Pain

I miss S so much it really hurts. He is all loved up with someone else, they are moving in together shortly. I’ve finally deleted him off social media, every time I clicked his profile was emotional self-harm; it always made me feel worse. So now the temptation has been taken away, I can’t see it anymore even if I wanted to. (And if I’m completely honest I already tried!)

I know that’s a good thing to take that temptation away. I know that in general I’m doing pretty well. But somehow that doesn’t change the pain and the ache of losing him, missing him.

I feel like after 6 months I shouldn’t still feel like this. I know there’s no time limits to put on grief, I know that’s not how it works. But it feels like I should be ok by now, I should be moving forward.

I hate myself for missing him. I hate myself for not being the person he loves anymore. I can’t help but feel very lost, very lonely. I don’t want to be on my own but I can’t imagine feeling safe again, being able to trust someone. I thought after the ex, and all of that pain, I had found someone that was good for me, but then S left me too and now I’ve realised nothing at all in life is certain.

I know I’m upset about them moving in together and that’s what has brought up all this pain again. I want it to go away, I want to be ok. I want to be strong and happy and confident, but tonight I am in pain. I feel like a lost child and everything feels too much.

My birthday has brought up feelings too – thoughts of where I “should” be in my life at this age, thoughts of where I thought I would be but I’m nowhere near. My birthday has been difficult for years, it acts as a marker of another year that I’m still struggling. This year it marks 6 months since me and S split up, and a reminder that the years keep going by and I’m still not ok.

All I really want in life is to be loved. I need to learn to love myself first. I know I’m up and down, I know some days are harder than others but I just wish things would be easier. I don’t have the energy for this right now.

I’ve just typed out my feelings because I needed to let them out. I’m ok, or I will be, but it all just hurts too much today. I think an early night is in order.

Love,

Ellie xx

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Identity

Today I listened to a podcast on the topic of identity (Estée Lalonde The Heart of it, it you’re wondering!) and it got me thinking. Who am I? Who is Ellie? How do I define myself?

Identity is something I have always struggled with I think. My lack of confidence means I always focused on who I am to other people… I am a daughter, a sister etc. For the vast majority of the time since I was 15, being a girlfriend was a major part of my identity.

When I was with The Ex, I became more like he wanted me to be. I started using slang language which was not my style, I wore what he liked me to wear, I rejected scouting, my school and felt very separate from my family. But none of that was really me. It was me trying to be the Ellie he wanted. Of course, being so controlling and manipulating, I didn’t realise that at the time at all, I felt like I was being myself. But there was the cognitive dissonance, where I was doing things I knew I didn’t agree with and trying to pretend that was me.

Fast forward to the age of 18, The Ex left me. I was in a state, to put it mildly. I didn’t know who I was anymore without him. He had made me feel distanced from my friends and family, my hobbies were gone, I had no clue.

I started to try and find myself, but I think I was in the mind of a 15 year old, because I never got to do that exploration at that age.

Then there was S. Things were so different, he seemed to like me for who I was, it was so strange not to be put down all the time. But now that S has left me too, I am starting to see that the me I was when I was with S wasn’t me either. I am like a chameleon, my need to please others means that I will strive to be whoever I think they want me to be.

The problem is, I’m on my own now and I feel so lost. I’m not a girlfriend anymore. I don’t know my identity but I want to find it.

I am going to try and work out who I am, for myself instead of for anyone else. I think it’s going to be a long journey but I am actually sick of my identity not being real, of being so scared of being myself that I forget who I really am.

Of course, my illnesses come into my identity, but they are not my identity. For too long they have been. I’m like this because of my anxiety, or I can’t do that because of my fatigue. No. I have to accept that my collection of illnesses are part of me, but I am more than just my illnesses.

I am fed up of moving around and feeling sorry for myself. Yes, S left, and yes it still hurts every single day, but being sad and going over and over all the what ifs isn’t actually going to help me. Moving forward and focusing on my future will.

Wow, that was not quite what I intended when I sat down to write this post! I think I’ll be writing more about identity as I go through my journey. I’d love to hear about your experience with working out who you really are!

Love,

Ellie

I don’t want to be rescued

I have spoken to my counsellor a lot about how both the ex and S* rescued me in a way. Before the ex, I was going through a low patch and I wanted to be rescued, enter the ex. After the ex, I was in a much worse place, enter S, ready to rescue me and me wanting to be rescued.

But this time I don’t want to be rescued. When S and I first split up, I wanted nothing more than him to rescue me. When I felt suicidal, I wanted to tell him and for him to make me feel better, to rescue me again. But actually, that is not what I need anymore.

I want to rescue myself. What a revelation!

I don’t need a knight on a white horse or any of that bullshit. I need to learn to look after myself, not become reliant on anyone else. I’m not saying I don’t need friends and family because I do, but I don’t need someone to rescue me. I don’t need to be a victim forever. I am not passive in my life, I should have the main role in my own life.

So this is me, on a mission to rescue myself. And do you know what? I’m going to be ok.

Love,

Ellie xx

* now this is confusing as both are exes but let’s be very clear – my relationship with “the ex” was toxic and horrible, my relationship with s was happy and safe… It makes me sad to draw parallels between the ex and S, as the relationships were so so different, and yet I am realising there are definite similarities in some ways which I had never noticed before.

Realisations and pain

I feel so broken. I’ve come to lots of realisations this week about my behaviour and my relationship with S.

I took him from granted. I relied on him way too much, to the point that I can’t regulate my emotions myself. I can’t self soothe because I never had to. And that dependency was something I learned from my previous relationship, the ex really broke me down so I lost all my confidence and ability to look after myself. That’s a long time ago now but it still has its effects. He wanted me to be dependent on him because that’s how he controlled me. Unfortunately I transferred this dependency onto S and I never realised until this week how serious and negative that was.

It’s hard for me to know what to do now; I feel lost. I don’t have a very good sense of self (another thing to thank the ex for!) I find it hard to know who I am and I tend to define myself by my relationships (a daughter, a sister, previously – a girlfriend) and my job, because I don’t know how else to do it. So now one of my major identities is gone, lost.

Unfortunately I think it’s one of “those too little too late” moments or “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” type things. I would give anything to turn back time and deal with things differently, but I can’t so I am going to have to live with it and try and learn from it.

I know my faults – I am very emotional and not good at regulating emotions, I get angry and lose control of my temper, I overreact and I get carried away with my thoughts, making up explanations which are usually wildly wrong. I put myself down constantly and have no confidence, I rely on others for my happiness. I pushed S away, and yet pulled him back, over and over (my therapist described it as the “I hate you. Don’t leave me” phenomenon). And all of it makes sense given my history, but none of it is S’ fault. None of it can be changed by anyone but me.

There is so much work for me to do on myself. Work I was hoping to continue while in the relationship with S, but plans have changed and I’m on my own now to work it all out. I’m glad that I’m still having counselling as this is helpful. I need to work on myself so that I never end up in this ridiculous situation again.

Feeling quite reflective today. Now it’s time for bed.

Love, Ellie xx

It wasn’t my fault 

Trigger warning – this is about abusive relationships/domestic abuse (holy shit I wasn’t expecting it to get this deep, I was going to write a nice blog about self care – will save that for another day) 

I often wondered why me? Why was I so stupid not to be able to see what was happening? Why did I have mug written across my forehead?

(For some back story, when I was 15-18 I was in an abusive relationship. I couldn’t see it at the time and for a long time afterwards I couldn’t see it as being his fault, I blamed myself. There’s parts of me that still do but that’s by the by.)

I realised recently that I was the ideal target. I was a little bit lost, disillusioned by the world and not feeling good enough. I was one of those teenagers that was pretty invisible at school, I had friends but we were invisible. And at that time I started feeling strange. Something I now believe was the beginning of my depression. I became more withdrawn, didn’t eat properly, didn’t feel good enough, started writing poems, came to a darker place than I had known in my cushty childhood. I felt like I didn’t fit in and I felt like no one understood me. Lost.

So at some point we started talking. I don’t know why because we used to hate each other, but we did. I spent hours and hours online chatting. Never in person. It was a new experience, someone paying me attention, listening to me, comforting my pain. And it grew into a relationship. 

I always thought it was much later that it became abusive but the signs were always there. He was controlling but manipulative with it. How could I be so unreasonable to want to spend any lunch breaks with my friends when I was in classes with them and never him? I obviously didn’t care about him… It only got worse but I couldn’t see it. My need to please was so great, my fear of failure, of not being good enough was overpowering. And so I blamed myself for everything. Took it all and wished I could be a better girlfriend. 

I was so young and I didn’t know any different, it was my first relationship. And I was in too deep. I relied on him. He isolated me from friends and family. Damaged all my other relationships. Stopped me doing my hobbies but made me feel it was my choice. It goes on. 

And looking back I think ‘what if’ and ‘why didn’t I see it?’ But it’s not that easy when you’re in the middle. It’s not that easy when you’re 16 and you believe that no one else would ever love you. 

And after a lot of therapy, I am still remembering things that happened. Little bits of information are coming forward in my mind. I wish they wouldn’t but apparently it means I’m ready to deal with them now. I don’t have to push them down. I can move past it. 

But today I can sit and say I know it wasn’t my fault. And I know that he had a shitty childhood but that wasn’t my fault either and it’s not an excuse for how I was treated. And i can see it for what it was, and say (with only a little bit of guilt*) that it was abusive  relationship, it was domestic abuse. And it wasn’t my fault. 

Love 

Ellie xx

* because part of me doesn’t see this as valid because I know others have been through much worse. And because others might say well you were 16 how bad could it have been? And why didn’t you leave if it was that bad? (Ok this bit of me is still quite headstrong but it’s not as strong as it was!) 

Long distance

Sometimes long distance relationships can be really hard. Recently things have not been great with S and I, and this was definitely not helped by the distance and the time difference (even though it’s only one hour, it makes a difference when he works into the evenings.)

But he came to visit for a few days and I was really nervous. I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to fix the problems that had developed, I was worried that it was going to be over. And I knew that if we split up, things would never be the same again. I mean, we could be friends, but we’d never have the friendship we had before our relationship, and I would miss that a lot.

So we talked. And we listened to each other. It sounds simple but sometimes people forget to communicate properly, and then it gets to the point that you only hear what you expect to hear, and you interpret it in ways that aren’t always right.

So we talked, we explained what had been going on. I explained that I’m lonely here, that no one from home seems to have time for me anymore, and that I don’t know many people here. He saw my town, and that there’s really not a lot to do here. And he explained that he needs some space, and it feels like I’m always nagging him and waiting for him to reply. It’s difficult because in England we phone each other a lot, for example he often rings me on the way to or from work, whereas now we can’t phone because it would cost too much. We use Whatsapp to text, but it’s not the same, and often arguments are caused by misunderstandings about texts… you can’t convey tone, sarcasm etc over text message.

I think we just expected it to work. It was fine when I was in Lancaster, so why wouldn’t it be when I’m in Germany? I’m still away, no difference. But there is a difference, and it’s harder than we expected. And it needs work, we can’t just bob along without putting effort into it.

I feel so much better now that we’ve talked about everything and sorted things out. I had such a lovely few days with S, going to see different things (including Christmas markets which are always fun!!) and it was like none of the arguments had happened. I feel like he does love me, and that is a pretty big step, as before I always felt like it wasn’t true.

Basically, things were bad, and now they’re good. I hope we’ll be better at keeping things good now, because I’ve still got quite a few months left out here. I will be home for Christmas, but then probably not again until Easter.

Since S went home, I haven’t been sleeping as well. I think I feel safe when I sleep next to him because he always hugs me, and now I’m on my own again I’m missing that. Had some horrible nightmares too, relating to the ex. Hopefully it’ll all die down soon, because I don’t want to have to deal with nightmares and sleepless nights, I’ve got a life to live here!!

Now off to do some German work about the passive tense… Lucky me!

Lots of love,

Ellie xxx

Identity

People say the year abroad is “the best year of your life” and the time to “find yourself”. I never thought any of that was true, but I feel like I’m coming on leaps and bounds already and I’ve only been here a month. I’ve had a few crucial realisations. And the latest one is that I need to have my own identity, I need to be myself and be ok with that.

But I’m in a position where I don’t really know who I am. I don’t have many defining features and naturally I look for labels to define myself by. But I don’t have to live by these labels, I can be myself, and that’s exactly what I want to be. If I can be myself, as I am – flaws and all, and be ok with that, then maybe that’s what happiness is. I’m a long way from that, but it’s a goal, it’s something to aim for and it’s a realisation.

I felt stuck for so long and I didn’t know why, but somehow today it came to me. Maybe it’s the hours sitting on a train, or the listening to music that brings back memories, I don’t know. But I realised that I need to take back my life. Because I need my own identity, and the ex took it away, all those years ago and I never knew how to find it.

As a teenager, that’s when people develop into who they really are. They develop a sense of identity, and in an ideal world, they are comfortable with who they are (whoever that turns out to be.) But it wasn’t like that for me, because I had who I was, and then I was taught that I was being me “wrong”, and everything that made me, me disappeared.

I used to be a scout, I used to play the clarinet, sing in the choir, I used to have lots of friends at school. And systematically they disappeared. First I left scouts, I said I didn’t like it anymore. That’s not true, it’s more that the ex made me feel like I had to leave, he always said it’s pathetic and I should act more like a girl. So I left. I started losing friends too because I was spending more time with the ex, because he made me feel bad if I spent any time with anyone else. He made me feel like it was my choice, that my friends weren’t real friends, that he cared about me and no one else did. And then it got to the end of year 11, and the school wouldn’t let him go back for 6th form. This could have been, should have been my great escape, but it wasn’t.

I left too. He made me feel like I had to, he made me feel like it was my choice. He manipulated my insecurities and planted the thought that I wasn’t happy at the school. It’s true of course that the school was high pressure and that I never felt good enough, but I wouldn’t have left if it wasn’t for him. But we wouldn’t be able to see each other he said, and did I really want to throw away our relationship over this? And so went my other activities – no more clarinet, band or choir, they didn’t have them at the college. So now I was at college where I didn’t know anyone, except him. I thought we’d make friends, we would have a group of friends together and it would be nice (before we both had our own sets of friends that didn’t mix) but it wasn’t really like that. We went to our lessons, and that was about it. We didn’t socialise that much, and for most lessons we were together. I even recall him bullying me into skipping lessons (the one that I wasn’t in his class for) to spend time with him.

So then I was his girlfriend. That was it. My sense of identity relied totally on him. And that was the reality of it – without him, I was nothing. Without him, I had nothing and no one. And the worst thing is I didn’t even realise he had done this. I didn’t realise that it wasn’t normal for a relationship to completely take over your life, I didn’t notice all these things disappearing from my life because it was all slow, subtle, and it was never his idea – always mine. But he guilt tripped me constantly, manipulated my decisions so that actually they were his decisions coming from my mouth.

I wasn’t me anymore and I was stuck because I knew without him I was nothing. So I stayed, even though I know I shouldn’t have. But it was me making all these mistakes, me always in the wrong, and he was so kind – always forgiving me. That’s what it seemed like anyway, but in retrospect I got it so wrong. How could it be his fault when it was my decisions, my ideas? But they weren’t, I was just a puppet.

It’s all clear to me now. I feel stupid, embarrassed for the way I acted. I let him use me like that and manipulate me into doing whatever he wanted. I did things to impress him, agreed to doing things I didn’t want to do because I wanted to keep him happy, because I thought it’s what I had to do. But I was wrong, so wrong. And I wish I could stop it happening to other people too, because some people don’t get out, ever, some people have their whole lives taken from them in this way.

I was just lucky that he had enough of me and decided to move on, to try again with another girl. And he did, at first he was lovely, not a foot wrong, and then over time it happened again, he got controlling, manipulative, angry. And she left, the clever girl.

I just feel a weight lifted off my shoulders because I have the whole of my life to live now, and I can live it how I want. So the next step is working out who I am now, and making myself into someone I want to be, not for anyone else, but just for me. I realised I can be me without other people, I don’t need to let these labels – girlfriend, daughter, sister, friend, student, blogger etc. define me, because people are more than labels, they are people with identities of their own.

Progress

So I finally realised that even though S makes me happy, it’s ok and good to be happy without him. Like an epiphany. Other people have probably known this for a long time, but it’s one of those things you need to realise yourself. I need to be happy myself because I can’t always rely on him to be there. This year (year abroad) I have so many opportunities and I really need to take them, and just enjoy the year. I can still be me without him.

I think I never really got that because when I was with the ex he made it so he was all I had. And it was suffocating and controlling but I didn’t know it wasn’t normal. I don’t want to be “S’s girlfriend” I want to be Ellie, who is also S’s girlfriend, and a friend, and a student, and a climber and and and…. And now I’m allowed, and I’m going to allow myself to be me.

Freedom

It’s nearly 2 and a half years since my relationship with the ex ended, yet I still didn’t feel free from him for a long time. Sometimes even now I don’t.

I felt like I was always looking over my shoulder, waiting for him to be there, for a message or something, waiting for him to cause more pain. But it’s over, it’s really over now.

Now I’m in Germany I finally feel safe. He’s not going to hurt me here, he’s not going to hurt me ever again because I won’t let him.

Unfortunately I have a strange ability to remember dates (whether voluntarily or involuntarily!) so I knew it was his birthday recently. And I didn’t think it would affect me – why should it? But everytime it gets to a time of year that I relate to him, I start having these dreams (nightmares) about him.

Why won’t he stop haunting me? It’s over now.

And every time I think, that’s it – I never need to think about anything to do with him again, there are these triggers. Stupid things, tiny things. Like dates and places and smells and things.

I went to the funfair, something I have memories of doing with the ex. And they weren’t bad memories, yet I have been hesitant to do anything that reminds me of anything to do with the ex. But I went to the funfair, it was fun and I made new memories. And it hit me…

Not all of my memories of the ex are bad. And that’s ok.

A lot of my memories of him are horrible, and demonise him. I’ve never written here about the good times, because they aren’t the things that are still affecting me. But once upon a time, we were ok. Before everything went wrong, he made me happy. And that’s ok.

I have been trying for so long to forget everything about him, but I can’t – it’s impossible. It’s over 3 years of my life at an important time in my life, and I can’t erase 3 years of memories, I can’t pretend they never happened. And I’m finally starting to realise that they are memories, they are in the past, some of them are good, lots of them are bad, but they’re just memories and it’s not going to happen again.

Why is it so hard to talk about?

Why is it so hard to talk about the “difficult things”?

I can write about them sometimes. I can plan what I’m going to say, I have the words in my mind but they don’t come to my lips. I can’t say them.

I’ve been having a lot of nightmares recently. Screaming in my sleep again while Footballer was staying. A week or two ago, S said I kept asking where I was, saying I want to be at home (in my sleep.)

A lot of the time I don’t remember the nightmares. Sometimes I wake up scared and don’t know why. Sometimes I just know I had a nightmare, and sometimes they are so vivid. I feel like I’m being haunted by these images. But it’s all too hard to talk about, the words just don’t come out.

The nightmares that week involved the ex. Raping me. And it all felt so vivid.

I was really really scared and anxious for days. I started writing this post not long after the nightmares but I couldn’t find the words time. I eventually managed to tell S that the nightmare involved the ex “making me do stuff.” But that’s as much as I could say, and even that took a long time.

So why can’t I say these difficult things? Like when I’m feeling suicidal, I can’t tell anyone, I just say “I feel low” or “I feel shit.” When in my head I’m screaming “I just want to die!” And when I’m talking about the ex, I can never explain what it was like. I can say he wasn’t nice to me, or that he treated me badly but it’s difficult for me to say more… it’s like I’m ashamed that I let it happen… How messed up is that? He treats me horribly and abuses me, and I’m the one that feels guilty and ashamed?

I try to tell S these difficult things sometimes. Often I just can’t say it, and he doesn’t understand why I’m crying or on edge or scared in the night. Sometimes I end up texting things because I couldn’t say it on the phone. The words stick in my throat and it’s like someone presses mute and I can’t speak anymore.

But I don’t want to be muted.

I have depression and anxiety and it’s hard. Most of the time I don’t look like anything is wrong with me but there is. I am very jumpy and I get scared and upset easily. And it’s not my fault. It is an illness and I don’t want to feel ashamed anymore. These things are just labels and they don’t make me who I am, but they do affect who I am and sometimes I can’t deal with everything that a “normal” person can. I think more needs to be done to raise awareness about mental illness because people don’t understand it – they can’t see it so they think it’s not there.

Since I’ve been writing this blog I have come across a lot of mental health bloggers, all telling their different stories. Sometimes they are difficult to read because people have suffered so greatly, but they are all strong people and we all have things in common so we can support one another. And all of this makes me even more sure that I want to work in mental health. I want to make a difference.