A More Comprehensive Guide To Overcoming Depression -- Be A Free Thinker!

August 11, 2013

Stuck In Abusive Relationship: How I Freed Myself Through Forgiveness

Before I met my husband, I found myself living with a guy who was abusive towards me. I was in my early thirties then, so I should have known better than continuing to stay in such destructive relationship. 

But it felt like it wasn't really up to me. My resistance towards having to constantly feel trapped, powerless, and hopeless was not doing me any good. For almost two years, I felt consumed by the hatred, the anger and the frustration directed towards my abuser. I became physically abusive towards him myself.

As it turned out later, this unwanted situation, was a gift to me from the Universe. That's right. Turned out, this experience of being emotionally and mentally abused, forced me into making peace with my painful past of being abused as a child. Almost two years into being stuck in this abusive relationship, for the first time in my life, I made a conscious decision to forgive the person that was hurting me.This forgiveness had to be experienced on more than just intellectual level, -- it had to come straight from my heart. It had to be totally genuine. It had to come from a place of not just knowing -- but truly understanding, a place of compassion and of complete acceptance. A place where neither judgment nor opinion are allowed. A place where self-serving ego has been banned for life. Even with all that, it had to take some time in order for the forgiveness to be effective. This wasn't something simple, where I could just say to myself: "OK, I don't hate that person anymore," and then I would start seeing all the issues vanishing right away. The unwanted circumstances had to be re-lived again, so the forgiveness could be applied to them. This had to be done without interruptions, meaning, I could not allow myself to react in the old and un-examined way, not even for a moment.

The forgiveness required of me to prove that I indeed intended nothing else but to forgive. It tested me every moment and every day. It also required of me to have faith, that the circumstances responsible for forcing me to forgive, would not last, not even a minute longer than they needed to.  

I practiced this forgiveness and the acceptance that comes with it, daily, until it was no longer necessary, -- until the situation got dissolved. In doing so, I let go of the part of my past, in which I was abused. Amazingly, as a result, in less than two months, this painful part of my past let go of me as well. I was freed from it. I was no longer forced to re-live it over and over again.

Growing up with a father who suffered from alcoholism, I learned early what physical, mental and emotional abuse can do to a person. The only defense mechanism I knew then was anger, which quickly turned into hatred. As I grew older, I thought I got over everything that went so wrong in my childhood. I did not believe that the hurt, the hatred and the anger were still deeply suppressed within my subconscious. After all, I went through so many therapies... The surprising thing was that, in those numerous psycho-therapies I was subjected to, no one really pointed out, or stressed out, the importance of forgiveness. It wasn't something that was discussed. The main focus was on lifting the burden of being responsible for such mistreatment and shifting the harmful belief of deserving such thing. "It wasn't your fault. You were a child. You had nothing to do with what happened to you. The grown up was the responsible one. Not you. You did not deserve what you've been through. No child ever does."

As well-intended as this kind of reasoning was, it was still incomplete, and therefore in the end, it was actually harmful. It amplified even more the already existing detest towards the abuser. The more complete truth was; my father didn't have much choice either... He himself, was no more than a little boy, trapped in a grown-up body, who still felt unloved and unwanted. He was re-living his childhood over and over again. His anger and his rage were past onto him through his parents, who made him feel neglected and rejected. Same way his parents got similar treatment from theirs... The cycle probably had continued for centuries. No one knew as for what it would take to brake it... Therefore no one should be blamed.

Even though I had some understanding of all of this, it appeared to me that, until this point, I wasn't living my life through such compassionate understanding. I wasn't practicing it. I might have had dwelt on it in the past, but dwelling on something and actually doing something, are two different things... Such dwelling had me convinced that I wasn't hating my dad anymore. I talked to him on the phone, didn't I? I didn't have any need for him to acknowledge any wrong doing. I didn't have the need to hear him saying that he was wrong and that he was sorry. I didn't need anything from him. Everything was fine. 

So then, how come at the age of thirty-one, I ended up in a relationship that resembled so much the relationship my parents were in, when I was growing up? Did I not vow to myself that I would never, ever, ever!!! let any man treat me the way my mom allowed my dad to treat her? Why would a grown woman, like myself, who has lived all over the world, spoke different languages, picked a man who had some serious issues with control, jealousy and inner rage?

Pretty soon additional questions appeared in this puzzle. Why did I always chose to go back to him? After leaving so many times, I knew he wasn't going to change. What kind of invisible forces were tying me to him?

It took almost two years of living in such hell, for me to acknowledge, that my resistance was not the right approach. I already knew by then that in life, whatever it is that we might resist -- will persists. I somewhat understood the Law of The Universe that says; the harder we resist something, and the more energy we put into resisting it -- the stronger this unwanted thing will get, and the more it will persists and continue to exist. And yet, for such long time, I kept doing it! I kept resisting the situation I found myself in and the person that was crucifying me emotionally and mentally. I kept hoping that things would be different. I kept trying to figure out how I could change things. How I could gain control over the person that was controlling me. How I could make him stop.       

Since obviously nothing had worked, I really had no choice but to surrender. I had to give up the idea that I could change things, or at least that I could change them with the same methods I was using. In such state of surrendering, I experienced not just a sense of relief, but even a sense of bliss. Don't get me wrong, it was still quite depressing to feel so powerless, but to have that feeling that you are still OK, even if you are deprived of your power, was actually empowering!

With such new, calm energy, I let myself feel the intensity of the pain caused by being mistreated. I even allowed myself to feel the intensity of my hatred and my anger directed towards such mistreatment. With my thoughts, I went back all the way to my childhood. I revisited the most painful and the most traumatic events. I allowed myself to feel the pain of that little girl, who was stroked with the cable by her father, for taking his bicycle to school. I watched that little girl, getting hit in the head, for daring to use her skinny, malnourished body, as a shield between her mom and her dad. I felt her fury, when remembering how much she hated when her father was entertaining his drinking buddies at home. How much she detested to wait on them, to serve them food which was so scarce to begin with. How much she hated her father for wasting all the money on alcohol, and for his demanding of food like it was made out of air. I let myself feel the impact of words like: "If you don't like it here then get the fuck out of here!" In my mind, I heard all over again: "Stupid, lazy bitches! I'll kill you all! Then I'll just hang myself in the barn!" I saw the terror in this few-year old girl, watching her father waving an ax while making verbal threats. I trembled with her, when remembering hiding behind an armchair, when jumping for life out the window, when listening carefully for noises, when checking if mom was still alive in the next room.

I felt the compassion towards that little girl. I felt admiration towards her inner strength and towards her courage. I told her how sorry I was that she had to go through all that, and that there was nothing I could have done to change it. I started to understand then, that all my life, on some subconscious level, I have been wishing that my childhood was different. That is why I attracted such current circumstances. I've been hoping and attempting to change my past, which was impossible. At that moment, I made a peace with the fact that my past could not be changed, could not be any different that what it was.

While crying, I told myself that my suffering wasn't going to be wasted. I explained to myself, like I would explain to a few-year-old girl, that all this has helped me with shaping my character. That one day, I'll find the way to use my past to help others. That one day I'll be very grateful for having do go through such ordeal.

After I was done with the "cleansing" process, instinctively I started to shift my focus and my energy towards imagining, exactly what kind of relationship I wanted to be in. I made myself see clearly in my mind, the kind of man I've always dreamed of. I made myself feel the intensity of the good feelings that being with such man would create in me. I payed close attention to the details. I could see his silhouette. I could see his dark features, his five o'clock shadow. I could see his eyes penetrating me with nothing but pure admiration. I could sense his utmost respect towards me. Often, when I would do those visualization, the boyfriend I was living with, was sitting right in front of me. I was looking at him, but I was seeing pass him...

Next thing, -- I was ready to forgive.

I was ready to look at my boyfriend, to see my father in him, and to forgive them both. I understood that, externally speaking, the forgiveness did not require of me to do anything at all. I did not have to change, -- at all, behavior-wise. I did not have to become more sweet, more attentive, more considerate or more physically and emotionally available. As a matter of fact, I had to make sure that, externally, I remained exactly the way I was; closed off, cold, physically and emotionally unavailable. My way of communicating and expressing myself had to remain the same.

The only change that was needed had to take place within me. Outside, nobody knew about it, and nobody could tell, not even my boyfriend. I knew then, that my current abuser was just illustrating for me my past abuse. He was doing exactly what he had to do, he was doing what Universe "assigned" him to do. He was there so I could make peace with everything that happened, so I could regain, once and for all, a true peace of mind. With this new understanding, I completely let go of the desire of changing him. I started to accept him completely, and his behavior, without any exceptions, for what it was. I even felt gratitude towards him. In my mind, I thank him for being in my life, for acting in such unflattering ways, for vibrating on such low level of energy, so all this could be possible, so I could experience this liberation, brought by the forgiveness.                            

Throughout this time, I felt, as if I was guided by some friendly Spirits. I had no doubt, that my reoccurring nightmares that I've been having almost every single night for some time now, was their way of trying to tell me something. In those repetitive dreams, I kept engaging in a physical fight with my father. I was always attempting to kill him. I wasn't really that scared of him in those dreams; I always appeared to have skills of a martial artist. I always managed to win the battle. What was so tiring, was that bitter sensation in my mouth after waking up, caused by the feelings of hating and being hated.

The very first time I started to practice not getting upset with my boyfriend, and being understanding towards his conditioning, that same dream came back when I went to sleep, but not as a nightmare. This time my father and I were having an assertive conversation in it. I woke up with a feeling of being loved. I woke up refreshed and even relaxed. Motivated by this noticeable change, I re-took the decision of not getting upset at my verbally, mentally and emotionally abusive boyfriend. I repeated the same steps of allowing myself to feel the understanding, the forgiveness and the compassion towards my oppressor. I did that every single day. Every single night, the sweet dream appeared to guide me through this challenging but very much rewarding process. Each dream showed me the progress I was making. The conversations with my father were getting deeper. The bond and the connection between the two of us was growing. He'd show me his love towards me by offering me cigarettes. In the next dream he'd give me some money for food. Not only we weren't trying to kill each other in those dreams anymore, -- were were actually being supportive of each other. Each morning I'd wake up with such sweet sensation of loving and being loved.

The external circumstances I was in, still remained the same for a while. Neither my boyfriend, nor my situation changed. I had to remain faithful that even though still unseen, the permanent change was already occurring. It was forming on an energy level, and it required a little bit of time before it could be manifested in the physical world as circumstances.        

And so, I continued with my practice. Each time my boyfriend tried engaging me in his mental games, I told myself in my mind: "Do not react. Do not get upset. Do not hate him. He cannot help himself. Just like my dad could not help himself. It wasn't that he didn't love me, or that he didn't love our mom. He was just tormented by some freaking illness or something. I don't know exactly what it was that made him behave the way he did. I don't know why he couldn't control himself and his rage. I don't need to fully understand it. I just need to forgive it, and accept that it was what it was. It could not have been any different."

I remained quiet most of the times. Silence was protecting me from being sucked into the drama. The inner dialog I was having with myself was calming me down. The more I was doing this, the less and less affected by the offensive remarks I was becoming. I could see clearly how wrong it was of me to take them so personally. They had nothing to do with me! Absolutely nothing. Whatever problems my boyfriend had with me were not real, they were his projection of his own issues originated from his childhood.

It was extremely difficult to control my anger, but without such self-restrain, the forgiveness could not take place. I learned to observe closely my anger and every other undesirable emotion that would flow through me. I learned to watch it without wishing that it would just go away, or without trying to numb it with any kind of distraction. I learned not to hate it, just like I was learning not to hate my father and my boyfriend. I spent good amount of time on remembering the good times, even if there weren't that many, and the good qualities those two men had. My anger, or I should say, my decision of not acting out on it, (that means not even having angry thoughts) was the best indication of the progress I was making. In return for all that effort, I was getting a true sense of peace that comes from within, and a true sense of confidence that cannot be compromised by the circumstances.            

Finally, not even two months later, it was over. I fully forgave my dad. That part of me and of my past was healed. I was free. I wasn't tied to my abuser any longer. I left. This time for good.

This was my first experience of consciously forgiving and therefore accepting, and letting go of my painful past. It was my first conscious healing I engaged myself in. I applied this lesson to different aspects of my "living in the past" with similar successful results. Forgiveness, compassion, and full acceptance turned out to be the most effective medicine for a broken heart and spirit. Just like the medicine; it tasted bitter and my body was trying to reject it more than once. Yet it worked.

Little bit about me:
Now residing in Honolulu, Hawaii, Polish-born Elzbieta Pettingill is a former fashion model, author and survivor of depression. She suffered abuse and rape in her childhood, and was subsequently diagnosed with a depression that followed her from childhood through to adulthood. Let down by the medical and psychological establishments, and realizing that only she could change her mind, Elzbieta overcame her depression in her 30’s through a process of conscious spiritual awakening, a story that forms the basis of her book: “Life Realized” – available now on


I am really ever grateful to have read your story as i was searching google about depression. I was actually searching for any relation of depression to spiritual awakening, and boy!looks like i hit a home run :) It felt like i was reading my own life story but a step ahead of me. I found myself in tears reading your stories as i am also going through it.Im in my journey to spiritual awakening (i had the same realizations when i looked inside my inner self)..and right now i'm in struggle with forgiveness. U helped me realize that my frustrations are i think still rooted to my father on what i thought ive already forgiven him but still found myself bitter about it when i think of it.. reason why im frustrated with the relationship i am really looking forward to sharing thoughts with you! continue to be an inspiration to others. Namaste! ��

I am very happy that google directed you to my site Jenny. Gotta love this internet thing and how it helps us to connect. Keep doing what you're doing, you're on the right track, even though it may be more than frustrating at times.

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It IS frustrating to the point of depressing. I keep trying to change some things..u helped me understand that i should accept how things are and should be. Would u think silence is the best response to verbal accusations or i should try to defend myself? I can say i am not happy the way i am treated. This is a one way street and i have no choice but to move forward with my journey. My pain point is when marriage is in jeopardy. I had to make a call at some point.

This is not as simple as choosing between silence or confrontation. Acceptance will require of you to "travel" all the way to your early childhood, revisit people close to you and reflect on how they made you feel and all that. Most likely your present partner brings those emotions in you. Once you recognize clearly the similarities then you can proceed with forgiveness, understanding, compassion and finally acceptance. It will be a process, a painful one. It will look like and feel like a war zone, a total destruction. Most likely you'll struggle with resistance as well, which will postpone the final result, but it will play part in the process, as it will tire you to the point that you will want nothing else but to forgive and accept. In all of it rely on your heart/feelings as this will be your guide. :)

Thank you so much for this blog :-) I'm going through a breakup with an emotionally abusive man right now, and blaming myself. I'm heartbroken, and I stumbled on this, and I rereally appreciate your stories and advice :-)

You're very welcome Iara. :)

also married my father, a conclusion i came to not very long ago. I am also at that stage where i realise that i need to forgive people from my past or they will jus keep popping back into my life...different faces..same people..over and over..until i deal with them... This very morning i sat in my bathroom PURPOSELY forgiving my husband not only for all the hurt he caused but also for the hurt he is about to cause...I would love to more about how you dealt with the day to day aspects of living with an abuser...How did you quiet that anger DAILY?

I forced myself. There was no other, easier way for me. I had to REPEAT to myself what it felt like million times a day: "Elzbieta, you must forgive, you have no other choice." I also kept reminding myself of the reward I would get at the end, once the forgiveness and acceptance would get completed by me. The first time I was going through this, I wasn't even sure if this reward was for real. All I had was my faith sponsored by my desperation. So no, it wasn't easy. Hardest thing I've ever had to do. The most rewarding at the end too, though.... The following experiences with forgiveness were somewhat easier, because this time I knew the end results were guaranteed.

For me, I have to forgive daily..some days I can and stay in my meditations.. some days I have to get up and do physical exercise. It's a work in progress but after reading your story I am hopeful.. -Siddhartha

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