Although I am not a therapist, which should be your first choice to turn to if you find yourself in this situation, I am writing this off my own personal experience in leaving an emotionally abusive and controlling relationship.
First thing, if you are thinking of, or have left, an emotionally abusive relationship, you are already taking steps in the right direction. Part of emotional abuse, is making the person you are abusing or controlling feel poorly about themselves. The best way to do this, is to break down someone’s self confidence and make them feel insecure. Most times, when you, as the victim, realized what has happened, a lot of damage has already been done.
So you walk away. Time to move on right? If only it were that easy. Even though you are on your own and away from the person who made you feel terrible about yourself, the way they made you feel does not just get up and walk away. The insecurities remain long after the relationship.
When I first woke up and realized that I was in an extremely abusive and controlling marriage, I first made a plan. I knew with 4 kids and a shattered self confidence, I wouldn’t be able to just get up and walk away without preparing. The preparing on its own helped me start feeling more confident and strong. It took several months to get a savings, a plan and the mental strength to actually leave.
Once I walked out the door, I knew my life would be forever changed. It was not easy. Everyday I questioned myself and my decision to try to build a life of my own. If you think that making the decision to walk away from your abuser means they will willingly let you go, you are wrong.
The hardest part over the years has been the consistent harassment and consistent attempts at battering my self esteem. Having children, means your abuser will always be part of your life to some extent. Here are some things I have done, and still do, to regain confidence in myself and remain strong.
1. Daily Affirmations
Starting the day with positive thoughts is life changing. I not only spend some quiet time meditating about them, I journal my affirmations as well. I used to dread mornings, dread days, dread nights. Now, I start every morning reminding myself how lucky I am. I channel how I am feeling that particular morning to find my affirmations. If I am feeling down about myself, bills or overwhelmed, I turn those into positive feelings. For example – if I am feeling sad or hard on myself for the past, I would remind myself – I am in charge of how I feel and TODAY I am choosing happiness. Or, if I am feeling overwhelmed with what I have been through – I am my own superhero. Anything can be made into a positive thought.
2. Forgive yourself.
This is the hardest thing I have had to do to date and some days still struggle with it. Blaming yourself and resenting your decision to put yourself in that relationship will be a big struggle. This is normal. It is normal to HATE that you overlooked things you never would now. HATE the trust you gave away so freely. HATE your decisions. You have to learn to forgive and move on, you can not dwell on the decisions you made. You have learn that your abuser was in the wrong, not you.
3. Work out.
This might not be for everyone, but for me, it was everything. Working out was my go to when I felt angry or sad. A perfect distraction that releases endorphins and allows you to burn off steam. On top of that, being healthy is always something that will make you feel more confident!
4. Take your story back!
As I stated before, your abuser is not going to walk away quietly AND if kids are involved, they will continue to try to hurt, control and break you down. Your abuser will not take credit for the terrible things they said and did to you, instead, they will make you and try to make others, think you are/were in the wrong. Abusers are known to be manipulative so do not be surprised when some people actually believe the non-sense your abuser spews out. Your abuser will make you feel like damaged goods (it was en-grained in my head that I was a single mom of 4 who no one would ever want), this is known as gaslighting.
Through all of this, you have to take charge of your story. You have to write your days now, without your abuser in your head.
5. Have a support system.
My best friends were my world. They were there for me to lean on, to cry to, talk things out with. Not only did they let me cry, vent and finally spill the reality of my life to, they cheered me on. A support system will help keep you strong and help build you up. Find your people, love them hard.
Ok, at first, this is going to be the last thing on your mind. As time goes on and you realize how freaking badass you are, you will want to celebrate your strength! Don’t ever question celebrating your freedom, your life now, your indepence. Getting your life back from an emotional abuser is one of the hardest things to do ever. You did it, YOU ARE AMAZING!
I hope whoever you are, wherever you, this helps you. I hope you know it is okay to get professional help. I hope you know that there are people to help, people who care, people who are rooting for you. If you are one of these people and need someone to reach out to, my direct email firstname.lastname@example.org is checked daily as is my Instagram.