How I Rebuilt Myself After An Abusive Relationship

rebuilt myself abusive relationship
Photo by Julia Volk

I cannot remember a time when I felt less lonely than I am right now, single and not interested in dating.

Less than a year after ending an abusive relationship, I found myself heading straight for another one. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain why I didn’t give myself time to breathe. Mostly I was afraid. There is nothing scarier than entering a world where your narcissistic ex-partner is no longer around.

The relationship had gone on for so long, I couldn’t make out right from wrong and imagine what it meant to live without him. And so, I jumped from misery to hell, inevitably arriving at the lowest point of my life.

Looking back, I am surprised how far I’ve gone, although it often felt like stagnation at the time.

I didn’t notice when I had reached my lowest point. It was pointed out to me by a family member who told me that, in addition to isolating myself inside, I had completely stopped talking. They even wondered if they should call a doctor. This struck a chord, as I hadn’t until then realized how bad it was.

The world around me wasn’t just frighteningly unfamiliar. I couldn’t imagine a life where I would be any happier than I was then, meaning not at all.

I lived each day on autopilot, counting the hours until it was time to go to bed.

I had to look for a new job. So, I started spending my days researching and looking through careers and testimonies of people who wanted something different. I branched out and looked at those who turned hobbies into careers and picked one. Tricky, I know, but for some reason, it tempted me. It could be that I was already reconnecting with ambitions I had forgotten for too long.

From then on, each hour of the day for the next two years was solely spent focused on that goal. Everything that was in my reach to try I did, and everything that went against it, I dismissed. I took countless jobs to survive during the day, went back to university in the evening, and did as much volunteer work as I could.

My days were long, exhausting, and, at times, frustrating. But a couple of months later, I couldn’t tell where the time had gone. It went by so quickly. With every new project and new friendship, I got more curious. I took on new hobbies, traveled alone, and made a film.

My life had finally gone back to being about me.

What happened next was I became so comfortable living with myself and a few others. It was and still is difficult to open up to strangers as if they might take away all I’ve achieved. It reminds me of the years when one person decided to swallow me up to make up for his insecurities.

I’ve grown meticulous when deciding who to talk to or stand next to, and it can sometimes feel like a step back. It isn’t. I know, perhaps not as well as I’d wish, how to differentiate the narcissists from the others.

There is a thin line between being curious and being judgmental. The idea that decisions you make about your life could impact someone else’s life negatively is ridiculous. When a person judges you, it says more about them than it says about you.

I am a long way from the shell of a woman who cried in the shower, thinking the water would cover her screams. It is time and patience that brought me to where I am today, and it is time that will push me (and you) to the next stage.

Getting over an abusive relationship is a long and painful process. Even today, six years later, there are still things I am not comfortable doing, things that scare me. But there isn’t a week or month that goes by where I don’t surprise myself and accomplish something that a few years back seemed inconceivable.

Bring on the bikini; I’m jumping in!

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