Love and relationships, Published on Medium

Recovering from emotional abuse

How I found myself again…

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Photo by Michelle Bonkosky on Unsplash

I’d like to think that my relationship track record wasn’t too bad, but I can’t claim that it was ever good. I’ve had three long-term relationships throughout 15 years or so, where I was cheated on, emotionally blackmailed, and just generally made to feel horrible about myself.

The last relationship was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It left me feeling so self-conscious, insecure, and indifferent. For the longest time, I felt like 6 years were flushed down the drain along with any semblance of self-worth, and I berated myself for not breaking it off sooner.

It took me almost three years to find myself again. The damage was done and I knew it was going to be long climb back up. I started with the one thing I knew would have an immediate impact on how I looked at things.

I threw myself into my work.

I’ve always been an ambitious person. I once had a framed picture of the quote “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”. I was constantly aiming for promotions or ways to professionally develop myself. That all took a step back when my ex stomped on my goals by accusing my of trying to emasculate him. I felt guilty for prioritizing work instead of our relationship. I felt horrible that I was trying to earn more money and didn’t consider his feelings about it.

I was made to feel I had to slow down just so he could catch up. I spent most of my time feeling torn between being the “perfect girlfriend” and career woman.

It took some time to refocus my goals after the breakup, but I remember feeling that rush of excitement knowing I could focus on my work without feeling bad about it.

I decided what I wanted to achieve and I worked hard for it. I volunteered for projects, helped out in other departments, and enrolled in a mentoring program. I attended all the conferences and training I could handle, which distracted me from the bad days and made me feel productive. I celebrated the end of 2018 with a promotion and a couple awards.

I started working out.

My ex used to comment on how I looked — from my weight to the clothes I chose to wear. Now, I can appreciate constructive feedback on what might look good on me, but the two comments he made that stuck with me were “you dress like an old hag” and “who would want to have sex with an elephant”.

That sent my self-esteem into a downward spiral and it finally hit rock bottom when he cheated on me.

Since work was going well after the breakup, I decided to work on how I looked. I started working out religiously in the beginning and then slowing it down to a steadier pace. I started experimenting with different styles of makeup and clothes.

There’s a saying that if you look good on the outside, you’ll feel good on the inside, and that rang true for me. For the longest time, I didn’t realize how horrible I felt inside and it reflected how I looked on the outside. It was a vicious cycle. I knew I had to break it by looking good FOR ME.

I started spending time with myself.

Holidays, shopping sprees, spa days… you name it, I did it for myself. Work was going well by this time and I was lucky to have money of my own. Before this, all I did was work, cook, clean, eat, and sleep. I felt like I didn’t have the time or the want to spoil myself from time to time.

My very first splurge was a round trip to the UK to visit my relatives whom I’ve not seen for more than seven years. I went with my best friend and I spent my hard earned money on a huge plate of fun without a side serving of guilt.

I had dinners alone, sat a café for hours just reading a book, and a couple more hours at the park just looking up at the sky. I was finally at peace and genuinely happy with myself.

The end results?

I learned to be a little selfish about my time and effort and to love myself before I even begin to love anyone else. What once appeared to be just dull grey are now in vibrant colors, and it created a ripple effect in my life as a whole.

It healed my relationship with people, it made me work more productively, and it led me to meet a man who genuinely loves me for all that I am. I’m nowhere close to being the best version of myself, but he makes me want to continue doing better for me.

I realized other women have gone through much worst, and I consider myself fortunate to have gotten away. My only hope is that my experiences are relatable and provide a break in the clouds for some.

The road to recovery is never a short one. The one thing I’m sure of is that something was preparing me for the life I now lead.

Also published on Medium

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