“When you turn the corner / And you run into yourself / Then you know that you have turned / All the corners that are left.” ~Langston Hughes
It was almost two years ago that I ended an abusive and controlling relationship.
I didn’t know that I was in one. I knew I was in a desperate situation.
Abusers take away everything from you. I don’t just mean your money or your home or your children, although they take those as well. I’m talking about your entire self, including the way you feel.
Toward the end of the relationship, I wrote in my journal: “I have nothing. Nothing. No future. No future. No home. Nothing. I don’t know what to do any more. There seems to be no hope.”
I had nowhere else to go when I left. After a short stay in a hotel, I moved into a week-to-week residence. At that time, I could not imagine a future for me.
You will find a lot of information on how difficult it is to end an abusive relationship. It takes an average of seven attempts for someone to leave a relationship.
If you leave, it can also be dangerous. When they feel that they will lose control of you, abusers can escalate their behavior. It is important to be aware of these things.
It’s hard to believe that nobody talks about how difficult it is to recover after all the dust settles.
I have been to court as well as spoken to police. A domestic abuse charity has also provided me with excellent support. I have attended support groups. I feel like I’ve processed a lot of the abuse and that I am now able to move on from that trauma.
He is a wonderful therapist who was able to recognize my situation even though I tried to hide it. He helped me escape. He saved my life.
Now that I own my own apartment, I feel safe. I live in an attractive area. I’ve made new friends and I am starting to feel part of the local community.
But two years on from this relationship, I still don’t know who I am.
Recently, someone asked me what I watch on television. I don’t have a clue. I surrendered all TV-watching decision-making to my ex-partner because he had a tantrum if I put something on that he didn’t like.
I don’t know what I want to do for a job. Up until recently, I worked in my ex-partner’s field, even though it is a field I know little and care less about, because that’s what he wanted me to do. I don’t know what I care about.
Why am I telling this to you? Although I know I’m not alone, I sometimes feel like I am. And if you out there reading this also feel this terrible confusion about who you are and what you want to do, and you also feel alone, I want to tell you something…
You are not alone
This is normal. This is fine. Not okay in the sense that it’s enjoyable or good, but okay in the sense that it is an understandable consequence of your journey.
You don’t have to feel like there is something especially wrong with you that you aren’t now skipping through the fields gleefully enjoying your freedom. Hooray! What can I do?
This is, I think, what people expect a domestic abuse survivor to do once they’ve gotten away from their partner. It’s what I wanted to do. It was thrilling to think that I could finally do what I wanted.
It fell down pretty quickly when I realized I didn’t know what I wanted.
There are other things besides pancakes. I love pancakes. Lemon sugar and lemon juice on hot pancakes.
There is an anchor there that can be used to begin rebuilding your life and yourself.
It feels profound to rebuild yourself. Discover your values. What are your aspirations?
This is the equivalent of running a half-marathon without any preparation. You can’t start with the massive things. Start with small things.
What is your favorite breakfast food?
This is a question I have a lot of trouble answering because my former partner controlled my eating. I wasn’t always allowed to have breakfast. He didn’t do mornings, and if I woke him up making breakfast, he’d start screaming and threatening suicide.
Unfortunately, I found out one day that I love pancakes. This I know. It is a small, but solid and real thing.
Do I feel the same way about this as I do about pancakes? How do I feel? Is it the same as how I feel when I eat pancakes? It may sound ridiculous, but it works for you.
It’s okay to change your mind.
This is an important one. When your life has been unstable because you’ve been constantly gaslit, and subject to the shifting and changing rules that a controlling person indulges in, you want stability.
You want the status quo. You think you should remain the same.
Pro tip: It doesn’t. Not even for “normal” people. You have been infected.
When you ask yourself what you want, sometimes it’s not your voice that replies. At first, you may not realize this. Later, you think, wait, that doesn’t feel right anymore.
It’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay. It’s normal.
Since months I have been wanting a cat. Everyone was bored to tears when I told them that I desperately wanted a pet. I searched for pictures of cat and lusted after cats.
Now I don’t want a cat. Not that I don’t like cats, I just don’t feel ready to take on the commitment of a pet. And that’s okay.
Try things out.
You like chocolate or your ex-partner? How can you tell?
Try it out.
You like to sing? Try it out.
You may find that you enjoy singing but hate chocolate. Great. You’ve learned something about yourself.
I like singing, pancakes and chocolate. I don’t like marmalade.
Give yourself some time.
I am eternally thankful that a lady in one of my support groups said, “It took me about six years to start feeling like myself again.” At that point I was about nine months out of the relationship and convinced I was a failure because I still felt completely unstable.
At the end of two years I feel frustrated at myself for not making more progress. Come on Lily. Why don’t you know what you want to do with your life yet?
I don’t know because someone emptied out my mind and filled it with their ideas. The consequences of thinking differently were catastrophic. I am still scared to hold the “wrong” opinion, even though these days nobody is going to throw heavy objects if I do.
My brain was rewired over a long period of time and it’s going to take time for me to fix that. It’s okay. It’s not fun. It’s hard work. But it’s okay.
In the mean time, I’m going to make pancakes and eat some chocolate.
Lily Carroll, a survivor of domestic violence, feels compelled by her experience to share it. She wants to reach other survivors, who are feeling confused and alone. She wants them to feel less alone. There is always hope. This is her very first attempt. She doesn’t yet have a website or a blog but hopes to set one up in future.
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The post I Don’t Know Who I Am: How I’m Finding Myself Again After the Abuse appeared first on Tiny Buddha.