What do you do when you’ve lost yourself? When you can no longer see the end of you and the beginning of someone else? When you’ve finally seen through the fog of exhaustion and turmoil and can’t recognize who you are? You know you have to break the cycle, but you have no clue where to start. It’s an incredibly scary and isolating thought, not knowing how to free yourself from the grip of someone you once thought you loved. However, there’s a path in front of you leading you out of the storm, and all you have to do is take the first step.
THE WARNING SIGNS
You know something is wrong. You don’t recognize the person you once used to be. It is painful to think that you’ve fallen into someone else’s trap. You question yourself, and that’s understandable. So how do you know with certainty that it was someone else chipping away at your sense of self all along?
- You’ve lost sight of your own personal goals
- You feel emotionally numb
- Your partner makes you feel crazy when you try to address problems, leading you to believe the problem is your fault (otherwise known as gaslighting)
- You have lost touch with friends and other loved ones
- You jump to meet your partner’s needs at the expense of your own
- You walk on eggshells around your partner, and do anything to keep the peace
- Your partner makes you question every decision you make
- You are highly controlling of every other aspect of your life (even other people), because you have zero control of your personal life
- You sacrifice opportunities that would lead to your own personal or professional growth
- You often feel guilty about anything you say or do
- Your partner withholds affection or disappears for periods of time
- Your partner uses passive aggressive tactics to retaliate against perceived slights
- Your relationship progressed very quickly, and went from one extreme (such as over the top expressions of love) to the other
HOW TO HEAL
Ask for professional help
Leaving an emotionally or physically abusive relationship is hard enough, and dealing with the aftershocks can be just as difficult. These types of relationships can lead to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, uncertainty, and an overall sense of fear (Psych Central). A therapist or psychiatrist can guide you through the process of recovery and provide support every step of the way.
Make a plan
Having a plan in place to handle triggers and possible unsafe situations can help to boost your sense of confidence and control over your recovery. A professional can aid in setting up a concrete plan for various problems that you may face.
Utilize your support system
It’s not uncommon for emotional or narcissistic abusers to alienate you from friends and family. In order to heal, it is important to reconnect with these people and lean on them for support (Verywellmind).
Show yourself love and prioritize self-care
Self-care and self-compassion are essential components of life in general, but particularly integral to putting the pieces of your sense of self back together. Take time to do things you love, have fun, and above all, rest.
Work diligently on your self-talk – it is NOT your fault
Emotional and narcissistic abusers are known for distorting reality, gaslighting, and eroding your self-confidence. You may have gotten into a pattern of guilt and harsh self-judgment, and it’s important to take that belief system apart. Reframing your self-talk is the first step to doing so.
Learn how to trust yourself and others again
Abusers can do a number on your radar for warning signs, which can lead to distrust of others (Cleveland Clinic). It will take time, but through therapy and educating yourself on the signs of manipulation, it is possible to trust again. Not only trust in future partners, but trust in yourself.
Finding yourself again after living in a manipulated reality is difficult, but worth the journey. Reach out, because there will be someone to grab your hand. Whether you know it or not, there are people in your life who love you and are waiting in the wings. Take that first step, and they’ll be there to pick you up until you’re strong enough to do it yourself.