If you’ve recently gotten out of an abusive relationship, you’re more than likely experiencing an identity crisis because your perception of self has been altered—or even destroyed. Your feelings of safety and ability to trust others are impaired because of the trauma you were subjected to. In the future, you can and will regain your ability to love yourself and trust others, but it will take time. This is one of the hardest experiences you will undergo, but getting out of a toxic relationship is a start. Be patient with yourself. It doesn’t seem likely right now, but you will be able to move on and cultivate a better life once you give yourself time to heal and process.

Recognize What You Went Through

If your partner ever emotionally, mentally, or physically harmed you, it is abuse. Although it is painful, you must identify it by name. Calling out abuse for what it is will help you validate your feelings so that you don’t gaslight yourself. Do not try fixing your abuser—it’s not your responsibility. Abusers are the only ones responsible for changing themselves. Abusers can be selfish, jealous, possessive, and lack empathy. While abusers have the potential to change, that won’t come from you staying in this relationship in hopes that they’ll better themselves for you. If they hurt you once, chances are they’ll do it all over again. It’s best to safely remove yourself from the situation. 

Cut the Abuser out of Your Life

Right now, your brain chemistry is similar to that of a person facing a drug addiction who is in the process of detoxing. Stop exposing yourself to the poison that is the abuser and start to find other things that bring you excitement, joy, and comfort; this is the only way you’ll start to heal. Remove all the objects and pictures that trigger distressing emotions and past memories. Block the abuser’s phone number and social media profiles, and avoid the urge to contact the abuser for whatever reason. Scale back on friendships with people who still associate with the abuser. 

Prioritize Your Health

You will no longer be dependent on abusive people once you can identify your own needs and take care of them. Don’t expect someone else to take care of this for you. Nourish your body with healthy foods and exercise, even if you don’t want to. These will greatly benefit your mood, but also remember to take it easy. Now’s the time to reach out to your friends and family. If the abuser made you isolate yourself and now you fear that no one will be there for you, ignore your inner critical voice. Real friends and family will be empathic toward you, hear you out, and welcome you with open arms. Forge new connections with people who embody the traits you want to be around. Keep anyone who still communicates with your ex at arm’s length. Seek out professional help, such as a therapist, or join a support group for victims of partner violence or assault. 

You did not deserve any of the pain that your abuser inflicted upon you. Although you might feel helpless and as though you have no control over your life, you do have full control over yourself now. Form a mental picture of you as a strong, independent person and focus on it; you will grow into this person.