Once you have been living in abuse for awhile, it is hard to relate to yourself again. Our relationship with ourselves has become disrupted and damaged. Just like starting over again, if you were to rekindle a love affair, you must start over again to rekindle your relationship with yourself.
You used to know yourself better. Things like what you want, what you like and what you feel are harder to access now for a good reason. If you were under the tyranny of a narcissist, they took over. The only person who mattered was them.
You were trained to only focus on what they wanted. You lost yourself in the process. I remember the first few weeks after I left the abuser. I had trouble even knowing how to make simple choices. Now I could eat what I wanted to for dinner. I could order pizza from the pizza place that he never allowed me to order from. It felt wrong to do it, even though he wasn’t there.
I could use the coffee maker in my own kitchen and make my own coffee. When he had lived there, the coffee maker was off limits for anyone to even touch but him. God forbid, I moved it an inch to the left while I was cleaning the table. All hell would break loose.
So, there I was standing there, thinking I might like some coffee and feeling afraid to touch the coffee maker. I had to force myself to touch it once or twice. Then I moved it to the other side of the table. I waited and nothing terrible happened. He was gone and I could move the coffee maker anywhere I wanted to.
The I did the deed ! I made my own coffee. I not only made coffee, but I made it the way I liked it ! This was a very freeing sensation throughout my entire body ! The I began to move around in the kitchen and started putting things back onto the places I used to have them, before he lived there.
This act of making coffee and putting things where I wanted them to be, was the beginning of my getting back in touch with myself again. You know what I found out? I could trust myself to do all of those things.
The world did not come to an end, the way he had acted like it would, when I put the silverware in the dish drainer face down, rather than face up. I hated the knives pointing up, with the sharp part where it could scratch me, when I was washing the rest of the dishes, but he always made me put them up.
I began to try out my own ideas and it turned out that they were all okay. I was beginning to learn to trust my own choices and my abilities to organize and care for my own things, in my own personal way. It felt so weird for a few days, but especially the first day.
Over time I started to get myself back. I could eat when i felt like it and if I wanted regular bread with my spaghetti instead of french bread, it was perfectly okay. Over the next couple of months, little by little, I began to remember how I liked to do things.
Sometimes I would freeze and just stand there, because I could not remember how to find out what I wanted to do. Being told what and how to do things for so long, I was not in the habit of thinking “what do I want to do?” or “how do I want to do that?” or “where do I want that to be” etc.
I did not realize how many choices during the course of a day, that my abuser had taken away from me, by threats and fear manipulation. There is such an element of control to these abusive relationships that we lose touch with ourselves and how to trust ourselves.
I still sometimes start to wash off the top of the coffee maker, just the way he always insisted it be washed. I still feel funny when the coffee maker gets moved to a new location. These are all things that I had to learn to take care of myself, and these are just the little things.
The big things, like life decisions were another step. We become used to being told no, all the time. The first time we are allowed to just go for a drive without having to know where we want to go or when we will be back, is a really big thing. So decisions like taking a college class , changing jobs or even taking a Saturday morning yoga class are all things we have to learn that we can do.
We should have been “allowed” to make those choices all along, but we were not allowed to do things without prior approval. The feeling of coming home from work and not worrying all the way home about what I will be yelled at about, was amazing. I could just come home and relax.
We do not realize how many things we missed out on, until we are out from under the clutches of the abuser. Now we can learn to trust ourselves again. We are capable of knowing what we want to do and then making a plan of how to do it. We can take classes, watch TV when we want to and go to bed when we want to. It was so much better going to bed all alone, than going to bed with an angry person.
Little by little we get our self esteem back. We are ok and we can do things. The task of getting back in touch with how we feel and what we want, takes time. We can learn to know ourselves again.
You matter and your thoughts and ideas matter. You can have opinions that are yours. You do not have to pretend to go along with him anymore about anything.
If you are still living in abuse, then you are still subject to his threats and you do not have the freedom to state your own opinions. Imagine what it would be like to be in love with someone who let you have your own opinions, even if they were different from their own.
Imagine someone treating you with respect and dignity, even when you did not have the same thoughts and ideas as each other. That is what love is. What love is not is…having to agree with them even when you disagree, having to do everything the way the person wants it done, having no freedom to have coffee with your best friend on the spur of the moment.
Life is there for us to taste, touch, feel, see, and experience. We have the right to experience life the way we want to.