themighty logo

3 Things That Happened to Me in the Aftermath of an Abusive Relationship

Three years ago if you would have told me that the person I fell in love with was extremely emotionally abusive, I wouldn’t have believed you. I would have told you they were just damaged or that they had had a hard life and are scared of getting hurt again. I would have blamed myself for why they acted the way they did. I would have automatically jumped to tell you what I did wrong in order to justify their abusive behavior.

Three months ago if you would have told me it is possible to leave them once and for all and that the pain does get easier to handle, I would have laughed at you. But it does get easier, and here I am three months later, free of them.

But that doesn’t mean I am free from the trauma they caused. It was really hard at first for me to actually say I was abused because my ex never hit me. But abuse doesn’t have to be physical in order for it to be abuse. I am talking about emotional abuse. I am not going to list the traits of an emotionally abusive relationship here. I am going to talk about what happened after I left, and what my new normal is now.

The biggest thing for me is my memory. After three years of repeated and continuous gaslighting and being told that I didn’t remember things correctly, I find myself questioning if I really did do things or if things really happened the way I thought they did. For example, a little over a month after I left I had an anxiety attack at work about cleaning supplies. I thought I had placed the soap back in the supply closet after I was done cleaning, but the next day I couldn’t find it. I wracked my brain trying to remember exactly if I had put it back after I was done cleaning or if it was empty and I threw it away. Turns out, I had put it away but another one of my co-workers used it and forgot to tell me that they did. My mind was so damaged and my trust in myself was so poor that I couldn’t even trust my memory for something as little as putting soap away.

The second thing is I apologize. A lot. Too much actually. I apologize for things I really do not even need to apologize for or things other people wouldn’t even think to apologize for. Because I was conditioned to constantly apologize for every little thing, for things I had no control over, for being myself, for finding something funny, for wearing make up, for wanting to have time to myself. I had to apologize for everything and anything. So I find myself apologizing lately for just being myself.

The third and final thing is I constantly question if I was actually abused or not. Because my ex never hit me I never had any physical proof. And any time I would get fed up with their abusive behavior and stick up for myself, it would get turned back around on me and I would be told that I was actually the abusive one. Or that if they were so abusive than I should just leave or they would leave me, because they didn’t want to be with someone who thought they were abusive. I go back and forth between blaming myself and invalidating my trauma, even more, to then confirming that it was abuse.

That is not to say that since leaving them I have been miserable all the time, because that is not the picture I want to paint. Since leaving three months ago I have been living my best life ever. I am “thriving” so to speak. My confidence is coming back slowly but surely, I am in committed therapy, I can actually go see my friends now and have friends, I am not constantly anxious whenever my phone lights up. But most of all — I am happy. I am rediscovering who I am and taking back the pieces of me that they took away, while also discovering new things about myself. I laugh more and I write more now.

Leaving an abusive relationship is terrifying. It took me multiple tries to leave once and for all, but it is well worth it.

Remember, just because they didn’t hit you, doesn’t mean it is not abuse.

Getty image by Micro Kickboard