Moving on is something I'm familiar with. However, I haven't personally moved on from a situation like what I'm going through. When I fell in love, I knew that love was a choice and not an expectation. Each day I chose to love because I felt that way. When someone suddenly disappears, how do you move forward knowing you don't get the closure that comes with ending a chapter of your life?
I've moved on from friendships, family, relationships, coworkers. I've moved many times, from Nebraska to Alaska to Colorado. Moving on was never my choice, but it was what was necessary. That is what I am trying to remember, that sometimes when the people you love the most hurt you the most, you have to move on because otherwise you'll continue to hurt for the loss of something that is no longer there.
Moving on from a relationship seems to be something people have a lot of opinions about. What's worse is that somehow the idea of moving on seems to be about the idea of rebounding. While I can understand why women do this in order to move forward, I cannot. It's not that I couldn't, I could go ahead and choose to be free in every possible way. But, from all that I have experienced and all I continue to experience, sex has never been the solution to anyone's problems. Sex never changed how someone felt. Sex never stopped others from hurting me. Sex never gave me comfort or assurance that everything would be okay. I don't judge girls who choose to do this, I am just not one of them.
I have watched many of my friends get involved in situations that could have been avoided if only they had seen the value within themselves. I don't have value because someone loves me. I don't have value because I am in a relationship. I don't have value just because I go and sleep with someone else. What I've learned the most out of anything in life is that the only person that can value me the best is me. I won't find happiness by deciding to destroy my own self value to "feel better".
For me, moving on means looking at a situation and seeing the good and bad in everything. I can look at the last three years and hold my head up high knowing that I honestly did my best. I've learned what I love in a partner, and most importantly things that do not work for me. I hold no ill will towards anyone when I choose to reflect instead of act. I do not use someone else to make myself feel better, regardless of whether or not they care. I love myself enough to know that no one will fill whatever problems I continue to work on. The only person that can change things is myself. I can create a positive experience or I can wither away.
One of the first things I had to relearn as a teenager was identifying what was actually my problem and what others were telling me was my problem. I would spend hours reevaluating everything in my head about what I had done wrong and how awful I was as a person. It was shameful to hear all of the things that I thought about myself coming out of someone else's mouth. It hurt when I finally decided to start changing all the behaviors that were causing me grief.
I learned from many professionals that the key to finding out what I could do better was in this phrase: "If it fits, let it sit. If it doesn't apply, let it fly." This means that while many people may think they know you, the only person whose opinion matters is your own. For example, a few weeks ago I was on the phone with my dad crying about how ashamed I felt about getting divorced. I yelled at my dad when he tried to tell me that there was nothing to be ashamed of. I hurt him, and my dad let me know. I felt very proud to know that instead of lashing out like I could have done, I chose to listen and hear what his feedback was. If I hadn't, I don't think I would have felt as happy and positive as I do right now. He told me that when people you love hurt you and you have to walk away, it only means that there is something better around the corner. My dad is an amazing individual that I look up to for just this reason. While I could turn hateful, my dad reminded me that sometimes those we love will hurt us badly because they do not know anything different.
I feel so grateful to have had these past few months of reflection on how I can better myself as a person. I've taken feedback, even when it has hurt, and learned to let what matters sit and all the rest just float away. What I learned from this experience is that I am a kind and loving person. I am strong, independent, and capable of forgiveness and understanding, even when someone has hurt me deeply. I've learned that I am capable of setting boundaries when it is justified and I am able to understand the situation from a perspective of growth instead of anger. I am capable of moving on from a situation because I did not give up, but instead I put my foot down about things that were not okay with me and the reaction was to walk away.
Having my marriage end in such an abrupt way was traumatizing. It was terrifying and sad and confusing. It was also understandable and had been coming for months. I don't mean it was understandable in the sense that I did something to deserve this. I mean that it is understandable because someone I loved felt like they were in so much pain that they had to do something so drastic. I have watched many people I love change over the years into people I hardly recognize. I have watched loved ones be so wrapped up in their own mental illnesses that they can't control how they react. I've had to say goodbye to a lot of people because of how their own personal issues were affecting my own abilities.
I've heard many opinions as to how I'm supposed to feel, how long I'm supposed to process and how I'm supposed to deal with the end of this chapter. I've heard that I should still be in shock, still be committed, should still wait for whatever comes next. I've been asked what I'm going to do, where I'm going, whether or not I need a fresh start, when I'm getting the divorce papers finalized. I've been told to take power back into my own hands by filing the papers myself. I've listened over the last month as I've processed what's happened. I've sifted through what I thought was accurate and I sat with what I needed to. I've learned that I don't need to take power back when I already have the power within myself. I learned from this experience that I am kind and loving, and that I am a committed partner to whomever I'm with. I've learned the full capacity of how I love others and I've been able to express it to people that I wouldn't have been able to if this hadn't happened to me. That chapter in my life has closed, and I don't need a piece of paper to tell me that I am done when it was done the moment I decided I was ready to move on. I could choose to wait for a piece of paper to tell me I'm free or I could just be free now and to hell with what anyone else says. What happened to me was upsetting, and therefore I do not need an official piece of paper telling me that I'm single when that part of my life was decided for me. I did not get any choice in the cards I was dealt, but I can definitely continue to move forward and not care what others think.
I learned a long time ago that trauma can provide the most change as well as the most opportunity to see the beauty in every day life. I was supported by friends and family, I was supported by strangers that I didn't even know. I've had multiple conversations with men and women who have been in the exact position that I'm in right now and I've learned a lot about what I deserve and what I don't. I've seen small moments in my life where people who care about me have shown up and told me that they love me and care about my well being. I honestly never expected to have so many people be there for me in my time of need, which also showed me that I deserve better.
I'm so excited for what's next, even if I have no clue what that is. I've been able to see lovely things from lovely people that I never noticed before. I also get to appreciate the kind and decent men out there that do exist that I never would have noticed if not for this situation. I had a guy I had known in passing for years treat me with such kindness that it brought me out of a place I didn't know I'd get out of. He was kind and decent, and it meant the world to me to have someone just be kind because they could see I was sad. If there are men out there like that, then there is still hope that I can move forward without hatred or anger in my heart. I can move forward now knowing that there are plenty of people out there that I could share my kindness to that will see me for who I am and appreciate me in return.
I don't need anyone to make me feel loved or appreciated. I don't need opinions or feedback when I already know I'm okay. I don't need to be told when I should be okay and when I should move on if I already have. I don't need to have a piece of paper tell me that it's okay to finally move on. I do however want to still smile and feel happy because that's the kind of person I am, and if someone can make me smile in my worst moment then I would like to do the same for them. It's not selfish or cruel. I don't feel guilty anymore. I won't allow my love for the world to be tainted by trauma. I will however allow myself to express my appreciation towards others that so obviously deserve it.
One of the most difficult parts of my own healing journey was getting over my fear of being unlovable. When I was 19, I had zero understanding about what love looked like. I didn't know what it felt like or how to express it in a way that I understood. Years went by where all I could focus on was how I could love someone else in a way that was less harmful for me. To be honest, I was afraid of being hurt once again. When you've been hurt by others before, it is almost impossible to not be afraid of what others can do to you. It's understandable to be scared of the world around you if all you have seen in this world were signs that the people out there were cruel and heartless. I was so focused on trying to find someone to love me that I forgot the most important person that I needed to love: me.
I started to create my own world of positive experiences and loving responses. I helped others, men and women, without the expectation of receiving anything in return. It was hard at first, especially because there are people out there who will take advantage of that. Even when I would help someone else because I could see they needed help, I always knew in the back of my head that someone could still hurt me along the process.
When I was hurt because of it, I realized that there was nothing that I had wrong with me to cause others to treat me with cruelty. I had tried everything to show that I was a good person, but bad things still happened. I spent a lot of time alone wondering what on earth was wrong with me to be treated so frequently with such disdain and disregard. It was in that moment that I realized that I deserved the love that I was giving away so freely. I started to gain confidence after that, especially when someone would treat me with disregard. I learned that I didn't need anyone to love me because I could love myself, and I do.
Being accountable for all of my actions through my life, I can honestly say that I am a decent and kind-hearted person. I love completely without the expectation of wondering what I could get out of the situation. In reality, expressing that love and gratitude was what made me feel like I love myself enough to show someone else. I try every day to make someone's day brighter. I've met hundreds of people that I could have a deep conversation with without even needing to know their name. I've gone across the country looking for love when all I had to do was look in the mirror.
Why I bring this up is because so many girls out there believe that they are unlovable, and therefore treat themselves as such. They go through relationship after relationship not fully understanding why it is that all these people have left them. All those questions that girls have about why it didn't work is within and not without. When you look in the mirror and see yourself for who you really are, it can be scary but exhilarating. My realization was four years ago, but it is still a continuing process where I've learned to just be patient with myself.
Each moment in life is an opportunity to express love and appreciation. It doesn't have to always be someone that you want to be with. I have spent many days expressing love to people that are absolute strangers to me. I choose to love myself because I am worth more than what was dealt to me. I am worth more than those moments where someone told me I was unlovable or unworthy. All those small moments where someone decided to tell me what kind of person I am are the moments that I can let go because in all honesty, those people do not love themselves enough to express real love, and that's not anyone's fault. There is nothing wrong with not knowing how to love. I just hope that one day I can look outside and see all of the young girls out there loving themselves because we all deserve that. We all deserve to be happy and to be healthy.
What's hard for me now is to accept the reality of my life in this very moment. I had to watch someone I love turn into someone who chose to hurt me in a very deep way. I had to say goodbye to a lot of beliefs and ideas as to what my life would be like. For me, it honestly feels like a cloth has been lifted and I can see for the first time in a while.
What's even harder, especially for me, is to be able to sift through the waste and find something positive out of a really traumatic situation. The most important part of my process is continuing to build my sense of self. I do this by taking a hard and honest look at the responsibilities I have in the situations I've been dealt. Sometimes, they have been my fault. Others, have not. In most, if not all forms of abusive situations, in all sense of the word NO ONE deserves it. It is hard to retain a strong sense of self when everything around you has crumbled to the ground. What's worse is when someone chooses to blame only you for what has happened.
All these years of my life I have felt so lost in my own reality. People have told me who to be, what I am, who I am, and how I act. I've been called abusive myself, toxic, unhealthy, manipulative, controlling, bitch, asshole, an addict. Each word hits you hard and makes you question what and who you are. The only way I've known how to continue my strong sense of self is by taking accountability for when those words actually mattered. If I was being manipulative, I had to admit it to myself.
It was a lot harder when I was younger and still unaware of what all of my issues were. I would lash out at anyone who told me something negative about myself because I already hated myself too much. I hated who I was going to become and I didn't want to be that person anymore. I was lucky enough that my mother gave me the opportunity to get treatment, and for a year and a half I only focused on how I could not be all those words I hated to hear. They were true, back then. I was unkind, and manipulative, and so out of control that I wanted to control everyone around me because I was stuck somewhere I didn't want to be. And then I met my favorite person in the world: Michelle.
The moment I met Michelle I realized that I couldn't pull any of the techniques that I had used to hurt others to get what I wanted. She was infallible, this concrete block of brutal honesty that saw me for who I could become, and not who I was at that time. She sat with me and told me in all honesty the reality of where I was at. She told me that if I continued on my path that it would end with a lot of issues. I wanted to be better, but she told me it would be hard, and in all honesty I may be working on these issues for the rest of my life.
That's when my real growing started. It was incredibly painful. Sometimes I would have to hold in my anger and it felt like a sneeze almost, so uncomfortable and painful to hold inside. After I started to understand the differences in emotions, I realized that a lot of the times that I was quick to anger were times when I was feeling the most pain inside. When I lashed out at others it was because I felt in a sense that what they were saying was right.
When I got out of my program I actually experienced more growth and change in between 19-22 than I had in the entire time of my childhood. I had to learn to do everything on my own while also trying to maintain and sustain all of the tools and techniques that I was taught. It was hard at first, and I made multiple mistakes along the way. I hurt people unintentionally with my words, and I reacted more strongly to situations that didn't call for it. I had to be patient with myself and realize that I really didn't know what I was doing. And then, I started to listen to my own voice.
After spending years having people tell you who you are and choose to judge you based on assumptions, it gets old. It took me almost until now to realize that. When I chose to believe in myself and that what I'm doing matters, I chose to put myself first and I chose to put women like myself first. I stood up against someone who hurt me a long time ago, and I had the courage to speak my truth to someone who didn't know me and I had to prove why they had hurt me. I embraced the idea that I control my own destiny, that I can get the power that was taken from me simply by being myself and taking a stand. Some people will embrace it. Some people will leave because they can't handle it.
But, you know what? The only person that has lived my life is me. So...moral of the story is: no matter what, do not let anyone tell you something that you're not, but more importantly, listen because there might be value in what they're saying.
I have the rare opportunity to explain how to deal with trauma as I am dealing with it myself. For me, I think one of the hardest things to go through is having people leave you behind without a word other than that it's your fault. When I was younger, a lot of my years were spent dealing with this situation over and over again. I would be moved around because I was considered a dangerous person. When you hear that every day when you are isolated and alone, it is hard not to feel that way.
That's in fact the key to dealing with someone leaving you behind. DO NOT ISOLATE YOURSELF! Some of my most wonderful memories were during times of absolute chaos and stress. Support is in fact the most important thing that you can do for yourself when you have been traumatized. I myself wanted to sit alone in the dark and cry for hours (which I did to be honest, and that's okay). But, then I picked myself up and started calling my support group. My support group consists of some of the most caring and decent people that I have come across in my 26 years of existence.
When you think about a support group, this doesn't mean every friend that you have. While those friends are valuable if you need a distraction, too many opinions can cloud your own processing journey. Everyone's is different, which is why picking supportive people means picking people who know you really well, who know how to deal with you when you're traumatized, and people who are good at listening without judgement. Some of my top people are actually professionals (which I feel so lucky for) and all of them have known me longer than 6 years. Family can be beneficial in times of stress, but only if they are healthy individuals themselves.
When you ask someone to help, you are asking for the help that they would give themselves. There is nothing wrong with friends that help and you feel somehow worse. It just means that right then the people you need to talk to are people who help in different ways. We all have our own values on what constitutes as helping. Some offer food and shelter, advice, a listening ear. Others can add to the anxiety of your own, which once again, there is nothing wrong with that. Sometimes when you are too vulnerable, being around any instability can be harmful to your journey.
If you feel like you do not have that support group, that is also okay. I have spent years of my life with maybe 3 people who knew me well enough to answer whenever I called. There is nothing wrong with also asking for professional help. In times of stress, it is often more important to go to a professional to get advice than anything because they know the healthy coping mechanisms that get you through times of trauma. If you can't afford a professional, join a support group. There are many groups out there that offer services for women who are alone and afraid.
Most importantly though, take care of yourself and ask for help if you can't. For example, my sister brought me bags of groceries without even telling me because she knew I had no toilet paper. That's the kind of decent people you need around.