One of my biggest fears was that in getting away from him, I would lose too much. But eventually, I realized that I had pretty much lost everything because of him. The longer I stayed, the more I lost. I left when there was almost nothing left of me.
It’s terrifying to realize you have to start from scratch. But after a while, I realized that it can also be a good thing.
Rebuilding 101: How I Made Myself after Losing Myself
- I changed my hair. He liked long, blonde hair, so I had long, blonde hair. One of the first things I did after getting out of the relationship was chop off my hair. Not only is that the classic thing for girls to do during a nervous breakdown, but it was my first rebellion against letting someone dictate my life. Now, it’s short and a dark color. I’m probably going to change it again soon. Because I CAN and I WANT TO. So refreshing!
- I changed my clothes. During the relationship, I was told what I could and couldn’t wear. Nothing short when he wasn’t around. He didn’t like dark colors on me. If I wore something he didn’t approve of, a fight would inevitably start. Now, I wear whatever I feel like. Sometimes my choices don’t make sense to others, but for me, it’s just my way of proving that I can make decisions for myself.
- I cleaned house. You should have seen how much crap I threw away after the breakup. I didn’t want anything that reminded me of those years. I’m typically a sentimental hoarder, but I must have taken more than two trunkloads to Goodwill. One time, the donation guy laughed at me because it was so much stuff. I even got rid of stuff I liked. I’ll probably always miss that hoodie I picked out for myself but wasn’t allowed to buy for myself.
- I got second holes in my ears. Anything more than the single set of piercings was not allowed. Let me rephrase that. It was allowed — unless I had gone out and gotten a new piercing. Then all hell would have broken loose.
- I got tested. Most of the time in the relationship, he was doing drugs of some kind. He is a pathological liar, so I really had no idea what he was doing at any time. Thank God, I’m perfectly clean. It was such a weight off my shoulders after I got the results back.
- I went on vacation and enjoyed myself. The weekend before I got away, I ran away to Disney with one of my friends. I was allowed to go for the first 10 hours or so after I told him. But then, suddenly, it wasn’t ok. Because he wasn’t going. Because I was going to cheat on him. Because I’m a crappy girlfriend. After being yelled at and my crying for hours…He f-ed me off and drove away. I went to Florida. This was not the best trip in the world. My friend knew there was something wrong, but she was nice enough not to ask. We went the next year and had a much better time. Disney is my happy place still.
- I made new friends. I had a lot of wonderful friends who were there for me after everything fell apart. They were just sitting on the sidelines until I needed them. However, I did learn that there were a lot of people who weren’t really my friends. I come from a conservative background, but was not really in it at all toward the end of the relationship. You would think that coming back from the dead, people would be glad to see you back. But nope. She has drama. Unfriended. Thankfully not everyone was like that, and I’ve found my weirdos all over the place. The ones who turned their backs on me don’t matter anymore.
- I got my family back. As with everything else, any time away from him was not approved of. Eventually, I rarely saw my family. If I visited them, a fight would start. On top of which, my mom’s idea of making me see what was going on was to push every button I have and then some. But now, I can see them whenever I want. I think my grandma and I became even closer due to similar experiences.
- I have my own place. He was desperate to own me. I was desperate to be like everyone else and have my own family. So, he constantly dangled marriage in front of me. Of course, I fell for it and continued to live with my parents until “one day” came. It never did. I never moved. Finally, I was able to move out on my own last year. Let me tell you, I LOVE living alone.
- I paid down my debt. Between paying for his life and compulsive shopping to try to forget my problems, I ran up a TON of debt. Now, it’s mostly paid down. It’s a little higher than it was last year, but life/rent/bills ya’know?
- I’m learning to have confidence in myself. I ordered Pizza Hut to be delivered to my apartment last week. Just saying.
- I buy things because I like them. I don’t make my purchasing decisions based on what another person likes. Which means I have a LOT more Disney stuff and NOTHING frilly.
- I swear, like a lot. Eight years ago, I said ZERO bad words. And then I was expected to be the perfect angel. Now, my vocabulary is much more colorful. Not necessarily a positive change. But science says it helps with pain, so there.
- I’m much more open. I honestly believe that fewer of us would fall for the shitheads if the truth weren’t so readily swept under the rug by society. I was raised to not mention that my grandfather was abusive because it was “embarrassing.” What the hell?! When I realized that I was in a dangerous relationship, I felt trapped because one side was hurting me and the other side — the side I should have been able to run to — was judging me. We need to be unashamed to take our masks off and be able to tell someone our story. To be able to say, these are the signs, this is what I fell for, he is the bad person. Most people think I’m crazy for showing the not-so-beautiful parts of my life — for being vulnerable. But you know what? I don’t care. This is me. Get over it.
- I allowed myself to be loved. This is probably the biggest thing that has helped me in the last few years. I went from a fake love that constantly told me that no one else could ever love me, to feeling more love than I even realized existed. And not just romantic love. My coworkers looked out for me when I was being stalked. My bosses let me cry and loaned me a phone when he took over my phone number. My friends listened to me vent or let me just be quiet. They got me away. My boyfriend showed me that I was beautiful, that I was worth something, that I was worth time/love/effort, that I have a mind of my own and can make my own choices. He never asked for anything back. He still doesn’t. He has been so patient with me. There is still a part of me that thinks I don’t deserve it, but I am oh-so-thankful that my walls haven’t dissuaded the people who really just wanted to give to me and show love to me.
Life isn’t always sunshine and roses. Today was a low day. I still have regrets. Memories come back at the worst times (dissociation much?). I still feel vulnerable. I still feel fear sometimes. I still don’t sleep. I still have nightmares. I still have panic attacks. I still have this ridiculous need to apologize constantly. I have a hard time committing to anything.
But, slowly sometimes, I’m rebuilding myself from the ground up. I’m growing. I’m healing. I’m learning. I’m sharing my story. I’m finding others who have been through the same thing. I’m 5 billion times happier than I was just 3 short years ago. And one day, I’ll get there. Wherever there is.