Abuse Hides in the Dark. Turn on Your Light.

After Abuse, Don’t Look Far to Find Yourself

Woman hidden in black and white wavy stripes, finding herself after abuse.

You Didn’t Lose Yourself, You Hid

After abuse, when we look into the mirror, we think we see someone we do not know anymore. We tend to think the abuse changed us at our core. We worry that we’ll never be “that girl” ever again. But I’ve decided to think of the effects of abuse differently.

During our relationships, our abuser imagined us to be someone different. In the spirit of love and cooperation, we tried very hard to add the abuser’s version of us to us. When our abuser raged if a tiny part of ourselves presented itself, we learned to hide ourselves. We tucked ourselves away in the way-back dusty corners of our personalities where the one we loved couldn’t hurt us.

We hid, but we did not change who we were. If we had changed who we were, our relationships should have worked out. I mean, there would have been nothing for the abuser to complain about, no reason to fight us to force us back into our corner.

There’s Good News After Abuse

So, the good news is that you are STILL you! You no longer must hide under your abuser’s vision of “the perfect partner” to protect yourself. You didn’t go anywhere! You were only hiding. Everything in you that you want to bring into your present from before the abuse is there. Anything you don’t want to be anymore, let it go (don’t smoosh it back into the corner, let it go. Remind yourself that “No one puts Baby in the corner!”).

You don’t have to make yourself small anymore. Doesn’t it feel great?

There are other facets of you too. There are the parts of you that you developed by maturing naturally or learning new things independent of the abuse. You may want to keep those parts (or not, your choice).

And then there are the parts you added in the hope of making your abuser happy. Maybe, possibly, you want to keep some of those attributes you developed for them. That’s okay! Keep the parts that serve you. As for the parts that do not serve you, let them shed off you. Let them go.

Goals for Recovery After Abuse

Life after abuse may be as frustrating as it is joyful. Joyful as you become yourself again. Frustrating as you realize you aren't the same person anymore.

For many of us, leaving abuse is truly a leap of faith. No one knows what heartaches & challenges, successes and joys we will find “on the other side.” But one thing is certain: our choices after abuse will change us more quickly than our abusers were able to brainwash us.

In essence, life after abuse requires you to break free from your ex’s idea of who you should be. How do you do that? You coax yourself out of the dusty corner through unapologetic self-care. Do these things:

  • give yourself grace
  • forgive yourself
  • say loving words about you to you
  • show yourself compassion
  • treat yourself like an injured child when you hurt – with love, respect, and empathy

It is important that you treat yourself right during your recovery after abuse. Continuing to abuse yourself mentally, emotionally, or physically will continue your life of chaos and pain. But when you learn to take care of yourself and love yourself, life without abuse can be magical!

To make sure you continue caring for yourself in the long term, set some goals for yourself. I like these but choose goals that speak to you. My goals are to:

  • shed the fake personality of my abuser’s “dream woman”
  • separate my thoughts and emotions from my abuser’s brainwashing
  • uncover the beautiful, shining spirit that is still inside of me
  • live life after abuse with greater wisdom, vision, and resourcefulness than ever

This is my adventure now. I’m so grateful to have made it out alive. I’m so grateful that you made it out alive, too. So let’s LIVE.

Featured photo by liane