In 2017, I wrote a story about the five songs that got me through reliving past trauma — something I did under the supervision of my therapist, and something that still occasionally happens in my sessions. In that story, I mention the song “Getaway Car” from Taylor Swift’s sixth studio album “Reputation,” and explained how the lyrics empowered me as an abuse survivor.
Fast forward two years and Swift dropped her seventh album on August 23, entitled “Lover.” I did my usual routine for listening to an album I’m excited about. I had my mug of tea, my headphones and some snacks. Upon my first listen of the album, there’s always one or two tracks that stand out the most for me. It’s a gut thing. I hear the lyrics and I immediately feel it in my bones. Once I make that connection, it is unbreakable.
This time around, the song I have chosen from “Lover” is “I Forgot That You Existed.” It’s the opening track, and the first verse absolutely hooked me. I knew this was going to be a song I could relate to my own life.
“How many days did I spend thinking
‘Bout how you did me wrong, wrong, wrong?
Lived in the shade you were throwing
‘Til all of my sunshine was gone, gone, gone
And I couldn’t get away from ya
In my feelings more than Drake, so yeah
Your name on my lips, tongue-tied
Free rent, living in my mind.”
It’s a 2:50 minute track about recovering, healing and moving — and the unbridled glee that often brings. It’s set against an upbeat, airy and light beat that is absolutely symbolic of how it feels to have that weight lift off of your shoulders. It’s got lyrics and instrumentals that make you want to dance around in the sunlight in a field of flowers. It makes you want to drive with your top down or the windows wide open — ideally by the ocean, but not all of us are lucky enough to live near the water. Not only does the song evoke those feelings, so does releasing tension from trauma. I’d argue you almost become a new person when that baggage becomes a little less heavy. Or maybe you become the person you were supposed to be if what happened to you didn’t happen.
Recently in therapy, my emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend became the topic of discussion again. Throughout the last five years or so, he’s come up here and there, but I always played down the severity — something I did that was simultaneously unconscious, on purpose and a habit — to the degree that my therapist didn’t quite know how bad it had been. One day not long ago, he asked if I had ever considered going to a support group for women who had been abused because I show classic after effects of an emotionally abused woman. That was the day I fully realized I am a survivor. I could throw the words around, but having confirmation from my therapist somehow made it more real. It validated what I suspected but could never vocalize — could never believe.
That realization was a journey. I was angry, sad (upset, hurt and probably 50 other words to say the same thing), shocked, frustrated, ashamed. But I also felt a freeness. The herd of elephants sitting on my chest started standing up and walking away. I had taken some power back. When you’ve been abused and can’t admit it, you live each day knowing that your abuser is winning. I haven’t seen him in at least seven years, but somehow he was still winning. He still controlled my mind, my thoughts — living rent free in my mind, as Taylor sings in the song.
Taylor also sings in the chorus, “And I thought that it would kill me, but it didn’t,” and that line summarizes everything for me. I thought leaving him would kill me. I thought staying would kill me. I thought speaking out about his abuse would kill me. I thought therapy would kill me. In some dark times, I thought I would kill me. But it didn’t.
Taking back my power — at least some of it — was a turning point in my healing and recovery process. And I think “I Forgot That You Existed” is the perfect song to describe some of the freedom I felt and still feel.