Trouble recovering

Questions and discussion about sexual or other abuse or assault, and support and help for survivors.
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This area of the boards is expressly for support and help for those who are currently in or have survived abuse or assault. It is also for those seeking information or discussion about abuse or assault. Please make every effort in this space to be supportive and sensitive. Posts in this area may or do describe abuse or assault explicitly.

This area of the boards is also not an area where those who are themselves abusing anyone or who have abused or assaulted someone may post about doing that or seek support. We are not qualified to provide that kind of help, and that also would make a space like this feel profoundly unsafe for those who are being or who have been abused. If you have both been abused and are abusing, we can only discuss harm done to you: we cannot discuss you yourself doing harm to others. If you are someone engaging in abuse who would like help, you can start by seeking out a mental healthcare provider.
Belcano
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Trouble recovering

Unread postby Belcano » Fri Jan 24, 2020 12:22 pm

Hello,
I was referred here from the text line.

I'm 2 months out of an emotionally abusive relationship. I'm having a really hard time recovering from it. I was neglected, used, taken for granted, and if I ever brought up feeling of neglect, I was made to feel guilt and she would threaten to leave. I was consistently cornered into doing things I was uncomfortable with just to get her to stay. I couldn't even hang out with my friends without always bringing her along without her making me feel guilty like I was neglecting her, even though all my time was given to her. The list kind of goes on. The entire relationship was centered around her and my needs were never met, in fact I was guilted just for having needs. I completely lived for her and did everything for her with almost nothing in return. If she didnt threaten to leave she would say whatever she thought would get me to back down and shut up and it always worked, but nothing ever changed. I completely financially supported her while she would spend what money she had on tattoos, piercings, food for her, and clothes she wouldn't wear. I got nothing in return, and all I asked for was emotional support. The relationship ended because I was in a really dark time and I really needed her there for me. All I got was 'im sorry' as she would turn away towards her phone, which she was on always. And I do mean always. When I confronted her and told her that I really needed her support, she made me feel guilty for it and then left for someone else. I never asked anything of her, only comfort, and I gave her everything she wanted. I cant help be feel like if I just shut up we'd still be together. Now every time my phone dings I hope it's her. She has a history of leaving and then trying to come back, and I always let her come back. I know I'd take her back again, even despite how she made me feel. This whole ordeal has sapped me of my self worth and my depression and anxiety are spiraling out of control. I tried so hard to be good to her and I supported her through all of her health and financial issues, but it's like it wasnt good enough. I dont know what to do. I cant get her out of my head. I know if there was a chance, I'd buckle and take her back and put myself through all that again. I really need help. I'm going to counseling soon but that's still a ways off and I dont have a lot of support until then. My friends and family mean well, butbthey think I can just drop her and move on, but I cant. They want me to delete and block her number, but I cant bring myself to do it. I'm just too hopeful. I dont know what to do, and I dont k ow if this is something you're able to help. But if you have advice I'll listen. Please.

Gone.Sorry.
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Re: Trouble recovering

Unread postby Gone.Sorry. » Fri Jan 24, 2020 3:19 pm

I'm so sorry you're going through this, Belcano. I've also escaped an emotionally abusive relationship, so I understand what you're going through.

It's so hard to explain to others, though, isn't it? As much as your friends and family care for you, if they haven't been through the same, all they see and hear is a bunch of little things that maybe don't sound so bad. What they can't understand or know or feel is how those "little" things are not really so little. They were constant. One drop of water at a time can still lead to water torture. They don't understand how these things burrow into your skin and stick there, like poisoned barbs. They don't understand how these things can change our very self and our perception of ourself. They don't understand what it's like to constantly be judging and calculating what we do and how loudly we do it and just how much time and energy and effort trying to conform to our abuser's impossible standards can contort and exhaust us. It's so hard to conceptualize how these "little" things add up to one big, huge, ginormous Thing(TM) and impact how we think and feel about ourselves, about others, about life in general, and impact what sorts of decisions we make regarding life. And so, as supportive as they may be, it can be hard to talk to them about this stuff and feel understood and heard, as you have experienced. It's really great that you're going to counseling soon so that you can get support from someone who may be better informed and even experienced in what you've gone through. Keep that appointment and keep looking forward to it.

It's okay that you still have positive and conflicting feelings regarding your ex. That's a part of what makes it so hard to leave relationships like these. And, so, I'm so, so, so, so proud of you for recognizing what was happening and getting out. <3 How you're feeling now doesn't negate how brave and amazing of you it was to be able to end the relationship.

I think there is one thing your friends and family have really gotten right, though. You need to delete and block her number. If you feel unable to do this yourself, ask whatever friend or family member you feel most comfortable asking for help with this. Have them block and delete her number from your phone. Remove that temptation from yourself. I can tell you from personal experience that going back to an abuser is not a good idea, especially when it's been so little time and they've shown no remorse or commitment to change. You know how much you are hurting now. Your mental health is not in a good place. You know everything she used to put you through. So get someone from your support system to help you through blocking and deleting her number. It will probably hurt to do this. Your anxiety will probably spike in doing this. But it will be good for you in the short and long-term to do this. Giving into the temptation to just go back will be so much easier if you don't do this. You need to do whatever it is you have to in order to protect yourself. Taking the steps to start really removing your ex from your life is definitely one of the things you need to do in order to protect yourself.

As for what to do while you're waiting for counseling, I have some book recommendations. I know financial abuse was a part of what you've gone through, so I would suggest checking your local library and utilizing their ILL (inter-library loan) program for help getting these books if you need.

One I personally read a couple months ago is Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse by Shannon Thomas. The book was a little more 101 than I was looking for, but only two months out from my emotionally abusive relationship, it would have been a really good resource. This book covers emotional abuse and its components, as well as breaking down why we love abusers and why leaving them is so hard, in an easily digestible manner that completely avoids shaming us for our very natural feelings. It also outlines the various stages of recovery that you can expect to go through. Hearing about this may help you better understand how you're feeling and how to keep moving forward. As I recall, the book was also good about being very inclusive about the genders of us survivors and of abusers, as well.

The below books are ones that I've looked into either because someone I trust highly recommended them or they had excellent reviews. I have not personally read them, but any one of them may catch your eye as something that sounds helpful to you.
Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving: A GUIDE AND MAP FOR RECOVERING FROM CHILDHOOD TRAUMA by Pete Walker (I know this focuses on childhood trauma, but this is one of those that was a personal recommendation that I've heard it's good for recovering in general from emotional abuse even if it didn't occur in childhood)
Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse by Jackson MacKenzie
Narcissistic Abuse: Recovering from a toxic relationship and becoming the Narcissist's nightmare. Healing from Emotional Abuse and averting the narcissistic ... personality disorder to get your power back by Dr. Theresa J. Covert
Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse: How to Heal from Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse by Priscilla Posey
A Clinician's Journey from Complex Trauma to Thriving: Reflections on Abuse, C-PTSD and Reclamation by Rev. Sherri Heller

Looking at those books, I know, you're probably a little defensive or even dismissive. They tend to focus on survivors with CPTSD (these are the recs I have since I do have CPTSD) and narcissistic abusers. I just want to clarify that you do not have to diagnose your ex with NPD or yourself with CPTSD, nor consider either of you to have either of those disorders for these resources to be helpful! I think regardless of diagnoses, you will find yourself relating to the experiences and descriptions, which is why I suggest them. I think they could just help give you some tools to better process what you've been through, as well as the resources and advice for how to feel your feelings and move forward in a healthier manner. At the very least, they are something more than what you currently have.

ScarleTeen is great, and I'm so glad you found it! <3 I want to also suggest 7 cups to you. They have online therapy options for a fee and also a free chatline and self-help guides. This would just be another option for you to explore, particularly while you wait to begin counseling, and help get you in touch with people who might be able to emapthize with things you've gone through. As well, their self-help/advice is all centered around mental health and recovery resources, so their articles would be really good to look through for help on how to handle how you've been feeling.

I would also suggest that you think about starting to journal. I also struggle with this because journaling just isn't something I'm interested in; however it can be a really useful tool sometimes. I would probably set aside a little bit of time either in the middle of the day or at the end of the day where you can write for a bit just to help yourself get into the habit. Plus, anytime you're having really strong feelings or a moment you're really struggling to get past, take a break and also write during this time. It doesn't have to be anything special. Just write down how you felt through the day, if anything happened that was really hard to cope with and/or triggered you, and if anything helped distract you and/or helped you better cope with your feelings. If you want to vent or be sad or be angry or whatever, journaling could be a place right now for you to focus those feelings and begin trying to process them.
This is good because 1) it could be a good start to mindfulness (which I'll get into more in a moment), and 2) it could be a useful tool for you in counseling. You might decide to bring your journal to your sessions and read through some entries with your counselor to help give a grasp of how you're doing on the day-to-day or to share some bigger feelings in a way that feels more manageable in the moment. In general, journaling could also be a good tool to help show you how you have progressed in moments where you're feeling down about the progress you've made.

So: mindfulness. Mindfulness is an old concept that has recently been gaining popularity over here in the Western world. It's pretty much what it sounds like. It's a practice of learning to become aware of how you feel, recognizing how you feel, and accepting how you feel without judging. In this way, we can start finding peace with ourselves and, instead of fighting ourselves all the time, learn to accept our feelings while also reasonably assessing our available choices. Something that mindfulness could help you with is managing the temptation to reconnect with your ex. For example, when you start going down the path of thinking that you'd get back together with her when given a chance, you could stop, take five deep breaths, confirm your feelings ("I'm missing my ex. She was a big part of my life for a good chunk of time. It is natural to miss her"), confirm a healthy choice ("Just because I'm missing her, though, doesn't mean I need to or should contact her. I broke it off for a reason, and I should respect my own good judgement in ending it"), and then re-direct your thoughts to something else ("I've been feeling sad. Nailed It on Netflix has been a good distraction for me in the past. I think I'll go watch a couple episodes").

A simple mindfulness type of exercise you can also start with that you may find easier is HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, tired. When you're getting caught up in negative feelings or spirals, stop and ask yourself: am I feeling hungry right now? Am I feeling angry right now? Am I feeling lonely right now? Am I feeling tired right now? Hungry and tired have fairly simple solutions: go eat/nap. If you're angry, take some calming breaths and do something that relaxes you and/or cheers you up. If you're lonely, call or text a friend (or hop on and talk to a chatline volunteer). A lot of times, when we're feeling any of the HALT components, it can compound our other feelings and make emotions harder to deal with. Stopping to deal with these underlying causes (even when they are not the entire cause of our distress) can help us re-focus and be better equipped to deal with our other emotions and upsets.

But most of all, right now, it's important that you be kind and compassionate towards yourself. Rest. Reconnect with things you enjoy doing. Try new, fun things. Let yourself be sad when you're sad. Be extremely patient with yourself because you've been through a lot and you deserve and need patience and understanding and kindness. And know that I'm rooting for you. <3

Belcano
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Re: Trouble recovering

Unread postby Belcano » Fri Jan 24, 2020 3:41 pm

@horriblegoose

Thank you for taking the time to write all that out, I really do appreciate the advice. I will look I to those books and see if there's a few I can connect with. Thank you for the responses. My mother works for our phone company so I can have her place a hard block on her number. If I block her from my phone, I can still look to see if she's contacted me, and I know at this stage I would do that obsessively. It's going to be hard, I've always convinced her and myself that I'd always be there even when we were apart and that's something I keep my word about. What makes it hard is she constantly finds herself in a bad place and I seemed to be the only one she could come to and talk without any judgement. I've never judged her, not even when she hurt me. But maybe it is the best thing for me to do. Again thank you for your time and advice. I really do appreciate you.

Mo
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Re: Trouble recovering

Unread postby Mo » Fri Jan 24, 2020 3:50 pm

Hi Belcano, and welcome to the message boards. I think horriblegoose has a lot of great things to say up there!

I do think that taking the steps to block her number sound like a good plan to me, even if you're hesitant or think you'd still try and check for messages. It's not unusual for people who've experienced emotional abuse in relationships to acknowledge that abuse happened and still have a desire to return to or reconcile with a partner after a breakup, but because that would put you back in an unhealthy, abusive situation we certainly would recommend removing any avenues your ex may have to contact you. I get that it might be hard to take that step, but I hope you're able to do it.

I'm glad to hear that you have counseling coming up, even if it may not be as soon as you like; I hope that's helpful for you! In the meantime, I'm wondering if there are people you weren't able to spend much time with (or time alone), or hobbies/interests you weren't able to pursue during your relationship that could be a source of companionship or enjoyment for you right now? Are there people or things you love that you didn't have time, money, or mental energy for because it was all being poured into that relationship? Now might be a good time to get back into an old interest, or go out with friends you haven't seen one-on-one for a while. I will say, too, that it is absolutely fine to tell friends and family that you'd rather not talk about your ex when you see them. It's okay to say "I'm sad about the end of the relationship, but I'm not looking for advice right now. Can we talk about [fun thing] instead?"

Belcano
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Re: Trouble recovering

Unread postby Belcano » Fri Jan 24, 2020 6:22 pm

@Mo

Thank you for your reply and your time. I have her number blocked on my phone. I've also blocked her email as well. All of her pictures and the little things I kept from our relationship are also gone. In the past she's used my friends to try to get in contact and I've expressed to them that I'm no longer going to be in a position to talk to her. This was probably the hardest thing I've had to do. But I guess it's for the best and hopefully will help in the healing process.

Gone.Sorry.
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Re: Trouble recovering

Unread postby Gone.Sorry. » Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:02 pm

That makes a lot of sense, Belcano!

When you're involved with an emotional abuser, you tend to be forced to take responsibility for a lot. You become responsible for their mood, for moving their life/career forward, for revolving your time around theirs, for making sure anyone you hang out with passes their check of who you can hang out with, in your case you become responsible for her finances, as well! It's a lot to all rest on just one person's shoulders.

When you start feeling bad because you said you'd always be there for her and she gets in a lot of bad situations, remind yourself of this: she's an adult and managing her life is 100% her job. She can think things through before she acts. She can budget to manage her finances. She can build up her own support base of people she can lean on. She can assess her behavior and confront harmful behaviors in herself that drive people away from her. She can go to counseling and get support and help in changing the path of her life and how she treats people. She can manage her feelings and the information flow when she feels someone is judging her. I assure you: she is 100% capable of managing the bad situations she gets herself into. (In fact, one of the ways in the past she managed these situations was to rope you into dealing with them, whether emotionally/financially/physically. That was a strategy she used but she's also 100% capable of dealing with the situations for herself.)

That wasn't a good partnership, though. You were supposed to be her equal partner, not her sole caretaker.

Right now, the person you need to focus on taking care of is yourself.

Mo's post reminded me of something I used to do for myself. I found (and have continued to collect) a couple of songs that I could really relate to, and I would honestly spend quite a bit of time driving around calm/less busy areas just belting out the lyrics and my emotions to the songs. I know some people can have trouble relating to songs if they're too gendered and whatnot, so you might not relate to these same songs, but here are some new and old ones that I turn to in order to just scream out my hurt and anger and feelings:
Set Fire to the Rain - Adele
Praying - Kesha
You Should Be Sad - Halsey
(this is a bit of an odd one for the situation, but I connected to it for a variety of reasons) Untouched - The Veronicas
If this is a coping method that could be up your alley, people have created multiple playlists for "songs about emotional abuse" if you need some help getting started finding the songs that resonate with you.

Anyway, I'm pretty long-winded on this subject - sorry about that!

I think having your mom hard block her is a really good idea, and I hope you go through with it! Keep us posted. =)

Belcano
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Re: Trouble recovering

Unread postby Belcano » Fri Jan 24, 2020 8:02 pm

Thank you everyone for your responses. You've given me a lot to think about. I have her blocked on all forms of communication. I really hope it helps in the healing process. You are all wonderfult people and I really appreciate you.

Siân
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Re: Trouble recovering

Unread postby Siân » Sat Jan 25, 2020 8:17 am

I'm so glad you reached out to us via text and then joined us here on the boards Belcano. It really shows that you're ready to try and move past this, which is often the first step to actually moving forwards. I'm really happy to hear that you've taken the important step of blocking her too - I know it wasn't easy, well done!

Mo and horriblegoose have shared a lot of really good ideas and resources up the thread so I'm not going to overload you with more info right now. Instead one question; what is the next step you want to take in looking after yourself and working towards recovery?

Belcano
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Re: Trouble recovering

Unread postby Belcano » Sat Jan 25, 2020 12:00 pm

@Siân

I think the next step is just trying to reclaim my old life. Trying to do the things I enjoy just for my sake. I brought her into all of my interests and hobbies so doing some things, like playing certain games or reading certain books, bring back a flood of memories and feelings, and I need to move past that. I need to be able to do the things I enjoy with out her constantly coming up. I've also cleaned out my room, getting rid of everything that had a connection to her. Birthday and anniversary cards, movie ticket stubs, love notes and letter, all that kind of stuff. It all has to go. Plus in addition to counseling, I'm going to be seeing a psychiatrist as well and that should be in the next week or two. I'm also trying to look for support groups in my area so I can be around people who have had similar experiences, bit I haven't had much luck. I'm hoping either my counselor or psychiatrist will be able to help me with that. Right now I'm just trying g to take it day by day, doing what I can to distract myself and keep her out of my head. Coming here has honestly helped a lot. Its kept me on track to remind myself what actually happened in our relationship as opposed to what I convinced myself was happening. Every day my depression and anxiety are slowly getting worse, bit that's something I know I need help fighting. I'm really trying to move past this and heal. It's been so freaking hard, but you all are helping me a lot too. I've also gone around some chat and text lines and was able to get some pretty good advice. I think I'm on my way. I just hope indont buck and try to come crawling back to her like I've done so many times in the past.

Gone.Sorry.
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Re: Trouble recovering

Unread postby Gone.Sorry. » Sat Jan 25, 2020 1:51 pm

Whoo, that's awesome, Belcano! You've taken so many great steps for yourself. I'm so impressed and happy for you. <3

Moving past your ex and associations with your ex that trigger upsetting feelings will take time, and that's okay. It might be really frustrating to not be able enjoy the same interests and hobbies exactly like you did before, but forcing yourself to just try and get back into them could be more harmful than helpful. It's okay to try some new things for now instead. New could mean anything from a new game you haven't really tried yet to something completely different that you maybe hadn't thought of trying before. Do you want to talk about some of the hobbies and interests you have (what genre of books do you read? do you enjoy video games or card games?)? Maybe we could help discuss new ways to re-connect with old interests as well as new things to try that you might enjoy?

Belcano
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Re: Trouble recovering

Unread postby Belcano » Sun Jan 26, 2020 12:04 pm

I like to play both video games and cards games. Video games weren't something I could play a lot when I was with hailey so I've been trying to get back into them again. Certain ones I just cant play right now but there I some I still can. I also like table top and card games, magic being the biggest one. I still enjoy playing that, but there's one set she always played when we played together and I haven't even been able to touch it. I've always kinda considered it hers. At one point I did want to give it to her but never had the chance. When it comes to books, I really like reading non fiction. Learning g about the world and different concepts like history and economics. I also like going out and doing small things, like taking walks, visiting around stores I like, betting food different places, just kinda going out in general. I dont like bars or clubs or anything like that, just doing simple things with one or two other people. I really find myself doing that less nowadays. It's just hard sometimes because I always did those things with her. And whenever I go out now I look over and just expect her to be there, when I know she's not going to be. But lately I've been trying to get this old telescope I've had up and running, and that's something new.

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Re: Trouble recovering

Unread postby al » Sun Jan 26, 2020 5:26 pm

Hi Belcano,

I'm glad to hear that you're reintroducing yourself to things that you're interested in as an individual. In my opinion, that's one of the most difficult things about a change in any close relationship - habits, hobbies, and things that you used to do that now you have to adjust to being different. But with a little bit of time and space, you might find yourself really enjoying the freedom that you have to do exactly what interests you and makes you happy without having someone else to think about (or walk on eggshells around).
Speaking of games and tabletop gaming - would you be interested in playing with any new people? If there are any board game cafes or game stores near you, you might be able to find open player nights or Adventurer's League groups to join in on. I've also found good luck on Meetup - it looks like there's an active group near you called the Treasure Valley Gamers! The reason I bring that up is that I'm currently also trying to adjust to time on my own, and I've found that those communities can be really welcoming of new people who aren't into the club-bar scene. Maybe there might even be a way to play Magic (with or without that certain deck) to create new memories that are just yours (or shared with new people). Just a thought.
Also, for the record, it sucks to be in this position, but I'm so glad that you're thinking about what's right for you and keeping yourself safe. That's what's most important <3
Nothing happens in contradiction to nature, only in contradiction to what we know of it. -Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully

Gone.Sorry.
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Re: Trouble recovering

Unread postby Gone.Sorry. » Sun Jan 26, 2020 7:32 pm

Those all sound like really fun things to do!

Could you maybe swap that Magic set you have that you think of as belonging to your ex for a new set? You don't have to conquer the set and giving it back to her is a nice thought, but might be a bad idea in practice for a lot of reasons. So, maybe just getting it out and finding a new set to enjoy would help.

You like learning about nonfiction. Are you interested in going to talks to learn about new things? I checked out Boise State and the first two talks I clicked on both say "free and open to the public". They were "Lecture: (Re)Emerging Infectious Diseases " and "First Friday Astronomy: Saturn". That astronomy talk sounds like you might be into it, considering your telescope! Could you ask a friend to go with you to either of those events? You might find the talks boring or over your head - or you might learn some cool, new things! Either way, it might be enjoyable to just get out of the house and do something new. When I find the energy to get out and try new things, I almost always enjoy myself for the simple success of getting out and doing something new. It's just... refreshing, I think.

You enjoy walking - it looks like there's tons of hiking around Boise. Is there a new trail you could try exploring? My sister enjoys walking but not hiking, but she's still found some trails in our area that are lowkey enough that she enjoys exploring them.

Just new ways to enjoy old things can help us change our perspective a bit on them. =)

Belcano
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Re: Trouble recovering

Unread postby Belcano » Tue Jan 28, 2020 2:47 am

I'll definitely try looking into some of those groups. Making friends has always been hard, and I'm pretty silent around people I don't know. But it's still worth a shot. It would help me get out of the house which I need right now. I might check out that lecture on Saturn, it does seem really interesting. With hip problems at the moment, hiking or trails of any kind are probably out of the question, at least for now. A lot of those groups and lectures I haven't even thought of to do. I really need to branch out. It'll probably help with my fear of people. I'm going to look into more things in my area. Thanks for looking into those for me. Your time, all of your guy's time really means a lot. I appreciate you all.

Mo
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Re: Trouble recovering

Unread postby Mo » Tue Jan 28, 2020 3:48 pm

I hope you find some fun things to attend in your community! I am fascinated by Saturn (have you seen photos of the hexagonal storm at its north pole?) so I would love to attend that talk if I was in the area. :)

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Re: Trouble recovering

Unread postby al » Tue Jan 28, 2020 5:05 pm

Also, I just wanted to jump in and say that I'm in the midst of taking some time/space away from a partner right now, and while it isn't the same as learning to be on your own after getting out of an abusive relationship, I'm finding it pretty difficult. So I guess I wanted to validate that even when there is love/respect/boundaries/communciation, change and alone-time can feel isolating and hard to adjust to.
(I suggested the Meetup for tabletop gaming because that's currently the avenue I'm trying to go down to make new friends! I'm a bit shy and a bit of a homebody, so I'm trying to push myself to do things that I enjoy while also maintaining a connection to others. Hoooo boy it's hard.)
Nothing happens in contradiction to nature, only in contradiction to what we know of it. -Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully


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