By Jamey Sheesley
We all struggle with low self-esteem at some point in our lives, but coming out of an abusive relationship can send that self-esteem to the lowest you may ever face. All you heard for months or years were the degrading comments from your abuser. It is time to change that because your abuser was wrong about you. According to Domestic Shelters, “Regaining your self-esteem after domestic violence takes time. It’s important you work on it daily, just as you would strengthen your body after being injured.”
Many of us wish we had the benefit of hindsight when we were going through the abuse or maybe even wish there was a way to warn or comfort ourselves and reduce or escape the pain the abuse left behind. What would a conversation look like if we were to talk our past self through the struggle to regain our self-esteem?
Past Self: I just do not understand how you got through this. Every day is a struggle. I do not even want to get out of bed. I am worthless; no one will ever want me. I am damaged goods. I give up.
Current Self: I know it is hard to see the big picture right now, but the first thing I want you to do is to be thankful you are away from your abuser. Some people out there are never that lucky. That may not make sense right now, but it will with more healing. Every day, your abuser filled your head with negative aspects about yourself, like you are stupid, you are ugly, no other person can ever love you as much as the abuser. You have to stop that train derailment now. It will take time, but you need to give yourself positive affirmations every day. If you do not do this all day, the negative thoughts will roar back in and destroy all the positive affirmations you have started. The first few days of this will be tough, I am not going to lie to you but stick with it because eventually, those positive affirmations will come a lot easier.
Past Self: I do not understand how positive affirmations are going to help when I literally lost my whole world. I am not sure who I even am.
Current Self: I know it seems silly but do the positive affirmations. They really do help. Your mind is your own worst enemy. Another huge healing factor you need to do is build a positive circle around you with those who can help you heal. You need to talk to your best friend and your mom. They are a good place to start; they have your back and will always be there for you. People like that are who you need right now. In addition, I am going to tell you now, the psychologist you will pick out was key to your healing. He is going to do several EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) treatments with you. You may be wondering why a psychologist can help you. It is because the right psychologist who is trained in domestic violence can give you the proper tools to overcome your mind. They are also amazing to vent to. You may feel like your mom or your best friend get sick of hearing your issues but your psychologist never will.
Past Self: Well all this is great information, but I still feel like I am going to be stuck in this depression forever. I am not good enough.
Current Self: I understand. None of this is an overnight treatment but think of your abuser. It took them a long time to break you down, to convince you that you are unworthy. The healing process takes time, too. You need to be patient with yourself. There will be days that are worse than others but please be forgiving to yourself. Whether you realize it or not, you are on the path to your strongest self yet.
Past Self: Okay, so what if I do all this stuff and I still fail?
Current Self: You are going to fail but stop looking at failure as a bad thing. Failure means you are trying, which is a whole lot better than staying stuck. If you fail tomorrow it is okay; you are human. Forgive yourself and try again the next day. You have the strength deep down inside you; I know it because I am proof of it.
Past Self: I guess I just do not see how anyone will ever love me because I am too damaged.
Current Self: A strong person does not have an easy past. You are on the right path now. You are going to be so strong. Trust me. You are not going to let an abuser back in your life. You are going to love yourself so much that you will not let those toxic people in. You can do this, just remember it is one foot in front of the other. Take things one day at a time. You are stronger than you know. You are a warrior and you can do this. I believe in you and I love you.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.