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~

How many of your thoughts, are yours?

My friend pulled out her phone.

Iphone.

I rolled my eyes.

“Why do you hate Apple?” she asked.

“Apple’s products are made to break after one year, and they are totally not user friendly.” I told her matter of factually.

As I was saying it, I thought – “whoa – my ex…ex…EX boyfriend used to say that”

“Oh wow, you really hate apple products eh?” my friend said.

Huh. Do I? Actually… I don’t think i do… I listen to Itunes regularly.

I was just told, once upon a time, this one opinion (I won’t say fact because I don’t even know if it’s true) and I held onto it while I dated this guy. He left, but the opinion did not.

It got really got me thinking.

Shit… How much of the crap that comes out of my mouth is really my opinion at all?!

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It turns out… not a whole lot.

I know this isn’t a new idea, but I think one has to realize it for themselves to be truly awakened to see it in their reality.

The week after I came to this conclusion, I noticed that every time I thought of an opinion,  I could associate it with someone in my life who gave it to me.

Apple is worse than Android = an old ex from my early 20s

American’s are idiots = my father

Men and women can’t be friends = a high school teacher

Religion is for idiots = a pompous ex

Fat women must never wear tight clothing = my mother

Men want women who are proportionate = a guy i dated in my teens

Fitting in is for idiots = my best friend

Never do anything for free = my brother

I could go on and on…

The crazy thing, I realized, was that I spit out all these opinions but I actually am not sure how I really feel about them. Re-reading the ones I wrote just now, I can tell you 100% that I don’t agree with any of them completely… so why do I act like I do?

I think many people experience this growing up: We feel that having an opinion will make us disliked, so we gravitate towards opinions that people give us, as if somehow that makes it better. It’s people we respect, people we look up to, people older than us who are “wiser” who know better. So we use their opinions in replacement of ours.

I hadn’t realized that most of the thoughts in my head are other peoples.  Wait…And are their thoughts other peoples?

IS ANYONE HAVING AN ORIGINAL THOUGHT?!

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That was a tad dramatic…

My point is, (and I am working on this too) before you give your opinion, agree to something or disagree for that matter…think about what you really think. Are you regurgitating someone else’s material?

Food for thought.

~Athena and Hermes~

Why You Should Stop Telling People Your Age.

I’m going to ruin something for you, one of those “can’t unsee”, or in this case “can’t unhear” moments: Have you noticed how often people ask you how old you are?

I hadn’t, until recently.

I was meeting up with an old friend for coffee, mainly to meet her new girlfriend, and within 20 minutes of meeting her I asked her how old she was.

Her response was awesome. “I actually don’t tell people my age.” 

Instantly, I was embarrassed because I felt that I had crossed a line, but she went on to tell me that I hadn’t but age simply doesn’t matter.

“What difference does it make if I was 47 or 25… why did you  need to know that to continue having this conversation?

After saying our goodbyes, I pondered about it… why did I ask?

I realized it was because I wanted to justify the advice I wanted to give her… if she was younger than me I could impart my wisdom, my life experience. If she was older however, my advice probably wasn’t as sound. In short, my asking her her age was some weird roundabout way of finding justification to belittle her, or talk down to her. In another light, it was a form of disqualification of my own advice, as if my lived experience was only useful if she was younger and that it wouldn’t be to someone older than me.

It was a real mind altering moment for me.

I told myself I will never tell someone my age again. Not because I am ashamed of how old I am, I’m not. It’s because it really doesn’t add anything to the conversation, nor to a friendship, or a relationship (unless of course it comes to being underage, in which case it’s a legal issues but I’m not getting into that.) 

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I have met 17 year olds who know more about politics, life, love and loss than some 50 year olds. I have met 30 year olds who have the maturity of 18 year olds and 10 year olds who have the maturity of  70 year old wise monks.

AGE IS BUT A NUMBER.

Perhaps if there was a level-of-experience-measurement in life that we could throw at each other, then it would be worth asking. But how long you have lived, isn’t really a measurement on how much you know or don’t know. It isn’t a measurement on how valid your wisdom is.

There are other really good reasons not to tell people your age.

1. Certain careers, (modelling, acting, singing, sports) will force you into retirement once they feel you are too old to represent their brand. By not telling people your age, you can go ahead working due to your talent and not your “expiry date”

2. No one will force you to get on their schedule. Ever been told you have to settle down or have children, or hit a certain job milestone? Has anyone ever told you that “you still have time, you’re young?” They can’t do that when they don’t know your age! And all of that is a form of belittling, by the way.

3. No one will ever tell you, “WOW YOU DON’T LOOK (your age)” This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I realize it’s meant to be a compliment, but the truth of the matter is, in fact you do. You do look that age, because you are that age. What they’re really saying with this bizarre compliment isyou don’t look as old as I imagined people your age look”. Weird Flex but okay. 

4. People don’t encourage bad habits by relating to your age. This happens on either side of the age spectrum. When you are “young” you can make excuses for partying, eating too much, making stupid decisions, and you will meet someone of the same age who can justify all that. “We’re 17, we’re still young, doing a little coke won’t hurt.” I realize that’s super dramatic…but it’s the drug of choice in high schools at the moment. When you are “old” you can make excuses for being tired and not wanting to exercise, not going out, not enjoying yourself. “We’re 60, our backs are going to ache, it doesn’t matter whether we go to the gym or not”… I won’t get too into this, but working out while you age is so important for bone health!

5. You never have to be subject to the feeling of uselessness. This is particularly for women, mainly because we are essentially told that after 30 we are unseen, and don’t even get me started with after 50!  It’s this odd phenomenon. Many women believe it and I have dated a handful of men who swear by it. Which is disgusting. If no one knows your age, they can’t make you feel invisible, ugly, unwanted, less than human. If no one knows your age, you can parade around as the perfect person you are without judgment (at least in that respect).

There are many more, but are you starting to see my point?

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Since keeping my age to myself I am happier. I am more free, open minded, and much more willing to accept any advice, and trust my own. Oddly, it has helped me to become more mature. I would encourage anyone, of any age to try it. I’m not saying you have to do it – but maybe try it out and see how it feels?

You may find yourself a whole new world.

~Athena and Hermes~

 

Speak Up. Tell Your Friend You Hate Their Significant Other.

That’s right. I said it: TELL YOUR FRIENDS IF YOU HATE THEIR PARTNER.

Alright, I may be jumping the gun a little bit – but let me explain.

We live in a world where: we tend to sugar coat things, we tend to appeal to everyone’s feelings before we speak the truth, we struggle to tell people things that may hurt. Now in many ways this can be useful, because speaking in the name of honesty as a way of being cruel is not right either – HOWEVER….

We are avoiding conversations that need to be had among our friends because we fear them.  

One of those conversations is the “I don’t like your partner” conversation. Many feel that it is not their place to judge someone’s significant other. That may very well be true when it comes to your boss, your colleagues, your teachers, etc. etc. etc. However it is important to be honest and candid when it comes to your close friends and your family (dependent on your relationship with them).

I don’t mean when it’s something superficial like the way they dress, their class, their education, or their looks. I mean when its serious things such as: the way they speak to your friend, they way they talk about their friends, they way they treat others, their outlook on life, their values.

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If you disagree with me hear me out.

I dated a man who I thought made me happy – but all of my close friends despised him.  They hated how he spoke to me, how he interrupted me, how he expected me to act a certain way around him, how he never showed his affections to me, how he would scold me, how he would often propose I leave my field of work… the list goes on and on and on.

I couldn’t see any of these things because I was “in love”. By the time it was all over, I realized I had been manipulated, brainwashed and emotionally abused. They all saw it within the first few months but they never told me how much they hated him until AFTER WE BROKE UP! 

I had all of my close friends admit to me they desperately wanted to tell me just how terrible he was to me, but were worried it would ruin our friendship.

Three of HIS friends approached me after we broke up to tell me they wanted to broach the topic, but were worried it would make it’s way back to him.

My aunt, who only met him twice, told me after it was over that she despised him upon first meeting, but didn’t want to tell me as she didn’t feel it was her business.

My exes mother even told me her son was not good enough for me and  she wished me the best in finding someone better, after it all ended.

I WISH THEY HAD TOLD ME THOUGH.

I realized I am an adult and I can make my own decisions, but had nine people told me that there was something off about my relationship, I may have slowly had the rose colored glasses fade sooner. Perhaps I could have seen what was occurring and escaped a bad situation a year sooner than I had. Naturally the choice would be in my hands, but being offered another perspective is always useful in any situation.

If you are a friend of someone who is dating or married to someone awful, you are in a very difficult position. You have to risk the friendship in speaking the truth, which is why many people avoid it.

My advice is to 1) either send them this blog and let them figure it out or 2) breach the topic from a place of love and not of blaming. Ask them questions, allow them to realize they deserve better, they are worthy of true respect and love. You can even bring up the fear of losing the friendship over this conversation and make it clear you care about them and just want to make sure they are truly happy. If your friend is truly happy your comments will not affect them. If they aren’t however, the seed you planted will grow and they will eventually see the truth.

When I was in this toxic relationship one of my closest friends asked me: “Are you happy with this arrangement?” and I said to her “… yeah I’m okay with it.” and she said: “Okay Athena, if you are then I’m happy for you. Just keep checking in and making sure it’s constantly true. If it’s not, that’s okay – just ask yourself why.”

I went home that night and cried… it wasn’t true.

The truth was that I was miserable and trapped and believed that he was the only one who would ever love me. That belief is what kept me there. It wasn’t until she asked me that question that I woke up from my trance and started to realize there was so much more past the relationship. I was capable of so much more and deserved so much more.

Three months after that conversation the seed she planted grew and I was able to dump my toxic boyfriend.

Some of you reading this may be thinking:

“MY FRIEND WON’T LISTEN THOUGH. “

They may not respond positively right away, they may not take your advice right away, they may not accept what you are saying right away… but the key words here are: RIGHT AWAY. Your words will seep into their mind, they will digest it and they will dwell on it. When it is all said and done, they will thank you for it.

If you care about your friends, SPEAK UP. 

Just remember to do it with kindness and not judgement.

(Let me be clear, if you don’t like your friends significant others for reasons that are superficial, or judgmental that have nothing to do with treatment or abusive behaviors this article is not promoting a conversation. Tune in with yourself and your thoughts on this person before you have the talk to be sure you are doing it for your friends safety and well being and not your own issues) 

~Athena and Hermes~