Tag Archives: emotional abuse

Then I became me…

Emotional abuse is such a complex thing.

Life after emotional abuse , even more complex.

Many of us aren’t even aware we’ve been emotionally abused.

So how do you rebuild? The physical abuse , the sexual abuse well you just have to let literal wounds heal. You have to come to terms with the fact you’re a little changed. You’ll forever be a little more cautious. You know for sure it happened though. You felt physical pain.

Emotional abuse though? Well how can you recover from something you don’t even know you’ve been a victim of? Well if you’re even questioning it I would thoroughly recommend doing the Freedom Programme. I know I talk about it a lot but doing it saved me from total self destruction. I dealt with the impact of the abusive relationship , but more than that I have been able to identify emotional abuse in subsequent relationships . I don’t even mean romantic involvements but just even friendships or any situations where I have to deal with other people. I am confident that now I can pick out a twat in a crowd. They think they’re ridiculously clever but they are so similar they give themselves away very easily.

So rebuilding after abuse I found incredibly difficult. I expected once I left I could snap back into being the girl I was before him. It was naïve, but I believed I’d only be truly recovered when I was back to pre -him me. In hindsight pre-him me I was a teenager, I still had a mum, I wasn’t a mum myself. You can’t just flip back into that . So I learnt that I had to rebuild but as a new version of me. A better version of me. Ultimate Kelly if you will.

Emotional abuse is like a giant game of jenga (I’m so sorry you know me and my analogies)

The jenga tower is set up. On each brick is a character trait that makes you you. Some are little things. Maybe that you love lipstick or that you have a favourite movie. Some are huge : That you are opinionated , independent , intelligent .

At the start of the game he takes the little bricks . Tells you you don’t need to wear lipstick you’re already pretty or that that favourite movie of yours is a bit silly . Aren’t you better than that? He thought you were cleverer than that? He takes them gently and the tower doesn’t topple because these are easy bricks .

Once the easy bricks are gone things get a little more complicated . he has to go for trickier ones . He doesn’t want the tower toppling just yet , not too early he’ll give himself away. You see that brick with your best friend’s name on though? Yeah he needs rid of that and its going to be tricky because it’s one that’s helping hold the tower in place. You’ve played jenga though haven’t you? You know the key to removing the tricky bricks is confidence. Just in and taking it , you falter you’ll lose. He mentions he overheard your best friend talking about you , laughing at you , she’s only friends with you because she feels sorry for you . Just like that the brick is taken . The tower looks more vulnerable now . It could fall at any minute.

He’s not going to lose the game though , no way . Not after he’s put so much effort and time into it.

There’s one block holding things together. Keeping the tower upright that everything is resting on. It has self -belief written on. It’s the belief that you know you are strong and that you are loved and that you are worth so much more than him. He can’t let that stay. He can’t take it though either , people will realise what he is doing. So he talks you into taking that block yourself. Tells you you’re ill , you need help. You are paranoid and delusional and you need him to take care of you. With shaking hand you pull that block yourself and hand it to him.

The tower topples.

What was once a combination of all the things that make you you is now just a heap of bricks on the floor .

The bricks stay like this for a while . You accept your lot. You’re broken , defeated and there’s nothing you can do.

Then. One day. Maybe the day after you throw him out of the game for good , maybe it takes weeks or months or even years you begin to rebuild. All on your own. All the original bricks are back , stacked and stable . The tower looks strong , but you’re aware that it would only take a few lost bricks to make you vulnerable again. So you add more bricks to strengthen the structure , to make it so strong and stable it’s almost indestructible. Bricks you didn’t even have access to originally.

You add a strong support network , you add therapy and counselling and knowledge. That Freedom Programme brick makes your tower a super structure. The self worth brick , the confidence brick , the trusting yourself brick they are all pretty hefty ones too.

You see I’ll never be the pre-him me ever again.

To become the post-me him I had to take on board more character traits that I’d never needed before . I had to become brave and self secure and independent. I had to become resilient and tough and focussed.

All the bits that had previously made me me had been demolished . I had to round them all back up again , then I had to find a few more for back up.

Then I became me .

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Affection withdrawal as an abuse tactic… conquered

I’ve waffled and whinged and whined in this blog a lot about my aversion to hugs and tactility. I’ve bored you all with my 2017 Eureka moment where finally the Ice Queen thawed and being touched no longer makes me wants to recoil in horror and turn into a statue.

What I’ve not really dealt with though is why I’m like I am .

It’s odd; life after abuse. You have so many lingering behaviours once you’ve left , even years on some habits stick (one of these days I’ll take my phone off silent mode) Some ideas still float about your head unquestioned ,until you realise that actually those ideas are not your own ideas ,they were a seed another person planted in your head so gently that you took them and everything that grew from them on as your own but they never ever were yours. Sometimes one day , everything clicks into place and you realise that your behaviour still mirrors that of that abused woman ,and then…well then you have the power to get rid of it .

I had a bit of a Eureka moment like that over this week. I know where my hatred of affection came from , I know why I’m like I am and now I do I can banish it for good.

When I met the man who abused me I was going through a tough time , I was vulnerable . I must have been a gift to him! Now I’ve never really been a hugger ,that I can’t say is down to anything other than I’m not naturally a tactile person. He came along though and showered me with affection. At that low point in my life I soaked it up. Cuddling , touching, all the affection and compliments and kind words and gestures wrapped me up completely. I liked it , I liked being the focus of all this love and I was flattered .

Over time emotional abuse became the norm . I was manipulated and coerced into behaving a certain way. He was charming and I am a people pleaser so it probably wasn’t that much hard work to get me to do as he wished. However on one occasion I resisted . I didn’t play along with his games . I stood my ground and didn’t give in . I can’t even remember what it was that was the issue now but that day he withdrew affection and kindness and compliments and they never returned. Those strokes of the arms as he passed me , the hand squeezes that I’d relied on ,am arm around me or a peck on the cheek all disappeared immediately along with compliments and encouraging words (even only now as I write this do I realise why I hate compliments too)

As I mentioned above I am a people pleaser by nature and I’d grown to like the affection he had lavished me with. He had already done enough ground work on my head to ensure that the affection withdrawal would have the desired affect. It did. Then you see I was always striving to get that back. I was doing anything he wanted to try and pull back the affection , only now I was so very grateful for the tiniest scrap of approval he only need offer the occasional hand on the shoulder or feeble words of praise to make me feel better. I was altering my behaviour and character to get this guy to go back to his love bombing of the beginning . I was absolute putty in his hand , easily moulded to be exactly what he wanted at any given time.

I think we’re joining dots now to find out why I then became the girl that hated hugs and affection and touching. I always knew it had to be a defensive thing and it absolutely was. In my mind I could never again give anyone that kind of power ,that hold over me . I couldn’t settle in to enjoy affection because I knew how horrific it was to have it removed.

Years away from toxic relationships , therapy and this blog though have been my trio of weaponry against the damage done mentally. They’re pretty solid too these days. I talked here last week about my need for patience and yes I do absolutely need that understanding and trust if I’m going to be close to people , physically and emotionally.

You know what though ? I’m going to have to disagree with the Doctor on this one now . You can trust a hug , I like hugs . I like hand holding and little kisses to the face and my hair stroked. Physical contact is a primal human need and I’d deprived myself of that for way too long .

Kate on thin ice

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I am healed ,but I still need patience

I am many years free of abuse and toxic relationships. I am stronger mentally than I’ve been for a very long time. So many of the parts of me that had been dismantled and fractured have been put back together.

It took way , way longer than I ever would have expected. Years longer.

I’m here though , I am healed and I am strong.

I am healed but I’m battle scarred .

I’m healthy and I’m strong but there are very faded residual marks that I suspect will stick around a little while longer.

Like when stretchmarks that were purple and raw and red and angry fade to silvery faded lines. A memory of what a huge deal you have been through.

I still have a few remaining ,faded mental scars. Like those silver stretch marks they’re part of me , a record of a journey. Not that happy one of motherhood , but a journey none the less and one I finished a free woman. I’m sure those mental scars will one day fade even further , possibly disappear completely like so many of the other hang ups and baggage toxic relationships left me with. I got rid of them eventually. I’m not angry or resentful of the remaining scars ,they are me now.

The main one is a need for patience from people around me.

Super patience.

Patience in ultimate 4D.

Patience with a cherry on the top ,tied with a bow.

You see all those parts of me that are healed yet fragile , they can all be fixed with patience.

I don’t have loads of friends or a massive really close family. I have a tiny inner circle of people who I trust and care about and whom I am certain care about me.

That’s really all I need , the inner circle rocks you know? Full of amazing humans! I think they get it those people. They understand my need for patience,but I think it probably takes a while to get to grips with the nutty girl who behaves oddly sometimes!

I need patience that sometimes I cancel plans because the horrid voice in my head is telling me I’m rubbish.

I need patience with my indecisiveness . It comes from a place where when questions were asked there is a right or wrong answer and it is essential to get it right (despite the fact you never will) questions still sometimes transport me back to that mindset and it’s as irritating for me as it is those around me.

I need patience at my ( what must be bloody infuriating) absent minded ,head in the clouds behaviour. It comes from a place where once I had to be hyper vigilant every second of every day. I had to think 3 , 7 , 12 steps of another person all the time in order to second guess how I should be behaving to avoid a blow up. From having to be so aware of a tapping foot ,or a certain type of sigh or a look so as I could attempt to diffuse a situation before it happened. Now I’ve always been naturally dozy I confess but I also worked out with the help of my therapist that actually ,now away from that situation I’ve learned to relax , no need for hypervigalence . I’m comfy and have gradually relaxed …. I’ve relaxed …a lot , possibly too much!

I need patience when I over think and am mentally already dealing with a situation that hasn’t even happened.

I need patience when my brain melts at emotional intimacy. That the L word is not in my vocab. That I’m getting better at hugs , but ON MY TERMS!

I need the patience and constantly. I’ve been around people who’ve understood for a short while but then become frustrated and irritated and then that’s me done really. Shut down. Closed for business. Emotional attachment done with. I know it’s irrational but this is why the inner circle is so small I guess.

It once took me knowing someone 2 years to go on a first date. 2 years!!! I didn’t fully realise back then but I absolutely needed that time of consistent words and actions. I needed to know this wasn’t someone who would change goalposts or be a different person from one day to the next. I know it must seem nuts to most but it was necessary for me. Bloody hell dating me you have to work at Kelly pace , kind of like snails pace but a thousand times slower.

I’m healed , I’m strong but I still need that element of patience in people I am close to.

I do so appreciate how my amazing family and lovely friends ARE patient with my flakey , indecisive tendencies I really do! I’ve so much adoration for people who stayed the distance. Honestly , if I used the L word I’d declare it now but small steps eh??

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2017 – The year the ice queen thawed so much she almost melted!!!!

I know , I know I’ve bored everyone with my 2017 was great going on. Personally for me it was a game changer. I found myself content with who I am, comfier in my own skin and quite inspired!

I wrote a blog post  a few years back about I identified with Elsa from Frozen ( it’s here poss worth a giggle) She obviously has a better wardrobe than me though. She had her ice palace and snowy bouncer to keep people away. Me , I had a self built metaphorical wall built 10 ft high around myself with big KEEP OUT signs plastered all over it. (I apologise in advance for how much I’ll use the wall analogy but that’s just how it is in my head )

I’ve been called cold quite a bit in my life. I know I’ve demonstrated being a little unfeeling and harsh at times.In reality I was just numb and turned off feelings to get me through tough times. It was a very unhealthy coping mechanism I know now, but it worked to get me through at the time.

Last year though , that KEEP OUT wall fell, hopefully never to be seen again.

I think the reasons were threefold

1) years of therapy

2)This blog , writing about the feelings I can’t vocalise means I do at least deal with them

3) The main one : good people

I’m incredibly lucky to have my sister , you all know how she’s my most favourite human . The woman is so good at advice and she doesn’t even realise she’s given it!!! Even during the wall years there was always a little catflap open for her to get in!!!

Over the past couple years though I have had people come into my life and ever so very,very gently with their kindness and patience and consistency take down that wall brick by brick. Not in like a wrecking ball (sorry Miley) smashing it quickly and brutally but more removing each brick one by one quietly and calmly so you don’t even notice until the wall is no more (sorry I did warn about the wall)

When you’ve been emotionally abused you often ignore kindness and acts of friendship and love. As always I can only tell my story, but I find acts of love and kindness overwhelming.

I don’t trust them.

I didn’t feel worthy of them for so long,I just assumed anything positive said about me was a lie.

You see in previous toxic relationships grand gestures had been thrust upon me . Affection was bestowed so intensely then used as a weapon withdrawn completely and cruelly as punishment. I didn’t want to put myself in that vulnerable position again.

I guess this is why my sister is so vital. I know she loves me and wants the best for me without question. I trust that about her and everyone needs that.

So it’s easy to put compliments down as insincere, you can disbelieve nice words, that’s easy …. Only sometimes people enter your life who don’t just take the ice queen at face value and leave her be.

For someone who has been emotionally abused THESE people are vital , the healers. Consistency is key – you can ignore compliments and kind gestures initially but when they are consistent and as low key as you need then eventually you begin to believe them. That’s when you let people in…..(wall alert) you’ll begin to pull down that bloody wall yourself because you want those people in. It’s a truly special thing and I’m grateful to have enjoyed that in 2017.

That ice queen is gone , hopefully for good. The woman who couldn’t have stood a hug is now a cuddle fan , she’s a bit slushy on the quiet , her cold little heart beats warmly.

It can be a lot to take letting these emotions in . I’ve become a bit of a cry baby and I feel in 4D …. I’m still a learner with these emotion type things but I’m getting there and I’m enjoying it!!!



 

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RIP Ice Queen.. It’s been (not at all) emotional 

I wrote a while back about how I identify with Elsa  from Frozen more than probably any other character (says a lot about a person I guess) it’s here if you fancy a read. I’ve always had a tendency to keep people at a distance and struggled with expressing my emotions.

Recently though things have changed a little. I think I’m thawing.

There are a few reasons for this and it seems as though they’ve all come together at the same time to make me me a little warmer and more able to deal with and express my emotions (about time too!)

Firstly this blog has helped enormously. When you’re putting yourself out there, even if it’s just to a few people, and sharing your feelings it does lower the barriers.
When I’m talking about the domestic abuse or sharing my struggles with anxiety, things I never dreamt I’d be able to talk about well that’s expressing my emotions isn’t it? It’s Pandora’s Box – like, once these things are out there there’s no putting them back in. I can’t regress to total emotionally uptight woman who can’t talk feelings.

Secondly, I’ve spoken on this blog more recently about how I feel a stronger, more mentally healthy woman than I have in a long time. It’s taken way longer than I expected to recover from toxic relationships but I’m finally here at the other side. Of course there’ll always be triggers, I’ll always have altered behaviours, there’ll always be memories that affect me. I’ve made peace with that now though. We’re changed by our experiences but I’m OK with that. I can be happy with the me I am now.

Another huge factor in shaking off the Ice Queen mentality is that my social anxiety has lessened. In fact I’d go as far as to say this is the major factor.

I’ve struggled with people for a long time. A throwback to feeling worthless and useless all the time.

I have lovely friends who I miss but never arrange to see, I made conscious effort to not make new friends, I back away from social occasions. It comes across as rude which makes me feel worse and ratchets up the anxiety yet further.

It was never about other people. It was about me. That I felt I had nothing to contribute to conversation, that I irritated people, that I bored people, that no one wanted me around they were just being polite.

Recently though I don’t feel that way at all. I’m relishing socialising , I’m enjoying people. I believe people quite like to be around me . The mean , nasty thoughts I have towards myself are a rarity at the moment.

There’s also the small matter of a very handsome chap who is the most positive voice I’ve ever heard *blushes*

So all these factors have come together and really helped me to shake off the cold, distant woman I’d put in place.

I’m finally finding my feet and embracing myself (in a non literal way).

Maybe the Ice Queen was necessary for  a while  whilst I figured myself out, whilst I healed.

Maybe this new me isn’t new after all.

Maybe it’s the me I always should’ve been.

 How I say I love you…

I don’t know if it’s getting older ,or if it’s being all crushy over a guy for the first time in pretty much ever. I don’t know if it’s part of the identity crisis I’ve spoken of having because the children are all growing up and no one needs me like they once did. For some reason though lately I’m looking at myself in a different way,being a bit more reflective.

I worry , or did worry that I’m emotionally quite cold. Then I read a fantastic article in the Huffpost by Amanda Chatel about how people who have been emotionally abused love differently. It’s here if you fancy a look. Do. It expresses it way better than I’m about to try to.

I’d had it decided in my head for years that other than the kids and my sister I probably wasn’t capable of love. Hand in hand with that went the belief that I was emotionally numb , a bit cold and unable to receive or give affection. This article was quite timely for me as recently I’ve realised that maybe I was wrong. I am capable of affection ( and quite like it -weird) I’m not cold and unemotional , I feel a lot actually I just repress lots of it as strong emotion does unsettle me a bit. So I began the week on a bit of a high , telling everyone about my epiphany. Of course everyone who knows me well already knew all this. Have I ever spoken about my total lack of self awareness??

Love though? That was a whole other story.
Or so I thought , I again was wrong. I feel love for people I haven’t given birth to. Of course I do. I express it too. I just do it differently. The article I’ve mentioned is perfect as a general overview of how those of us who have been emotionally abused will love that bit differently. I’m sure everyone who has been in this position could personalise it , we all have our own little ways don’t we? I thought I could share some of mine. This is how I express love (or deep affection at the very least…the L word still scares me a bit..babysteps..)

I touch you. It’s not going be a huge bear hug. I’ll brush your hand with mine , I’ll squeeze your shoulder, stroke your arm when I’m asking how you are.

I allow you to see my flaws. I don’t put on a perfect front with you or even attempt to be perfect with you. I trust you not to use my flaws against me and for me , that’s huge.

I show emotion around you , be that a tear or a giggle.

I look you on the eye when you’re talking to me about a problem. I’ve an awful habit of my eyes flitting when talking to people . It comes across as rude but it’s really not .It’s a self esteem thing. I was told what I said was unimportant and stupid for so long .I don’t want to see that look of boredom and irritation cross your face when speaking to me , even if it never will. I’ll always get over that when you need me to listen though. I need you to know that what you are saying is hugely important to me.

I’ll text or email or send you pics of things that couldn’t be less important. I want you to know some little daft things make me think of you . I’m also secure that you don’t think I’m an idiot for doing so.

I buy little gifts I think you’ll love. Silly things , just a way for me to say I listen to what you like!

I small talk with you (likely incessantly) People have hated the fact that I’m a chatterer and would shut it down immediately. When I’m talking nonsense to you it’s because I know you’ll not do the same

You see my expressions of love and affection are smaller , it’s low key and understated and from people who love me that’s what I want in return. No grand gestures – they terrify me. Email me a link to a show or a book you think I’ll like. Ring me up with a funny story to tell me when you know I’ve had a rubbish day. Send me a Good Luck text when you know I’ve a big day ahead.

It’s such a complex , tricky thing love after abuse. You may never get an I love you from me but you know when you were ill and I made and brought you soup? or when I texted you a book recommendation I knew you’d love? or I remembered tiny details of conversation you told me that were important to you? Well that’s what I meant.

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