After finally leaving a long-term relationship that was abusive in every way, I was somehow able to come out of it with not only my sanity intact, but also with a new definition of happiness. To this day, I'm surprised myself at how I managed to do that instead of the alternative (aka drink myself into a coma). But thinking back on it over two and a half years later, I've realised that it wasn't by chance that I got through it alive and well; it was largely thanks to some imperative decisions I made along the way. It wasn't an easy process, I'll tell you that — I even thought my psyche was beyond repair at one point — but I did prevail through the four ways below. And in case you're wondering, things have still been looking up since.
1. I accepted help.
Over the course of four years, I had managed to cut the majority of those I knew from my life — including close friends and family. I figured that after neglecting them for so long, no one would care to reconnect and I was too ashamed to reach out myself. But to my surprise, I was overwhelmed with support. This time, instead of rejecting an extended hand, I took it graciously. And to this day, I couldn't be more thankful for everyone who wanted to help with the healing process. Letting go of my pride and accepting the love and support that I had blinded myself to turned out to be absolutely crucial to moving on. Most importantly, I was able to mend those relationships, which made me realise more than ever how important having a support system is.
2. I found stress outlets.
I looked for new ways to channel my frustrations, whether it was journaling the old-school way or taking up pole dancing classes. Both were fantastic, actually. I immediately knew that I had to find some sort of release; otherwise my mental health would only take a turn for the worse. Every now and then, I'd allow myself to indulge in my vices, but for the most part, I was able to relieve stress in constructive ways via running, dancing, and other active outlets. Not only was I improving both my physical and mental health in the process, but I was also able to discover new personal interests.
3. I stayed open-minded to new experiences.
Thankfully when I left my relationship, it was also the first week of my new life in San Francisco. There was practically a new experience around every corner. Instead of shutting myself off and sulking in my apartment, I put myself out there in every way and was rewarded with the most incredible people and memories. I was basically the yes-girl throughout my first year because I was down for literally anything and everything. Opening myself up to people and places I didn't know helped me make friends and, most vital during that period, it kept me busy. I didn't have time to dwell on the negative things that were happening because I was having the best time of my f*cking life. And once all the excitement wore off and reality tapped me on the shoulder, I still had amazing friends to fall back on.
4. I allowed myself to feel.
As an INTJ, I've never been good at dealing with my emotions. Even as a kid, I'd shut down as soon as I felt something, which made it very difficult to open up to anybody or confront my emotions myself. This was also probably how I was able to tolerate such a toxic relationship for so long. I got so good at blocking out all the sh*t that was happening (restraining orders, for one) that it wasn't all that difficult for me to get through each day. But instead of allowing myself to continue living in denial, I opened the floodgates and let myself feel every emotion I had internalised for the past few years. It was probably one of the most painful things I've ever experienced, but I also knew it was essential to the process. Thankfully, I was right, and I was instantly well on my way to better days.