One is a Whole Number

Let’s take things back to some elementary math: fractions and whole numbers! 

I know, I know, math… bleh, right? But hear me out: When we learned about fractions, we learned how they are not whole numbers. We learned that once you get to the number 1, the fraction is either officially a whole or mixed number, but what it isn’t anymore is just a part of something. It is whole the moment it reaches 1. 

Why, then, do we still cling to this misconception that being single is incomplete? You are whole. You are the number 1 in this equation. You are not a fraction of a whole. You are the whole number. 

This concept helped me tremendously when I was going through my separation from my abusive ex-husband. Like many of us, I believed that I had to do better to make things work. He clearly needed something that I wasn’t providing, and it was my job as his wife to provide it. That was my role: being a part of another person. Being inextricably linked to this other individual. 

Well, when he went out all weekend again, getting severely intoxicated and coming home with the sun, he did what he had promised he’d never do again: he hit me so hard across the face that I fell to the ground. Not unusual. He had done it before. But that morning, my little boy was at the top of the stairs and saw it all happen. That was it. That finally made it “click” in my head that this had to end. So with the help of local police, I had him removed from the home and filed a Protection From Abuse.  

This should have been where I immediately started to heal. This should have been where I slammed the door shut and never looked back. But as awful and frightening as the relationship was, so was the feeling that I had just been split in two. It was clear that I needed to start working on becoming whole again. 

Self-love can seem like a frivolous topic when we’re scrolling through Instagram or TikTok. It can feel like people are only discussing things that include scented candles and essential oils, long hot baths, and pre-selected playlists. And whereas these things can be a lovely way to carve out time for yourself no matter what your current situation is, and no matter what life change you’ve recently gone through, there is so much more hard work involved. 

Here are some forms of self-love that may not make for the prettiest Instagram post, but they are well worth the hard work:

Find a trustworthy friend:

When going through a split with an abuser, it isn’t uncommon for you to lose friends. Let’s face it: these types are typically charmers. They can pull the wool over the most discerning eyes. And so it is not uncommon for some of your once mutual friends to side with the abuser.

But even the friends that do stick around? They aren’t always the best shoulder to lean on. Because they don’t have first-hand experience with an abuser, they may try to steer you towards options that would only be possible if it was a healthy split. I had one friend ask me why my ex-husband didn’t want to go to therapy and why he didn’t just co-parent in a fair way. It was so frustrating to me because she was clearly still viewing my ex as someone who was a well-rounded individual, not as an abusive, controlling, manipulative monster. It made conversations with this friend depleting rather than fulfilling. So do yourself a favor and screen for the right person to talk to about your abusive relationship, whether you’ve already escaped or are still in it. It takes the right person to be able to give you the right kind of ear for your healing process to begin. 

Consider therapy:

Sometimes therapy feels like it isn’t an option because of the costs associated, but it is worth doing a bit of digging to see if there is an option that can meet your needs and fit your budget. It took a lot of phone calls, but I was eventually able to find a therapist that took my insurance, and the copay wasn’t impossible to pull together every other week. If you don’t think it’s in your budget or you don’t have coverage, then seek out the nearest DV shelter in your area. It isn’t uncommon for them to offer free counseling services to those who need them. If you have filed for a Protection From Abuse or a Restraining Order, then it is also a good idea to check with your county and see if they don’t have a county-appointed counselor to help people who’ve just left an abusive situation.

Sometimes, an objective and unbiased view can offer the type of support that a friend or family member just can’t, and that’s okay. Your mental and emotional health will thank you. 

Look for your community:

Shortly after I left my abuser, I fell ill. It was weird, though, because it wasn’t a cold or the flu. It was a strange mess of all kinds of symptoms and ailments that didn’t seem to fit together. So I made an appointment with my Dr., and she suggested it was generalized anxiety due to c-PTSD from 10 years with my abuser. Her Rx? She asked me if I had considered joining a church. I was so upset at that moment by her suggestion I nearly stormed out of her office. She followed up with an email and clarified: Look for your community. Humans are social creatures, and after coming out of an abusive relationship where we were often the victims of isolation while in it, a lot of our healing can start to happen once we reintroduce ourselves to a community. 

It can be a church, a yoga class, or a knitting circle – doesn’t matter what the community is about. But find your people and carve out the time to invest in becoming a part of that new circle. Being around good people with common interests and values can often provide a sense of support we aren’t always able to find when we are completely alone. 

Reclaim your qualities that the abuser hated:

One of my favorite licensed clinical trauma therapists, Shannon Thomas, asks her followers to recall the qualities that the abuser hated in them. The things that they beelined towards when they tried putting you down. She suggests that these are the qualities that the abuser most envies in you. She says these are the qualities and characteristics you should consider reclaiming as soon as you can. 

This tip hit me like a ton of bricks. It made so much sense and provided so much clarity. My abuser hated that I always liked to dress nicely and set my hair. He would attack that and tell me I looked ridiculous. He would mock me because he said that I used “big words” and that I sounded pompous. He would tell me I was a bad wife and mother because of how much I worked. 

What those things really translated to from Thomas’ point of view was that I was a well-dressed and well-spoken woman who presented herself as a professional and had a strong work ethic. 

After I reclaimed those things in myself, I went straight back to school to earn my degree in Journalism with a minor in Psychology, and in the process, I also started my own non-profit art museum in my small town. Those had been good qualities in me all along. And that’s why he attacked them. 

So go on: make a list of what your abuser hated about you. You’ll see that they are some of your most precious attributes, and they deserve to be nurtured. 

Get rid of triggers:

This one applies to those who are no longer with their abuser, and it can be a tough one because it often requires some considerably big changes. For some people, it means moving out of the shared dwelling. For others, it can mean repainting the home. And for others yet, it can mean having to consider changing states. Whatever is within your budget and whatever you have to do to be safe: do it and get rid of the things that remind you of the relationship. For me, it was repainting my home and getting rid of the chair he always sat in when he would drink. I didn’t care that I suddenly had a living room with nowhere to sit. I eventually found an affordable replacement, and that awful chair was finally gone for good. Maybe for you, it involves getting the pictures out of their frames or buying new bedding. Maybe there’s a poster you always wanted to hang that your ex didn’t allow. Hang it up now. Reclaim your space. However small the triggers may be: get rid of them. 

As you go through some or all of these acts of self-love, remember: being single isn’t a fraction of a whole. You are a whole person. You are the lead in your life. Though it may not feel like it at the moment, you are complete, and you are worthy. 

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