The Mighty Logo

How I Healed and Escaped From an Abusive Relationship

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

When my ex and I first dated we were teenagers. I truly thought us getting back together as adults was a “meant to be,” type of situation… but it wasn’t. That meant to be type of thing ended up being a nightmare. A switch flipped, my reality changed, the next year of my life was a horrible rollercoaster.

• What is PTSD?

After we broke up, it took me another few months to fully detach from him. I got married, moved on the best I could (with much needed therapy), then he contacted me. The first thing I felt was my world crashing down all over again, but the next I felt relief. I knew this was my chance to finally say what had weighing on me in therapy, in nightmares, in my everyday life. I told him everything from my point of view.

The thing that actually gave me closure was him gaslighting me. Him denying my whole experience gave me closure to know it wasn’t in my head, this truly happened, that it was all real. The months of being made to feel like I was the problem, not him, were gone. Years later, I could see his tactics for what they really were. By using the same tactics he showed me that I didn’t blow this up into something it wasn’t. He did to me what he had done the entire time I was with him, but this time I was not the same person he broke me down into all those years ago. I could see it for what it was. And it hurt.

It really hurt, but it also showed me that the pain I had carried (and still do) was real. I am not saying by any means that you need this to be valid in your trauma, but I am saying from my personal experience, it helped. The thing that broke me over and over, gave me closure.

Most would ask why I wouldn’t block him right away when he contacted me. Truthfully, I wanted to give him the opportunity to respond, to acknowledge (or gaslight). His responses broke me, and healed me. I write this to say that even when someone gaslights you, makes you feel dramatic, makes you feel less then, or tries to make you smaller — that is on them, and it has nothing to do with you.

If you’re struggling to get out of this type of relationship, this is what helped me:

1. Look up cycles of abuse. Track it. Abusers want to make you feel us like we are crazy or delusional; this took the power away from him. I recognized it, every step. I didn’t leave right away, because it is never that easy, but it gave me something concrete that told me this wasn’t OK.

2. Make a plan. Decide how to leave, how to get out safely, confide in at least one person about what’s happening, find somewhere safe to go if you don’t know where to right now.

3. Remind yourself over and over and over: you don’t deserve this. Even if you don’t believe it today, you will one day.

To anyone going through this, I am sending you all of my love and support. You will get through this.

Image via contributor

Originally published: March 29, 2023
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home