To anyone who has been through or currently struggling to let go from a toxic relationship, my heart goes out to you. I wish you all the support and love you deserve.
I was a naïve, inexperienced freshman when I met my first love. He was a senior who appeared to be laid back but had this unique, artsy side to him.
We met through one of my close friends at a party in Kardon apartments. I thought it was cool to have a 21-year-old appear to admire me and I thought to myself, maybe he and I would establish a relationship.
Although we got involved with each other, we weren’t in a committed relationship. We had the ‘something but nothing’ and it quickly turned unhealthy. He was a lot of firsts for me and as much as he preached to “not get too attached” I fell badly for him. He and I knew each other for over three years but we had these immature on and off periods for too long.
Although his intentions weren’t serious or loving, I became more part of his life than we both expected. He tried to make sure I wouldn’t get too close by getting distant whenever he pleased, manipulating me, displaying mixed signals, expressing a steady narcissistic attitude, making me question my worth and feeling like I had to prove myself to him.
I spent three years trying to figure him out and thinking that something was wrong with me because he didn’t treat me right. It killed me mentally to the point where I went through my own periods of being miserable, draining, and broken. I’d battle between wanting to give him up and believing there was still some hope left.
Eventually, I reached my breaking point. I was terrified to let him go because I wanted him to be a part of my life—even if we were just civil—but for my own sanity I needed to learn to not care what the future held for us.
I became too weak and I missed out on opportunities to better me. My friends and family were tired of seeing me in pain. I felt like a part of me was lost and it was time I get back on my feet and regain my worth.
I went through a long, difficult journey where I tried multiple healing methods. As the months went by, people commented on the positive change and I started to feel myself grow. Sometimes the pain still aches but I learned to love myself more and not blame myself because of how toxic things were.
Listed below are the steps I took that led me to being in a healthier mindset. I tried to make them general because I know a lot of people who’ve suffered from a toxic relationship.
- Accepting the Situation
When you first cut things off or you’re able to temporary escape, it takes awhile to process what just happened. You could see the harmful actions and feel the constant aching but you may not realize how destructive the relationship was.
- Letting Go
You don’t even know where to begin with this. This phrase is complicated yet its applied to almost every major step in your life. You’ll get told this but the real question is what does it mean to let go? Does it mean trying to block out any dark memory that could trigger you? Pursuing someone else who appears to have good intentions? Doing different techniques or activities to help distract you?
Letting go is a rollercoaster of a process that varies for each individual but the toxicity will make sure it lingers within. It takes a toll on you mentally and attempts to interfere with the healing process.
- Removing the Attachment
You’d think once you physically detached yourself, you’d metaphorically be able to purge every feeling and memory. Sometimes those affectionate moments you two shared or your attraction for them remains. It tricks you into thinking that it wasn’t too unhealthy and there could be a possibility to fix things.
You’ll encounter episodes where you’ll break down in hysterics multiple times. In public it’s even worse because you’re desperately trying to muffle in the ugly sounds that are demanding to escape. In the moment, the idea of even meeting someone else could anger you or inspire you but either way, you can’t help but wonder how different things could’ve been if things just worked out for you two.
- Going through stages of insecurity
Even when you finally break free, you feel shattered inside. It feels like a part of you is filtered with darkness as you try to make it through the day without choking on your own cries. Your close friends and family will sympathize and offer their support but you always question how you’re supposed to behave. You could be out with friends, at the gym, in work, or casually hanging by yourself when suddenly the insecurity creeps up on you and consumes your mind with toxic thoughts.
You wonder when it’s appropriate to cry it all out. You’re terrified of your company getting exhausted from rapid mood changes. Some days, you’re feeling content and presenting the world with a smile. Other days, you’re staring in the mirror with mascara tears asking yourself ‘Why did you have to hurt me like this’.
You constantly need reassurance from your friends that you’re not being a pain while also asking them when things will get better. This could take months to heal and while you may be aware of this, will your company be aware? You hope they stick around as you try to get back on your feet and bloom again.
- Rediscovering Yourself
Aside from feeling happy again, you don’t even recognize yourself during and right after the damage. You may appear restless physically while mentally it feels like a vacuum brutally sucked your soul out. During this stage, you want your loved ones by your side but you need to understand that you need more time to yourself. It’s great to have people share their suggestions on how to find yourself but only you know who the real you is. It’s a scary transition but by learning to try things on your own, you’ll figure out what works for you.
It could be argued this part is the most challenging because not only are you achieving security and happiness, you’re fighting to break free from the other tiring stages. There will be times where you think you’re doing fine then suddenly you find yourself at step one again.
As much as it sucks to repeat the process—possibly over and over again—you can’t beat yourself up over it. This is your journey and your chance to feel physically and mentally healthy again.
If you feel that you need others to help guide you through most of the journey, then take full advantage of that. You have to constantly remind yourself that you are worthy and things taking a turn for the worse had nothing to do with you.
Things will get better and you will find yourself again.