and if I felt comfortable enough with the person, may have even mentioned that there was some cheating, lying, and abuse involved with why I finally broke up with him. Emphasis on the “If” I felt comfortable – this was not just the case because of abuse being a triggering subject, but as is often the case with abusers, this man was beloved by many publicly, hiding much of his anger and insecurities and carefully placing their burden on only those who knew him best, and primarily behind closed doors. So, I was worried that though my friends who were closest to the situation had gotten a whiff for themselves of his harmful behavior, that many others wouldn’t believe me, and instead think I was just a disgruntled, vengeful ex looking to throw blame on a former partner. But, in time, I found that more people than I had even imagined believed me, and most even said they always felt SOMETHING was off with our relationship, even if they couldn’t pinpoint it and so as a result, thought it best to mind their own business.
Now – back to celebrating the one-year anniversary of my justice day! It was just a week or so before the much-awaited day, and I still hadn’t figured out what I wanted to do. So, naturally, I was “talking” it over with Sasha (my cat and best friend), and, after throwing some ideas around, I decided what I needed to do. I had recently heard a song by Gia Yee, a new reggae artist, on the Bob Marley radio station. After deep-diving into her music, I found she had an ENTIRE ALBUM devoted to healing from an emotionally abusive relationship, called Reggae Prescription. One song stood out to me – “Both Feet” – because as I let the lyrics sink in, a chill ran down my spine and I got goose bumps all over. I’d listened to music about abuse before that had resonated with me and helped me process, but never like this. THIS. This was spot on.
My decision was: I would make a music video of “Both Feet!” SO, I reached out to some of the smartest artist friends I know about collaborating with me, and, in just under one month, WE DID JUST THAT!
I’m so incredibly grateful and proud of the entire team that made this project happen. Despite its basis in real trauma, this was an extremely fun process for me, and (from everything I heard) for the others involved, as well!
Having experienced abuse, here are my biggest takeaways, speaking from my lived experience and not straight out of a psychology textbook. These are primarily geared at those who encounter abuse from the outside, but have applicability to all, as well:
- NOT ALL ABUSE IS PHYSICAL. Just because someone isn’t black and blue doesn’t mean all is well with their love life behind closed doors! Listen to your friends, and pay attention to their romantic partners. If someone you once loved and felt was healthy turns inward, or becomes more anxious and difficult to get along with as an important relationship progresses, consider whether their relationship might be the primary cause of that friend’s troubles.
- BE AN ALLY. If you suspect a friend of yours is being abused, simply be there for them. Don’t encourage their relationship, but don’t whole-heartedly discourage it, either, as that may make them feel you’re “against” them and their happiness, and only serve to drive them deeper under their partner’s control. Be vigilant, be caring, and be a good listener. (If I hadn’t been for a few very intelligent and caring friends, I’m not sure I EVER would have had the courage to leave.) Read up on how to be a good ally to those who may be experiencing relationship abuse BEFORE a situation such as this confronts you, so you know what to do! It’s always good to be educated J
- EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH, EVEN IF YOU YOURSELF HAVE NOT BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH AN ILLNESS OR HAVE NO INTEREST IN THERAPY. This is a big one: both victims AND ABUSERS are largely products of poor mental health awareness and chronically underfunded systems for treating mental health. MENTAL HEALTH = HEALTH!!! I cannot stress this enough; SO much abuse (drug, domestic violence, rape, murder etc.) could be avoided if EVERYONE could take mental health more seriously. MANY ABUSERS WERE ONCE THE VICTIMS OF ABUSE THEMSELVES, who, as a result of said under-funded mental health treatment systems and misinformation, did not receive much-needed help and so perpetuated the cycle of abuse, instead of breaking free from it into healthier lifestyles.