Maybe you’ve recently moved on from a toxic relationship. Maybe you’re still figuring out an exit plan. Either way, there’s a huge chance that you’re dealing with some feelings – and a stronger sense of insecurity than before this relationship started.
While I can’t fix those problems or insecurities from the other side of your computer screen (if only!), I do want to take some time to breathe with you. I need it. And the truth is that a lot of us keep right on going and trying to pretend that nothing happened or maybe it isn’t something you think about everyday.
For me, as a Black transmasculine person who survived intimate partner violence, I had a host of reasons why my experience made it hard to get support or want to be good to myself. What I discovered is that there are always a multitude of reasons to give up – and that perhaps I needed to look for reasons to become my most amazing self again.
Maybe you do, too. This is for you.
1. You Deserve Healing
You’re at your best when you’re able to care for yourself. You don’t deserve the PTSD you may have, the anxiety you may have developed or had exacerbated. You have a right to heal in whatever way works for you.
Is the person that assaulted you more important somehow? Are you more committed to their reality than yours? What would it take to be concerned with yourself instead?
If you spent any ounce of time worrying about what would happen if you called the police on your partner, or how they would take care of themselves, or ever thought even in the midst of all the stuff you had to go through that they had some right to their life, don’t you think in the least you deserve the same?
We often look out for our abusers more than for ourselves. But if someone else presented us with the same logic, would it make sense to us? Or would we tell that person they deserved something more?
You deserve something more.
2. You Didn’t Deserve Abuse
You. Did. Not. Deserve. That.
No one deserves to enter into what they think is going to be a loving relationship only to be violated, berated, and abused.
You are important to more people than you can ever imagine. I don’t care what you do during the course of a workday, or how many folks you pass on the street. There are folks watching you that appreciate your presence.
We all take risks to find love. Partly, that’s what love is. It’s a risk to create something with a new person, and there is never a perfect formula. Are there ways we can get better at seeing warning signs of abuse earlier? Sure.
But don’t blame yourself for taking a risk at being loved.
You do deserve to be loved – and who you ran into, unfortunately, wasn’t the person capable of receiving you. As you move forward, you can make peace with that.
3. Sleep Deprivation Is Real
It’s rare for any relationship to start from a place of violence.
It’s a gradual turn, and you probably thought you knew better. I know my cocky self did. A couple of friends would give me all kinds of ways I could exit the situation I was in if I wanted to, but I actually didn’t have the mental or emotional bandwidth to do the things that made sense.
If my partner was angry about something, he would wake me up at midnight, then again at three in the morning, then again at four, then again at six. Then it was already time for me to stare dead-eyed at my computer for eight hours of work. I could barely keep my eyes open – and after awhile, you become disconnected from reality.
My ability to plan was stuck in slow motion. It took me so. much. longer. to make decisions in this state of being than when I was well-rested.
Whether it was the anxiety or the yelling or the physical violence that changed your sleep pattern, know that no one can think clearly when they don’t get sleep for days on end.
We sleep to recharge, and to allow our brains to prepare for a new day. It’s normal and natural to be ill-equipped to make rational decisions when we are sleep deprived. Remember, it’s a tactic of war and torture for a reason.
4. A Lot of What You’ve Been Conditioned to Believe About Yourself Isn’t True
We all have insecurities. No one survives all of this white supremacy, all of this misogyny, all of this capitalism without some mental wounds about what we and our lives should really look like.
For me, I have always felt like an awkward trans kid who wasn’t desirable. There are some moments when I feel attractive and smart, but I live in a world where my appearance and humanity is constantly questioned – and that takes a toll.
You don’t have to share my identity to know what it feels like to feel ugly or to think that you don’t have the right to something good. Folks who are experienced abusers or manipulators are amazing at honing in on those things you already disliked about yourself. They’re not magic – those folks are just experts at vicariously reliving their own pain through you.
It will take time to unlearn what you internalized from your abuser – and that’s fine.
5. It’s Okay to Feel Stuck After Trauma
Going back to number one, I’d love to say that I’m 100% better after leaving my relationship. But honestly, I don’t know if I will ever be completely okay. What I do know is that I gave myself time to just feel for a bit.
It’s no small thing that you survived. Maybe you were scared for your life. Maybe you were just scared for your dignity. When you scrape your elbow, it doesn’t typically heal overnight. And that’s just a surface wound! What you experienced is a lot deeper and is going to take time.
You don’t need to feel pressure to jump right back into dating or perhaps the same exact routine. Give yourself time to grieve. My hope is that your life may go back to a sense of normalcy (whatever that means for you). But depending on the amount of damage, that can take a bit of time.
If you must jump back into routines, give yourself time to mentally rest (if even for just a few minutes) during the day.
6. Not Everyone Survives What You Just Did
That is a morbid fact. But here you are. Despite everything, you are still here.
Parts of you might not have fully grown back yet, but you have an opportunity to live that not everyone does. As fiercely as you imagined yourself wanting to love and be in love before this relationship, live for that person.
Live for the human that once loved unconditionally, that humbly put others before themselves. You will need to find a way to connect with that person in some way, and they still are in there somewhere. That person is worthy of love and life.
You have a lot more pain than you did before, but I guarantee that you have a lot more wisdom, too. I don’t believe that old phrase “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” That’s just a crock of horseshit. But I will say that my ability to prioritize has changed. My ability to see what folks are saying has shifted. I want to believe that gives me a superpower.
I have the superpower of seeing through all the horseshit in the world and moving on in a way I didn’t before. You do, too.
7. There Will Be Opportunities for You to Love and Be Loved
I wrote my will about six months after leaving my last relationship. I was humiliated, isolated, and felt like my community didn’t show up in the way I needed. Surviving is fucking hard and isolating. And there are so many reasons to not keep going.
And there are so many reasons to do the exact opposite.
A feeling I had learned to hate was hope. I hated having hope when someone reached out wanting to support me through an accountability process that didn’t go anywhere. I hated having hope when someone promised to call and never did. I hated having hope when there was a potential date on the horizon that never panned out. Hope can be a horrible emotion.
Hope is also a sign that we want to be alive, even if we haven’t admitted that to ourselves. Hope is a symbol of desire and the want to move forward, even if we don’t have the tools yet to make what we envision happen.
Now, I don’t think we should run into any old thing that presents itself. But if there was a chance that you could feel fulfilled, feel loved, and know what love feels like, wouldn’t you want to stick around for that? Wouldn’t you want to be present and available for that? I know I do.
And I know it’s not possible if I’m not willing to be there for myself and to get as close to better as I can. I don’t see myself being the exact same person that existed a few years ago, but I know if someone I cared about went through what I did, I’d want them to experience something amazing. I’d want them to have the most dangerous of emotions: hope. And I’d want them to be around long enough to see some love and healing manifest in their lives.
I don’t just heal for myself. I do it because I know there are people in my life who have loved me, and I want to be here long enough to remember what it means to internalize love.
I want all that for you, too, because I know whether or not you can hear it today, that you deserve it.
J Mase III is a Black/Trans/Poet based currently in Seattle by way of NYC. He is founder of the trans & queer people of color talent agency, awQward. A full length copy of his book, And Then I Got Fired: One Transqueer’s Reflections on Grief, Unemployment & Inappropriate Jokes About Death will be out later this summer. To find out more about his work, find him on Facebook, Twitter, and of course, www.awQwardtalent.com!