from abuse - to self love

I was going to make this a "how-to" to help others but let's be honest, I'm not qualified for that type of advice. Instead, let me take you on my personal journey of how I'm overcoming the aftermath of an abusive relationship. Tell you how I'm learning to love myself and allow love from others in. If nothing else, maybe my words can be used as a form of inspiration for someone else on their self-love journey. 

This is going to be long but it's necessary. I'm going to break this into two parts, the explanation of the relationship and the reflection after. That way, if you don't want to read the whole thing it will be easy to navigate. God, I just pray it makes sense. 

The relationship:

When you start dating, no one thinks to warn you that people can cause so much turmoil in your being, that there's a chance that someone might hurt you to the core because no one ever thinks that it's going to happen to you. But that's exactly what happened and I never saw it coming. When I fell in love with my ex, I never thought he was going to abuse me. I'm sure he never thought he would become an aggressor in a relationship either. It wasn't even until two years into our rocky relationship that it even turned for the worse. Just like all the stories and movies, you don't see it coming. Honestly, you ignore all the signs telling you to run. 

 Let me tell you that saying "hurt people like to hurt others" is real. Around the time that my ex's step-father fell ill is when I saw an extreme change in behavior from him. You see, he witnessed his father die at a very young age and his stepdad's declining health snapped something in him. So even now, in reflection, I still leave space to excuse his behavior (which is something I'm constantly battling). I never blamed him and I still don't, not as much as I understand and realize now that that man could never love me. He didn't know how to love himself. At least at the time of our relationship he didn't.

Without going into full detail I'll give you a little insight my situation. From 2012 to 2013, I found myself at the height of an abusive relationship. And while he wasn't physically abusive, it was definitely emotionally abusive and at its worst, sexually abusive. For two years I allowed this pattern of "I miss you" text that lead to "things will be different" conversations that lead to "you do this every time" shouting matches to not speaking for a month. Every three months, like clockwork, we did this over and over. It was vicious and emotionally draining. 

On the emotionally abusive tip any and everything that went wrong between us was always my fault. The clothing I wore was always an issue. I wasn't allowed to wear makeup around him. Hanging out with my friends was a problem. He was studying engineering and would always like to tell me I was never going to be as smart as him. I would ask him about school and he would tell me he's not about to explaining things to someone who isn't going to understand. If he could find a way to make me feel less than a human, he did. 

He would sleep walk and get violent. There's nothing like a person screaming at the top of their lungs at you but not to you. Then having to get them out of their sleep and hold them until they fell back asleep without telling them what would happen because they're crying and don't know why. The worst, by far, is when he would threaten to kill himself. I felt trapped, like I had to stay to help this person. 

The sexual abuse was complicated. The lines of being in a relationship or dating someone and the sex becoming non-consensual gets blurred real fast. My ex would call me in the middle of the night when his stepdad would have to go to the hospital. I would go "console" him, which was really just an excuse to get me over his place for sex. I would go home the next day and not here from him after that.

One night, his stepdad fell ill. I was just getting off a night shift and I get a call at 3 in the morning that he's outside my house and I have to go with him. And of course I did. We drove thirty minutes to his parents house just for him to say he doesn't feel comfortable being there. Instead, he wanted to go to his place which was a solid hour drive back to his college campus. I had just got off work, I was tired and for damn sure didn't want to be touched. That night, I learned my feelings didn't matter. 

For the most, part I've tried to block this from my memory. You never forget, though. Here, I had this person, someone I loved and thought loved me, on top of me ignoring every no that left my mouth. I remember waking up the next day and feeling numb. I remember him going on as if nothing happened. I remember the car ride back home in silence. I remember what I wore that night. I remember going home and just crying the whole next day. I remember not talking to anyone for a month. My routine became work and sleep and that was it. And the crazy thing, I still kept trying to be with him a whole year after this. 

Towards the end of our relationship, I literally became physically ill. I dropped 20lbs going from 140 to 118 and started experiencing unusual bleeding when I would have bowl movements (Gross. I know.). Wasn't eating. I was literally crying every day. Talking gut wrenching cries day in and day out for a month straight. Didn't want to get out of bed. 

What really got me to leave, though, was when I received an "I'm coming to you as a woman" incident. Because my ex was dating me and in a relationship with someone else. We both found out together that he was cheating on the two of us with other women. Throw in an STD scare and I finally wanted off the crazy train. Finally. Shit was so bad leaving was easy. Thank God. 

Reflection:

No one tells you how lonely you get cleaning up this shit. That relationship ended in 2013. It wasn't until 2015 in my first therapy session that I even admitted to myself I was in an abusive relationship. There were a lot of layers I had to unpack. Healing, for me, has been a journey through spirituality. At some point I established a pattern in dating and I'm figuring out how to break it.

Dating still isn't easy. I can recognize the habits I've developed since that relationship. There is definitely this guard I try to remain when dating guys. I have trouble with intimacy still. Things like spending the night at a guys place can still be hard for me. Or making plans with a guy and still following up "do you want me to...?" I don't like when guys even slightly comment on what I'm wearing. 

Learning how to deal with my anxiety post relationship has been a journey. I'm still finding that small things can trigger me. 

Aside from therapy, becoming more spiritual has really helped me. I remember soon after the break-up, I started getting into spirituality. The first piece of advice I stumbled across was "When you have an issue, ask yourself if there is anything you can do to change it now. If not let, it go." I remember how angry I felt reading that at the time. Or the second teaching I received was that at some point I decided that this was something I wanted. Like, why would I want this?

Just coming across that enticed me to want to explore what they meant more. That's what really started this journey to self-love. I've come to realize my relationship with myself is the most important thing I can continue to develop. The only thing I can control in this lifetime are my thoughts. My internal conversation has to be rooted in love. 

Developing a self-care routine is so necessary. I've gotten into using crystals to change my energy. Also found out that meditation really helps keep me calm. It reminds me to check out of the world and check in with myself. Practicing yoga has been a great way for me to channel my energy. 

Above all, journaling has really been my savior. Being able to write out my thoughts has really helped. Writing down my feelings, my goals, my patterns of behavior then revisiting those entries has helped me break a lot of bad habits. I also started to leave nice notes on post-it cards for myself. They live on bedroom wall, I refer to it as my affirmation wall. It's the last thing I see when I leave every morning. Constantly reminding me to show up for myself, so I can show up for the world (my life mantra). 

Creating a true personal relationship with God was most important for me. After that relationship, I didn't believe for the longest. But when I was ready to really heal I made the choice to make God a part of my journey. In doing so, on my terms I've been able to create a relationship with Source that stands true above all else, for me. 

I'm still healing, clearly. Every year is getting better and easier. I can honestly say now I know what it means to love me. Never ever will I allow the sake of having a partner in my life stop me from loving me first. 

@bobeaubreaux

Lauren FlaniganComment