Life After The Vortex

In my last entry – I discussed “The Vortex”, which is what I like to call the emotional abuse experience that people go through.

If you haven’t read that entry – feel free to find it here.

What’s Inside the Vortex of Emotional Abuse

Over the past couple of months, I have found myself running into many people who have gone through similar experiences as me. Either they were currently in a emotionally abusive/physically abusive relationship or they had just been lucky enough to get out of one. I found myself listening to similar story lines, similar feelings and saying the same thing to every single one.  Out of all the questions, the one that came up most was – “When am I going to be okay?” 

It occurred to me that if many of those close to me are wondering this, than there are probably hundreds of other people wondering this as well. Perhaps you are one of them. This blog is going to tackle my personal experience of what happens after The Vortex, with some insight of what some of those close to me have also experienced.

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First of all, if you are out of the Vortex, you have dumped your ex, deleted and blocked their number and social media, congratulations. Really. You should be proud for having the strength, courage and determination to escape their manipulation, validation, gas lighting, and abuse.

If you haven’t, that’s okay too. Don’t be hard on yourself, you will muster up that courage, you will be able to get out and you will eventually stop talking to them, stop needing them and you will delete all their social media and affiliations. You will get out – and perhaps this article can you help you look forward to what’s to come when you do get out.

When I got out of my Vortex, I went through the typical stages of grief.

  1. Denial – A lot of agonizing crying. Deeper than any tears I’ve ever shed. I wouldn’t admit that I had been damaged by my partner, that I had their thoughts in my head, that I was afraid of being alone, that I could ever heal.
  2. Anger – I realized what I was put through. I rampaged around telling my abuser what they did. (if you can avoid this step, do so. It was dangerous). I wanted to get revenge, (I wouldn’t suggest it, at least not in the way you think about in this stage).
  3. Bargaining – This stage didn’t exactly occur for me, because I felt like most of the relationship was me trying to bargain for safety and sanity… so this wasn’t so prevalent.
  4. Depression: This is where I realized just how long it was going to take me to heal. How much I was hurting, how scared I was, how broken and how damaged my psyche was. I think I still sit here occasionally.
  5. Acceptance: … I have accepted that I survived it – but I have not accepted why it had to happen, or why I allowed myself to put up with it for so long. I am still trying to accept how I could have been so susceptible to brain washing and grooming.

WHEN WILL I START FEELING OKAY?

To answer this simply – it will take a long time.

But the sooner you start, the sooner you will heal, the sooner you can move forward.

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WHAT ARE THE STEPS TO GET ME TO HEAL?

This is obviously different for everyone, but my experience went something like this.

  1. VALIDATION: I pin pointed that the biggest thing stripped from me during my time with my abusive partner is that I was never validated completely. I was pushed aside to be the “invisible girlfriend” while he promiscuously rolled around with others. My response: To sleep with as many lovely people I could get my hands on. I treated them with respect, letting them know early on that I wasn’t looking for anything serious, and that I likely wouldn’t stick around. I needed validation that I was beautiful and wanted, that my body was my own to do as I pleased and it belonged to no one. ESPECIALLY NOT MY EX.
  2. INDEPENDENCE:  After I got that out of my system, and realized that I was wanted – I realized that I actually didn’t want to parade around sexually… I got my fill and decided I wanted to be in a place where I was my own person, free of anyone. I did what I wanted when I wanted. Movies alone, restaurants alone. Stayed up until 4 watching TV, sometimes would show up to work late, sometimes early. I was my own boss and no one owned me. ESPECIALLY NOT MY EX.
  3. TALKING TALKING TALKING: I started to talk about it, first to my therapist, then to those I loved. I had to get the courage to admit what I had been through. I started commenting on Twitter threads, and eventually when it could come up in person, I would make a small mention to having survived it.Therapy is a huge one – not all therapy places are expensive, be keen to look up cheaper therapists in your area – YOUR MENTAL HEALTH IS WORTH IT.
  4. FINDING SUPPORT: After talking to friends and loved ones, I never truly felt like I was understood. There was a lot of support all around me, but those I spoke to weren’t there to experience what I went through, in many ways it didn’t matter who I spoke to, I felt somewhat crazy. I needed someone who had experienced a similar situation, who knew what I meant when I said: “He groomed me.He brainwashed me. He manipulated me. ”  It took a lot of courage but I reached out to some of the people he had dated in the past. (I don’t entirely recommend this, but it worked well for me, and if you know the person is compassionate, it may work for you too.) The people I reached out to understood – not only did they validate that what I experienced, they told me their experience which was almost TO THE WORD, the same experience I went through. This person we all dated used the same tricks on all of us. It made me feel less stupid, and able to see that I was not alone.
  5. ADMITTANCE: I hate the idea of victim-hood. It rubs me the wrong way, however when I finally started to admit that I had PTSD from my partner a lot started to change.  Admitting that I had his thoughts in my head daily,  admitting that whenever I would hear his name I would tense up, admitting that I had dreams of him attempting to kill me… that’s when I started to come to a huge healing place. It was okay to be a victim, and it was okay to not be okay from all the emotional abuse. <A LOT OF TEARS HERE. >
  6. HELPING OTHERS: I started to see the pain of emotionally abused people everywhere when I got out of my vortex. I started to hear the jargon that I used to say come out of others mouths and realized what position they were in. I am now so much more aware of how to identify a manipulator and their victims. In seeing this, I started to listen, ask questions and offer advice and support to these people. In helping them, I was also helping myself.  Since in many situations we can’t reach out to our abuser’s next victim and save them, helping in a overall sense for others is a very good way to pass on this invaluable information. You went through it – you should be able to take something good from it and teach others, perhaps save someone else.

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WHEN WILL THIS ALL BE IN MY PAST?

I  think it’s important to understand that if, like me, you suffer from PTSD from your emotionally/physically abusive partner. You are likely to carry that with you for a very long time. I remember asking my exes ex how long it took her to heal from him, and she said “It’s been a decade and I still get anxiety when I am in the area where he works.” 

She had moved on, found a real love, gotten married and yet still a part of him still lingers.

That may seem grim, but it made me feel better – it meant that I was in no rush to heal, it meant I could still fall in love while healing, and I had all the time in the world to come to terms with what I had been put through.

So to answer this question – It is already in your past – but it may at times creep into your present, and there is no shame in that. 

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The image at the beginning of this article is the destruction of a tornado. I think a pretty accurate image to coming out of the Vortex. You will be a mess, and that’s okay. But you will get better, and you will heal and out of that charred and unsteady soil will sprout a better you – a stronger you – and a you that can go around and help others too.

I am proud of you for being strong enough to battle these wounds.

I know how hard it is, and you are one step closer.

~Athena & Hermes~

What’s Inside the Vortex of Emotional Abuse?

We are very clear on what “physical abuse” is.

Physical abuse is actually the easiest form of abuse to identify. There is evidence of it: a bruise, a scrape, a popped blood vessel, a swollen eye…etc.

It’s a form of abuse that doesn’t require someone to believe you on your word, because there is a whole lot of proof THAT YOU CAN SEE – now whether or not you come forward and admit that’s who the mark is from is an entirely different situation.

Often with physical abuse comes, that equally as terrifying monster: emotional abuse. This abuse is very hard to see, very hard to prove and even harder to walk away from.

If you know someone in this situation, I recommend you read Erynn Brooke’s blog on

Stockholm Syndrome & Emotional Abuse – Part II

It will give you the tools to help out your family member, friend or coworker stuck in this horrible vortex.

I call it a vortex for various reasons.

  1. The calmest place in a vortex, is the middle – which is where the abuser is. The emotional manipulation of your abuser will make the world around you seem blurred. They will manipulate your thoughts on your closest friends, your family and your allies  so that the calmest and least stressful place is with them. This is how they control you.
  2. If you enter a vortex, getting out is nearly impossible. You have to work your damnedest to escape. As stated in Erynn’s blog above, it takes “It takes 7-10 tries for a victim to fully leave an abusive relationship.” That is a lot of work, bravery and effort to get out.
  3. There is so much bullshit being thrown at you from your abuser, your world spins. Your thoughts are altered, your world view is skewed and you have very little control.

Now it’s very common, that those inside the vortex have no idea they are in it. This is because of point #1. They are so close to their abuser, the calm place, that they have no idea they are even inside this abusive situation. It’s also very common, that once you finally escape  that is when you realize you were inside it.  It’s when the pink coloured glasses fall off, when reality becomes clear, and when you are far away from your abuser that you realize just how far inside that vortex you were.

I’ve been there.

I’ve been deep inside the vortex and I had no idea.

There were moments when friends would crack the glass on my rose coloured glasses and for a second I would see clearly, but once back in his presence, he’d patch them right up and I’d be back in the middle again.

It’s those moments of clarity with friends or family, or when you are alone – THOSE ARE THE MOMENTS YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO.

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If you have had a moment of clarity where you have thought that perhaps you are inside this vortex – just a second where you questioned your relationship, or questioned the normalcy of what’s occuring, but aren’t quite sure.

Here are certain points and situations that if you identify with, will confirm that you are in fact in an abusive emotional relationship.

  1. You don’t really argue. Instead they yell at you – and you find yourself holding back on your opinion out of fear.
  2. They throw or break things in your presence, perhaps not at you, but it’s “because of you”.
  3. They make you feel guilty or stupid for having certain preferences. This could be a political, religious, sexual  (ie: monogamy/polyamory), or life preferences (ie: marriage/kids), food preferences (i.e. vegan/meat eater) etc.
  4.  They use power to make you feel special. They tell you things they’ve done to exes/others that they would never do to you. (They will do it to you, and they use this tactic on everyone.) This is a huge one – I would recommend reading about Stockholm Syndrome because this is one of the steps to get you there.
  5. They hold back on certain things, making it known just how special you are when they give it to you. This could be something as simple as sex, affection, or sleeping over, calling you a title, telling people about you, bringing you out in public.etc.
  6. They tell you it’s hard to find someone as good as them out in the world. This could be in relation to love, sex, communication. I’ll tell you what – there is and will always be someone else out there for you. Your abuser is doing this to keep you in the middle.
  7. They get angry at you for things you had no idea you did. It could be something as small as calling you “passive aggressive” or “belittling” when you didn’t think you were. Remember that if someone comes to you with an issue about your behaviour they have NO RIGHT to yell at you about it.
  8. They will make small retorts to being jealous about things that you do. Perhaps when you go out wearing a certain type of pant, going out with a certain friend, having a night out..etc. They do this in the hopes that you will decide not to do it, on their behalf. This is a high form of manipulation. If you decided to do it before they tell you not to, then it was “your choice”. The problem is, with manipulation and emotional abuse, your choice was stripped from you long ago.
  9. When you are alone you break down and cry and have no idea why. This isn’t a normal cry, this is a painful, panic attack type of cry that comes from being squandered.
  10. Your love to them feels like a drug.  If this is the highest form of love you have ever felt and you feel the lurking pain of withdrawals when you are not around them – run. This is not real love, this is you needing them. I know many will think that “honeymoon love” is this way, and there is an element of that. But,if you are unsure – take 7 days away from this person. If at the end of five days you feel like you don’t need them…this is a very sure sign that you don’t “love them” but you were manipulated to think that you “need them.” Another test is to journal your thoughts when you are away from them – do you resent them when you are not together? Do you have issues with your relationship? Are there things you think are unfair? Then journal your thoughts after you have been together: is everything amazing again? Is everything resolved? If this is the case – start that fight to get out. You are in the vortex.
  11. If your friends hate them. If your friends tell you that they don’t like how your partner talks to you, treats you, talks about you..etc. LISTEN. Your friend is brave to bring it up, because often when you are in the vortex you find a reason to excuse or attack their opinions about your partner. If you are getting defensive with your friends about their opinion about your partner – seriously question why.
  12. If you know of others who have experienced emotional abuse with this person – believe them. If you choose to ignore those facts, by thinking that you are different, I’m sorry to tell you, but you are not. This is a very hard realization to come to, but if you are being warned about someone’s emotional abuse take them by their word. They are simply trying to warn you about they pain they experienced.
  13. If you saw this title and are reading it because you thought it may pertain to you. When i was experiencing the abuse in my relationship, I googled “abuse” “dating someone abusive” “signs of emotional abuse” hundreds of times in the hopes that one of the articles would confirm what I was feeling. Deep down I knew, but my brain had been so manipulated I couldn’t think clearly on a conscious level.

If you have read this and have come to the conclusion that you are in an abusive relationship, reach out to a friend or family member close to you and tell them everything. If you feel like they’ve all been pushed away due to your relationship reach out to someone you respect, or call a domestic abuse hotline.

I hope none of you experience The Vortex, but if you are there right now – I am here to tell you it gets better. You will come out stronger, and you will be able to truly love again.

~Athena and Hermes~

Why Feeling Fat is Worse Than Being Fat

Before you jump down my throat about this title and tell me that it is in fact false. I just quickly wanted to let you know that it was more to get you to read the article than anything. Click bait, I suppose. Though I am going to touch on the topic of the title, I do not believe that being overweight or obese is less difficult than simply feeling it.

There are a lot of health issues that come with obesity, a lot of societal hate and pressure and a lot of mental health struggles. So no, it probably isn’t worse.

But naming this blog

I am fighting a serious struggle with my inner fat kid, and it’s causing me serious distress, especially around Christmas

was way too long.

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With Christmas around the corner, I am anxiously dreading the unified “I’m fat” conversation that comes up each year. The chat where everyone goes around and publicly shames themselves for weighing too much after Christmas dinner, followed by a series of praise for how much they work out. Then someone goes and grabs the scale and we all weigh ourselves and call ourselves “Fatsos”. Healthy right?

Growing up with this,  instilled a great fear in me and a serious body complex. One I have struggled with my entire life. Some years I can handle it, others I see the number on the scale and I just want to peel my skin off.

As I’ve gotten older, I look back at when I used to weigh 10, 20, 30 pounds less than I do now and I cringe at how I have just accepted the number on the scale as reality.

That saddest part is I am not fat.

I am a healthy, normal and average weight for my age and height. I am beautiful, I am healthy, I am fit… and yet I see myself in the mirror and I hate what I see.

This years dread has started much earlier than most years, and it’s because I stupidly stepped on the scale to see how much I weighed. I did it because it had been 6 months since I had been on it last, and in those past 6 months I made a very conscious effort to work out 3 -5 times a week.

To my utmost fear and dread – I weighed 10 more pounds than I did the last time… this is the heaviest I have ever been in my life!

So what did I do?

I got very upset and it set forth my binge habit. I went to the corner store, picked up 6 bags of candy and chocolate and downed it in 2 hours. Guilty, ashamed and even angrier at myself I then went to the pharmacy and bought a light laxative. I then vowed, I would only eat when I was around people… that way no one would know I was starving myself.

A huge part of me wants to starve myself until I am at the weight I want to be, and then go back to my ordinary life, but my logical brain knows that starving myself is not the answer. So I set forth a plan to eat healthy… but this is where my INNER FAT KID comes to play.

He loves food. He loves eating it, he loves tasting it, he loves making it, and he especially loves going out for delicious restaurant foods. And when he is being ignored he makes a point of reminding me. Instead of just eating the healthy lunch that I made for myself, he craves more.  He wants UberEats, and candy, he wants extra sauce, and slushie drinks.

I tell him no. He pushes harder. Everything in my being says: “No this will make you fat” which oddly  weakens my self control, and I find myself eating all those extra foods, and hating myself later.

The self hate that comes with body image is incredibly powerful.

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You can be bigger, obese or overweight and still feel amazing. You can walk around with confidence because at some point you figured out how to love yourself and not care what people thought of you. With all the self love in the world it wouldn’t matter if you were fat.

But when you think you’re fat – that comes with binge eating, starvation, self harm… and when you aren’t actually fat and you feel these things… no one believes you.

Bigger people roll their eyes at you.

Those close to you tell you you’re beautiful and don’t understand how you can possibly feel that way.

There isn’t an easy solution, like work out and eat healthy like there is if you actually are obese… because the reality of the matter is this isn’t a “fat” issue. It’s a mental health issue.

So perhaps I should have named this blog: Being mentally ill is worse than being fat  because then it would be true.

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You may be wondering what the point of this blog post is…

Honestly? It’s to keep my mind off a bacon cheeseburger that my inner fat kid has been craving. He says I deserve it – but I know if I order it I’ll hate myself even more. So I am sitting here trying desperately to get my mind off it.

My hope is, in the act of writing this, I can let anyone feeling the same things I am that you aren’t alone. And maybe, perhaps, start the healing process once and for all. The first step is admitting you have a problem right?

Maybe my advent calendar this year will be kind thoughts, instead of chocolate. Maybe by the time the “fat conversation” comes up, I will proudly get on the scale and say:

WHO THE FUCK CARES?!!

 

~Athena and Hermes

 

What Do You Mean I Get Triggered?! Oh…

Here I was thinking I was better than that.

I’ve always associated “being triggered” as somewhat of a choice, and a weaker one at that. It reminds me of people who cannot have a diplomatic conversation, people who are deeply offended if you disagree with them, people who… okay okay… I’m just going to say it – social justice warriors. 

The term SJW is incredibly negative and is a definition that many people give others who they deem to be illogical – so naturally I don’t want any association with that term or any remotely close to it.

I also always assumed that being triggered was something people chose to do. It was something they understood, a feeling they enjoyed and an a form of attention seeking.

I WAS WRONG.

 

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Turns out… TRULY being triggered is emotions and reaction first and then logic second . Plus on top of that there is absolutely nothing you can do to control it. It is a lash out, or a emotional break down, or instant fear that happens way before you can reign it in and calm yourself down.

I have experienced flash backs where a location will bring back traumatic events. I have experienced traumatic childhood memories hit me out of the blue when a specific word is said – but all of these I have a handle on. I  know what is triggering me, I can logically rap my head around my reaction.

It wasn’t until just recently I experienced a triggering experience and I didn’t even know I was being triggered. I lashed out, started trying to control my environment, was rude, and passive aggressive and hilariously…. thought I was completely correct in doing so.

Feel free to laugh at this one….

I freaked out because my boyfriend didn’t wish me goodnight….

and it get’s worse… because he actually did wish me goodnight, but I had already gone to sleep and at that point it was too late.

I messaged him in the morning telling him we needed to “figure out how we communicate” and that “there should be rules on how we text with each other”

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Meanwhile, I am sure my poor Hermes was siting there wondering what the heck he had done to deserve this! I am sure the thought of “crazy girlfriend” entered his mind, because I know I would have thought that if the roles were reversed.

As he tried to calm me down and explain to me that we communicate just fine, and that we respond to each other when we are able, and we don’t need to check in to tell each other where we are because we trust each other, I had to reassess my reaction.

WHY ON EARTH WAS THIS SUCH A BIG DEAL?!

I was troubled by this…

I had no idea why this upset me so much.

I decided to walk it off, and really ruminate to figure out why this “GOODNIGHT TEXT” was just so “gosh-darned the biggest deal ever.”

I sat on a park bench, in the middle of downtown Toronto, and cried. As I cried I realized why.

The only time my ex wouldn’t text me “goodnight” was when he was sleeping with other women.

We had an open relationship, where I would celebrate him while he sought out casual encounters, and he would veto me ever seeing anyone else other than himself.  (A toxic relationship, and one I should have never allowed to happen but that is a story for a different time)

Of course, when you have an open relationship agreement you want to be supportive, and at first I was, not knowing that the offer for me to experience the open side would never come. But as I remained monogamous and the years went by waking up to you  “I successfully seduced and screwed her brains out” texts, I was struggling to say the least.

Every night he had a date, I would try my hardest to stay up to receive a response to my “Goodnight babe, I love you.” and every night I was disappointed. I knew he was too busy sleeping with someone else to wish me goodnight.

YES I DID THIS TO MYSELF.

I could have left him. I should have left him much earlier than I did. So yes, letting myself go through that was on me. But regardless, it wore me down and hurt me greatly… AND APPARENTLY caused some emotional trauma I didn’t know I had. giphy (1).gifSo this now brings us back to my freak out to my current boyfriend.

Upon realizing why I freaked out, tried to lay down texting ground rules, and scolded him for something he did not do – I APOLOGIZED.

I now know this is a trigger for me. I now know that it has nothing to do with my current boyfriend. I now know I CAN BE TRIGGERED. Shit. 

I didn’t know that this past relationship harbored such baggage in me, and I didn’t know I hadn’t dealt with it all. If I had known all this when it happened I never would have lashed out, but sometimes we have to make mistakes to learn about ourselves… life is after all trial and error.

~Athena and Hermes~