Updated: Apr 20, 2020
I’m going to tell you a story, one that I’ve shared with very few people up until this point. Brace yourself, it’s not a glamorous one.
There’s no point in sugar-coating and I can’t, for the life of me, think of a metaphor to use as a way to better explain. So, I’m just going to come right out and say it: I was in an abusive relationship, one that left me with a form of PTSD that has haunted me, deeply, for years.
How’s that for hitting you right with the punch line?
I won’t go into all of the details of the relationship because, frankly, that’s not the important part anymore. What I will say is, before I met this person, I was happy. I was confident. I was independent. I had a sense of self that had not been shattered, yet. Sure, I was 19, so a bit of blind, teenage confidence was a major part of my identity. Nonetheless, I felt strong in who I was and what I wanted. Looking at me, one would have never thought that I would have become “that girl.”
Then it happened… a college fling turned into a four-year-relationship filled with lies, betrayal, physical, and emotional abuse. You know what the irony in all of this is? You never think you’re going to be “that girl,” until you wake up, after years in a horrific dream, and realize… you are her.
You know, the girl who “puts up with it.”
The one who can’t figure out how to leave.
The one who feels helpless and desperate, like she can’t do any better.
The one who doesn’t realize her own worth anymore and instead settles for garbage who treats her as such.
I’m sure that relationship had it’s ups, but the darkness that surrounds those four years overwhelms any positive thought that could form; and to be honest, I’m okay with that. What’s important to me is the positivity and total life-tilt that came after I finally got the courage to leave. It all happened in one moment, I received news that I had heard before, but didn’t learn from the first time. I had been betrayed and she thought it was best to let me know. Ladies, if you’ve ever found yourself in this kind of conversation with “the other woman” then you know that this was not a pretty interaction. I assume there was more bitterness than empowerment in her reasoning behind telling me, but nonetheless, that girl saved my life. I hope she saved her own, too.
In what felt like 10 minutes, I had quit my job as an accountant in upstate New York, packed up my entire life, and drove my little ford focus across the country, in the middle of December. I had never understood what an “out of body experience” was like, until then. I was a zombie; I don’t know what it was that pushed me forward, because it certainly wasn’t conscious thought. In all likelihood it was my mother who flew out immediately to take charge and be the decision-maker that I so desperately needed.
I don’t tell her enough, but that woman’s strength and organizational skills never cease to amaze me.
This was the worst and most liberating moment of my life. How twisted is that?
The strangest part of all was that, I didn’t miss him or the life I had just abandoned. I actually didn’t even think about him at all. It was as if I had transplanted from one life to the other and all of my college years had just disappeared. I know they happened, but that was in a different life. I guess that’s one way of dealing with PTSD… compartmentalizing and pretending like it never happened.
I assumed that I would heal from this like I had from previous failed relationships, with time, new hobbies, amazing girl friends, and plenty of red wine. It had never occurred to me that I might actually need to deal with my emotions from the past four years. I mean, time heals all wounds anyway, right?
Correction: Time [and therapy] heal all wounds.
Back to the denial phase: I did heal… in some ways. I did “find myself” (the idea of which I thought was a total myth until it actually happened to me) and re-built my self-esteem that had so quickly crumbled during that relationship. I discovered what I loved to do for fun, what I was personally and professionally good at, and I discovered my dream career. I found passions and friendships, gained weight, lost weight, moved about 9 times in the span of 4 years, and avoided men almost entirely. I thought I was living… I thought I had this whole independent woman thing down.
Then…. I fell in love, for the first time since that past of mine that I tried so desperately to forget. In a perfect world, this is the part of the story where I gained closure of what had happened and I was then free to move on to this new phase of my life, with inner peace with a fresh mindset.
Spoiler alert: This isn’t a perfect world and that’s not what happened.
It turns out that, when you choose not to deal with issues, they don’t just go away with time. In fact, until issues like that are dealt with, they lie dormant until you find an amazing human who treats you like a queen, and THEN they show their ugly faces and try to ruin your life.
Dramatic? Yes. Keep reading.
In the beginning, I was consumed with anxiety, depression, and had MAJOR trust-issues. Of course, none of these emotions were warranted, like I said, this is an amazing human that I have here. But I was triggered ALL of the time. I had no control over my thoughts and found myself in a very dark place, way too often. It was then and only then, that I realized I needed to actually heal myself. I needed to face what had happened in my past and work through those emotions if I wanted to be able to move forward in this incredible new relationship.
I needed to transition from being the victim, to being the girl who took responsibility of fixing herself.. her WHOLE self.
I’ve had many realizations through this process. I realized that I was afraid to face this part of myself because I felt so shameful of what had happened to me. I felt that it was my fault, because I stayed; I deserved it because I didn’t have the foresight to get out when the first red flag appeared. I felt that my story wasn’t worth sharing, because others had more impactful ones. I felt that it was my responsibility to suffer in silence, because I did this to myself.
I know that, overall, my story is not a unique one. There are women all over this world who have faced similar situations and so, so much worse. What I also know is by keep stories like these hidden, I’m doing myself a disservice. What’s worse, I’m doing my sisters a disservice too, by not sharing and potentially helping one of them, who may also be suffering in silence. How can we ever expect to be supportive of one another if we aren’t willing to share our deepest pains, followed by what we’ve learned and have done to heal them?
What are we if not our lessons learned?
With that being said, here’s what I’ve learned:
1. The first step to healing from a traumatic experience is to acknowledge that it happened. Acknowledge your emotions, accept that they are real and valid, because they are. Let yourself be vulnerable.
2. It is okay to ask for help; contrary to popular belief, it does not mean that you are weak, or incapable. It means that you are strong enough and humble enough to know what you need to do for yourself in order to get through this.
3. Be kind to yourself. Stop judging yourself for your mistakes or for red flags that you did not see, that you feel you should have. Nothing in the past can be changed, no matter how much we dwell on it.
4. Forgive. This does not validate the actions of others, it gives you the power to let the negative feelings go and move forward. Forgive those who hurt you and forgive yourself; you are doing the very best that you can and that is enough.
Sharing this story sucked, I won’t like to you about that; but I believe it was the most important thing I could do in my own journey of moving forward. In the past I have shared tips for how to develop unshakeable self-esteem, but what I have failed to do is share the most important step: find out where you are starting from.
I made the mistake of trying to build upon a foundation that had not been stabilized yet and because of this, parts of it came crashing down in a very non-glamorous way. I did build myself back up, but not my whole self.
It’s uncomfortable, but what progress isn’t?
So with that, I empower you to dig deep and uncover what’s hurting you or holding you back; face your past and challenge your securities.
Repair YOUR foundation, then continue to build on it.
This is your time, your life, and you can shape it any way that YOU wish. Tell your demons to f**** right off and release that power you’ve been giving to them.
I believe in you and I think you’re a total bad a**.
With love and an ugly cry face,
- Paige J.
The Rose Gold Queen