one of the most lingering aspects of the abuse experience is what it does to your sense of self. it can also take a very long time for this to manifest. it can be years after your abusive relationship ends before you realise that don’t know who you are. for me, when the relationship ended, i was so caught up in seeming ~fine~ that i managed to convince myself that i was.
i spent a lot of time after we broke up, focusing solely on my sense of identity *in relation to men*. i was preoccupied with how men saw me, how i saw men now that i was single, how they compared to my ex - and didn’t, for a long time, even think to consider if i was ok. me, as a person in my own right. i hadn’t realised that, somewhere along the line, i stopped being anything other than His.
and, then came the crushing realisation. i didn’t know anything about myself. all i knew was how to be a version of me that was small enough to keep him happy. quiet enough to keep him placated. obedient enough to keep the anger at bay for as long as possible. i didn’t know what interested me because all that ever mattered were his interests. i didn’t know what suited me because he got to choose if i wore makeup, what i wore. i didn’t know how to make friends because he hadn’t let me make any. i was a 20-something old who had become literally nothing more than a girl who knew the exact parameters of rage in another person. everything was tailored to his existence. and, now, i was not only on my own - but had been for a good year or two, with no concept of who i had been that whole time.
i spent so much time doing things that would take me further away from being his. flirting with men i didn’t like, wasting hours and hours of my life texting guys who repulsed me, because it felt like every guy i connected with - on any level - took me a step further away from who i had been when he owned me & my life. but it hadn’t done me any good. i was just further and further from who i had EVER been. i wasn’t reclaiming myself, i was just creating a mask that i could hide behind until i figured out who i was. it didn’t empower me, it just isolated me further.
actively trying to rebuild a personality, an identity, and a sense of self, is not easy. it is complex and terrifying and lonely. having to dedicate time to finding out who you are feels weird and hard. it’s like therapy but without someone who knows the answers telling you how to help yourself. no-one can tell you what you’re really like. no-one call tell you how to get back to yourself. it’s trial & error. and, to be honest, i’m not sure i’m succeeding. i’m still so lost. the person i force myself to be - in business or online or in social situations - feels like an alter ego, rather than who i really am. and to confuse matters further, trying to reengage with your ~true self~ is virtually impossible if you’re doing it while battling mental health issues that you also know are interacting with your personality.
all we can do is keep trying. every day that we’re kind to ourselves is a day in the right direction.