This is the first of a three part series talking about life after abuse. Often, I read messages or urges from people on social media or forums, asking people to get help if they have found themselves in an abusive relationship. Get out. Seek refuse. Say something. Today's blog post is a narrative, an open talk about what happens after escaping an abuser.
The story doesn't end when the victim leaves the situation... but it opens the door to a world of trying to live after abuse.
And it's hard.
So, before you continue reading, I'd like to express a caveat: These posts might be triggering. I'll be talking about sexual, mental, physical, and emotional abuse. If you're not ready to read that, it's okay. Save this post and come back to it later. <3
Understanding that you've been abused
After 17 years of living with my parents, it never occurred to me that what they were doing could be considered as abuse. The hitting, name-calling, shaming, and humiliation, were part of my everyday life. I assumed that all kids went through something similar with their own parents. In my heart, I had accepted the abuse as a part of life. There was never any question about it.
Here are some red flags that you are in an abusive relationship.
1. You're scared to tell that person when they're hurting you.
A relationship is built on mutual respect. They tell you what makes them unhappy or uncomfortable, and you are mindful of those things. But, they give you the same respect in return.
If you're finding yourself in a situation where every time you open your mouth, you are shot down or even ridiculed for your needs, you are not in a respectful relationship.
Eventually, you may find yourself too scared to tell that person how you feel.
2. You are forced to be isolated from people you love.
You aren't allowed to talk to your friends. You can barely go out and have a life of your own before the person abusing you is coming down your neck about betrayal. Maybe they guilt trip you into staying home. Maybe they message your friends and family on Facebook, telling them terrible things about you in order to keep you to themselves.
A healthy relationship is a respectful one. You are allowed to have boundaries and outside friends, no matter what type of relationship you're in.
3. Your version of events always differs from their version.
This is also called gaslighting--
manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
There's a such thing as different perspectives, where you and someone else saw one event in two completely different ways. However, this shouldn't be every time. Usually, an abuser will deflect any blame from themselves and make you take full responsibility of something that happened, by twisting the story as many times as possible until this goal is achieved.
4. You feel worthless, guilty, and never enough.
And that's not okay. The person you're in a relationship with is supposed to build you up, even on your worst days. It's a mutual love and care for each other.
If you're constantly feeling like you can't meet their expectations and they add to your feelings of guilt and never being good enough, it's worth getting out of that situation.
Relationships should make you feel good and respected, not in a constant state of worthlessness.
5. They've convinced you that no one else will love you.
This is a big one.
I personally had a hard time leaving my abusive relationships because I always thought that no one else would love me. They've drilled into my head that they were the only ones that understood me and cared for me.
And that triggers the fear of abandonment. Of being alone.
It's a control thing, for abusers.
Taking the first step to recover from abuse
The only way to truly recover, is to remove yourself from the life of the person who is abusing you. Sometimes this means waiting until they're gone, packing some of your things, and going to a shelter or to someone that genuinely cares about you.
You might think that you have no one... but reach out to some of your old friends. Reach out to places that offer a sanctuary to the abused. You'll be surprised at who would want to help, once they understand your situation.
If you're terrified that they'll find you and hurt you, going to the police or telling your doctor, is also worth a try.
The "getting help" and "moving forward with your life" can come later. At this point, the best thing you can do is to remove yourself from the situation.
This is where the first step of recovery comes from.
Things to remember
This is not your fault. You may have contributed to their frustration, anger, or abuse, but at the end of the day, you are not responsible for how other people treat you. Nothing you have done or could do warrants being abused, as a response.
You may feel unwanted. Trapped. Alone. But, things won't change unless you catalyst that change. Reach out to friends and hotlines.
And above all, don't go back. Don't take the quiet security of abuse as "okay" or "this is fine." It's not okay. It's not fine. You will struggle for a while to get out, but don't look back.